Hilton Eliminated Discounted AXON Awards for American Express Cardholders — Two Weeks Ago, Without Notice

For over a decade Hilton American Express co-brand credit card holders had access to discounted four night redemptions. These had to be booked by phone and were known as ‘AXON’ awards.

A reader told me they had heard these awards were discontinued at the end of 2016. I hadn’t heard anything about this, so I reached out to Hilton and an HHonors representative confirmed that these awards are toast:

We have discontinued the AXON phone redemption offer as of 12/31/16, but encourage our Hilton HHonors members to continue to take advantage of our rich offers when they stay with Hilton properties such as our 5th night free for a standard room offer which can be redeemed online or via phone.


Conrad Bangkok

Ever since 2013 these haven’t even always been cheaper than booking hotel awards without the ‘discount’.

That’s because Hilton has award pricing ‘bands’ and these four night awards had a fixed price that could be more or less than what a four night award redemption would otherwise cost.

  • Category 5: 130,000 points (normally 120,000 to 160,000).
  • Category 6: 160,000 points (normally 120,000 to 200,000).
  • Category 7: 190,000 points (normally 120,000 to 240,000).
  • Category 8: will cost 220,000 (normally 160,000 to 280,000).
  • Category 9: will cost 260,000 (normally 200,000 to 320,000).
  • Category 10: will cost 300,000 (normally 280,000 to 380,000).

The ‘normal’ points ranges extrapolate four nights from the Hilton HHonors award chart below:

If you’re going to stay at a property 5 nights, then 5th night free is a better deal and that remains in place. But for four night stays at hotels that price at the upper end of a category band then AXON awards remained a good deal. So it’s sad to see them go. And it’s even sadder to see them eliminated without any notice to members.


View from the Conrad Miami

Hilton and American Express have a list of, and contact information for, American Express co-brand cardholders. I receive regular marketing messages from Hilton. So it shouldn’t have seemed too difficult to send out another one of those, and to do so before pulling the plug on this award prior to December 31.

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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Comments

  1. Wow. That is a major loss. I usually don’t stay in hotels for 5 or more nights so AXON awards often represented a value; and it was a plus for AMEX cardholders (over Citi Hilton cards).

    And as you note, no notice sucks!

  2. Just this week I was looking to book a 4 night cat 8 in NYC for NYE. Would have saved 60K points with 220K for 4 night vice 280K for 5 now. Is this really Hilton’s doing or did AMEX have to subsidize the AXON and did not want to anymore?

  3. This is really, really not okay. I plan to make AMEX know of my anger through as many channels as possible. Yes, yes, I know that won’t mean much. But I plan to do it anyway.

  4. Before the huge devaluation, AXON’s were a deal. AXON was more expensive on my latest 4-night award stay than the regular awards. But it depended. It’s not cool to lose this option. Especially without notice.

  5. I booked back in November, I think, for a trip in April, and I remember thinking it odd that I could not find anything official about the rate anywhere on AmEx or Hilton websites, just travel blogs. Made me wonder if it was on the way out. Glad I topped off my account when they had a points sale, rather than waiting to earn the last needed points on my credit card, I would have been out of luck.

  6. Nothing to spin. But if you’d like something that sounds like a spin, this is “a tempest in a teapot.”

  7. Frankly, I was not aware that AXON was even still available. It’s likely been discontinued because not many people were taking advantage of it. I did a 5-night award stay at Conrad Koh Samui a year ago and found it to be quite affordable with the 5th night free – a more valuable perk that’s available to elites at all levels, and would be a real devaluation of the program if they ever got rid of it.

  8. @DCS both Hyatt and Starwood are still alive. Hyatt offers a clearly more valuable elite program albeit with a smaller hotel footprint. Starwood offers a clearly more valuable elite program and since its acquisition by Marriott, Marriott is improving its elite program as well (4pm late checkout guaranteed for Golds and Platinums, testing ‘Ambassador’ services).

    As for your theory that ‘nobody was using them’ I don’t have data on the number of redemptions (neither do you) but I note that there’s a **77 PAGE** Flyertalk thread on the award…

  9. (Gary with the mic drop)

    Please continue to call out the “fake news” repeated by some of your frequent posters Gary

  10. @Gary — You are still pushing a notion that current facts emphatically dispute. Check your own site for evidence against the “clearly superior program” that HGP is going to be after it is totally disfigured and renamed WOH! As for SPG, it ceased to be for all practical purposes after Starwood went on the auction block. But even if it were still alive, the program, like HGG, was never what you and other self-anointed travel gurus touted them to be. The evidence is clear. Both programs are on life support while HHonors and MR (much maligned by you among others but now being lauded after your so-called “better” programs went kaput) have thrived. You were wrong then and you are still just as wrong now.

    Lastly, please have your “guaranteed” perks. Anyone who looks at so-called guarantees would quickly see what they are: an excuse to limit the value of a perk. Anyone, that is, except for the self proclaimed Thought Leader in Travel….

    I have not needed AXON. Its demise is meaningful only because YOU want it to be. It has little practical importance for the program…at least for those who know how to take advantage of program.

  11. @DCS World of Hyatt makes top tier harder to qualify for, the benefits are not clearly worse and for most who qualify are likely better. You have to separate qualification rules from quality of benefits if you’re talking just about quality of benefits. There’s no question the best value hotel status from an ‘ease of obtaining’ standpoint is Hilton Gold. Since you get it just for signing up for a credit card, and it gets you breakfast and helps you avoid rooms over the HVAC.

    Starwood didn’t ‘cease to be’ and I know that because I hear from them all the time, I credited 100 nights to SPG last year and have a designated ambassador who so far seems quite proactive.

    And Marriott is getting better than Hilton, Hilton needs to really do something.

    I am MUCH more likely to get 4pm late checkout at Marriott, Starwood, or Hyatt than at a Hilton. At Hyatt I am proactively OFFERED 4pm late checkout pretty much every single time i check in.

  12. @DCS– no, the real analysis of this little spat is that YOU apparently didn’t ever use AXON awards, not that they weren’t used or aren’t useful….. I and many others used this means to lower top-tier redemptions in 4-day increments repeatedly (my favorites are the Conrad Maldives and Hilton Bora Bora and the Trafalgar, all of which I’ve booked on AXON repeatedly). Perhaps your idea of a good use of Hilton points is a weekend in Fresno.

    Gary is exactly right: it is deplorable that Hilton gave no notice here, and apparently didn’t plan to. It is a very real devaluation for those of us who collect points for aspirational properties in expensive locations. Further, Hilton management has again demonstrated their untrustworthiness, which began with the massive devaluations a few years ago.

    SPG is very much alive, and presents a real (and increasing, so far) value; Hyatt has pulled the rug out from guys like me who could stretch to get 25 stays, but don’t have business that readily permits multiple night stays to get to 50 nights with award nights counting “0”, mostly due to Hyatt’s small footprint. So it’s SPG again this year for me. I *am* very glad I’ve got two AXON awards back-to-back for the Conrad Maldives coming up….. I’ve put Hilton on my “book last and earn-and-burn-immediately” list for the last three years, and it appears that this much loyalty to them is exactly reciprocal to their loyalty to us……

  13. I’ve had the Hilton AMEX card for many years, solely for this redemption. There’s no annual fee so it was a no brainer to keep. Is there any value to it now?

  14. Anyone else who supports “guarantees are bad, they just limit what you get…the fewer guarantees the better in a program you are spending 50+ nights staying in”, please voice up and support him

    (crickets chirping)

    Oh that’s right – it’s a figment of his own mind that this is a good thing, and no one agrees with him

  15. @Gary — Wonderful perks that only a few can enjoy are a negative. That’s the problem with the purportedly “beefed up” Globalists perks, many of which top elites in other programs have enjoyed for years. What we are seeing is another thoughtless placing on a pedestal of yet another ho-hum (read: mediocre) elite status by the “Thought Leader in Travel”, by making up standards of excellence.

    AXON was selective. The 5th award night free perk is available to all elites. The difference between the two is very small (in fact, often AXON was more expensive). Learn about the program and the benefits before ponticating!

  16. @STT — My comment above about AXON responds to you as well.

    It is a tempest in a teapot!!! Instead increments of 4 days, just do a 5-night award stay and get the 5th free [it is sometimes cheaper the AXON!]! That is the more general perk that depends on nothing else and it is quite likely why I never bothered with the AXON anymore.

    SPG is dead. Get used to it.

  17. @Gary sez: “I am MUCH more likely to get 4pm late checkout at Marriott, Starwood, or Hyatt than at a Hilton. At Hyatt I am proactively OFFERED 4pm late checkout pretty much every single time i check in.”

    It’s fine that Hyatt proactively offers you late checkout. They offered it to me as well, as a lowly Platinum. However, get this once and for all: I have NEVER been denied a late checkout request as a long-time HH Diamond, and some of my requests were for much later than 4 pm. Checkout “guaranteed” at 4 pm limits the perk: you are very likely to be denied a request for a 6pm checkout than me. Also completely abstracted in your pushing for “guaranteed” 4pm checkout is what happens when that “guarantee” results in a delay in checking in an incoming guest… (you do not care about that but programs must because they are the ones that must deal with such issues).

  18. @DCS “It’s fine that Hyatt proactively offers you late checkout. They offered it to me as well, as a lowly Platinum. ”

    Yes — because guaranteed (2pm) late checkout is even a benefit of Gold Passport Platinum.

    Hyatt mid-tier is guaranteed late checkout, while hilton Diamond is not. It’s great that you have been able to get late checkout at Hilton properties, your experience is NOT the norm.

    You suggest that late checkout is a ‘hard’ benefit but Marriott is a pretty good hotel operator and they chose to add the benefit, so now SPG, Marriott, and Hyatt all offer it. Hilton is left on its own along with Holiday Inn not making any such promise. Go figure.

  19. DCS Lie Alert: “Checkout “guaranteed” at 4 pm limits the perk: you are very likely to be denied a request for a 6pm checkout than me”

    Of course, as usual he has basically no experience with a program that guarantees a 4pm check-out. As I and countless other SPG (and probably Hyatt) Platinums have observed…adding another hour or two once you’re already at a 4pm guarantee isn’t a big deal for most hotels IM(very frequent)E.

    This doesn’t even get into Your24, a benefit he can only dream of.

    DCS – stop lying already, or at the very least, presenting your (misguided) opinions as facts

  20. @Gary — you are arguing something that no one has challenged: HGP does ‘guarantee’ late checkout and I did even say that it’s been offered to me as a plat. The question is (a)nthe wisdom for a program to “guarantee” a perk considering issues that it might create, and (b) your failure to see that the only reason for a program to “guarantee” a perk when it does not have to is to limit it. Four DSUs were “guaranteed” per year and room upgrades were explicitly disallowed at check-in for HGP Diamond. The reason? To make sure that 4 DSUs were the only suite upgrades HGP Diamonds could legitimately claim. According to your thinking, the “guarantee” made DSUs the most valuable suite upgrades in the business, when it is now clear that all the “guarantee” did was to limit the number of upgrades HGP Diamonds could get!!! It is the same thing for “guaranteed” 4pm checkout: it limits the perk by making it easier for a program to deny requests for even later checkout times…

    You can also keep avoiding the following all you want, but it has to be repeated until you “get it”:

    Even though HHonors does not “guarantee” late checkout, I have NEVER been denied a single one as a long-time HH Diamond, and some of my requests were for much later than 4 pm. Also completely abstracted in your pushing for “guaranteed” 4pm checkout is what happens when that “guarantee” results in a delay in checking in an incoming guest… (you do not care about that but programs must because they are the ones that must deal with such issues).

  21. @DCS except that in practice it doesn’t cause the problems you’re talking about. It might at some resorts, but it’s not guaranteed at those. Hotel chains have thought of this, and considered it, in implementing benefits that Hilton hasn’t bothered to offer.

  22. @Gary: “except that in practice it doesn’t cause the problems you’re talking about”…

    LOL. Do you already forget that you wrote a post on the bad consequences of the practice as implemented by Marriott? Was that post alarmist for no reason? Or the thread at FT that is growing because the practice causes no problems? Or that checking in into my club room at Hyatt Regency Tokyo was delayed as a direct result of the practice?

    Hilton will not bother to “guarantee” late checkout because it is a boneheaded policy. Members — including “Blues” — just have to make timely requests and properties will do the best they can to accommodate them…like I have been accommodated 100% of the time as a HH Diamond.

    “Guaranteed” perks are not what you are trying to make them out to be: perks are “guaranteed” ONLY to limit them! There is ample evidence to support that the thesis if you wish to explore it.

    I am done here. The future will prove me right as it has so far 😉

    G’day!

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