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As you may have already heard (or at least suspected after HHonors gutted some of their award chart), the HHonors AXON awards that are available to Hilton Amex cardholders are also changing effective June 15th. As you may have also guessed, the changes are not good news.
Before I get into the details regarding the changes, I want to make sure that you know what an AXON award is. An AXON award is a chance to book a four night stay at a Category 5 and up property at a discounted rate. It is also known as an American Express Four Night Reward Stay Benefit. If you like longer trips, you can use them for any length of stay that has a multiple of four (8, 12, etc.). These awards are only available to those who have co-branded Hilton Amex cards such as the American Express HHonors Surpass Card or the American Express Hilton HHonors card. Once upon an time the AXON awards offered a pretty good value, but as you will see that value has changed a bit.
Note that Axon awards are different than the benefits that elites get where the 5th award night is free. Keep in mind that many of the various Hilton credit cards come with elite status of some sort, at least for the free year. For example, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card won’t give you access to the AXON awards since it is not an Amex, but it would give you Gold status and thus access to the fifth night free elite benefit.
Here is the current AXON award chart:
Category 5 hotels: 125,000
Category 6 hotels: 125,000
Category 7 hotels: 145,000
Until late March, the highest category Hilton HHonors hotel was a Category 7, but now they have added categories 8 – 10. If a hotel you want to book an AXON award at is still a category 5, 6, or 7 hotel it would pay to do that before June 15th when the higher AXON rates go info effect. If you want to book an AXON award right now for a hotel that is a Category 8 – 10, that doesn’t seem possible quite yet.
Here is what the AXON award chart will be starting 6/15/13:
Category 5 hotels: 130,000 points (four nights regularly 120,000 to 160,000 points)
Category 6 hotels: 160,000 points (four nights regularly 120,000 to 200,000 points)
Category 7 hotels: 190,000 points (four nights regularly 120,000 to 240,000 points)
Category 8 hotels: 220,000 points (four nights regularly 160,000 to 280,000 points)
Category 9 hotels: 260,000 points (four nights regularly 200,000 to 320,000 points)
Category 10 hotels: 300,000 points (four nights regularly 280,000 to 380,000 points)
A quick glance at the old and new chart show that clearly the new chart is both more expensive and more confusing. This is in part due to the fact that in March Hilton introduced seasonal pricing to award nights at some hotels, so it isn’t as simple as saying a Category 7 hotel award night costs 60,000 points per night, so clearly getting four nights via the AXON award chart at 190,000 points is a discount over the 240,000 points it would have otherwise cost. Instead a Category 7 award night can cost between 30,000 – 60,000 points, so if it is going for just 30,000 points per night on the nights you are interested in, then booking via the AXON award would cost more than booking without it. In other words, you have to do your math and see what what the hotel you want is going for on the dates you are interested in. You can then compare that to the cost of four nights via the AXON award and then see what will be the best points deal for you.
As an example, let’s say your family has a co-branded Amex card that would provide both access to AXON awards and provides elite status, and you want to stay at the Hilton Orlando for four nights from June 27th – July 1st. The first step is to see what category the hotel is. You can do that by going here and searching for the hotel you are interested in. When you click on the individual hotel you will see what it is categorized as. You can see that the Hilton Orlando is a Category 6 hotel.
From that same search tool you can also see how the pricing for the hotel varies from month to month, however this doesn’t tell you whether or not the hotel has standard rooms available on the days you want. For that you still need to do a search for the dates you want (make sure to check the box that says use HHonors Points).
That hotel can be booked on those days for 30,000 points per night. So, if you booked four nights it would cost you 120,000 points. In this case the AXON award for a Category 6 Hotel at 160,000 points would clearly not be the best route to take since it would cost you 40,000 more points. However, if your family decided to stay five nights, then the fifth night would be free via your fifth night free elite benefit so you could have an extra night of vacation without spending any additional hotel points.
Alternatively, if you wanted to stay at this same hotel over spring break in 2014 from March 5th – March 9th it would cost you 50,000 points per night as that is a month where the points price is higher. In that case the AXON award at 160,000 points would be a savings over the 200,000 points it would otherwise cost. Of course the best deal in that case would be to lock in the AXON award now at the old rate of 125,000 points for four nights before the change on June 15th. AXON awards must be booked over the phone.
The summary is that AXON awards are sticking around, but they aren’t quite the deal they used to be by any stretch. If you can lock in one now, that is often the best the way to go. If not, you will need to do the math in the future to see whether or not it is in your benefit to use the AXON award, the fifth night free elite benefit, or just pay the regular points rate. Thank you to Mr. Pickles for sharing the news of the new AXON award chart.
Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links. Some of the links are mine, and some are not. In this case the Citi HHonors Reserve card is mine. As always, your support is appreciated.