Some more numbers on the Hilton HHonors devaluation, and why Marriott might be worse


Like most people who saw the news late yesterday that the Hilton HHonors award chart was changing I was quick to note how bad the changes appear to be. And, to be fair, they are bad in many, many places. But I also like to make sure I’m getting (and sharing) the full picture, so I decided to delve a bit deeper into the data. Hilton has built a website for figuring out the points required at any given property under the new scheme. And, fortunately, it is reasonably easy to script that site. So I did. I picked, somewhat at random, Alaska, Missouri, Illinois, Idaho, Texas, Florida, Georgia, New York and Virgina as US states to query. I also chose Canada, Mexico, France, Japan, Thailand and Slovakia as countries to research. The site limits to returning only the first 100 properties in any query so I know it isn’t a complete set of data but I ended up with 862 valid data points to analyze, roughly 20% of the HHonors properties. I then listed them out with the month-by-month rates in the new program compared to the fixed rate in the old program, looking to see how many were higher, lower or the same. I ended up with just over 10,000 data points – rate at a hotel in a given month – to review. image Yes, there is a lot of red (higher rates) on the chart. But I was also surprised at how much green (lower rates) I saw. Of the rates I compared more that 4,500 are now higher under the new scheme. That is roughly 45% or 9% more than what Marriott increased in their recent changes. But there are also just over 3,000 instances (about 30%) where the rates are lower than before. That’s much better than what Marriott did. As a means to try to calculate something resembling a weighted average I also totaled up the cost to redeem one night in each month of the year under the old and new rules for every hotel in the set. There are 60 properties where that total weighted change is a drop of 100,000 points or more. If we presume that my sample is reasonably random then that extrapolates out to about 7% of the total properties. Not a huge number but it does represent significant drops in the redemption rates at those hotels. There are properties dropping 2 or 3 levels in the award chart in some cases. The biggest drop was 300,000 points across 12 redemptions. Not to be too satisfied with seeing the number of hotels which dropped in price, I also checked for the number which increased by 100,000 or more points using the same metrics. There were 103 of them in my set; using the same extrapolation as above that is about 12%. The biggest increase was 430,000 points across the 12 redemptions at the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square and Hampton Inn Manhattan-Times Square North. The increases absolutely outweigh the decreases. There is no doubt about that. But there are some areas where it isn’t actually horrible, maybe even slightly better. The big picture might not be quite as bad as initial impressions suggested. I still think that they’ve made it excessively complex and that the overall value of the program is not one where I think there is a reasonable RoI for my travel patterns, but it isn’t all completely awful. If you want to review the data I based the above on it can be found here.

The 60 best changes:

The 40 worst changes:

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

45 Comments

  1. Can you tell us without too much effort which properties dropped 2-3 category levels?

    There might be some nuggets there. Thanks.

  2. Thsi is a great analysis. I’m a number-crunching guy, so I was thinking of trying to do the same thing. Thanks!

  3. I think the title “related posts” towards the end of this writeup is incorrect.

    Incidentally, you are a consumer/blogger not to be trifled with! What a cool and excellent analysis; nice work.

  4. It seems like the expensive properties increased more, like Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, or Cavilieri Rome, while Marriott increases were broadly spread out with just a few high end properties increasing.

  5. I think this might be the one benefit of the changes. Before, it seemed I needed to spend 25K or 40K points for one night at even budget hotels that might otherwise cost $100. It was just a waste when I knew I could hold on to them and redeem 50K points for a high-end property selling for $500 or more. But if the cheap hotels require fewer points and the more expensive hotels require more points, then at least the program starts to make more sense even if the aspirational awards are moving out of reach.

    I’m actually much more likely to use my Hilton points if I can redeem them at a reasonable rate for a Hampton Inn or similar since I stay there rarely enough to make it not worth aiming for elite status, and the only time I do want to stay there is if there is not Hyatt or Starwood property nearby.

  6. You may possibly be missing the point of the change. I suspect that Hilton has effectively limited the value of a Hilton point to roughly 0.5 cent per point. I did a sample of properties that I had been interested in because they were good value and I found they had all decreased to around 0.5 cent per dollar. Instead of focusing on what properties went up or down or by how many points look at it from the standpoint of cents/per Hilton point and see what you come up with.

  7. “Gems” is a relative term, to be sure. I added the 60 best changes above and some which aren’t too bad. The 40 worst are highly concentrated in big cities. NYC is particularly brutal.

  8. This is awesome! I’ve been a part of the miles/points world for a few years but I just started reading your blog and I’m loving it – any blogger that uses advanced Excel functionality to analyze points/miles has my approval!

  9. Most hotel base the redemption costs on ADRs over the year. And the more expensive properties get reset every year to account for that while cheaper properties can go down. It would not surprise me at all to discover that someone at HHonors finally realized that they were too far off from their ADR rates with many properties and just decided to redo it all in one “ripping off the bandaid” move.

  10. Wow. Is it possible to get a data dump like this for all properties? Would like to learn how you did this.

  11. Appreciate that you’re trying to analyze the data rather than just go with gut feel. Hope you’ll be able to continue this analysis more broadly (greater percentage).

    As for comparison to Marriott, I get my value from the Marriott Rewards program out of the very consistently offered MegaBonus promotions. The recent devaluation reduces the number of properties that the earned Cat. 1-4 certificates can be used at, but I think I will still get a great deal of value out of utilitarian stays that I don’t have to pay for. I’m not nearly as focused on aspirational stays as some enthusiasts, so being able to save a total of around $1,000 a year on stays where I would have paid the best available rate at those boring Cat. 1-4 properties keeps Marriott as my #2 chain. (#1 being Hyatt where I focus to re-earn Diamond.)

  12. Seth, I’d be particularly interested in the data for European properties as well as larger samples of US cities, particularly touristy ones like NOLA, Miami, Charleston, LA, SF, San Diego, etc.

  13. How about a breakdown by brand. I have the feeling that the higher end brands are going up disproportionally.

  14. I live in FL and recognized several cities in the list of Best Changes. I can tell you that some of those places are in the middle of nowhere interesting or in college/party towns. Good luck!

  15. I’ve always wanted to visit Bastrop in the middle of nowhere, Texas. What a great use of points.

  16. But who wants to burn hard earned points at a Hampton Inn? I too noticed that it was disproportionally high before to redeem at mid-tier Hilton properties, but I want to stay somewhere OUT of my means with my points. This new change makes things harder to achieve that goal.

  17. @ArizonaGuy – C’mon, Bastrop is not in the middle of nowhere! Granted, it is a 40 minute drive from Austin, on the way to Houston, but there are a lot of more isolated West Texas oil boom towns that could have been targeted 😉

  18. I wasn’t aware of there is a state the US called “virgina”, if there is I would fly in and out of there all the time. I don’t mean to make my comment rated X but I can’t help it.

  19. Horrible changes, I was on the phone with a supervisor to express my feelings. Looks like I will book all my miles now, and there are a lot, which can always be cancelled. I wondered about AXON changes, and so far, she told me level 6 and 7 were remaining, but there was no info about 8 &9 ( or former level 6 & 7)— so will have to wait and see. I find it horrible they are grouping silver with gold and platinum, when I a hievemmy platinum through nights,,,,,I WOULD ALSO LIKE YOUR ANALYSIS OF EUROPEAN PROPERTIES, AS I AM ABROAD SO MUXH OF THE TIME, THANKS,

    1. I’ve got 10 or so European countries included now, Sarah, including most of Western Europe. Unfortunately, however, I don’t have the country (or state) name as one of the fields in the data so searching on it is hard. If there is a particular city I can get info pretty quickly. Germany is mostly red, but the Hampton Berlin West is even or cheaper. Italy, on the other hand, is mostly green and only a couple properties more expensive.

  20. Thanks for the analysis. However, as a family with young kid, we are limited to certain time of the year to travel. If the price drops significantly during school years, it will not help much and I suspect that the high season will somehow matches the school out schedules.

  21. Nice work Seth! The Excel sheet is indeed very clear. I am wondering if you could let me know how you script the website and get data like that from websites. Thanks!

    1. I’ve updated the file on the server; it now includes 1965 properties analyzed for a total of 23580 data points. Of those, 10637 are more expensive and 6190 are less expensive. The rest didn’t change. That is roughly the same ratio as before, I think.

      i’m also not sure i’ll get the other half of the properties unless someone gives me a specific prompt. At this point I’m not really sure what’s missing, mostly because I’m too lazy to record which states/countries I’ve successfully queried.

    1. Your definition of BFE and mine are apparently different, abcx. Looking across Europe I’d generally be happy were I collecting HHonors points. I wouldn’t be redeeming for domestic stays anyways.

  22. Looking at the program as a whole, the devaluation does not look that bad. But I think what Hilton has done is taken all the sweet spots of the program and made them now very pricey. Since many people (including myself) were targeting those sweet spots, I’m def switching programs.

  23. This is TERRIBLE NEWS TO ME. Overall, I think the devaluation is ok for people who travel to small cities and like staying at crappy Hampton inns. I do most of my travel in major cities, at nicer properties – exactly the area of HHonors that got demolished.

  24. Serious data mining, I like it! I think I look at it from the same angle as @JasonL and @LR, though. I would actually think that most people probably do (or should) look at it from this view as well. Assuming we are still paying cash for some nights (or have points on other systems), we optimize (or should) using points for the highest value-per-point stays. In addition to the mean redemption cost shifting up, a reversion to mean value-per-point generally hurts us as well. The more pricing error Hilton has in their system, the more opportunities I have to arb it.

    The DT Times^2 is the worst news for me (other than all the time I will need to spend redoing my math) since I stay there often. My wife loves being a true tourist, so its the perfect spot when I’m with her (happy to couch surf it when I’m solo).

    Hmm, so I am only about 1/3rd the way to the $40k spend I need on the Reserve card to renew my Diamond before losing it on 3/31. I may need to rethink that.

    I trust that the weekend certs will still count or I will really be bummed.

  25. Hi Seth this is amazing analysis. thanks for this. I am not happy with the devaluation but thats the way all the programmes are kind of going. could you please add some of the aspirational awards(high end hotels like the conrad’s, waldorf’s). Also some more UK hotels as I travel mostly here and across Europe.

  26. Thank you. I, too, am a relatively new reader of your blog, but can remember clearly Hilton’s last major devaluation. Category 6 (I think) went from 100,000 to 175,000 for 6 nights in 2003. We went to Hawaii for Spring Break solely for that reason. Anyway, it was nice to read something objective because all programs are changing. I laugh at those who say they are leaving Hilton for another program–what are they going to do when that next program has a major change? And on that note, I think I’ll go book the Doubletree in Bratislava!

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