If you’re part of the points community, you’ve probably already heard that Hilton just MASSIVELY devalued their award chart effective March 28, 2013. The gruesome details have already been covered by The Points Guy, Loyalty Traveler, and View from the Wing, among others. Essentially, they’re going from 7 categories to 10, and increasing the points required by a ton.
This is a big deal in the points world because Hilton is by far the biggest hotel chain in the world AND offered the best value for top-end properties. This was the sweet-spot, so to speak, for HHonors points – high-end hotels that can be had at a relative steal when paying with points.
Now all of that is going away, with those same high-end hotels nearly doubling in points. Yup, a 90% increase on many of the hotels that you’d actually want to stay at (Maldives, Koh Samui, etc.). At least they were kind enough to let us know what properties would be increasing, but that kindness is kind of useless when it’s all bad news from there.
My New Strategy
Thankfully I wasn’t in too deep with Hilton when this change was announced. I currently have about 100K HHorrors points with about 10K more on the way, plus three free night certificates from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card (minimum spend was 2 nights plus I hit the $10K requirement for another night).
My plan was to go big on Hilton cards for my next churn/app-o-rama so I could build a reasonable stash of 200K-300K points for one or two great trips, but not anymore. I plan to burn the points I have in combination with the free night certificates, cancel my Citi HHonors Reserve card, and be done with Hilton…at least for now.
I have no respect for a company that prints points faster than Zimbabwe did cash to create hyperinflation of their currency. It was amazing to get 12x/10x at Hilton properties when using the right credit card. It was fantastic that we could buy gift cards for 6x at CVS. But to then turn around and double the cost of award redemptions? That’s just dirty.
Note that the devaluation itself isn’t a problem for me. That stuff happens. SPG devalued Cash & Points, Priority Club added several categories, Marriott screwed all their customers, etc. The problem is the degree to which it was done.
At least you have a fair warning of one month to use all your points. I recommend you empty your accounts while you can, unless the property you’re eyeing happens to still be a reasonable rate (not likely). It’s worth checking.
Alternatives to Hilton
So now that everyone is running away from Hilton (read the comments in any article that discusses the topic – people really are pissed, and for good reason), it’s time to consider your other options.
Hyatt and Starwood are the major players. While I really do love the SPG program, it’s not the best for high-end properties. You can easily see this when you consider that signing up for their credit card doesn’t even get you enough points for a single night at the top St. Regis hotels in exotic locations, for example. Hyatt, on the other hand, looks like our best bet.
Not only does the Chase Hyatt card give you two free nights anywhere, but Hyatt is a 1-to-1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate rewards, giving you even more options. Since a night at a top end property costs 22K Hyatt points, the 50K point bonus for the Ink Bold/Plus cards, for example, will yield you more than enough points for two more free nights. In my opinion, this is your best bet for “aspirational” stays.
I think it’s also time to consider Club Carlson’s program, which contains Radisson hotels. While their footprint is small and elite benefits are still lacking, their points program is pretty strong. The Radisson Blu hotel chain is their top end product and costs 50K points a night, but that can be offset by the 85K point bonus on their credit card. The showstopper, so to speak, is that if you’re a credit card holder and you book two award nights, the second night is free. So two nights at a Radisson Blu effectively costs 50K points, which is a great deal.
Unfortunately, Hilton does have properties in places that no one else does. Auckland, New Zealand is one of them, for example. You may be stuck in situations like that, but perhaps you can try smaller bed & breakfast-type places instead of giving your business to Hilton. I know I’ll consider it.
I’ll be sticking to SPG and using Hyatt for when I want a hotel in a popular destination like the Maldives or Koh Samui, and somewhere down the line I’ll consider Club Carlson’s program as well. But for now, I’m no longer bothering with Hilton HHorors.