Hilton HHonors Armageddon. Oy!

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If you don’t want to read my long-winded epos, that’s OK. Here are the files kindly provided by flyertalker jerry305 (post 599) in Word and Excel. The new chart is very nicely itemized by category–very convinient! North America is in green; Europe in blue; Asia in Red.

Thanks Jerry!

Hilton HHonors HotelCategoryChart DOC

Hilton HHonors HotelCategoryChart XLS

Updated 03.04.13. XLS Chart by richdary (thanks Richard). Adds more search functionality.

Hilton-HHonors-HotelCategoryChart_V3

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Oy is about right!

On March 28th, our used-to-be beloved Hilton HHonors program is implementing new changes that will forever end the program we know, cherish, and…

Wait, did I just say “beloved”? Did I say “cherish”? Was I about to use the word “love”?

The truth is, no one really loves Hilton HHonors. Not even their loyal customers. No one but me. Well, to be honest, even I don’t like it. All we do is bitching about how they devalue our hard-earned miles year after year. First, it was the death of the Point Stretcher awards. Then it was the introduction of premium redemption rates. I’m sure there had been some other mischievous deeds on the part of Hilton before that. I’m sure there had been legions of Hilton loyal customers who swore off Hilton for good back then, and then again.  And I’m pretty sure some of the same folks are swearing off Hilton as we speak right now. Hell, show me a single fellow who would love to jump through the hoops. Really, find me one, I’ll wait.

It’s not surprising that people are upset. It would be more surprising if they weren’t.

Now, let me explain something first. I am not a loyal anything. I call myself a gamer, even though other people might have another word for what I do. A word like whore! I’ll go with whatever program that satisfies my insatiable quest for free travel at every given moment. If you are a loyal Hilton customer who doesn’t have access to US credit and who earns their points butt-in-bed, and not via credit card schemes, you have all the rights in the world to be pissed. Well, at least some of you, not all. Bear with me, I will explain.

But you–you, my fellow Americans, living in the world of wicked credit card bonuses and  blessed with good credit score, guess what: after you let the steam out, you will stick with Hilton once again, and there is a damn good reason for it. And you know why you’re going to stick with them?  Because the value one can get out of Hilton is insane. And it will remain insane even after the March 28th massacre.

One major complaint regarding the new rules is the creation of 3 new top categories, which will make it much harder to use points for stay at the most luxurious (people use the word aspirational, and I agree) properties. Well, work with me here, OK? Let’s dare to compare a few hotel loyalty programs before drawing any conclusions.

Let’s begin with SPG. The maximum “free” value one can get out of the SPG is 60,000 points. That’s 2 Amex card bonuses plus 10,000 points for meeting the spend. Moreover, you will have to wait for at least a year after closing either card to get another bonus. Let’s write it down.

That’s 60,000 SPG points.

Of course, SPG takes fewer miles for a lot of lower-end properties, but for high-end hotels, their rates are not low. Their Cat 7 awards go for 30-35K per night which means all your credit card bonuses (well all two of them) will not even be enough for a weekend stay. Moving on.

A Marriott bonus one can get out of the Chase Marriott card is pathetic. 50,000 or 70,000 bonus with a trick if it works for you. Yes, Marriott Business offers another 30,000, but wasting a Chase inquiry on that is ridiculous, IMHO. So, definitely less than 2 nights at a top category hotel. And the rumor is you might be able to get a bonus from Chase once every 2 years. Well, “might” is an operational word, because it’s not science! Let’s write it down, too.

That’s 50,000-70,000 Marriott points. 

The new US Bank Club Carlson offers 85,000 points for each personal and business card. That makes it 170,000 points. That’s not too shabby. With the top category 6 hotels redeemable for 50,000 points that makes it from 4 to 6 nights redemption (depends on how cunningly you use the free night feature) at the highest level with a few points to spare. Writing it down:

That’s 170,000 Club Carlson points.

The Chase Priority Club card gives you an 80,000-points bonus. The top level hotel redeems for 50,000. That’s one night and a change at the top level IC property.

That’s 80,000 Priority Club points.

Hyatt and Fairmont: Two nights with each chain, courtesy of corresponding Chase credit cards. Pretty straightforward, I’d say. Again, being this is the Chase, you’ll be lucky if you can get another bonus 2 years after closing either card.

So, that’s 2 free nights at a top of the line Fairmont and Hyatt.

Ok, now let’s talk Hilton, and what you can “earn” off CC bonuses within one year .

Amex: 50,000 points

Amex Surpass Upgrade: 50,000 points

Citi: 50,000 x 2 times a year (that’s very conservative, can be done 3 times a year, easy or more) : 100,000 points.

BOA Hawaiian: 70,000 (after transfer) x 2 times a year (easy): 140,000 points.

BOH Hawaiian: 70,000 (after transfer) x 2 times a year (easy): 140,000 points.

Citi Reserve: A free 2-night weekend plus gold status*

*According to some sources, the bonus will be extended to all the new levels. I’m almost positive, this is going to be the case, but of course, we don’t know for sure yet.

With the inclusion of a free weekend bonus (provided you use it on the highest Cat hotel as you should), we are talking about 670,000 HHonors points within one year timeframe. Even if the Axon is going away without a replacement, and all they will offer us is a 5th free night, that’s still 8 nights at the most expensive Hilton in the world in high season, or 10 nights in low season.

Then there are actual earning options on various credit cards. Yes, those options are going to be reduced as well, however, we will still get more return on our credit card spend at least with Amex Surpass and Citi Reserve than from any other cards. I haven’t crunched those numbers just yet, so let’s leave it at that. I have absolutely no doubt, however, that you won’t have a problem to raise your score to 760,000 points, which is going to be enough for two “aspirational” 5-day free vacations at the best Hilton that money… sorry, points can buy.

Free possible upgrades, breakfast and internet that come with the Gold status are just the frosting on the cake. Albeit a delicious one.

Now, you can say that you don’t want to deal with credit cards, that you’re not a churner, and this method is not for you. Well, if that’s the case, then I respect your resolve, but you are missing out on the most spectacular aspect of the Hilton HHonors program. In this case, yes, run away, because this devaluation is real and truly dramatic. Especially, if you are a luxury traveler.

But what if you aren’t?

This question brings us to one change in HHonors that is terrific. If you are a traveler who wants to see more of the world for free, but doesn’t insist on the most luxurious accommodations, then the HHOnors changes might be the next best thing after the sliced bread for you.

One flyertalker compared this devaluation to the one undergone by the British Airways, and I really liked that comparison. For me that BA devaluation that everyone had hated turned out to be a great thing. The ability to use a small amount of Avios on short but expensive hops on partners is worth much more to me then flying on a BA metal and paying mind-blowing YQs for the privilege. This HHonors change might be something just like that. Let’s compare two tables first.

Before:

Category 1: 7,500 points
Category 2: 12,500 points
Category 3: 25,000 points
Category 4: 30,000 points
Category 5: 35,000 points
Category 6: 40,000 points
Category 7: 50,000 points

After:

1 5,000 Points
2 10,000 Points
3 20,000 Points
4 20,000 to 30,000 Points
5 30,000 to 40,000 Points
6 30,000 to 50,000 Points
7 30,000 to 60,000 Points
8 40,000 to 70,000 Points
9 50,000 to 80,000 Points
10 70,000 to 95,000 Points

Here is the thing: Right now there is one half-decent international Category 1 Hilton in the world: Hilton Salalah in Oman. I’m saying “half-decent” because it’s out of the way, not because it’s a bad hotel. Quite the contrary, the hotel seems to be very nice according to the reviews.

Here are some new Category 1 properties we are getting after the changes. That’s just to name a few; there are other interesting additions for 5,000 points a night:

DoubleTree by Hilton Merida Yucatan

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Goa – Arpora – Baga

Doubletree by Hilton Beijing

Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, Managed by Hilton

Some interesting Cat. 2 hotels for 10,000 points:

DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Aqaba

Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City – Centro Historico

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bratislava

There are other good Hilton properties where you will be able to find incredible value of HHonors, but it’s getting late. My point is, no other hotel chains in existence gives you the gaming options like Hilton. Yes, the coming devaluation reduces these options, but it does not take them away. No Armageddon in sight, folks.

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Geri J.

I was just looking at the updated Category Chart. I was especially curious about the Hiltons in Central and South America, but I didn’t see any. Is there a page missing?

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