Hilton devalues points, moves to dynamic award pricing

Hilton is hopping on the “dynamic pricing” bandwagon, according to a recent release from a Hilton spokesperson.

The statement said (with emphasis added on the part referencing dynamic pricing):

Since the launch of Points & Money two years ago, our team regularly monitors the performance of the program and makes necessary tweaks along the way. Points & Money is performing very well and we’re thrilled so many members are taking advantage of it.

A few days ago we made a slight shift in the program and as we previously shared, while we won’t be sending updates for each and every shift, we are fully committed to delivering the best value to our members, and will carefully consider any adjustments for Hilton Honors properties.

As Points can flex depending on the hotel and date, visit https://pointsexplorer.hiltonhonors.com/ to search desired hotels, destinations and preferred dates to book your next stay at over 5,000 Hilton hotels.

Hilton Honors is the only program that allows members to make use of ANY combination of Points and money starting at just 5,000 points to redeem at one of our properties.

Recently, I was able to redeem 380,000 Hilton points for 5 nights in a Water Villa at the Conrad Maldives and was already trying to accumulate more points to stay at the Conrad Koh Samui. Right now, it does appear that prices are remaining the same for the upper-tier hotels, with One Mile at a Time reporting that prices are currently the same at the Conrad Bora Bora and the Waldorf Maldives (which was already clocking in at 120,000 points per night – their most expensive property).

I’m happy that other travel bloggers are calling this what it is – a devaluation – and it’s, unfortunately, part of an ongoing trend.

Is the switch to dynamic pricing changing your plans for spending points? Let me know in the comments!

American Airlines confirms imminent move to dynamic pricing

The senior vice president of revenue management for American Airlines confirmed today, while speaking at the Bernstein’s 35th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference, that American Airlines will soon be moving to a dynamic pricing model.

This is being heavily reported on a number of leading travel blogs, including The Points Guy. Importantly, the move to dynamic pricing may happen as soon as July 31, 2019, so if you are holding onto American Airlines miles, you may want to consider them using right away since dynamic pricing almost always leads to a drastic devaluation of miles/points held.

American Airlines is following in the shoes of Delta and United, the latter just announcing the switch to dynamic pricing in April.

I definitely expected American Airlines to make the switch, but wish they had given customers more time. I absolutely love their current business class redemption rates to Asia (I was recently able to score a 70,000 point business class ticket on Qatar Airways, in their QSuite), which I’ve found to be one of the best deals around.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see what these awards will look like after they make the move. But I’m not at all optimistic.

Why Hotels.com and TopCashBack.com are the perfect combination

I’ve been loyal to Hotels.com for a while. The main reasons are the hotel selections, that their prices are normally as low as you’ll find on any other site, and, perhaps most importantly, their reward program where you get one free stay for every 10 nights that you stay at a hotel booked through their website.

The free night program basically gives you 10% back off all hotels booked (for instance, if you stayed 10 nights at hotels that cost exactly $200/night, each night that you stayed, you would get $20 and when you completed 10 stays, you’ll have a $200 voucher to use).

Recently, I discovered a website called TopCashBack.com and I use it for almost all my online shopping, including travel, now. The website basically runs an affiliate site, but instead of TopCashBack keeping the affiliate sales (i.e., how much they make for you clicking a link on their website and purchasing a product), they give 100% of the affiliate fee to you and instead make money off running their own ads.

This sounded too good to be true, but after trying it, I’ve already received 3 payments for purchases I was going to make anyway, including between 2-8% back on hotels booked on Hotels.com and 12% back on a laptop purchased through Lenovo.

The exact amount of cashback that you’ll get from Hotels.com will depend on when you book, but generally ranges from 2-8% on TopCashBack. This means when coupled with the 10% you’ll get automatically from the Hotels.com reward program, you are looking at 12-18% savings on all hotels booked. This doesn’t even include credit card rewards that you may get – for instance, one Capital One credit card currently gives you a whopping 10% back on Hotels.com purchases, which means you could find yourself nabbing savings of as much as 28% on your Hotels.com bookings.

Just keep in mind that you won’t be paid out from TopCashBack until your stay is complete and the payments can take up to 5 weeks to hit your PayPal or bank account.

3 reasons why Banff is the perfect spring getaway

Banff is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the Canadian Rockies. Located about an hour-and-a-half drive away from Calgary, Banff (and the surrounding area) is known for incredible views, breathtaking mountains, and, during the winter, skiing and snowboarding.

I’m not a skier/snowboarder myself and hate cold weather, but I’ve been dying to go to Banff for years. After finding an amazing deal (more on that below) and a willing friend to accompany me, I was lucky enough to stay there for most of the second week of May. After visiting, I’m convinced that Banff – known more for its winter-time activities – is also the perfect spring getaway.

1. Beautiful scenery

The drive to Banff from Calgary is stunning. When you land, you can already see the snow-capped Rockies in the distance and, in no time at all you’re soon taken away to a majestic winter-ish wonderland.

It’s a “winter-ish” wonderland because, depending on when you go in the spring, some of the snow has already started to melt away. This means that the rivers are starting to fill back up, that some of the lakes no longer are covered in ice, and that you may even be able to catch an avalanche (I did!). Of course, and this probably goes without saying, you should be careful if you’re searching for avalanches, as a number of tourists have died hiking in the area in the last few months.

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View from the top of Sulphur Mountain. Despite looking pretty cold, it was actually warm enough to stroll around in a t-shirt.

Something that drew me to Banff was pictures of snow-covered mountains and lakes with crystal-clear blue water. While some lakes, like the famous Lake Louise, were still covered in ice, we were able to find other lakes that had the iconic clear water.

2. Enjoy the snow/ice, but without the cold

Although it’s impossible to predict the weather in advance, May weather in Banff is often between 50-65 degrees farenheight for the high. When I was there, the weather was actually around 65-70 degrees. Because it was the first really warm days of spring, I got to enjoy one of my favorite activities – laying by the pool while staring at snow-covered mountains.

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Lake Louise, Alberta in 60-65 degree Fahrenheit weather (before the ice melts).

It also made hiking a lot easier, particularly if you’re woefully prepared for winter activities like myself. One word of advice, though – be very careful when hiking up mountains because melting snow can be slippery (so be sure to invest in a pair of hiking shoes, if you can).

3. Spring is one of Banff’s shoulder season

If you read Josh Trips regularly, you know that I love a good shoulder season. The most popular times to visit Banff are winter and summer. While in the winter you can take advantage of the slopes and during the summer you can play on the lakes, some major benefits to traveling to Banff during the spring are lower hotel prices, less crowds, and better availability for popular activities, like dinner at the top of Sulphur Mountain (the latter usually books up weeks in advance, but I was able to grab tickets only a few days before).

The entire time I was there, we didn’t experience one traffic problem (except for needing to stop for a few minutes to let a train pass), were able to get a table at every restaurant we went to, and were always able to easily find parking.

While it’s worth visiting Banff any time of year, I think I may have a found a new favorite spring-time destination.

SFO moving all Uber, Lyft pickups to central parking lot for domestic flights

If you’ve been to SFO recently, you may have experienced chaos while waiting for your ride-share vehicle to pick you up. In recent months, SFO has taken some steps to ease this problem, having moved UberPools and Lyft Line pickups to a central parking lot, which has helped a bit.

But today, SFO announced that beginning June 3, 2019, it will relocate all domestic terminal pickups for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share companies to the top level of the domestic hourly parking garage.

This will make taking a ride-share more difficult for travelers flying domestically, though the good new is that international travelers will still be able to have Uber or Lyft pick them up curbside.

United Airlines devalues miles, eliminates award charts

United has announced that beginning November 15, 2019, they are eliminating award charts and instead using dynamic pricing, similar to Delta’s mileage program, where the price to book an award ticket changes based on availability, demand, and pricing.

As an example, currently if you wanted to travel one-way in economy from the U.S. to Europe using United MileagePlus points, you know that it would cost you 30,000 miles. However, with the new dynamic system, you have no way of knowing in advance how much it will cost (a Delta award ticket using dynamic pricing for a similar flight can be between 25,000 and 130,000 miles, with most tickets coming in closer to the latter).

This move devalues miles for MileagePlus members and also hurts the value of Chase points, if used to transfer points into this program.

The good news is that you have until November 15th to burn miles currently in your account, which is what I’m hoping to do.

Earn double miles on cross-country Alaska Airlines flights through the end of 2019

Alaska Airlines has a new promotion where, if you register, you can earn double miles on all Alaska Airlines transcontinental flights for the remainder of 2019. You can register here for the promotion.

The promotion is eligible on West Coast departures between:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Philadelphia (PHL), Washington-Dulles (IAD), or Washington-Reagan (DCA)
  • San Diego (SAN) and Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Newark (EWR), or Orlando (MCO)
  • San Francisco (SFO) and Baltimore (BWI), Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), Philadelphia (PHL), Raleigh (RDU), Washington-Dulles (IAD), or Washington-Reagan (DCA)
  • San Jose (SJC) and New York (JFK) or Newark (EWR)

Eligible on East Coast departures between:

  • New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), or San Jose (SJC)
    Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), or San Jose (SJC)
  • Baltimore (BWI) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Boston (BOS) and Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Orlando (MCO) and San Diego (SAN) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Philadelphia (PHL) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Raleigh (RDU) and San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington-Reagan (DCA) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)

This is a great deal. The Points Guy currently values Alaska Airlines miles at 1.8 cents per mile and since Alaska awards miles for distance flown, for a round-trip flight from SFO to JFK, you would typically earn 5,160 Mileage Plan miles. However, with this promotion, you would earn 10,320 Mileage Plan miles, valued at $185.76.