Monday, September 26, 2011

Hilton HHonors offers great fourth quarter promotion

    Hilton HHonors has announced its fourth quarter promotion and it's a great one!
    Last year when all of the hotels were falling all over themselves to offer great promotions Hilton gave out free-night certificates for every three stays. This year the Hilton Fourth Quarter offer is a free-night certificate for every four stays or 10 nights.
    While not quite as generous as last-years offering, this promotion, entitled "Fast Ways to Free Stays," is a good as any major hotel chain is offering this year.
    Marriott has a Megabonus promotion that has some merit, but it is only valid if you pay for your room with a VISA card. Most business people use AMEX, so the Marriott promotion is pretty worthless. Priority Club has a promotion I reported on August 28 that offers 2,000 bonus points per night for members who stay in four different brands, for example, Holiday Inn, HI Express, Intercontinental and Hotel Indigo. It was a good enough promotion that Jinny was planning to move a bit of her business to Priority Club for the fourth quarter. It looks like she'll be coming back to Hilton, although I do think she'll try to stay at four Priority Club brands just to maximize her points on stays that she does have with them.
    The free-night certificates can be used at any Hilton for a standard room. If the hotel is out of standard rooms they can't be used. So there is a bit of capacity control, and Hilton has done away with the "Diamond Force" that gave its most elite members guaranteed availability. That said, most have reported that they've been able to use the certificates in the past at better properties with nightly rates of $300 or more.
    Certificates will be issued within 14 days of their being earned and are good for six months.
    The Hilton elite recognition system is weighted towards stays, not nights. For this promotion, four one-night stays gets the same certificate as one 10-night stay. The latter costs two-and-one-half times as much. In addition, Hilton grants Diamond elite status after 28 stays or 60 nights. So the Hilton reward system creates a perverse incentive to move from hotel to hotel every night; and that's what many point misers do.
    There are plenty of Hilton properties out there charging in excess of $200 per night. Lots more are in the $160 or more range. So these certificates are worth at least $160 each. So for longer stays it is well worth it to check out of one Hilton property and into another (you can't check right back into the same property). Thus on a four-night trip by staying at Hotel A, then B, then A again, then B again you get four stays and a free night certificate.
    Bottom line on this deal is that if you have 12 one-night stays at $150 per night you will spend $1,800 over the three month promotion period. In return you will get three certificates worth at least $160 each, for an effective rebate of more than 26 percent of hotel costs. Add in the value of the hotel points earned, and the rebate gets even higher.
    Of course, it is possible to get even more value out of these certificates. Hiltons in Paris, London, Venice and other European cities often cost in excess of $400 per night. Although not common, one can sometimes find a Hampton for less than $90 per night, all in. So it is technically possible to get a rebate value of greater than one spends on the hotels in the first place, and that's not even considering the value of the HHonors points.
    It's likely a poor idea to stay at hotels just to get the certificates, but many people will book a few extra stays for no other reason than to earn Diamond status. If we should find Dec. 31 is approaching and we only need one more stay to get that certificate, I dare say you'll find us at the cheapest Hampton we can find, letting our children enjoy the pool for the night and planning on how we will use our free room night at any Hilton in the future.

Addendum 9-28-11
    Many or all members of the Flyertalk board have reported that they have signed up for this promotion seeking the free nights and instead have been enrolled in an "extra points" version of the promotion. The extra points version is inferior, having only the advantage that the points don't expire while the certificates do. Probably best to wait a day more to enroll and then call to check and make sure you are enrolled for the free certificates.

    In addition, I stated the value of the rebate to be received as approximately 26 percent. It could easily be much higher. Spend your certificates on a $300 hotel room, such as the SanDestin Hilton or a New York or European property and the value of three certificates is $900. One is likely to earn more than 22,000 HHonors points for the 12 stays which, when used at a top property, are worth at least $200. And if you double-dip for American Airlines miles you will get 6,000 AAdvantage miles, worth about $100. So if used wisely you can easily get a 66 percent rebate out of this offer. Use your certificates in New York, Paris or London and your rebate can exceed 100 percent, but of course you have the expense of getting to these places!

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