Jan242014

Hilton HHonors Seasonal Reward Rates clarified

Hilton HHonors made a confusing change last year to their hotel reward categories when they created HHonors seasonal reward rates. The effect of this change makes it necessary to check a separate web page to determine the actual hotel category of any HHonors hotel listed as category 4 to 10, in order to determine the nightly points needed for a reward stay.

The only real need for a hotel category award level is to establish the number of points for an award night. Hilton HHonors put in place a system where many hotels have a fixed hotel reward category, yet the points needed for a reward stay vary based on the month of the year. Their system is  unnecessarily confusing and makes little sense compared to the fixed hotel category award rates used in other hotel loyalty programs.

Choice Privileges is the only other hotel chain that varies award level throughout the year. Starwood has peak season rates at high end hotels, but those are truly seasonal rates. HHonors is actually floating the hotel category without stating this is what they do.

This post uses the Hilton Garden Inn Monterey, category 7, as an example for why Hilton HHonors fixed hotel categories are meaningless.

HHonors Points Search Tool

http://hhonorspointssearchtool.com/ is the monthly calendar to check the standard reward rates for Hilton brand hotels. This is a vital resource to bookmark or favorite.

In April 2013 HHonors increased to 10 hotel reward categories and added seasonal reward rates allowing monthly shifts in reward cost, yet maintained a system of labeling each of their 4,000 hotels globally as a Category 1 to 10 for awards.

HHonors Reward Chart by Category

Not So Simple in Reality.

HHonors Rewards are much more confusing now since there are seasonal rates on Standard Rewards. A category 7 hotel might be 30,000 points or 40,000 points or 50,000 points or 60,000 points per night.

Points & Money Rewards are 40% of the points for the Standard Reward. HHonors Points & Money Rewards are dependent on the Standard Reward price.

A category 7 hotel with a Points & Money Reward might be 12,000 points + $50 per night or 24,000 points + $100 per night depending on whether the Standard Reward is a low 30,000 points or a peak 60,000 points per night.

The HHonors Hotel award category master assignment has a vague meaning when seasonal reward pricing determines the actual reward level. A category 7 hotel does not really mean much when it changes throughout the year in reward cost.

Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is shown as a category 7 hotel. In the old system prior to last year’s changes, I could equate HHonors category 7 with 50,000 points per night for a Standard Award. That is the system HHonors had for several years until 2013.

HHonors cat 7 HGI MRY

According to the current HHonors chart, the reward rate can be 30,000 to 60,000 points for a category 7 hotel reward.

HGI Monterey monthly reward rates

Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is really only a Category 7 hotel at 60,000 points per night for the month of August 2014. Every other month in 2014, the standard reward rate is 40,000 points for this hotel.

The issue for the consumer and loyalty member is the Monterey Hilton Garden Inn webpage showing the hotel is a category 7 has little meaning unless you are staying in the month of August.

HHonors in reality is changing the hotel reward category throughout the year, but that is not how they market their hotel reward stay system.

This is how I think the HHonors award chart should actually look to be more practical for HHonors members:

image

What HHonors calls “seasonal award” variability is in effect the hotel changing reward category in different months of the year.

Hilton Garden Inn Monterey, California is listed as a category 7 hotel. Aside from the month of *August 2014 when standard reward rates are 60,000 points per night, the HGI Monterey is equivalent to HHonors Category 5 in my table at 40,000 points per night for any other month of the year.

* As an aside, August is the foggiest month of the year in Monterey. You might find the area to be very gray and lousy for photography.

In reality, Hilton HHonors category 7 designates the highest category level in terms of points needed for a standard reward night.

My chart shows that 60,000 points is the top end for a category 7 hotel and that is the HGI Monterey rate in August 2014.

HHonors calls this variability in reward pricing seasonal award shift. I call it seasonal award shit.

The HHonors reward stay system would make much more sense to simply state hotels drift between reward categories month to month. And a simple HHonors reward table with one points value associated with one hotel reward category would be far more comprehensible to Hilton HHonors members.

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. I agree that your version of the system would be much easier to understand and plan for than the way HHonors actually did it. I can only assume that the property owners couldn’t be brought on board to the idea that the quality of their property changes throughout the year. It’s more palatable to recognize that your rates vary month to month than to think that your hotel category–which can be seen as a proxy for quality tier–changes.

    As I said though, from an end-user perspective, a single chart with varying seasonal “categories” would be much better.

    The new chart also really messes up the value of the AXON award certificates because the AXON award ends up being MORE expensive during months with rates below the max for a category. With a single rate chart like you propose, AXON would regain value because it would be tied to the actual redemption rate for the month rather than the maximum rate throughout the year.

  2. @Autolycus – fortunately for consumers the Points & Money reward rate is tied to the actual standard reward rate at the time of the stay.

    The rate is 40% points and cash copay so that makes a big difference for a hotel like Monterey Hilton Garden Inn that is 16,000 points + $65 for every month except August 2014 when the Points & Money rate rises to 24,000 points + $100 per night.

  3. Points and Money does seem to be attractive in theory, but in practice I very rarely see those options offered. I guess the quantity available for each property isn’t that many. I would think the properties would want more of the cash for the person staying there, but obviously the whole point redemption system is more complicated than I know.

  4. @Ted – Points & Money are far more limited at category 9 and 10 hotels in my searches.

    There are hotels with no P&M availability for months when standard reward nights are available on most dates.

    P&M rewards are definitely highly capacity controlled.

  5. Ric,

    I don’t understand the concern other than it being needlessly confusing. You make mention of the HGI Monterey, where up to 2013, it was a 50K/night property. Now, 11 out 12 months, it’s a 40K/night property and one lone month is 60K. That’s an improvement for the vast majority of people despite whatever “confusion” there may be about it being a Cat 7 property.

    As for searching for specific category hotels rather than locations, who does that/cares about that any more? You can’t compare a Cat 7 Hilton with a Cat 7 Hyatt any more than you can reliably compare a Cat 5 Hilton with another Cat 5 – there are huge subjective price differences vs the quality you can expect (and that happens in all chains).

    When I go search for Hiltons, I don’t search by category, I search by location. Hilton gives me a list to choose from. From that list, I’ll make my choice – I look at point totals (not mostly useless Category levels) and I suspect 99% does the same.

  6. When was Hilton not confusing? Was their unadvertised AXON reward system not confusing, or their miraculously re-branded “premium” rooms (and they keep playing this “premium” crap of a game even after the devaluation whenever it suits them). Seasons don’t seem to have anything to do with their pricing. Having done my share of research for Hilton properties, I concur that their pricing makes no sense at all, and I strongly suspect it’s by design.

  7. @Paul – which is why the Hilton system is more confusing. If you checked the HGI Monterey for August dates you would see the hotel is 60,000 points per night.

    Unless you check dates in July or September you would not realize the hotel is only 40,000 points in those months.

    Someone can get a 3-night stay on points in July or September for the same amount of points as a 2-night stay in August.

    That is why knowing the category is important since shifting your vacation dates by one week makes a big difference in the hotel stay you can redeem.

  8. Hilton should just get on with charging fix points for dollar amounts, that is what they are after but instead they created a confused mess. Ofcourse it could be a good marketing strategy to move to fix points per dollar as an enhancement when they do it in the future and tout as a simple award chart.

  9. How about if they said each hotel had a category with the maximum points required, but that they may offer discounts on redemptions for part of the year? Categories mainly come into play for me when I have a free night for a hotel in certain categories. Having a high category, but discounts most of the year would keep us riffraff out, but then we could always use points anyway. 🙂

    I partly agree with Paul that most people search by location and not category, but I also do some planning of my route, when driving, based on price, whether in dollars or points. If they make points required easily available, then it isn’t a problem, but sometimes it isn’t so obvious. I also get tripped up when the price in points changes a lot for an area/hotel I frequently travel through. I saw a Best Western change from 12,000 points last month to 28,000 points this month while the dollar price dropped.

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