I’ve been impressed by the Hilton Honors program for the past couple of years. They’ve made some significant improvements to the structure of the program, and have also consistently offered promotions, which their competitors haven’t. Well, today Hilton Honors has announced some other major changes to the program, which are a mixed bag.
Hilton Honors’ 2017 program changes
Before we talk about the latest announcement, let’s look at the changes that Hilton Honors made last year. Early last year Hilton Honors announced that they were:
- Changing their name from Hilton HHonors to Hilton Honors
- Introducing new Points & Cash redemptions, where you can redeem part points and part cash towards the cost of any stay; this makes Honors points usable for more members
- Introducing points pooling, where you can share points with up to 10 friends or family members at no cost
- Introducing the ability to redeem points for Amazon purchases; while this isn’t how I’d choose to redeem points, I’m always a fan of seeing programs introduce more ways for members to use points
- Introducing the ability to extend Diamond status by a year, assuming you’ve been a Diamond member for at least three years, and that you’ve earned either 250 elite qualifying nights or 500,000 base points
These are all fantastic changes, as far as I’m concerned. On top of all that, keep in mind that Hilton Honors offered a global promotion every single day in 2017, so they blew away their competitors in that regard.
Hilton Honors’ 2018 changes
Last week Hilton Honors announced that they’ll introduce complimentary breakfast at Waldorf Astoria properties for Gold and Diamond members, which is a fantastic development. On top of that, on January 18 Hilton will be introducing a suite of new credit cards, including a card that comes with Diamond status, which I’m sure many will love.
But there are more changes coming, and they’re a bit of a mixed bag. They’re bad news for the casual member, and great news for the Hilton Honors road warrior who qualifies for status “the hard way.”
Most of these changes kick in starting in April. Here’s a look at the changes you can expect:
Hilton Honors is eliminating the ability to earn Points & Miles
Let’s start with the downside. The Hilton Honors program is currently quite complicated, and members can choose whether they want to earn Points & Points for their stay, or Points & Miles. Under the current system:
- Members who earn Points & Points earn 10 base points per dollar spent, plus a further five points per dollar spent for choosing this earning style
- Members who earn Points & Miles earn 10 base points per dollar spent, plus one mile per dollar spent
Hilton is changing the structure of that, and will no longer allow members to earn Points & Miles. They tell me that engagement for that was really low, and fewer than 1% of members chose the Points & Miles option. Personally I’d rather earn five Hilton points than one airline mile, so I don’t view that as much of a loss.
You can still transfer Honors points to airline miles after you earn them, though that’s not a particularly good use of points.
Hilton Honors is increasing elite points bonuses
Hilton Honors already has among the best points earning rates of any program in the industry (especially when you factor in that they’re almost always offering promotions), and they’re adjusting the earning rates going forward. This is bad news for non-elite and Silver members, it’s slightly good news for Gold members, and it’s a wash for Diamond members.
- Silver members will go from earning a 15% points bonus to earning a 20% points bonus (12 points per dollar)
- Gold members will go from earning a 25% points bonus to earning an 80% points bonus (18 points per dollar)
- Diamond members will go from earning a 50% points bonus to earning a 100% points bonus (20 points per dollar)
You’re probably saying “wait a second, they’re increasing the bonuses across the board, how is this not good news?” As mentioned in the previous section, Hilton is changing the structure of the program, so you’ll no longer earn an extra five points per dollar through the Points & Points method. So to compare the old earning rates (when selecting Points & Points) and the new earning rates:
- Blue members go from earning 15 points per dollar to 10 points per dollar
- Silver members go from earning 16.5 points per dollar to 12 points per dollar
- Gold members go from earning 17.5 points per dollar to 18 points per dollar
- Diamond members continue to earn 20 points per dollar
Note that the above earning rates applies for all brands except Tru and Home2, where you earn half as many points.
This is negative news for most members in terms of the ability to earn points, though given how easy it is to earn Hilton Honors Gold status, I don’t view this as much of a loss for most savvy members and readers of this blog. Note that under the old system you had to opt-in to earn the extra points through the Points & Points method, and I’m told that a vast majority of non-elite members never opted in to that. So those members were mostly already only earning 10 points per dollar, and won’t be any worse off.
Hilton Honors is introducing Milestone Bonuses
Hilton is introducing a further bonus on a permanent basis, which won’t require registration, and where there’s no cap on how many points you can earn. Hilton Honors members will receive unlimited Milestone Bonuses, where you earn an additional 10,000 bonus points on every 10th night, once members reach at least 40 nights in a calendar year.
On top of that, Honors Diamond members will receive an additional bonus of 30,000 points after 60 nights in one year.
In other words, a Diamond member who stays 60 nights per year would earn an additional 60,000 bonus points per year on top of what they currently earn, not even factoring in the improved elite bonus.
Here’s a chart Hilton Honors shared, showing the difference in points earning under the new and old system for Diamond members (obviously this wouldn’t look as favorable for non-elite members):
Hilton Honors is introducing elite rollover nights
Starting in 2018, Silver, Gold, and Diamond members can rollover qualifying nights earned beyond their current elite tier requirement, to count towards their elite tier status the following year. This isn’t useful for those who earn status through credit cards, but for the real road warriors who spend a ton of nights with Hilton, this could prove useful. As a reminder, presently Hilton Honors requires 10 nights for Silver, 40 nights for Gold, and 60 nights for Diamond.
Hilton Honors will let you gift elite status
Starting in 2018, members staying 60 or more nights in a calendar year will have the ability to gift Gold status to someone, and those staying 100+ nights will have the ability to upgrade that person to Diamond status.
I have to commend Hilton Honors for their creativity. While other programs have largely been complacent, Hilton Honors has been adding unique perks to their program that set them apart. If nothing else, I appreciate the creativity. The way I see it, these changes are a mixed bag.
Non-elite members will potentially be earning fewer points than before, though in many ways that’s not surprising. With Hilton’s changes last year, Hilton Honors members are more engaged than before, and have more ways to redeem their points, given points pooling, Points & Cash redemptions, etc.
The good news is that there are so many ways to earn Hilton Honors status (even just for having the Amex Platinum Card), so for anyone who is a bit savvy, these changes should be positive. The real winners here are Hilton’s most loyal members, those who actually stay 60+ nights per year with Hilton. They’ll be earning a ton more points, and will have the ability to gift status and accrue rollover nights.
As a Hilton Honors Gold member through the Amex Platinum Card I guess I’m earning an extra 0.5 points per dollar spent, and that’s it. For members like me, perhaps the most exciting development is the free breakfast at Waldorf Astoria properties, that was announced last week.
The biggest positive here is that the program is truly being simplified, which is good given how complicated of a program this has been in the past.
What do you make of these changes to the Hilton Honors program?