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Hilton Honors Devalues High-End Hotel Redemptions

Hilton Honors has increased their points pricing at some high-end resorts as of March 2022. The change comes without advance notice, and those of you who are saving up to redeem Hilton Honors points on one of these luxury properties will likely be disappointed.

Changes to High-End Hilton Hotels

Hilton stopped publishing award charts back in 2017. However, the more expensive award rates had remained consistent at a maximum of 95,000 Hilton Honors points, with just two properties priced above 100,000 points.

This latest price increase brings a whole slew of properties into the six-figure range, and has impacted the following properties:

A few lower-end properties have also increased in price, such as the Conrad Manila rising from 37,000 to 47,000 points per night.

These price changes are a staggering 35% increase for the Conrad Bora Bora, a 26% increase for the Conrad Maldives and Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, and a nearly 16% increase for the Grand Wailea, Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, Roku Kyoto, and Mango House Seychelles.

Keep in mind that there may be even more properties that have been affected by this change. Hilton Honors’s opaque rewards system with no published award charts or categories makes it difficult to track all movements across the 6,000+ properties in the portfolio.

Mango House Seychelles, Hilton LXR

A “Not a Devaluation” Devaluation

There’s an argument to be made that these changes aren’t really a devaluation in the traditional sense, since it’s simply the workings of a dynamic pricing model in action.

Under a dynamic pricing model, prices can change at any time based on the underlying cash rates without any need for advance notice. 

Hilton Honors had a previous implemented a “soft cap” of 95,000 points per night at many top properties in the past (with only two properties, the Waldorf Astorias in the Maldives and Los Cabos, going higher than that at 120,000–150,000 points per night). But this was always an unofficial cap, and never formalized via a published award chart.

Therefore, in some ways, these changes as of March 2022 aren’t really changes to the program, since the pricing remains under a dynamic model as it always has done; instead, it’s merely an adjustment under that well-documented dynamic model.

Grand Wailea Maui, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Grand Wailea Maui, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel

However, in practice, there’s no denying that this is very much a devaluation for anyone who’s been saving up their Hilton points to redeem 95,000 points per night for the top-end properties.

Indeed, that’s the major downside to loyalty programs that use dynamic models; they can make these unannounced changes that move the goalposts with no notice and no recourse for members.

Hilton’s ugly moves here are a sign of things to come in the wider hotel loyalty space, with Marriott Bonvoy also moving to dynamic pricing in 2023 and beyond. At the same time, World of Hyatt has shifted several luxury properties to Category 8 and introduced peak and off-peak award pricing as of March 2022 as well.

When it comes to Hilton Honors, it’s becoming more important to earn points with the intention of using them on an immediate upcoming redemption. Hoarding points can be risky as we continue to see rewards programs devalue their points.

I’m personally quite annoyed as I had looked forward to checking out the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam and Beverly Hills, in particular, using my Hilton points. However, all is not lost because…

Hilton Free Weekend Night Rewards Still Have Value

Fortunately, the Hilton Honors program can still offer excellent value for some of the most expensive properties, despite these changes to points redemptions.

That’s because Hilton Free Weekend Night Rewards can be redeemed at virtually all Hilton properties with no upper caps. Since some of the properties have become more expensive with this change, the Free Weekend Night Rewards have become inherently more valuable on paper.

I far prefer the uncapped usage of Hilton’s certificates to, say, Marriott’s Free Night Awards, which are capped at a specific points level and will soon be able to be topped-up with points, but only up to 15,000 points.

Thus, I look forward to continuing to earn Hilton Free Weekend Night Rewards via my Amex US Hilton Surpass and Aspire credit cards (spending US$15,000 per year on my Surpass cards and as an automatic benefit on my Aspire card).

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Those free nights continue to be a major motivator for Canadians to get into the Amex US Hilton Cards game, especially now that they offer record-high bonuses (including Free Night Rewards as part of the welcome offer itself).

If you were mulling over the possibility of redeeming 95,000 Hilton points for top-tier hotels and are now set back by these changes, the current no-fee Amex US Hilton Card welcome offer of 70,000 points and a Free Night Award could bring your redemption back within reach.

Conclusion

Previously, the variable award pricing for Hilton Honors tended to cap at 95,000 points for standard rooms at higher-end properties. We’re now seeing a new threshold of 110,000–120,000 for many of these properties.

These changes continue the recent upward inflation in the luxury hotel market, as we can see reflected in shifts with both Marriott Bonvoy moving to dynamic pricing in 2023 and World of Hyatt’s recent changes to their award pricing.

We may continue to see the cost of points continue to increase, as we’ve seen a rise in underlying demand for luxury travel and corresponding increases in room rates.

Despite these changes, Free Weekend Night Rewards from co-branded credit cards can still be redeemed at these properties at a great value. However, those working towards redeeming points at one of the affected properties will now have further to go.

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