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Across hotel and airline loyalty programs, companies are making it more costly to cash in on free travel.
After announcing last year that elite status requirements will increase in 2014, Hilton HHonors revealed in an email this week that it is making other changes to the loyalty program starting March 28, 2013, including the introduction of seasonal rewards pricing.
The changes mean the amount of points required to redeem a Standard Room Reward and a Points & Money Reward will rise and fall depending on demand during the year.
As one member of FlyerTalk put it: “I guess we’ll have our summer vacation in March this year.”
It’s unclear how the seasonal pricing, which goes into effect at the end of March, will impact average redemption rates.
But consider how the changes are shaping up for a free stay in New York City over the next few months.
Using the HHonors search tool, you can see that a free stay at the Hilton New York takes 60,000 HHonors points in February, 70,000 in April, and 80,000 in June.
Hilton HHonors spokesperson Scott Carman emphasizes new bargains association with off-peak stays.
“Prior to the introduction of seasonal pricing there wasn’t an option to spend less for an off-peak season stay. For example, you had to use the same amount of points to stay at Park City Utah in the summer as in the winter. Now with seasonal pricing, members have the opportunity to book at a number of hotels using less points, depending on the time of year.”
In other changes, Hilton HHonors will be increasing the number of hotel rewards categories, which detail the number of points required to redeem a standard room, from seven to 10, for its nine hotel brands.
Here’s a list of where various properties fit into the new category scheme:
The categories range from 5,000 points required for a free night in category 1 to 70,000 to 95,000 points required in category 10. Here’s the category breakdown and an FAQ.
“This increase in the number of reward categories is comparable to other loyalty programs across the industry,” Carman says.
HHonors also outlined how Silver, Gold and Diamond elite members will soon need to book “five consecutive nights or more,” according to Carman, to qualify for an every fifth night free on Standard Room Rewards.
All of these changes take effect March 28.
These follow changes to the program announced in December. At that time, HHonors disclosed that it was increasing the requirements to achieve Gold and Diamond status, beginning in 2014.