The new Hilton Honors program has now rolled out its variable Points & Money awards, which should enable you to use your Honors points more flexibly to book any hotel. However, there are some notable problems with how this change applies to the collection of resort fees.
I like that the new Points & Money awards let me use my Hilton Honors points for any award night. There were several recent instances in which I wanted to use points but couldn’t find award space. I was stuck paying cash or redeeming points with a competing chain. Furthermore, I do not have enough points in my account for the entire trip. Assuming award nights are available, I would probably not be able to book the entire stay with points and would need to make multiple reservations — some with points and some with cash.
These new Points & Money awards do make it much easier to use points for just about any award stay. I tried a new search for an upcoming stay in Honolulu and found that every hotel had space available. Previous searches before this new benefit had returned negative results.
But, there is some bad news. I’m not thrilled with the value I’m getting on some of these partial redemptions. Let’s use the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki as an example. A base room there goes for 58,000 points per night (which I consider reasonable). Alternatively, I could pay $247 plus tax and resort fees.
For a three-night stay that means choosing between 174,000 points or $964.10. That’s about 0.55 cents per point — not bad considering that my average value for Hilton points is about 0.4 to 0.6 cents each.
The problem occurs when I try to use Points & Money for this award. Redeeming all of my 73,000 points would still mean paying $609.98. I’m saving just $354.12, for a value of 0.49 cents per point.
Why are these numbers so different? How did my points lose 11% of their value?
The problem lies with resort fees. Although I’ve reduced my room rate by $310.74 — over a third — the $105 in resort fees are unchanged. In fact, these resort fees will stick around as long as I pay any amount in cash, even a single dollar. Resort fees are only waived when I redeem points for the entire stay.
I appreciate that Hilton includes the cost of resort fees in the booking estimate rather than as a separate note that they’ll be applied at check-out. It’s very transparent even though I think this $35 daily fee is a ridiculous charge. (Besides the fact that some benefits are free for elite members, I find it amusing that this property claims it offers a value of $128 per day. That’s another way of saying only 27% of guests utilize these benefits. A separate resort fee makes clear that they are not being given away for free.)
My example won’t be as problematic for people staying at hotels that don’t charge resort fees. But members should not be penalized for trying to use their points on vacation when such fees are more common. It’s perfectly legitimate to test how Points & Money awards would apply to this real-life example.
Is there a solution? I found that even when a small amount of the rate is paid with cash I was quoted the full resort fee amount. On the flip side, I do not expect Hilton to waive all of the resort fees when redeeming a small number of points. It seems that Hilton should try to make the resort fees proportional to the amount of money paid for the award rather than an all-or-nothing event.
The more obvious solution — eliminating resort fees and rolling them into the base rate — isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
Hilton does waive resort fees on free night awards, like other chains. Some of these competing chains also waive fees on their version of Points & Money awards. But other chains have a fixed proportion of points and money, while Hilton’s is variable. Again, I think that variable award pricing requires variable resort fees.