Maximizing Hilton HHonors GLON and AXON Redemptions

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TPG contributor Nick demystifies Hilton HHonors’ complicated GLON and AXON redemption opportunities and tells us why everyone who’s interested in the Hilton HHonors program should be carrying a a Hilton Amex.

While Hilton HHonors does have the highest point redemption requirements of the main hotel chains, there are nevertheless some great ways to maximize the value of your hard-earned points. In an earlier post, I highlighted two of these that come along with the Hilton-branded American Express cards (which also confer elite status upon their holders): discounted reward options known as AXON and GLON.

Before we get into what each of these means, here’s a quick rundown of the standard redemption levels in Hilton HHonors. There are seven categories of properties in the Hilton portfolio of brands (plus Waldorf Astoria, which has different redemption levels, discussed below). The standard reward chart is available on the Hilton HHonors website and looks like this:

The table of Hilton’s standard award redemption categories and levels.

Below that chart is the one for Waldorf Astoria, which differs by property and “season”:

(NOTE: The Waldorf Astoria in the Maldives will no longer be affiliated with Hilton HHonors as of July 29th. The Conrad and Hilton in the Maldives continue to be available, so if you can get there and want to utilize your Hilton points, there are still options.)

Some of you may be thinking that someone would be crazy to spend these amounts of points for a single night, but there may be situations where it makes sense. For example, would you want to pay $8,999 for New Year’s Eve at the Doubletree Times Square? Probably not. However, a Diamond Hilton HHonors member could get the same room for 50,000 points, which is approximately $0.18/point! Now granted, that is an extreme situation, but I’ve been known to burn points for a one- or two-night stay when revenue rates are off the charts.

However, if you’re planning on a reward stay of four nights or longer and you sign-up for the regular or Surpass Hilton HHonors American Express card, you can take advantage of discounted redemption rates that are coded AXON (open to cardholders) or GLON (open to all Hilton HHonors elite members). Let’s take a closer look at each one and give you an idea of when each one should be used.

AXON:
This special rate for American Express cardholders is only available on stays in multiples of four nights (so 4 nights, 8 nights, 12 nights, etc.), and as I mentioned in my credit card comparison post, AXON redemption rates are applicable only to Categories 5, 6, and 7 hotels, as follows:

AXON5 (four nights in a Category 5 hotel) = 125,000 points
AXON6 (four nights in a Category 6 hotel) = 125,000 points
AXON7 (four nights in a Category 7 hotel) = 145,000 points

These rewards cannot be booked online. Instead, you’ll need to call 1-800-920-5649 to book them over the phone. Bear in mind that this number will actually transfer you to the Diamond Desk with Hilton HHonors, but don’t worry if you aren’t Diamond, these reps handle all AXON rewards.

GLON or VIP-only:
These discounted redemption rates are available to any Hilton HHonors elite member. Since Silver status is complimentary with the Hilton Amex, every cardholder has access to these rewards. These redemptions simply start at four nights and offer greater discounts for longer stays. They also include Category 3-7 properties plus Waldorf Astoria hotels as well. I covered the basics in my credit card post, but the discounts are as follows:

Four-night stay: 15% discount
Five-night stay: 20% discount
Six-night stay or longer: 25% discount

Also unlike AXON, these rewards can be booked online. Just make sure that you are logged into your Hilton HHonors account when looking for rooms, and the search engine should automatically display the per-night charge (in points) based on the GLON discount.

Important Implications for booking:
It should be obvious that as a Hilton HHonors credit card holder, any stay of four nights or longer should be booked using one of these discounted options. However, because you have competing rewards for Category 5-7 hotels, it can get a little confusing when you try to identify the best option. To help with this process, I’ve created two resources: a flowchart and an Excel file.

Excel file: AXON GLON rewards

If you follow the flowchart from top to bottom, you will see the best option for your situation.

The Excel file will also tell you the number of points needed for each kind of redemption and the best option when you input the category level of the property you are looking at and the number of nights you are staying.

Trip Planning Scenarios
So what does this all mean for your trip planning purposes?

1, 2, or 3 nights: You generally don’t need to worry about AXON and GLON. Now, I use the word “generally” here because there are a couple of interesting scenarios involving 3-night stays at Category 6 and 7 properties that I’ll discuss later on in this post. However, if you have no flexibility to extend your stay beyond 3 nights, you will simply book your reward room at the standard rates.

Category 1 or 2 hotel: You also don’t need to worry about AXON and GLON. Since AXON only applies to Categories 5-7 and GLON only applies to Categories 3-7 (plus Waldorf Astoria), any reward stays at Category 1-2 hotels are booked at the standard rates.

Category 3-5 hotel or a Waldorf Astoria property for 4 or more nights: You should use GLON. Most of this statement should be obvious; AXON isn’t available for Categories 3-4 or Waldorf Astoria hotels. However, you may be asking yourself why I’ve included Category 5 here as well since AXON is available at these properties? For some completely unknown reason, a four-night stay at a Category 5 property is actually more expensive using AXON than using GLON. I mentioned this in my credit card post, but let’s take a look at this in action at one of my favorite properties: the Conrad Bali.

Let’s say you were planning a four-night stay. As a non-status, non-American Express cardholder, you would pay the standard rate for four nights (35,000 points x 4 nights = 140,000 points). But now, let’s say you open a Hilton HHonors American Express card. Now, you have access to both AXON and GLON rates:

-AXON: 125,000 points for a four-night stay
-GLON: 15% off standard rates, so 29,750 points x 4 nights = 119,000 points for the same four-night stay

Even though the AXON rate is offered at Category 5 properties, there is no reason to ever book this one, since you will also have access to the more heavily discounted GLON rate with the Silver status automatically given to you as a cardholder.

At a Category 6 property like the Hilton Los Cabos, GLON awards will be your rate of choice except on four-night stays.

At Category 6 properties: The only time you’ll use AXON over GLON is on stays of exactly four nights.

Example: Hilton Los Cabos (Category 6)

AXON RATE

GLON RATE

Four-night stay

125,000 points

136,000 points

(15% off standard rate)

Eight-night stay

250,000 points

240,000 points

(25% off standard rate)

Twelve-night stay

375,000 points

360,000 points

(25% off standard rate)

A four-night stay is better off with the AXON, but as you move to higher multiples of four nights, GLON becomes the better option.

At Category 7 properties: AXON is a better value for a stay over any multiple of four nights.

Hilton Moorea (Category 7)

AXON RATE

GLON RATE

Four-night stay

145,000 points

170,000 points

(15% off standard rate)

Eight-night stay

290,000 points

300,000 points

(25% off standard rate)

Twelve-night stay

435,000 points

450,000 points

(25% off standard rate)

Notice that as you move to stays in larger multiples of four nights, the AXON rates still offer the better value and will actually become progressively better (e.g. a 24-night stay would be 870,000 points if booked with six AXON rewards or 900,000 points if booked with GLON).

Mix it up with AXON and standard awards at Category 7 hotels like the Hilton Arc de Triomphe.

A 5-night stay at Category 7 hotels: Should be booked with one AXON plus an additional night at standard redemption levels. This is probably the least intuitive aspect of these different rates, but it can help you minimize the number of points needed for redemption. Again, let’s look at an example, this time using the Hilton Paris Arc de Triomphe:

 

AXON RATE

GLON RATE

AXON +

Standard Night(s)

Four-night stay

145,000 points

170,000 points

n/a

Five-night stay

n/a

200,000 points

(20% off standard rate)

195,000 points (145,000 + 50,000)

Six-night stay

n/a

225,000 points

245,000 points

(145,000 + 100,000)

Notice that booking a four-night AXON stay at 145,000 points and adding on an additional standard night at 50,000 points will save you 5,000 points over a straight-up five-night GLON reward. Also notice that at 6 nights, this advantage disappears.

Avoid 3-night stays at Category 6 and 7 hotels if at all possible: Unless you have absolutely zero flexibility in your plans, adding the additional night will really maximize the value of the points redeemed. Again, let’s see how this would play out:

CATEGORY 6

CATEGORY 7

Standard Rate

(three-night stay)

AXON Rate

(four-night stay)

Standard Rate

(three-night stay)

AXON Rate

(four-night stay)

120,000 points

125,000 points

150,000 points

145,000 points

Extending the stay for an extra night at Category 6 properties only costs an additional 5,000 points, while adding another night to a stay at Category 7 properties actually saves 5,000 points. Both of these are no brainers in my book, as long as your travel plans are flexible.

Finally, leveraging the AXON awards can be a great way to minimize your points and still experience multiple properties on your vacation. Let’s say you are planning a trip to the Seychelles, Tahiti, the Maldives, Dubai, or any location with two or more Hilton properties. If you are having a hard time choosing between hotels, why not try both of them? Here’s how that might work in Tahiti with two different vacation lengths:

Six-night vacation:

 

Hilton Moorea (Category 7)

Hilton Bora Bora (Category 7)

TOTALS

6 nights in Moorea,

0 nights in Bora Bora

225,000 points

(GLON)

0 points

225,000 points

5 nights in Moorea,

1 night in Bora Bora

195,000 points

(AXON + Standard)

50,000 points

(Standard)

245,000 points

4 nights in Moorea,

2 nights in Bora Bora

145,000 points

(AXON)

100,000 points

(Standard)

245,000 points

3 nights in Moorea,

3 nights in Bora Bora

150,000 points

(Standard)

150,000 points

(Standard)

300,000 points

In the first scenario, I could experience both properties for an additional 20,000 points. Is that worth it? Well, that’s really up to you. My wife and I are currently planning a trip to the Seychelles, and it appears that the two properties there are sufficiently different to justify the additional points. Remember that without having a Hilton HHonors American Express, this redemption isn’t possible.

Why not leverage both GLON and AXON awards to experience both the Hilton Bora Bora and the Hilton Moorea on one trip?

Eight-night vacation:

 

Hilton Moorea

Hilton Bora Bora

TOTALS

8 nights in Moorea,

0 nights in Bora Bora

290,000 points

(AXON)

0 points

300,000 points

7 nights in Moorea,

1 night in Bora Bora

262,500 points

(GLON)

50,000 points

(Standard)

312,500 points

6 nights in Moorea,

2 nights in Bora Bora

225,000 points

(GLON)

100,000 points

(Standard)

325,000 points

5 nights in Moorea,

3 nights in Bora Bora

195,000 points

(AXON + Standard)

150,000 points

(Standard)

345,000 points

4 nights in Moorea,

4 nights in Bora Bora

145,000 points

(AXON)

145,000 points

(AXON)

290,000 points

However, the second example is another no brainer to me. By splitting my time equally between the two properties, I could use the same number of points by leveraging AXON to get to experience both resorts instead of just one. As an elite member without the American Express, I would be forced to pony up 340,000 points for two GLON rewards, and as a general Hilton HHonors member, those same redemptions would cost 400,000 points.

Split your time between the Hilton Moorea adn the one in Bora Bora using AXON awards at both.

Which brings me to my final recommendation: Get a Hilton HHonors American Express. With no annual fee, complimentary Silver status (and thus access to GLON rewards), bonus points, and the ability to redeem AXON rewards, the regular Hilton Amex is a great card to have in your wallet that opens up a lot of points-saving opportunities.

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