If you travel often for work or for leisure, making use of a hotel company’s rewards program can be a great way to have that travel work for you.
In that spirit, Hilton today announces major changes to its loyalty program, previously called Hilton HHonors and now rebranded to the “more authentic, less marketing-centric” Hilton Honors, according to Mark Weinstein, Hilton’s senior vice president and global head of loyalty and partnerships.
Among the changes to the program, which has more than 60 million members globally, is the introduction of the ability to combine points and money when booking a room at a Hilton property. Customers can use a slider tool on the Hilton Honors website to decide what combination of points and money they’d like to use. The Points & Money feature will be available in late February, and there are no blackout dates.
“It’s an industry first to use a slider tool on the site,” Weinstein said. “It offers frequent travelers a way to use their points more quickly.”
Hilton Honors is still free to join. Members can earn points in a variety of ways, from staying at hotels in the Hilton portfolio to spending with certain credit cards that partner with Hilton.
The company is additionally introducing the ability to pool points with up to 10 other people, which Hilton says will give its members more value and flexibility, as even those travelers with fewer points will be able to use them for a free stay more quickly. The points pooling feature will be free to use.
Also new to the program is the ability to redeem points for purchases on Amazon. Hilton is the first hotel group to partner with Amazon’s Shop With Points, which allows customers to use rewards points just as they would any other payment method on Amazon. Weinstein says the exact exchange rate may evolve over time.
“We see this as a more immediate value for people who don’t travel as frequently,” Weinstein said.
Another new benefit will help those who have attained the program’s most elite status to keep it. Diamond members – those who have either booked 30 stays, stayed 60 nights, or earned 120,000 Base Points in one year – have typically had to maintain that same level of travel to keep their status year to year. Hilton is introducing the ability to put a pause on your Diamond benefit should a life event keep you from traveling as much as you had in the past.
“Sometimes life sends you a curveball, and the last thing you should be worrying about is re-qualifying,” Weinstein said. “They just let us know [by phone or email] that they want to do a one-time reserve of Diamond status. Ultimately we want to have a relationship that has momentum to it, and we want to reward and celebrate with you that you’re taking time off from the road.”
Hilton has a portfolio of 14 hotel brands encompassing 4,900 properties in 104 countries. It first introduced its loyalty program as a scratch-off promotion tied to the US Olympic Team in 1987. Now, on any given night, an average of 55% of Hilton guests are members of the rewards program.
“Our goal is to connect with every traveler in a meaningful and personal way,” Weinstein said. “We’re pushing travel to be a lot more human, a lot more personable, and a lot more relevant.”