The Scoop on Hilton HHonors AXON Award Changes (or Devaluations)

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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.

Examples:

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.

Comments

  1. FYI I don’t think AXON awards are just for people with co-branded Hilton Amex cards. Any Diamond can get them too. I don’t have a Hilton Amex and I’ve booked an AXON recently.

  2. stimpy, interesting. I’m not sure I have heard that before. My understanding is they are a benefit of having an Amex co-branded card. Would love to hear others experience with that.

  3. fwiw, Amex gave me 10,000 Hilton points after i sent a polite secure message complaining about the drastic changes.

  4. Mommy, perhaps it is because I have an Amex Centurion which gives me Hilton Diamond. All I know is I called the Diamond desk and booked an Axon 4 a month or so ago when I heard the rates were going up.

  5. Unlike some other chains, Hilton will only give you the advertised award rate on a basic room. Once those are all booked, the rates for even slightly upgraded rooms go thru the roof.

    So if you are hoping for a res this summer, at least at the more popular properties, like Paris Hilton La Defense, you will find very few rooms at the regular award price. The reason is simple. Like many others, I booked a res there before the property went from level 4 to level 9, and the AXON rate there went from 125K to 290K for 4 nights.

    So many of us did this, that “basic” rooms are almost all already res for June thru mid-Sept. Now if you are looking for a 5 night stay at PHLD, instead of finding rooms at the new “low season” rate of 60K in June thru mid-July, you will only see 135K to 360K per night. Some 5 night arrival dates price out at over 1.5 Million points for 5 nights. One thru three night stays are somewhat easier to book at 60K per night, but of course do not qualify for AXON nor 5th night free.

    If your dates are very flexible, when you get to the first booking page, click on “more options”, then select “use flexible dates” and “use HHonors points”. Select a one night stay at the very beginning of the time that would work for you, then scroll thru the dates, 2 weeks at a time, looking for a set of consecutive nights at the official basic rate. Now at least you know what is available.

    Next summer, with the pre-deadline booking frenzy over, will be quite different. Still, make sure to book as early as you can to get the lowest award rate for your desired dates. There is very rarely a fee to reschedule an award booking, nor to cancel and get your points redeposited. Check your res page though, as special dates like Octoberfest in Munich are exceptions.

  6. I was so displeased with these changes, I cancelled my Amex HHonors cc card. I’ll stay with Club Carlson and Priority Club programs for now ——

  7. 5th night free question: We booked 4 nights Axon award in Moorea about month ago, we then used 2 free weekend night certificates for the next two nights. Can we contact them now and remove one of the free weekend night certificates at the start of our trip?(Essentially adjust our Axon award to start a day earlier and they should give us the 5th night free). That way we’d have an extra weekend night certificate for future use.

  8. I am Hilton Diamond (also Platinum Marriott, platinum SPG and United 1 K) . Hilton was number 1 hotel program for me (only because of Conrad Maldives & Hilton Bora-Bora) until this devaluation (when these properties are almost triple the redemption rates) . This devaluation is a rude way to deal with customers. I feel extremely deceived and offended – my loyalty to Hilton stops here. I can say I hate Hilton now. Marriott & SPG will remain my favorites (they still devalue their points, but nothing like this – you don’t really feel the punch when Marriott or SPG raise their redemption rates by 1 category ) , but Hilton – let me dump it.

  9. I have a general question about Axon awards…. if I wanted to stay at Cat 10 hotel, but in a premium room – Over the water room in Bora Bora… How do I book that with the Axon awards?
    thanks!

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