I earn a lot of Hilton HHonors points, and I'm going to be earning even more than usual this week, so I decided to take a look at some of Hilton's all-inclusive resorts to see if I could lock in some award space for next Presidents Day, since I had such a good time in Jamaica this year, and I remembered having a terrible time finding award space at Hilton's Rose Hall all-inclusive resort. While checking out the current award space availability, I discovered some pretty odd pricing anomalies — or features, if you prefer.
Searching for flexible dates doesn't work great (and never has)
When you search for flexible dates on the Hilton website, you'll be given something that looks vaguely like a flexible date search. For example, here's a search for flexible dates in July of this year:
This looks like you've got some expensive premium availability at the beginning of the search period, some not-unreasonable premium availability for a few days, some less-expensive award space for a couple days, one date of low-level availability, 3 sold-out dates, and then some more premium availability. That's not what's happening.
Here are the actual lowest-priced rooms I could find on the dates during this search period:
- June 24: 70,000
- June 25: 70,000
- June 26: 65,000
- June 27: 65,000
- June 28: 65,000
- June 29: 65,000
- June 30: 70,000
- July 1: No availability
- July 2: No availability
- July 3: No availability
- July 4: 115,000
- July 5: 65,000
- July 6: 65,000
- July 7: 70,000
- July 8: 70,000
The award space on June 30 seems to flicker in and out of existence depending on whether I'm logged in, whether I'm doing a flexible search or a date specific search, etc. The search results shown on the website seem to be very path-dependent.
If this continues, it's a huge improvement over the old Hilton HHonors
Once I noticed these pricing anomalies, I decided to see whether I could find any more extreme prices. Here are a few weird prices I found checking the next few months
- April 9: 70,000 (0.76 cents/point)
- May 31: 45,000 (0.58 cents/point)
- June 1: 50,000 (0.58 cents/point)
- July 23: 41,000 (0.49 cents/point)
My original plan was to check each of the next 12 months and find the cheapest date with points. That ended up not being feasible because the Hilton website is terrible. It errors out after every 2-4 searches, periodically signs you out, and inflicts all sorts of other madness on you.
The key takeaway here isn't that there are atmospheric points redemptions (although they're squarely above Hilton imputed redemption values): the value you get from points depends on both the number of points charged and the comparable revenue rate, and the lowest points costs are on nights when revenue rates are in $200-400 range. Really brag-worthy redemptions are on nights when revenue rates are in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and you're able to redeem a "mere" 95,000 points.
The real takeaway here is that by being willing to reduce point costs so dramatically on nights with low revenue rates, Hilton has increased the reliability of their points' value. Prior to the revaluation, the Hilton Rose Hall was 95,000 points per night regardless of the revenue rates available. In fact Hilton had a wide range of nice properties where on cheap nights it was difficult to justify redeeming points. If points costs will fall to match low revenue rates, it is easier to justify earning large quantities of Hilton points knowing that you'll almost always get close to, or above, their imputed redemption value.
The app works great
Last night after I scheduled this post I suddenly wanted to check over a few more things and opened up the Hilton app on my phone. After a few moments, I realized, "this isn't generating any of the errors the website was giving me."
If you think about there being a fixed "real world" of Hilton award space out there in the universe, it appears to me that the app is designed to tap into that world directly, while the website presents only a distorted image of it and requires you to rotate and adjust the lens in order to see different bits and pieces of the real world of award space.
Unfortunately the app doesn't have a flexible date search function, but since the one on the website is so terrible I hesitate to even say this is a disadvantage of the app over the website. In any event, if you know the dates you're interested in I highly recommend going straight to the app and skipping the website completely.