Looks like 2017 is the year for hotel loyalty program revamp. The Marriott & Starwood merger led to some big changes in the SPG and Marriott Rewards program. Then followed Hyatt with completely revamping the Hyatt Gold Passport and now Hilton HHonors has announced significant changes to its loyalty program.
HHonors is now Honors
For starters, it will now be called Hilton Honors. Hilton has done away with the extra H in their attempt to be simple, easy and straightforward.
Beginning late February, you will be able to use a flexible payment slider to apply a combination of points and cash to book your stay. The slider will allow you to choose beginning from a 1,000 points up to opting to pay in full cash or points for the stay. No blackout dates will apply at any of the Hilton Hotels and should you choose to redeem in points only. The 5th Night Free Benefit will still be honored.
For Example, the Conrad Maldives presently a category 10 hotel goes out at a max of 95,000 points per night. After the introduction of new Points & Money program the maximum redemption points will still be capped at 95,000 in peak season, however the hotel may be priced lower in low business season when demand is lower. Although we are yet to see how flexible the Point prices will really become.
Another important part to note here is that the redemption and Points and Money availability will be on the base room only and not on Suites for instance (except at all Suites hotels).
Doing away with Hotel categories
As a result of introduction of Points & Money, Hilton will also bid farewell to hotel categories ,which they say will allow prices to go lower than the previous ranges. Hilton currently segments its hotels into 10 categories:
Hilton will introduce a Standard Rewards Pricing Tool that can be used to check the high/low number of points required for an award. Hilton has also said that the maximum number of points required for a given hotel under the new Points + Money will not exceed the points under the old method. Hence there will be no increase in Point prices. But how does one keep a tab on 4900 hotels points prices and not have a new price slip in sometime, I really don’t know.
Today a Standard Room at Category 7 hotels maxes out at 60,000 Points per night. Once the new Points & Money program launches, those hotels will continue to top out at 60,000 Points, and may sometimes be priced lower than the previous category range. But unless you are a regular at a particular hotel, you don’t know if the prices have changed, because there is no ready reckoner of all the 4900 or so hotels in one place in a static format.
Hilton Honors points for Amazon purchases
Members will soon be able to use Hilton Honors points for Amazon purchases. Effective summer this year members will be able to redeem their points to make purchase on Amazon.com. Hilton has yet not revealed the monetary value that will be assigned to each point.
Hilton is introducing Points Pooling
You can now pool points with 10 other members. Beginning April 2017, members will have the option to combine points with 10 other members. This is a great move for people who do not travel much or stay enough with the brand as now through the pooling benefit redemption will become easier. There is no cost to this, and one can share upto 500K points per annum and receive up to 2 Million points per annum.
Extended Diamond Benefit
A new benefit that will help members who have attained the program’s most elite status to keep it. Diamond members – those who have either booked 30 stays, stayed 60 nights, or earned 120,000 Base Points in one year – have typically had to maintain that same level of travel to keep their status year after year.
Hilton is introducing the ability to put a pause on your Diamond benefit should a life event keep you from traveling as much as you had in the past. This benefit will be available March onwards to all those members who have been Diamond members for more than three years and collected 250 nights or 500,000 points since joining the program and members will be able to extend their Diamond status for a one year period.
Overall it looks like there are some great things in cauldron. The ability to extend Diamond status is definitely one of the best ways to recognize a customer’s loyalty to the brand. Pooling in points is again a great move towards enhancing loyalty. For example, while I am a Hilton Diamond member my parents do not have an elite status with the program. On a recent trip to Agra, I could not care much if they stayed at the Hilton Agra, but now with the option of combining points with family and friends I’ll be keen to increase the stay footprint in the same brand.
I am not a big one on spending hotel/airline points for retail shopping, so that one is not very exciting for me. As for Points & Money I am keen to see how this will span out in the future.
What are your thoughts about the program changes ?