Help, my Hilton points are gone

Q: I used to be a very frequent business traveler. I was a regular at the Hilton chain, where I collected more than 500,000 points and became a Diamond VIP member, their highest elite level, for a number of consecutive years.

But for the past two years, I’ve been in a more stationary job and have not been traveling for business.

Well, this year my wife and I began to plan a summer vacation to the Pacific Northwest. We were interested in tapping into some of the Hilton points, most of which had not been used.

I found the hotel I preferred to stay, verified availability using points and went to book. But to my dismay, I discovered my points were no longer available. I was told by Hilton that since there was no activity on my account for a one year period that I had “lost” all of my points.

I spoke to a supervisor but he really seemed to have no sympathy for my situation, nor did he care about my prior loyalty.

The manager did offer me what he said was a very “generous” offer. If I were to have two paid stays in a Hilton I could get half my points back, and with five paid stays I could get all of my points back. So after a countless number of stays and thousands and thousands of dollars spent at a Hilton, I now have to earn all of that back again?

Needless to say I am angry, frustrated and feel used and abused. Is there anything I can do?

– Ryan Sober
Bethesda, MD

A: Not really. If you read the fine print in your terms and conditions, you’ll see that you’re just plain out of luck.

If you do not earn points in any 12-month consecutive period, Hilton reserves the right to remove you from its loyalty program and you are subject “to forfeiture of all accumulated points.”

But don’t hold Hilton to that, because it also reserves the right to “add, modify, delete or otherwise change any of the rules, procedures, conditions, benefits, rewards or reward levels pertaining to the program at its sole discretion, with or without notice,” according to its contract.

In other words, it’s up to you as a frequent guest to keep running tabs on your program’s fine print. That’s convenient for Hilton, but not so convenient for you.

In fairness to Hilton, I should mention that it has one of the best loyalty programs in the business. And its disclaimers are pretty much boilerplate. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of other terms and conditions from other travel companies that are even more outrageous. Hilton’s lawyers are just doing their job, which is to protect their company from liability.

But is throwing the book in your face any way to repay you for all that loyalty?

I don’t think so.

I mean we’re not talking about a couple of hundred points, here. This is some serious status that you’re looking at losing.

If you ever find yourself in this situation again – sitting on a pile of points – my advice is to burn them quickly, especially if there’s little chance you’ll resume your traveling lifestyle any time soon. Miles are being devalued at an alarming rate (it’s affecting the airlines, mostly) so what you have earned today probably won’t be worth the same amount in another year or two.

I contacted Hilton and asked them to take another look at your expired portfolio. I heard back from Cindy Baker, the vice president of Hilton’s HHonors Customer Service Center. I would like to say that my intervention made the difference, but it was actually your decision to apply for a Hilton American Express card that put you over the top. Hilton returned all 423,170 of your forfeited points.

“Clearly,” Baker wrote to me in an e-mail, “the man still has feelings for us.”

Somebody get me a tissue, please.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Jimmy

    I also just found my points have expired. When they signed me up, all they boasted around is the points never expire. In a world where most peer program never expire, I am not sure how stupid the hhonor managment has to be to lure customer into their program and then hold them accountable for not reading their fine print and blindly trusting their bogus statement. I may have to pay a few nights to get my lost points back, but after spending them all, I will avoid all hilton, period.

  • Romy

    I see this is an old thread, but I too am just today going through this exact same problem with Hilton!!! It’s been 8 years since this first post, so obviously they have not taken into consideration any of their loyal customers issues with this matter.

    I am so annoyed with them and their program! It is not like I even just forgot about my points! I had registered my Hilton account with their Dining program, as well as linked it with both my Delta & United accounts, and now they tell me all of that activity wasn’t worth anything with out an actual stay…(besides being told otherwise by their partner org.)? Not to mention, having an extremely rude and unhelpful customer service agent give me attitude and grief over my inquiry when I was being super nice about the whole annoying situation. Ugh!

    Hilton will NEVER get my personal or corporate business again!!!! I’m going STARWOOD all the way now! I had a lapse in my points (which WAS totally my fault) a while back, and they were not only accommodating and understanding, but kind and pleasant to deal with as well. Not to mention, overall, I have to admit, every one of my Starwood stays has blown Hilton away, anyway. While I have quietly endured the motel-like feeling my Hilton stays have given off lately, I don’t need to deal with it when it comes to my points and my future business.