Big Devaluation In Hilton “5th Night Free” Benefit

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I’m certainly not going to put myself forward as an expert on all things Hilton but a recent change Hilton has made to the wording of how its “5th Night Free” benefit works reads like a massive devaluation to me.

Here’s what the original wording of the 5th Night Free benefit was:

[The] Point value of the free night is based on the average nightly Point value during the stay calculated by dividing the total Point value of all nights by the number of nights in the stay. A standard room is defined by each hotel and subject to availability at participating hotels within the Hilton Portfolio. Applies to Standard Room Reward stays only, not to paid stays or Points & Money Rewards™. Does not apply when stay is booked as part of a Reward Stay offer, package, or promotion offered by Hilton or any of its partners.

[thirstylink linkid=”26060″ linktext=”And here\’s the new wording you\’ll find in the T&Cs” class=”thirstylink” title=”And here\’s the new wording you\’ll find in the T&Cs”]:

After the 5th Night Free benefit is applied, eligible members will be charged 0 points for the 5th night, 10th night, 15th night, and 20th night of the stay, as applicable. All nights of the stay will be charged at the applicable full Standard Room Reward price. A standard room is defined by each hotel and subject to availability at participating hotels within the Hilton Portfolio. Applies to Standard Room Reward stays only, not to paid stays or Points & Money Rewards™. Does not apply when stay is booked as part of a Reward Stay offer, package, or promotion offered by Hilton or any of its partners.

I have to admit that it took me a few minutes to figure out what Hilton has done and I think the best way to explain it is with an example.

Here’s are the individual nightly points rates for the [thirstylink linkid=”26059″ linktext=”Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter” class=”thirstylink” title=”Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter”] for a random set of dates next spring:

Taking a 5 night stay checking in on 2 May as an example this is how the cost of the award would work out under the original wording/rules:

To work out the points cost of the free night the old T&C wording says that you take the average points value of the full stay – in this case that is 52,200 – and that is then taken off the price (in points) of the full 5 nights to work out the final cost of the 5 night award.

Hilton even provide an example of how the calculation is meant to work here.

In this instance the 5 night award would have cost 208,000 Points

If you take a look at the new wording there is no mention of an average. Instead it says that “members will be charged 0 points for the 5th night” and “All [other] nights of the stay will be charged at the applicable full Standard Room Reward price“.

The use of the “full” in the phrase “full Standard Room Reward price” was worrisome but I decided to interpret the new rules in two different ways just in case things weren’t all that bad:

  • Option 1 is where I assume the cost of the 5th night is 0 and the definition of “full Standard Room Reward price” simply means the cost of the award night as shown in the reservations screenshot above.
  • Option 2 is where I assume that the cost of the 5th night is 0 but for all other nights the points rate is raised to the maximum for that property – in this case 60,000 points.

The only way to find out which option is correct is to price this award up on Hilton.com…and here’s the evidence:

Hilton is now charging 240,000 points for an award that, under the old methodology, would have cost just 208,800.

That’s a 15% increase in the cost of the award.

Here’s another example – take the [thirstylink linkid=”26058″ linktext=”Capital Hilton in Washington DC” class=”thirstylink”].

Here are the points costs for 5 separate nights in June:

Under the old rules this would have been the cost of the 5-night award…

…while now it looks like this:

Confirmed by Hilton:

That’s a 50,400 point increase in the cost of the award – equivalent to a 26.6% increase.

Bottom Line

I’ve tried this calculation out on a number of properties and in each case the cost of the award has risen substantially under the new rules….and let’s not forget that the change has been put through without any warning.

Hilton points took a massive hit a few years ago and I though the hotel chain got off lightly when the blogging community didn’t really hit it hard enough when it removed its award chart and changed how it priced awards earlier this year. Now we have this.

As long as I’m not missing something (and I don’t think I am) this is an underhand and very sudden devaluation to the Hilton Honors program that I don’t think anyone saw coming.

If anyone can work out any positives to this please let me know in the comments….but feel free to vent too! 🙂

2 COMMENTS

  1. You’re the only one to figure this out. Congrats. I’ll admit, I looked at the change originally and thought, oh, nothing really changed, just maybe they updated their systems to make presentation more uniform. But I should have realized these guys never just make an innocent correction, there is always a hidden agenda. Sneaky move by Hilton, and just in time to make it easy on me now while I was trying to decide whether it was worth it to push for diamond. Forget it. They’ve also been chipping away at upgrades and breakfast benefits to the point where I rarely expect anything anymore as a diamond unless I know the hotel is empty.

    • Thank you for the kind comment. I got lucky 🙂 …..plus I always get very suspicious when I see a change to theT&Cs.

      Very sneaky move by Hilton and not cool to send out a Honors representative on to Flyertalk to essentially mislead members about this change.

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