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New Hilton HHonors AXON Awards Announced – Another Devaluation

by on April 29, 2013 · 31 comments

in American Express, Hilton

Hilton’s new AXON award levels were announced over the weekend (hat tip to Mr. Pickles) so we asked TPG Hilton contributor Nick Ewen to take a look at the new options and discuss what they will mean for travelers once they go into effect.

In the wake of last month’s massive Hilton devaluation, one of the bright spots to emerge was the fact that reduced-price AXON awards for Hilton Amex cardholders were sticking around. Through June 15, 2013, these rewards would remain at current levels for Category 5-7 properties. However, a new AXON program would be forthcoming with modified levels and the addition of AXON rewards for Categories 8-10.

Speculation was rampant. How would the levels be changing? Would they take into account the program’s new seasonality? And how would the new options compare with the new 5th night free benefit?

Well, it appears that the wait is now over. American Express has begun sending existing cardholders details of the new program, and on the whole, it is a serious blow to anyone wanting to redeem an AXON award. Here’s a quick summary of the changes and how the effective points/night for AXON rewards compare to the standard nightly rates.

Hotel Category

Old AXON Levels

New Axon Levels

AXON Nightly Rate

Standard Nightly Rate

5

125,000

130,000

32,500

30,000 – 40,000

6

125,000

160,000

40,000

30,000 – 50,000

7

145,000

190,000

47,500

30,000 – 60,000

8

n/a

220,000

55,000

40,000 – 70,000

9

n/a

260,000

65,000

50,000 – 80,000

10

n/a

300,000

75,000

70,000 – 95,000

Just like the current program, these rewards cannot be booked online. Instead, you must call 1-800-920-5649 to make your booking.

So what does this all mean for those of us still wanting to redeem Hilton points for an AXON reward?

Well, first and foremost, this adds additional complexity to the award booking process, and I would be that there will be many confused phone agents come June 15.

It also puts much more of a burden on us to really evaluate which option will provide a better bang for the buck (or payoff for the point!). To help you decide, I have put together a spreadsheet that will allow you to identify the best option for a specific stay. Simply enter in the hotel’s category, the standard rate in points during your stay dates, which you can find here, and how many nights you are staying. The spreadsheet will then automatically calculate the points needed for a standard reward versus an AXON (plus additional nights, if needed).

You can download it here: Hilton HHonors New Axon Comparisons

To make sure you are still getting the most out of your redemptions, here are my recommendations.

Be sure to check the standard points required at your desired hotel before even thinking about booking an AXON reward. The new rates (unfortunately) do not take into account the new seasonality of the Hiton HHonors program. As a result, AXON rewards really only make sense during a hotel’s high season. At some properties, you should always use AXON rewards for a four-night stay, while at others, you should never use AXON.

Many others are somewhere in between, depending on how their rates vary during the year. This is all due to the fact that the seasonal ranges posted online are not black and white for every property. Some properties do have lower rates during certain months, but they do not always get to the lowest (or highest) end of the range. Some don’t even have any variation! For example, the Hilton in Moorea is a Category 9 property. However, they don’t have a “low” season and thus require 80,000 points/night throughout the year. A four-night stay using the standard rates would set you back 320,000 points, so you’re much better off redeeming an AXON reward (260,000 points) throughout the year at this property.

At the Hilton in Moorea, an AXON award will offer better value than booking a standard four-night stay, regardless of when you are staying.

At the Hilton in Moorea, an AXON award will offer better value than booking a standard four-night stay, regardless of when you are staying.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you plan to stay at the Hilton in Auckland, a Category 9 property, you would never redeem an AXON award. Their “high” season only requires 60,000 points, while rooms can be had for just 50,000 points during their “low” season. In either one of those scenarios, a four-night AXON reward (260,000 points) will always be higher than a four-night standard reward (200,000 or 240,000 points).

A four-night stay in July at the Hilton Auckland only requires 200,000 points, while an AXON reward would be a whopping 260,000 points! At this property, you should never book an AXON.

A four-night stay in July at the Hilton Auckland only requires 200,000 points, while an AXON reward would be a whopping 260,000 points! At this property, you should never book an AXON.

The Waldorf Astoria Park City, another Category 9 property, is one that falls in between. From December to March, the 80,000 points/night make an AXON reward worthwhile (260,000 points rather than 320,000 points). However, from April to November, standard rates drop to 50,000 points/night, making a four-night standard redemption (200,000 points) a better deal.

At the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, an AXON reward offers better value during ski season, while a standard four-night reward is preferred from April through November.

At the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, an AXON reward offers better value during ski season, while a standard four-night reward is preferred from April through November.

The standard pricing tool is actually very easy to use and can be found here, while a PDF with the new categories for all Hilton properties worldwide can be found here. Always compare to the standard nightly rates to the AXON nightly rates (using the above table or aforementioned spreadsheet) to see which one is a better deal.

Be sure to keep the new fifth-night free benefit in mind when making your travel plans. AXON rewards are not eligible for this new option (meaning you can’t book an AXON reward and then have another night for free). Instead, you would need to book a standard room for five nights (and you would only pay for four of those nights). Remember that this option is only available for Hilton HHonors elite members, though you automatically are given Silver for just holding a Hilton American Express or Hilton HHonors Surpass card from Amex. This benefit should be automatically reflected in your online search for reward rooms when you are signed in. However, as I was writing this post, the Hilton HHonors website was not showing any reward rooms for me as a Diamond member, though they were available when I wasn’t signed in. This is simply a glitch and will hopefully be resolved by the time this post goes up.

As a result of this new benefit and the seasonal rates at most properties, there are now some cases (especially during a hotel’s low season) where booking a five-night stay with the fifth night free will actually be cheaper than a four-night AXON stay. For example, the DoubleTree Suites in Times Square (a Category 10 property) drops to 70,000 points/night from January – March and again in July & August. If you wanted to book a five-night stay during one of those months, it will set you back 280,000 points (4 nights at 70k plus the fifth night free). However, a four-night AXON stay would actually be more: 300,000 points to be exact.

DoubleTree NYC

The DoubleTree Suites in Times Square would benefit from an AXON during high season, but the fifth night free benefit is actually cheaper than a four-night AXON during low season!

Again, be sure to check the various seasonal rates at your desired property to make sure an AXON award is the best deal out there.

Make sure that you are checking all options if you are planning on staying at a property for 9 nights. This might actually be a new “sweet spot” in the Hilton HHonors program, especially at properties during high season. Let’s say that you wanted to spend nine nights at the Hilton in Sydney, Australia in the month of February. Normal redemption rates that month are 70,000 points/night. Using the above spreadsheet, you may be inclined to book two AXON rewards plus one additional standard night for 510,000 points. However, you could actually book one AXON and tag on another five-night standard stay for a total of 500,000 points. This would allow you to take advantage of both the fifth night free and AXON benefit. However, if your stay fell during the month of May, when standard rooms are only 60,000 points/night, the AXON rates wind up being more than the standard rates, so you’d be better off booking nine nights online and avoiding AXON altogether.

A nine-night stay at the Hilton Sydney can be booked using a combination of AXON and the fifth night free benefit to save yourself 10,000 points.

A nine-night stay at the Hilton Sydney can be booked using a combination of AXON and the fifth night free benefit to save yourself 10,000 points.

I included a little pop-up in the spreadsheet to remind you of this as you are evaluating your options. I’m guessing that many of us aren’t booking nine-night stays, but if you are, just make sure that you consider the different combinations out there.

Finally, be sure to make all of your AXON reservations for Category 5-7 properties before June 15, since any reservations made on or after that date will be subject to the new point levels. It appears that you will not be able to book AXON rewards at Category 8-10 properties until after that date, so if you have plans to travel to one of those properties between now and then, it sounds like you are out of luck!

At the end of the day, it is still nice to have the option of booking these rewards, especially if your stay absolutely has to be four nights and happens to fall during a hotel’s high season. Again, though, be sure to carefully consider all of your options to make sure that you doing waste any of your hard-earned points.

What do you all think of this new offering? Please feel free to share your thoughts or ask any questions in the comments section below!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Tony

    Do you know if it’s possible to currently use the AXON 7 rates (145,000) at a category 8-10 hotel before June 15th?

  • CVG_Traveler

    Maybe this is an opportunity for the Citi Hilton card to offer a program similar to AXON but at better rates? Perhaps after reaching a certain spending threshold like 10K or whatever.

  • thepointsguy

    No, just Category 6-7 hotels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mauricio.tamayo.98 Mauricio Tamayo

    Where can I get a detailed list of all the CAT 6 hotels? Thanks

  • MYRflyer

    TY for the detailed post Nick, will bookmark this page for future reference.

  • SIM

    I REMEMBER YOU SAYING YOU WOULD TALK TO CITI AND AMEX ABOUT THESE OUTRAGOUS DEVALUATION. Can you please do it now? Why isn’t there a lawsuit ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    Man, I would LOVE to see this. However, I’m guessing that the Citi Reserve card already has plenty of business with the existing benefits. With no foreign transaction fees + automatic gold status + free night with 10k in spend (not to mention the two free nights as a sign-up bonus), I’d be surprised to see additional benefits. The only way this would happen is if Citi sees a significant drop in the application rate or a rash of cancellations due to the devaluation. Personally, I’m holding onto mine, because I still think it’s one of the best cards out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    There’s a link in the post for a PDF with all of the hotels arranged by region, but as far as I know, there isn’t a master list anywhere that is organized by category.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    My pleasure!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    The biggest problem is that these loyalty programs (and all outstanding points) can be a significant liability for companies, and in the T&C of the program, they reserve the right to modify the program as they see fit (http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/terms/index.html). As far as I know, there has never been a successful lawsuit with changes like this, especially those announced ahead of time.

    That’s not to say that we are powerless, however. I have read many reports of individuals cancelling cards or status matching to other chains and informing Hilton, Citi, and/or Amex of the reason. At the end of the day, the almighty dollar is the only thing that will prevent (or reverse) these decisions.

  • Rob
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    Whoops! Thanks for catching that. I got my Tahiti properties mixed up. Moorea is a Category 9 hotel, but since it requires 80,000 points year-round (at the high end of the Category 9 range), a four-night AXON at 260,000 points will always be better than the standard 320,000 points.

  • Daniel

    Have you found out if reservations made for more than 1 year out will be canceled?

  • AceK

    How do you currently value HHonors points? I’m looking at a .9 cent redemption at the Conrad Hong Kong (dollars and points) and thinking that’s probably not a bad use at this point.

  • Stock Shooting NW FL

    Just stayed at Hampton Inn Spring Hill FL.
    Free breakfast, free Internet, 10K points.
    Looking forward to Cat. 4 or lower stays
    in London/Paris, 4 nights + free night.

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  • Traveller

    Do you know if you have existing axon reservations for level 9 and 10 properties, whether that is affected?

  • Juno

    just got the letter in the mail yesterday. I’m going to use up my existing points then cancel and move on to Hyatt or SPG

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    If the reservation will end on or before March 28, 2014, this should not affect them at all (unless you need to make a change, at which point the new rates will be in effect). However, if you booked an AXON checking out after March 28th, there’s still some uncertainty (to which we hope to get a definitive answer at some point).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    Unfortunately we haven’t received any formal confirmation one way or another. Believe me, you all will be the first to know once we do!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    I’ve already shifted a bunch of my business to SPG last year and have mixed in a bunch of Hyatt stays this year. In fact, I am typing this response from an ENORMOUS 2-bedroom suite at the Hyatt House Miami Airport courtesy of a Platinum upgrade. I’m sure we are not alone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    I’m hearing more and more people that are choosing to redeem points at domestic properties rather than the “aspirational” ones abroad. While some areas in the US took a serious hit (I’m looking at you, NYC!), there are definitely still some great values to be had! I (for one) booked three nights at the DoubleTree in Kuala Lumpur post-devaluation (25k dropped to 10k), and I’m thinking about a night at the DoubleTree in Beijing…5k per night feels like highway robbery!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ewen/7201791 Nick Ewen

    Probably not a bad use. With this devaluation, I have honestly stopped paying very close attention to the “value” of each redemption and begun viewing it more holistically (as in, “Will it be nice to not have to pay for this room?”). Generally speaking though, I think anything around 1 cent/point or better is a good proposition, and the Conrad Hong Kong is a great property. Are you Gold or Diamond? I really like the Executive Lounge there, so that would also push me to recommend that you take it.

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  • Savannah

    I’m looking at the Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa. According to the new chart it falls under the “all inclusive” category. Base room starts at 60K. I’m confused about axon vs 5th night free…which is a better deal for this property? Had trouble with the links in this blog post.

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  • disqust101

    SPG? That’s the absolute WORST hotel award redemption program unless you like low end. Even with the devaluation, Hilton is a better program – low end/high end.

  • Mari

    I have started a petition on Change.org called: Hilton Honors Stop the Restructuring of Points

    Please check it out and sign on!

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  • BC

    I’ve tried every which way. I cannot find the AXON discount or info listed anywhere – on hhonors or amex.com or anywhere else. Is it gone?

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