Hilton Worldwide is overhauling its Hilton Honors loyalty program with revised points earning rates for Blue, Silver, Gold and Diamond members; new ‘milestone bonuses’ and free companion Gold or Diamond status for regular guests; and the ability to bank extra nights towards next year’s status.
However, the changes are a mixed bag, with the option to simultaneously earn both Hilton Honors points and airline frequent flyer points (such as with Qantas and Virgin Australia) being eliminated, and regular Hilton Honors point earning rates being slashed by around 30% for Blue and Silver cardholders.
Whether you spend 10 or 100 nights with Hilton each year, here’s what the changes mean to you.
Points & Miles, Points & Points earning options scrapped
Under the current system, members earn 10 Hilton Honors points per US$1 spent on most hotel stays, plus their choice of frequent flyer points under the ‘Points & Miles’ option (such as with Qantas and Virgin Australia), or an extra five Hilton Honors points per US$1 spent via ‘Points & Points’.
For instance, a member might choose to earn 10 Hilton Honors points plus 5 bonus Hilton Honors points for a total of 15 points per US$1 spent, or 10 Hilton Honors points plus one Qantas Point or two Velocity points per US$1 spent instead.
But from April, those extra points disappear, with members earning only 10 Hilton Honors points per US$1 spent, and nothing more: a 33% reduction for entry-level Blue members.
While the option of converting Hilton Honors points into airline frequent flyer points remains, the conversion rates applied continue to be poor – commonly 6.66:1, or 10,000 Hilton Honors points for just 1,500 frequent flyer points – with these changes bringing an end to earning frequent flyer points on Hilton hotel stays at reasonable rates.
Revised elite bonuses for Silver, Gold and Diamond members
At present, Hilton Honors Silver members earn a 15% bonus on the number of base points earned when staying at hotels, with higher bonuses of 25% for Gold and 50% for Diamond.
As of April 2018, those bonuses change to 20% for Silver, 80% for Gold and 100% for Diamond – which sounds good on paper, but because members are no longer earning extra Hilton Honors points through the Points & Points earning option, it’s not good news for all.
For example, Silver members could previously earn 10 base points per US$1 spent at most hotels, plus a 15% bonus on that amount (1.5 points), plus five extra Hilton Honors points per US$1 spent when opting for Points & Points as a ‘double dip’, for a total of 16.5 points per US$1 spent.
Under the new system, these members still earn 10 base points per US$1 spent, but the only addition to this is the 20% bonus – being two points per US$1 spent – for a total of just 12 points per US$1 spent, or a drop of almost 30%.
Crunching the numbers for Gold members, there’s a minor increase from 17.5 points per US$1 spent (10 + 25% (2.5) + 5) to 18 points (10 + 80%), while for Diamond members, the overall earn rate remains unchanged at 20 points per US$1 spent.
That’s because the outgoing earning option provided 10 base points + a 50% bonus (5 points) + 5 points per US$1 spent, while the new option simply doubles the 10 base points earned to reach the same result, making the new '100% bonus' no more generous than before.
Breakfast now complimentary breakfast at Waldorf Astoria hotels
Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members normally enjoy free breakfast when staying at most hotels in the program – including Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Conrad, Curio and Tapestry Collection – but one notable exception had always been the luxury Waldorf Astoria chain.
As of this month, that exception is no more, with these members treated to complimentary daily breakfast at all Waldorf Astoria hotels globally, in addition to the brands above.
Selected Waldorf Astoria hotels previously offered breakfast as an ‘unwritten’ perk for Gold and Diamond cardholders – such as at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund – with this latest change making this an official benefit across the board.
Give Hilton Honors Gold, Diamond status to a friend or partner
Spend 60 nights at hotels every calendar year – enough to earn Hilton Honors Diamond for yourself – and you’ll now be able to gift Hilton Honors Gold status to one person of your choosing.
After spending 100 nights each year at hotels, that gift is upgraded to Hilton Honors Diamond for your nominated companion: the highest level in the program.
This benefit applies from the 2018 calendar year, so any nights already spent at the chain’s hotels will contribute to that tally, along with your future stays as the year progresses.
New ‘milestone bonus’ for frequent travellers
Spend 40 nights a year in hotels and from April 2018, you’ll earn a ‘milestone bonus’ of 10,000 bonus Hilton Honors points – plus an extra 10,000 bonus Hilton Honors points for every 10 further nights you stay in the same year, without limit.
There’ll also be a separate bonus of 30,000 Hilton Honors points on your 60th night each year, in addition to the 10,000 points earned at the same time, as above.
That means travellers who stay 50 nights per year could earn 20,000 bonus points, those who stay 60 nights per year could earn 60,000 bonus points (3 x 10,000 + 30,000), with 70,000 bonus points on offer for those who stay 70 nights, and so on.
Extra nights help with your status next year
Currently, Hilton Honors members can earn status based on the number of times they check-in (stays), the number of base points they’ve earned, or the number of nights spent in hotels – but when qualifying via the latter, any extra nights spent at hotels each year don’t help with your status, unless you earned enough of them to move up to the next tier.
From this year, any nights earned over and above those needed to earn or retain your Silver, Gold or Diamond status are automatically banked for use in the following year, known as ‘rollover nights’.
For example, to reach Hilton Honors Gold you’d normally need to spend 40 nights a year in hotels, or 60 nights for Hilton Honors Diamond – so spending 50 nights would get you Gold, but nothing more for your extra loyalty.
Under the new scheme, those first 40 nights will continue to count towards your Gold membership, but those 10 extra nights would be kept in reserve for following year, meaning you’d only need a further 30 nights to retain Gold in your next membership year, or could simply enjoy a year of Hilton Honors Silver status, earned after 10 nights.