Earlier this year, when Hilton renamed its Honors loyalty program (it was previously HHonors), the company promised program members four new upgrades: a more flexible points-and-money option; a new redemption partner, Amazon; status extension for Diamond elite members; and points pooling.
Today, Hilton delivered on the points-pooling promise.
Effective immediately, Honors members may combine their points with as many as 10 other members fee-free. That’s a real competitive advantage over other hotel loyalty programs, which charge fees to combine points from other members’ accounts, if they allow pooling at all. From a consumer standpoint, it’s potentially a real value-add.
The last of the four promises that remains unfulfilled is the Amazon redemptions. Aside from timing, the question is how much Honors points will be worth when redeemed for Amazon products. Across both airline and hotel programs, redemptions for consumer merchandise, versus flights or room nights, have historically represented very poor value. That makes perfect sense, given the underlying economics. Merchandise awards are a hard cost to the programs, which must be covered by higher redemption prices. Giving away seats or room nights, which in most cases would have gone unsold, is much more cost-effective, allowing for relatively lower redemption prices and a more compelling value proposition.
Honors points are worth between 0.4 cents and 0.5 cents each, when redeemed for hotel stays. If they turn out to be worth significantly less when used on Amazon.com, the partnership will be more sizzle than steak.
Reader Reality Check
Is Honors’ points pooling feature a difference-maker for you?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.