Changes to hotel programs' award prices are a fact of travel life.
Price increases inevitably outpace price decreases, resulting in an overall devaluation of members' banked points.
Grumbling ensues, but most travelers stop short of ditching the offending program because, well, all the programs are devaluing their points so there's little to be gained by switching.
The changes announced this week by Hilton may be of a different order, however. They could result in significant numbers of HHonors members not just bemoaning the higher prices but rethinking their loyalty altogether.
March 28 is the date the new HHonors award chart and pricing will take effect.
- Instead of the current seven award categories, there will be 10 categories with the top rate increasing from 50,000 points to 95,000 points per night.
- Within each award category, there will be low- and high-season rates.
- Elite members will receive a fifth night free when booking a four-night award stay.
Hilton has published a list of the new award categories. Unhelpfully, the list doesn't include the current price or the new high- and low-season prices, so for a before-and-after comparison, you'll have to toggle back and forth between two lists.
A review of randomly picked Hilton properties showed that most award prices will either remain the same or increase at the low-season levels, and increase precipitously at the high-season levels.
As an example, the Conrad New York is currently a Category Seven hotel, requiring 50,000 points per award night. Under the new scheme, it will be a Category Nine hotel, requiring 70,000 points in low season and 80,000 points in high season. The new rates are 40 to 60 percent higher than those currently in effect.
The fifth-night-free for elites, which is copied from Marriott and Starwood's programs, is a downgrade as well, since it replaces the current discounts for elite stays (15 percent discount for a four-night stay; 20 percent for a four-night stay; 25 percent for a six-night stay).
In all, the changes amount to one of the most sweepingly negative downgrades ever, for Hilton or any major hotel chain.
It also makes HHonors, already the most complicated of the hotel loyalty programs, even more so.
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
In the short term, the standard advice applies during the grace period before price increases take effect: Book award nights at current prices before any increases take effect on March 28.
In this case, travelers will also want to consider the longer view and reevaluate their continued participation in HHonors.
Reader Reality Check
How will these changes affect your loyalty to Hilton hotels?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.