All the Details: 2018 Hilton Honors Program Changes

Hilton is one of the largest hotel chains with over 5,000 locations worldwide, and they operate one of the largest hotel loyalty programs, Hilton Honors. The program underwent some changes in 2017, perhaps most notably a name change from HHonors to Hilton Honors, pooling of points, and Points + Cash redemptions.

In an attempt to stay competitive, Hilton is back with a slew of changes. Here’s the rundown of the 2018 Hilton Honors program updates.

“Free Breakfast” at Waldorf Astoria Properties for Gold and Diamond Members

Previously, Hilton Honors Gold members received free continental breakfast or 1,000 bonus points at Conrad, Curio, Tapestry, DoubleTree, Hilton, and Hilton Garden Inn locations. Diamond members, meanwhile, receive both the bonus points and free breakfast at these locations.

Effectively immediately, Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members will also receive “free breakfast” at Waldorf=Astoria properties. I put free breakfast in quotes, because that’s technically not true for all Waldorf-Astoria locations. Some property will provide continental breakfast, some are generous enough to provide a full breakfast, but some properties will provide a $15 food and beverage credit in lieu of a real breakfast. As you might imagine, $15 doesn’t get you very far at a Waldorf Astoria.

These locations will only provide a continental breakfast for Gold and Diamond members:

  • Waldorf Astoria Berlin
  • Waldorf Astoria Jeddah – Qasr Al Sharq
  • Waldorf Astoria Panama

These hotels will provide a full breakfast for Gold and Diamond elites:

  • Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
  • Waldorf Astoria Beijing
  • Waldorf Astoria Chengdu
  • Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah
  • Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh –The Caledonian
  • Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
  • Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah
  • Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resort
  • Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund
  • Trianon Palace Versailles A Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Meanwhile, these properties will provide a $15 food and beverage credit only:

  • Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills
  • Boca Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Boca Raton Resort and Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • The Reach Key West, Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Waldorf Astoria Chicago
  • Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Ho’olei at Grand Wailea
  • La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando
  • Waldorf Astoria Park City
  • The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel
The Waldorf Astoria Chicago, one of the properties that will provide a $15 Food and Beverage credit to Gold and Diamond members in lieu of a true breakfast. Source: Waldorf Astoria Chicago

The Waldorf Astoria Chicago, one of the properties that will provide a $15 Food and Beverage credit to Gold and Diamond members in lieu of a true breakfast. Source: Waldorf Astoria Chicago

New Earning Structure Coming April 2018

Presently, Hilton Honors members have two ways to earn points. Everybody earns 10 base points per dollar spent (except Tru and Home2Suites locations, where they earn 5 points per dollar). But on top of that, you can choose between the following MyWay earning styles:

  • “Points + Points” – Earn 5 bonus points per dollar spent on top of the base points (except Tru and Home2Suites locations, with 2.5 bonus points), or
  • “Points + Miles” – Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on top of the base points (a cap of 100 miles per stay at True and Home2Suites locations)

Elites will earn bonus based on the base points:

  • Regular (Blue) Members do not receive a bonus = 15 points per dollar if you choose Points + Points
  • Silver Members get a 15% bonus on base points = 16.5 points per dollar if you choose Points and Points
  • Gold Members get a 25% bonus on base points = 17.5 points per dollar if you choose Points and Points
  • Diamond Members get a 50% bonus on base points = 20 points per dollar if you choose Points and Points

Come April 2018, there will be a simplified earning structure in place. Essentially, the MyWay Earning Style will be going away, which means that you won’t be able to earn airline miles with your stays anymore. Members will continue to earn 10 base points per dollar spent (except Tru and Home2Suites locations, where they earn 5 points per dollar). The additional MyWay 5 bonus points or 1 airline mile will not be available. However, elites will earn an “increased” bonus percentage from the base points.

  • Regular (Blue) Members do not receive a bonus = 10 points/dollar –  a 33% decrease
  • Silver Members get a 20% bonus on base points = 12 points/dollar – a 27% decrease
  • Gold Members get a 80% bonus on base points = 18 points/dollar – a 3% increase
  • Diamond Members get a 100% bonus on base points = 20 point/dollar – no change
Hilton Honors 2018 Chanegs to Points Earning Structure

Hilton Honors 2018 Chanegs to Points Earning Structure

The bottom line: Regular (Blue) and Silver members will earn far fewer points, Gold members will earn slightly more points, while Diamond members will earn the same amount of points on a stay to stay basis.

Milestone Bonus Points for (Some) Gold and Diamond Members

As part of the changes, Hilton Honors is introducing milestone bonuses for Gold and Diamond members. After staying for 40 nights, members will receive 10,000 bonus points, and then an additional 10,000 points for every 10 nights stayed. After staying 60 nights, members will receive an additional 30,000 points.

In other words, you will receive 10,000 bonus points at 40 nights, 10,000 extra at 50 nights, and then 10,000 + 30,000 at 60 nights.

You will also get 10,000 points for 10 nights stay beyond that with no caps (e.g. if you spend 365 days at Hilton, you will end the year of 360,000 points.) If you stay in 10-night increments, this equates to a 1,000-point rebate per night, which isn’t half bad.

Rollover Nights

Elite members of all tiers can also start rolling over elite-qualifying nights earned in 2018 to the calendar year of 2019. This is a smart move, and one that together with milestone bonuses will encourage members to keep staying with Hilton even after they’ve earned status for the next year.

Only nights are eligible to be rolled over, this means that if you qualify based on stays, your nights will not roll over until they have met the night requirement for the given tier. For example, if you made 30 one-night stays, you would qualify for Diamond status. However, only night 61 and beyond will roll over to the next year (i.e. night 31 will not).

If you stay 39 nights (in less than 20 stays), for example, you will earn Silver status, and have 29 nights to start the next year, a pretty healthy boost and with Silver status to start. Meanwhile, if you stay 39 nights in 21 stays, you will earn Gold status based on number of stays, but that also means none of your nights will rollover to the next year.

Rollover nights are only valid for one year.

Status Gifting

Starting in April 2018, Hilton Honors Diamond members who have stayed for more than 60 nights will also be able to gift status to another Hilton Honors member. At 60 nights, the Diamond member can gift Gold status to anyone. At 100 nights, they can gift Diamond status.

Once a recipient has been designated, it cannot be changed for the calendar year. So for example, if you gifted Gold status at 60 nights, and later stayed for 100 nights, that same recipient will simply get an upgrade to Diamond. Meanwhile, if you didn’t designate anyone at 60 nights, you can choose to gift anyone Diamond status at 100 nights.

Overall Impression of 2018 Hilton Honors Changes

Overall, I think these changes signal a few things.

Hotel loyalty programs are increasing focus on rewarding loyalty based on revenue by way of valuing number of nights higher than number of stays. Unlike World of Hyatt, which has eliminated the ability to qualify based on number of stays, Hilton Honors stopped short of that with these changes. However, virtually all new benefits–the bonus points, status gifting, and rollover nights are essentially benefits only available to Diamond members who qualify based on nights.

I think this is also a way for Hilton to distinguish people who worked for their Diamond status from people who simply received the Diamond status, which should help lessen the impact to truly loyal customers by what’s soon to be a quickly expanding rank of Diamonds. With new credit cards launching in just a matter of days, there will be a new wave of Diamond members who get the status from a $450-a-year American Express Aspire card. These changes ensure that those guests will still get certain benefits, like free breakfast and bonused earning with their stays, but won’t get the other, new benefits.

For the most part, the changes only benefit high tier elites. Regular and Silver members will be earning fewer points once the new earning structure kicks in in April, while Gold members are basically keeping status quo. Diamond members who qualify on stays will be earning more points, which is a welcomed change.

I’m glad to see Hilton finally including free breakfast at their “best” properties, namely the Waldorf Astoria, to elite members. However, the way the “free breakfast” is implemented basically highlights everything that’s wrong with the Hilton Honors program: inconsistency between properties. Instead of offering a full breakfast, some resorts will only offer a $15 food and beverage credit in lieu of breakfast, which doesn’t get you very far at a luxury hotel. Hilton Honors also still lacks on guaranteed benefits, like upgrades and late checkouts, and these changes do not fix that.

Nonetheless, I think I’m content with these changes. They mostly benefit higher tier elites, but keep in mind that almost anyone (based in the US, at least) can get Gold or Diamond statuses fairly easily. If anything, these changes hint at an unbundling of the benefits and the earning of the Hilton Honors program – the benefits are relatively easily obtained with credit cards, while bonus points are harder to come by and reward true loyalty.

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