Goal! The excitement that comes when your team launches one into the back of the net can be riveting, but when the ball lands in the back of your own net, not so much.

This week, Hilton scored an own goal, to the dismay of members and to the detriment of their recent positive momentum. Making matters all the more frustrating, the move follows on from a series of negative Marriott Bonvoy moves, which had people looking for safe passage elsewhere.

It’s harder now to say that-that safe passage could be Hilton.

The hotel industry just can’t seem to shake off its loyalty program greed as it seeks to recoup losses by jamming loyalty members, and with a variety of credit cards making it harder for consumers stay loyal to one single hotel brand anyway, the slope appears slippery.

Hilton Sneaks In Points Price Increases

Hilton lead the way with an unfortunate trend hitting the hotel industry, known as dynamic pricing. The trend removed dependable goal posts for loyalty members to work towards, and introduced a system where how many points you need for a room can vary wildly with each night, even at the same hotel.

Rather than have a chart to serve as a point of reference for how many points a Hilton Honors member might need to book a room, the price is set based loosely on the cash rate the hotel is charging.

But admittedly, it hadn’t been all that bad. A bit of searching would reveal “caps” in the number of points a given property would charge. For virtually all luxury Hilton hotels, that number was around 95,000 points per night, with just two exceptions charging more.

As spotted by One Mile At A Time, that’s no longer the case.

Without notice, Hilton has raised the limits for how many points many popular luxury hotels can charge guests per night. Many hotels which previously topped out at 95,000 Points are now charging up to 120,000 Points. No notice, no warning.

Yep, it’s yet another hotel brand moving the goal posts on members, with the number of Hilton Honors Points charged per night hitting new highs. Or “lows”, depending on how you see things.

In last week’s coverage of Marriotts impending points doomsday, many readers in the comments section expressed desire to jump ship for a more stable, more rewarding hotel loyalty program. Hilton was often mentioned as a potential alternative, alongside IHG and Hyatt. With the timing of these changes, that’s certainly going to impact many decisions.

Conrad Maldives. Courtesy of Hilton Hotels.

Which Properties Are Changing Points Rates?

The problem with removing charts or guides for how many points are needed, is that once you do, hotels can quietly change the rates.

The Conrad Maldives, and Waldorf Astoria properties in Beverly Hills, Hawaii and Amsterdam are among more than a handful of properties which stealthily raised the maximum number of points they can charge.

Some booking dates will continue to be in their previous 95,000 point prices, but more and more, the prices will shift upward from the previous caps to new highs. This does nothing but jam members, who will need to earn more points than expected.

And realistically, it’s not like most people easily earn 100,000 points repeatedly, so for many Hilton loyalists, the juice may no longer be worth the squeeze.

Again, Hotels Are Playing A Dumb Game

Hotels only award points when you book direct, or through a luxury travel agent. They won’t give you your points or benefits when you book through an online travel agency like Expedia, Orbitz or most credit card travel booking websites.

That’s because these websites enjoy commissions up to 20% on the reservations, so it’s impossible for Hilton or another brand to then fund points for members too. If you book direct, the hotel doesn’t have to pay that commission to Expedia, so giving points makes sense.

But with the amount of points needed to unlock a free night going through the roof, and the earning rates mostly not budging, is it even worth participating? The answer is made all the more complicated by recent advances from Chase and Capital One.

Both banks offer up to 10X points on hotels when you book via their booking channels and those points are going to be more valuable than points from any hotel chain. They also free travelers from loyalty, since they can earn that 10X regardless of which brand they book.

This is a primary reason that the new Capital One Venture X Card is gaining so much momentum, and why the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve makeovers have been so popular. Earning 10X points with real value and flexibility, regardless of the hotel booked is a powerful lure.

A Shame For Hilton Fans

As finance geeks replace loyalty geeks in hopes of squeezing more juice out of the loyalty programs which fuel the business, the game becomes less fun by day.

Loyalty programs offer higher profit margins than almost any other part of the travel industry and hotel CEO’s eager to earn their payday are now instructing the vultures to squeeze more juice, to see just how far the margin can go.

There’s an equilibrium to be found, and if hotels aren’t careful, they may actually need to start giving out free upgrades as people lose interest in the allure of their programs.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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4 Comments

  1. Do you have a full list of the properties that have had the increase materialise? Whilst this doesn’t bode well for the future, I don’t see a handful of properties increasing their min points as a catastrophic issue. Perhaps this is a correction to the points giveaways happening last year where diamond members could earn ~4+ x the base points. That topped up the balance nicely. Still plenty of value to be had.

    1. I appreciate optimism, but once you cross a line (creating “new” thresholds) it’s only a matter of time before virtually all jump incrementally. Historically, it’s happened to every program in history and will happen here. No exceptions. So maybe “not a big deal today” but grounds for big deals every day henceforth.

  2. People didn’t think the huge sign up bonuses over the past couple of years would lead to devaluation of awards? It is called inflation and happens anytime there is more of a currency chasing a limited supply of goods.

    BTW this is reality and always will be. There will continue to be devaluations in ALL the programs. Don’t act like you are “owed” certain benefits or award levels for the points/miles you basically got for nothing (majority sign up bonuses, manufactured spend or as a result of company paid travel). The programs are marketing for the hotels/airlines and not intended to necessarily benefit “you”. Accept reality, use the points as you can and quit whining. If a program doesn’t work for you just go w someone else’s (at least until they also disappoint you)

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