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2018

A question entered my mind recently. Earn and burn - or not?

 
I’ve been a member of Marriott Rewards since 2006 and started redeeming my points in 2008, burning broadly as I earned. I’ve kept a record of all my redemptions over the years and these featured in my The long and rewarding road to Lifetime Platinum blog post. But when answering the thread How many points do you keep in the bank? I asked myself, since I always advise to burn as you earn, is that actually good advice? And if so, by how much?
 
Now this should be simply a matter of totalling up the points redeemed by category nights but it’s not that simple, not all redemption methods make sense now, or are even possible, in particular I’m never likely to redeem a travel package, the old redemption cheques have long since gone, and some hotels I redeemed at are no longer part of the Marriott group. So ignoring those and counting only the direct redemptions I’ve made over the past decade, how did things turn out? And what did a decade of category creep do to my choices?
 
Well, my records show I redeemed a total of 99 nights within those qualifying parameters from 2008 to date costing a total of 2,110,000 points to redeem, taking into account those instances when I stayed 5 or more nights thus receiving a free night. Those different hotel-nights ended up in the following new categories:
 
New Category-—-Nights————Points now required

Cat 1 ————-— 1 night————————7,500
Cat 2 ————-- 3 nights———————-37,500
Cat 3 ————-- 18 nights———-———315,000
Cat 4 —————49 nights —————-1,100,000
Cat 5 —————- 6 nights————-——175,000
Cat 6 —————10 nights———-———450,000
Cat 7 ————— 12 nights——————720,000

 

TOTAL TO REDEEM NOW —————-2,805,000

So, that’s it. To redeem these self same properties for the self same number of nights that did cost me 2,110,000 points would now cost a total of 2,805,000 points, that’s an increase of 695,000 points, a category creep amounting to 33% over a decade. Sounds awful, right? Well, I thought so too, till I examined the inflation record, which has from 2008 to date stood at 30%! Admittedly that is the figure over the decade assuming you had all that cash in 2008, I’ve earned and burned and the points earned earned in 2008 had been redeemed by 2010, by 2013 I was burning points I’d earned in 2011 etc, etc. Whichever way you look at it, however, saving points for the long term future is a road to stealth devaluation by category creep and program changes.
Its important to realise, this isn’t a treatise to spend points earned yesterday today, saving points for that big redemption is a big part of what this game is about, but hoarding generally over a decade or more is the long term road to devaluation. Yes, let them build up over a year or two for that big redemption, yes keep a war chest available for that bargain redemption when cash prices are sky-high, but they’re a poor long term savings plan, I redeemed those 695,000 “lost” points for 2 travel packages giving me 240,000 airline miles and 2 weeks of hotel stays. I would have lost those to Marriotts inflation had I hoarded them!

Yes, once-upon-a-time Hilton had an earn and redeem proposition that made its program a leader in value. Then in 2007 it fell into the hands of Corporate Raiders Blackstone who simply intended to increase earnings from hotels by charging franchisees more and slash costs by dismissing staff and cutting the wages of those that remained, then sell it on and pocket the profit. Instead the financial crisis happened and nobody was doing deals. Blackstone was left as long-term owners, and so looked at other ways to maximise profits till they could unload. Eventually their search of the Hilton Manor led them to the Hilton Honors loyalty program and with a wolfish grin they sharpened their knives...

 

Ok, so it’s a Coyote, but I like Wile.E. Coyote, and it’s my blog, right!

 

I’ll not go into the gory details on the rest of the sorry story. Needless to say Blackstone gutted the earn and burn proposition but expanded in-stay benefits that of course are paid for by the franchisees, not Hilton. Eventually Blackstone floated Hilton and earlier this year sold their final stake into the market, ending an 11-year holding.

 

Hilton has recently announced its improved top-tier Diamond benefits package that includes free breakfast across all brands and no Resort fees on redemption. More improvements paid for by franchisees, but it seemed an indication that Marriotts biggest and closest competitor was making a play to increase its membership whilst Marriott was going through its merger pains. But what Hilton hasn’t announced is the end of its 5,000 points starting price. 

 

Now to be honest Hilton's 5,000 point starting price didn’t cover many properties, indeed according to Loyalty Lobby here  Hilton Honors Master Property List March 2018 | LoyaltyLobby they numbered just 47 of its 5,221 hotels. There were 154 properties at 10,000 points, and 6 - yes you read that right, just 6 - 15,000 pointers. Alas, even those measly numbers were too high for Hilton’s cost-cutters.

 

Hilton announced a couple of years ago that it would no longer be publishing property redemption movements and here it’s been as good (or bad) as its word. Effectively it seems virtually all the 5k, 10k and 15k properties have been moved to 20,000 points with just the merest smattering kept back at 10,000. I found just one in Europe, at Newport. Remember, in reality only 207 of Hilton's 5221-property inventory were under 20,000 points. Now I suspect we’ll be lucky if there’s double figures. Effectively, Hilton’s redemptions now start at 20,000 points. Of the 10-base points per $ brigade Marriotts redemptions start at 7,500, IHG at 10,000 and Hilton now at 20,000. Bearing in mind that IHG introduced two new top categories at 65,000 and 70,000 points this year, just a couple of years after introducing categories 55,000 and 60,000 and the pattern is clear, the big boys don’t particularly care about their redemption values, cutting at both the top and the bottom and devaluing when a key rival is struggling to merge its gargantuan program suggests whichever scheme we belong to we need to keep a careful eye on both cash and redemption rates, and a firm hand on our wallet and pockets - The Man is after us all!

brightlybob

Take me to your leader!

Posted by brightlybob Sep 15, 2018

Anybody checked the community leaderboard lately?

 

Well maybe you should because we have a new top-of-the-tree leader. 

 

All hail our glorious Empress pluto77, now bow you plebs, bow!

 

 

Now for those leaderboard watchers out there you may well ask how this occurred. After all pluto77 hasn’t figured anywhere near the top of the leaderboard since the new system began, although clearly a valued and regular contributor - go ahead, click on the link here pluto77 - quite prolific, eh? But nowhere near the top. Well, I felt it was monstrously unfair that those not undertaking activity in an “approved” way weren’t necessarily getting all the worthless participation points they deserved so I had a word with a few friends and we decided to crown our own leader in an excersise of democracy - if you take the richest simply choosing a new leader as an excersise in democracy! We selected unlucky 13 to become our lucky leader, and that was pluto77! Things didn’t work out quite like that, to be honest. By the time the putsch had been co-ordinated, Pluto had slipped down to number 14, but the die had been cast. And since I’m making up the rules, Pluto got all the valueless points in a further act of wanton insouciance, so sorry kharada46, you should actually be King, it actually should have been you based on our 13th criteria, but really we just made it up as we went along!

 

Congratulations to our worthy selection, your new leader based on the choice of just a few of us, imposed on all of you! And why? Well, why not? We reckon Pluto is a great contributor and that top 10 was a testosterone-only zone, a Queen brings regal serenity and a calming touch to her subjects, as a Brit I know that!

As I’m experiencing right now at Regents Park Marriott lounge. Free self pour, 17:30-21:30 every evening.

 

 

LIVE UPDATE - 13 September

 

Second night and how about another photo from the lounge?

 

 

Do you reckon I caught its best side?

 

 

LIVE UPDATE 14 September

 

Third (and last) night so time for an updating photo

 

 

Tonight the beer and white wine pump are joined by their good friends Soda and Red Wine. The full ensemble!