Hilton HHonors Guts Discounted AXON Awards for American Express Cardholders

Mr. Pickles posted the letter he received from American Express about upcoming June 15 changes to Hilton AXON awards, the discounted four-night awards offered to co-branded Hilton American Express cardholders.

Starting June 15:

  • Category 5 hotels go up from 125,000 to 130,000 points (normally 120,000 to 160,000).
  • Category 6 hotels go up from 125,000 to 160,000 points (normally 120,000 to 200,000).
  • Category 7 hotels go up from 145,000 to 190,000 points (normally 120,000 to 240,000).

Also beginning June 15 these awards will be bookable for the new category 8, 9, and 10 hotels.

  • Category 8 will cost 220,000 vs. 160,000 to 280,000.
  • Category 9 will cost 260,000 vs. 200,000 to 320,000.
  • Category 10 will cost 300,000 vs. 280,000 to 380,000.

You can book category 5, 6, and 7 hotels at current rates before June 15.

You cannot book AXON awards for category 8, 9, and 10 hotels until June 15.

What’s striking is that these ‘discounted’ awards are more expensive when a hotel would be priced at its low season rates. They only offer savings during high season.

And the savings are often not enough to be better than the fifth night free awards offered to elite members (which replace elite discounts). So on a five night stay there may not be a savings at all booking a discounted four night plus one night award.

It shouldn’t be surprising that current category pricing will go up as much as 45,000 points and higher category awards will be so expensive, though I am surprised that they haven’t introduced variable (low vs high season) pricing such that these awards are sometimes more rather than less expensive than just booking a room.

You can read all about the overall Hilton HHonors devaluation that went into effect on March 28 as well as see the current award chart in this post.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It will be interesting to track any backlash from the overall devaluation. For the first time in 8 years I will not make diamond – instead giving my business to Hyatt (about 70 nights/year).

  2. Re: high vs. low season for top-tier properties, it’s not like it even matters honestly. Seems the properties have 100% discretion to determine when and how long their high season is, and how low their low season is. I’ve yet to see a tier 9 or WA property get down to 50k/night in their low season; for some of the ones I’ve looked at their low “season” is only 4-6 weeks of dropping it down to 70k. So the fact that AXON doesn’t account for this is just sort of a drop in the bucket of ridiculousness.

  3. I voted already. Cancelled my Amex Hilton at the last devaluation. This year I have all of 1 stay at a Hilton.

  4. Thanks for the post
    Cut up my HH Amex this morning
    I am back staying Marriott something I thought I would never see! Had a fantastic stay at the Sky City hotel at Hong Kong. My new pecking order
    Hyatt,SPG InterContinental, Marriott last
    0 for Hilton done!

  5. This stinks. At least the lower Amex Hilton CC I have is no annual fee so I can keep it open for credit agency purposes.

  6. My Hilton Amex most certainly won’t be renewed. Brutal devaluations across the board in every way. Sad.

  7. wow…the points which you list above is for 1 night or not? if it is for 1 night, it is really terrible.

  8. Will keep my free AmEx but I’ve lost all faith in Hilton with these super high point rewards. There’s really no point to earn & redeem HH when Hyatt (via UR points) is much more valuable for aspirational & expensive city properties.

  9. Why are you so surprised? Hilton ( like Delta ) has been selling points like peanuts to both Citi and Amex. Eventually, by flooding the market and with an improved economy, they started getting more redemptions than expected and the only choice: to raise up the number of points needed. Unlike airlines, HHonors has to reimburse the hotels for the redemptions, at a negotiated rate.

  10. Math was never my strong point, but this is how it seems to me. Top level Hilton property using 3X AMEX HH card and BB for AXON rate, total BB fees come out to $800 per night. Top level Hyatt property using Hyatt cc, or any card that transfers to Hyatt at 1:1, BB fees are $176. Only times to use the AMEX HH card are gas, groceries, and paying to stay at a Hilton property.

  11. Well, I warned you my math wasn’t so good. Yes, I forgot to divide by 4. Still think raising the AXON rate for properties that have just jumped several levels to begin with is terrible.

    I should have said, hopefully got it right this time, $800 in BB fees gets you enough miles with SPG for a FC TA Saver ticket. I value that way more than 4 nights in a Level 10 Hilton. But depending on how many miles you have saved up, YMMV.

    Sticking with my conclusion: Only times to use the AMEX HH card are gas, groceries, and paying to stay at a Hilton property.

  12. Jason
    I think many expected some devaluation
    The extent of it however was insulting and IMHO they will never recover from the loss of business from a number of top performing customers. This was a deal breaker. I’ve never seen anything like what Hilton has done to its program ever
    Good for them if customers are willing to pay for it
    I’m not

  13. I understand and I am not saying I am willing to pay for it myself; my company pays for all my travel expenses, so I stay where ever they book me ( we have a travel agency and they do all the travel arrangements). For personal travel, I will use the points needed but sometimes I get more value from other hotels. Hyatt points are not as easy to obtain and do not have as many properties as Hilton. SPG is another option but again, getting redempions via Amex cards sign up bonuses has made a difference as we saw in recent devaluation, though not as bad.

    Mark my words and say good bye to AAdvantage as we know it. ( I used to work for AA/Sabre in Dallas by the way)

    Lets just say, it ain’t 2009 anymore!

  14. People need to think about what’s going to happen when Hyatt has a major devaluation, which is coming sooner or later. Then what?

  15. Maybe I’m not reading it right, but I don’t see it as all bad. Say, I only want exactly 4 nights at Conrad HK at 80K/night. That would be 320K, using AXON discount it’s “only” 260k. A difference 60K, which works out to 65K/night, a savings of 15K/night for 4 nights.

    Unfortunately, this “discount” only works if you only 4, 8, 12, etc nights stays.

  16. Only 260K !!!!!!
    The award was 145k for 4 nights just a few weeks ago!
    Outrageous! Even a boost of 5% would have been more than the rate of inflation

  17. yes, I realized that. but since mar 29, we no longer can use AXON discount on Conrad HK, so my basis is the new hilton reward category chart, no need in lamenting the good ‘ol days

  18. It looks to me that AXON is now worth a 20% discount across the board if I did the math right.

  19. @Andrew It all depends. Case in point: Hilton Paris La Defense, where I have a reservation in September at the old AXON rate of 125K points for 4 nights. The new “low season” rate is 60K a night, so fifth night free is 240K, whereas the AXON rate is 260K. That’s 20K more for one less night.

    BUT…much of the time, especially on a less than several months notice, the daily rate of 60K skyrockets, often 3 to 6 times that much. Just did a search for June 1st thru Sept 15, and there were only 5 single days they would allow you to arrive for a fifth night free rate.

    The other 71 days they would not quote any type of 5 night award rate if you were signed in as an elite. If you are not signed in, making you ineligible for 5th night free, they will quote you an award rate. It’s @190K a night, which is 950K for 5 nights. That’s not a misprint, it’s nearly a million points for 5 nights ! For just the basic level room.

    They will quote award rates for 4 nights most of the time, often as high as 138K + per night, which totals 553K + for four nights. In the later case the 260K Axon rate is less than half of the per night rate, on nights the fifth night free rate is not available at all.
    Consider how crazy this is, you can get 4 nights for @500K. But a non elite discounted 5 night stay on the same reservation jumps the price to @1 Million. Double the price for one more night.

    The first date I could get the discounted 5th night rate is July 28, 3 months in advance, and again only a total of 5 arrival dates from July 1st thru Sept 15 that will allow the 5 night rate. So AXON would be a “bargain” {sic} for most of the summer.

    Using points with HHonors is now quite similar to getting FC TA Saver airline awards, you need to search and search, and book way in advance. If you aren’t totally flexible in your dates you’re going to need literally up to a Million points for a 5 night stay. Making AXON a real “value” {sic} in comparison. 🙁

    The more I understand the HHonors program changes, the worse it seems. Despite that it seemed truly horrible to begin with. Obviously, HHonors either didn’t think this thru, or they just decided to junk their “loyalty” program for anyone whose rooms are not booked thru a corporate travel department.

  20. The changes in Hilton HHonors affected mostly high end hotels, and hotels that were previously undervalued (like New York City). Under the new structure, over half of Hilton’s properties world wide are 30k points or under per night. The Points and Money reward was also enhanced; a 30k point hotel when PAM is available is now 12k points and $50; before it was 15k points.

  21. I voted with my dollars. It used to be I spent many weeks every Spring with them. Not this year. I have not stayed with them since a Doubletree stay a year ago. Adios HH gold.

    I had it with their chintzy attitude. I have no intention of going back to these jerks, and they certainly have not been begging me to return.

    We all know the score: at the bottom of the recession, hotel construction stopped. Now business is picking up but new construction will take a couple of years. So in the meantime there is just enough of a tight inventory to get away with this.

    In a couple of years there will be plenty of hotel rooms, and the Hilton franchisees will be in tough shape if the HHonors regulars have been driven away, but the short-sighted secret handshake guys at Blackstone figure they’ll IPO Hilton, and be retired with their trophy wife before that happens.

    This is all about making the books look pretty for the IPO. Consequences after the IPO: that’s a problem for the suckers who Blackstone sells it to.

  22. Update to my prior post:

    It turns out that as bad as the HHonors devaluation was, it’s not quite as bad as I had thought. Lucky pointed out that the high rates at PHLD were simply because so many people had burned their points before the deadline. Thus the basic rooms at that property were already full with award res, and only higher priced upgraded rooms were available.

    I found you can search for August 2014 by first searching for 2013 dates with “flexible dates”, then change to 2014. Sure enough 5 night awards with fifth night free are available every night in August 2014 at the minimum 240K rate. At least right now…

    So yes, the category jumps and increased AXON rates are terrible. But they aren’t as bad as I had thought they were.

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