HHONORS UUPDATE: Good grief! The Hilton HHonors program is experiencing a currency devaluation the likes of which have not been seen since Weimar Germany, or possibly Zimbabwe. Gary at View From The Wing is all over this one, and here’s his chart of the old award levels next to the new ones:
So instead of seven categories topping out at 50,000 points, we now have 10 categories topping out at 95,000 points. One of the great things about the Hilton HHonors program was the value it offered for high-end redemptions, and it seems that has fallen by the wayside, though we’re guessing the lower and middle levels will be squeezed as well.
Mommy Points correctly points out that Hyatt and Starwood offer much better value on a per-point basis, while The Points Guy contrasts the Hilton changes to other recent hotel chain point devaluations and calculates how much spending is needed for a free night at a top-tier room. We would add that the Citi Reserve card, which offers two free nights upon sign-up and one free night per year, becomes that much more valuable since its value remains unaffected by the devaluation.
SOME RELEVANT BEST BUY NEWS: A couple of Best Buy items today. First, Deals We Like points out that you can get 6% back on online Best Buy purchases via TopCashBack. We haven’t tried this out, but does TopCashBack let you double dip by ordering Best Buy gift cards online and then using the gift cards to pay for another order? Just throwing that out there. 6% is pretty good.
The other item is that Capital One is selling its Best Buy portfolio. This is interesting because Capital One just bought HSBC’s credit card portfolio, including the Best Buy card, less than a year ago. The good news here is the buyer of the portfolio: Citibank! We’re big fans of Citibank’s promotions, so we’re hoping the BBY card becomes a little more interesting from a customer perspective.
$19 UNLIMITED CELL PHONE PLAN: The Wall Street Journal reports on a $19 unlimited voice, data, and text cell phone plan offered by Republic Wireless. You might think that there would be a catch with a $19 unlimited plan, and you would be right. Here’s Walt Mossberg:
So what’s the catch? Well, Republic is using an unusual technology approach that’s smart and may even represent the future. But today, it doesn’t deliver the best voice quality and it requires a specially equipped phone. The sole phone that works with the system now is mediocre.
Republic is mostly able to offer such low monthly prices because it’s a Wi-Fi-centric carrier. That means whenever you make a voice call while the phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network, your Republic phone places it over Wi-Fi rather than using a costlier cellular phone network. The same is true of texts.
You aren’t limited to Wi-Fi calling and texting—the phone can make calls, send texts and connect to the Internet over Sprint’s cellular network, at no extra charge. But Republic believes so many people connect their phones to Wi-Fi so often that most calls and other activity will be conducted over Wi-Fi, saving the company money on payments it makes to Sprint. And it says it has developed a system that properly places 911 calls over Wi-Fi, which has often been a problem.
Unfortunately, the only phone that works with this plan costs $249 and is not very good. If it weren’t for that fact, we’d be very interested, but we’ll pass for now. If you’re in the market for a cheap cell phone plan, you might want to think about the $30 monthly plan from T-mobile combined with Google Voice, which will give you unlimited data and minutes but with a better phone selection.