It’s a fact of travel life that the prices charged by airline and hotel loyalty programs may be changed at any time by the program operators. And what makes it a sad fact is that those changes are almost always for the worse.
Case in point, the following from Hilton:
On April 30, 2012, 447 of the more than 3,800 hotels within Hilton Worldwide’s portfolio of brands will be changing their category level with 330 hotels going up one category and 117 hotels going down one category.
As the company takes pains to point out, the changes affect a very small percentage of Hilton’s hotels. But enough small changes over a long enough time period translate into a potentially significant devaluation of a program. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
There’s nothing you can do to stem the tide of award price increases. Since it’s an industry-wide trend—Marriott and Starwood recently increased their prices overall—ditching Hilton HHonors for an alternative hotel program isn’t really an option.
What you can do is make the best of a bad situation and work around the changes in the short run. Here’s how Hilton describes the timing:
All reservations for a Standard Room Reward or a Points & Money Reward made prior to April 30, 2012, will be honored at their original hotel category from the time of booking; however, reward reservations made after April 30, 2012, will be based on the new hotel category levels.
So if you have upcoming award stays, review the list of hotels with changing award prices and, if a hotel on your itinerary is changing, proceed as follows:
- If your stay is at a hotel whose price will increase, book the stay at the current lower rate, before April 30.
- If your stay is at a hotel whose price will decrease, wait until the new lower rate takes effect on May 1 to book the stay.
Reader Reality Check
How do changes in award prices such as these affect your relationship to your travel loyalty program? Do you consider the changes major downgrades or just minor irritants?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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