Reward credit card users play a difficult game. With many cards, points or miles are earned from the bank, but those points and miles are entrusted to a third party’s loyalty program such as an airline or hotel program. The bank has purchased the points or miles from the third party, and awards them to their credit card customers.
But as with all loyalty programs, these points are only worth as much as the awards they can be redeemed for. And the fact is that these loyalty programs always reserve the right to make changes to their program at any time. These changes can sometimes be improvements, but more often, these changes have the effect of reducing the value of the member’s points or miles. For example, the Hilton HHonors program recently announced a new award chart that massively increases the amount of points needed to redeem free nights at their properties. As a result, Hilton HHonors points are now worth far less than they had been.
And by implication, the credit cards co-branded with Hilton are now far less desirable. Significantly, Hilton is the rare company that partners with multiple banks. Both Citi and American Express both offer credit cards that earn Hilton HHonors points.
What should you do?
Cardholders of Citi and American Express’s Hilton HHonors cards need to do two things. First, they should try to spend as many of their HHonors points as possible before March 28th, the day the new award chart takes effect. Next, it is time to take a look at some of the other hotel credit cards that are still offering excellent value.
For example, the Starwood Hotels Preferred Guest card from American Express earns one Starpoint per dollar spent. These points are extremely valuable because as few as 3,000 points can be used for award nights. In addition, members always receive their fifth night free when redeeming four award nights in a row. But what really sets this program apart is the ability to redeem points for miles with over 30 different airlines. In fact, members who redeem 20,000 points earn a 5,000 point bonus.
Another outstanding program is the Hyatt Gold Passport. Their most expensive award nights are only 22,000 points. Chase offers its Hyatt rewards card as well as other cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to the Hyatt program.
Hilton has made a major mistake in devaluing their award chart, but savvy cardholders will recognize this and find better programs to focus their loyalty on.