PHOTO: Positive changes are afoot for the Hilton HHonors program. (Photo via Flickr/Julien Gong Min)
The Hilton HHonors program has been offering supreme value to its members since it was introduced as a scratch-off game at the 1987 Olympic games. Sure, the program requires a lot more points for a free night (95,000 in some cases) than most other hotel programs, but points are incredibly easy to earn—both through hotel stays and the hotel’s co-branded credit cards.
While changes to an award program are rarely good news, Hilton has recently come out with updates to its program that could feasibly benefit consumers. The first of which is that they’re finally dropping the extra “H” from the name, making it simply “Hilton Honors.”
At first glance, the changes to Hilton’s program look positive. The hotel brand promises more flexibility, easier pooling options, new shopping options, and a new Diamond benefit for premier members. Let’s break each of these down to show what they really mean.
Like many competing hotel brands, Hilton now plans to offer a “points and cash” option for reward stays. Instead of paying for free nights entirely with points, you’ll have the option of paying with points and making up the difference with cash. The value you’ll receive with these transactions will depend on the reservation, but it appears you’ll get around the same value per dollar spent as you do when you use points.
Hilton is also dropping their hotel category system as part of the process, which could be good or bad. We’ll just have to see.
Easier Pooling Options
Consumers love it when they can pool their points with a spouse or partner for more free stays. Having realized this, Hilton is now on board with easier pooling options that let you share points with up to 10 family members and friends at no additional cost. You can share up to 500,000 points per year and have 2 million points shared with you.
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New Shopping Options
The Hilton Honors program also added an option that lets you pay for Amazon purchases with Hilton Honors points. While the value you’ll get will depend on the purchase, this is almost always a sour deal for consumers. Still, using points for Amazon purchases could be a good way to offload extra Hilton Honors points you just can’t use.
New Diamond Benefit
If you’re a Hilton loyalist who has Diamond status, Hilton is making it easier for you to “pause” your status when life gets in the way of travel. Basically, they’re giving Hilton Diamond members the option to extend their status for up to a year for one time only. To qualify, you will need to have been a Diamond member for at least three years, having earned at least 500,000 base points or 250 elite qualifying nights.
In this case, it appears Hilton’s new program changes are mostly good news. Having the option to pay with points and cash and pool your points is a winner for those who want flexibility. And if you’re a Hilton Diamond member, having the option to pause your status is always good.
Will Hilton enthusiasts love the new program changes, though? We’ll have to wait a while to see how it all pans out.