Now Hilton HHonors has joined the list of hotel loyalty programs that are slicing and dicing a chunk of the value out of their programs. The short version is that some Hilton properties now top out at 95,000 points per night instead of 50,000 and they introduced “seasonal” pricing where properties can charge more at certain times of the year. It is a very, very bad devaluation since fancy (expensive) aspirational properties were the only ones I was interested in with my HHonors points, and many have gone from around 50K per night (less when using AXON awards) to 80K – 95K points per night! Crazy. You can read all about that devaluation at View From the Wing. Frankly I’m just not up for writing in detail about another hotel devaluation quite yet.
Instead I’d rather write about the two hotel loyalty programs I have liked the best for a long time…Hyatt and Starwood. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t immune to devaluations – especially SPG recently with their cash and points shake-up, but both seem very fair compared to what has happened this year with other programs like Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham Rewards, and Priority Club.
I already thought that SPG and Hyatt points were worth more than those other hotel points, and I trusted the programs to be more stable and less likely to suffer dramatic increases that would leave my points worth half as much overnight. Of course SPG and Hyatt points (especially SPG) are harder to get than some of the other types of hotel points, but that isn’t always a bad thing. If it is too easy to get any one type of point, it isn’t far fetched to think that the hotel program may eventually tighten it up and require you to spend more of them to get the hotel reward nights you want. I still think it is nuts to devalue quickly and dramatically, but apparently that is the route that some chains are taking.
Hyatt hotels top out at 22,000 points per night. Compare that to the 95,000 points per night you might now need with HHonors. Crazy. Plus, Hyatt has great award availability, solid hotels, good customer service, and I trust those who run the Gold Passport program to be fair (they even have a sense of humor). I’m sure their award chart will suffer some “enhancements” at some point, but I trust them to be more moderate than what has happened to other chains. Hyatt, please don’t make a liar out of me.
Starwood top tier properties can get quite expensive at up to 35,000 points per night, but many properties are Category 5 and below, and run 12,000 points per night or less. Their award availability is also stellar, and while the new cash and points chart that goes into effect on March 5th is not as lucrative as the old one, it is still a solid option to make your points stretch further. I also personally put faith in the SPG program.
I put my money, time, and energy into programs I know and trust, and on the hotel front that is primarily Hyatt and Starwood. That doesn’t mean I won’t get credit cards from other programs and say thank-you for the free nights, but I don’t put most of my focus on those programs, and won’t until they demonstrate I can trust them.
For the foreseeable future, Hyatt and Starwood remain the champs in my book!