Simplifying HHonors AXON changes June 15, 2013

Hilton HHonors AXON awards are an exclusive benefit to HHonors American Express card members for a supposedly reduced rate on a 4-night stay. The changes to AXON rewards effective June 15, 2013 will mean far less probability of saving points with an AXON reward on a 4-night stay compared to the HHonors Standard Reward rate.

The changes in Hilton HHonors last month with the introduction of 10 hotel reward categories has a major impact on the AXON awards with this award choice now requiring comparison to standard reward levels for the dates of your hotel stay to determine if the AXON is less or more points than a standard reward stay.

New AXON HHonors reward stays (effective June 15, 2013)

  • Category 5: 130,000 (Standard reward: 120,000 or 160,000 points).
  • Category 6: 160,000 (Standard reward: 120,000 or 160,000 or 200,000 points).
  • Category 7: 190,000 (Standard reward: 120,000 or 160,000 or 200,000 or 240,000 points)
  • Category 8: 220,000 (Standard reward: 160,000 or 200,000 or 240,000 or 280,000 points)
  • Category 9: 260,000 (Standard reward: 200,000 or 240,000 or 280,000 or 320,000 points)
  • Category 10: 300,000 (Standard reward: 280,000 or 320,000 or 380,000 points)


The basics of old AXON HHonors reward stays (through June 14, 2013):

    • HHonors AXON awards are only applicable to 4-night reward stays.
    • Formerly available only for category 5-7 hotels.

AXON rewards are available for 4-night stays at hotels in categories 5 through 7, as follows:

Category 5: AXON = 125,000 points (through June 14, 2013)

  • Old Category 5 VIP 4-night reward rate (15% discount off 35,000 points standard night rate at 140,000 points) = 119,000 points.
  • HHonors VIP 4-night reward for 6,000 less points than category 5 AXON was better deal.

Category 6: AXON = 125,000 points (through June 14, 2013)

  • Old Category 6 VIP 4-night reward rate (15% discount off 40,000 points standard night rate at 160,000 points) = 136,000 points.
  • HHonors Category 6 AXON 4-night reward for 11,000 less points than category 6 VIP 4-night reward was better deal.

Category 7: AXON = 145,000 points (through June 14, 2013)

  • Old Category 7 VIP 4-night reward rate (15% discount off 50,000 points standard night rate at 200,000 points) = 170,000 points.
  • HHonors Category 7 AXON 4-night reward for 25,000 less points than category 7 VIP 4-night reward was better deal.

HHonors 5th Night Free Reward Change (effective March 28, 2013)

The former HHonors VIP reward stays gave a 15% discount on 4-night stays. VIP reward stays for 5 nights were a 20% discount; same as the current 5th night free. Stays of 6 or more nights were 25% off standard reward rates.

The new HHonors only gives a 5th night free discount.


Hilton HHonors now uses floating reward categories for hotels in the 10-hotel-reward-category system.

I refer to Hilton HHonors new system as seasonal drift of hotel category. The cost of a standard reward night is posted by calendar month on HHonors.

The reasons Hilton HHonors rewards are more confusing since last month’s changes are the floating reward categories. Under the new HHonors system the only way to know if an AXON reward stay is a better deal is to check the hotel category standard reward rate for the month of your anticipated stay.

Hilton Garden Inn Monterey (HHonors category 7 hotel) is a great hotel example for how the new AXON rewards screw over HHonors American Express card members.

HHonors category 7 hotels have a reward cost range from 30,000 to 60,000 points per night depending on the month. The hotel reward category assignment really has no impact on the HHonors standard reward rates when a hotel like Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is listed as a category 7 hotel. The only thing that matters is the month of your reward stay.

The standard reward rate for a category 7 hotel can be one of four rates:

  • 30,000 or
  • 40,000 or
  • 50,000 or
  • 60,000 points.

Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is 40,000 points per month for 11 of the next 12 months. HHonors Points & Money Reward rates are based on 40,000 points for stays during those months.

August 2013 is the only seasonal variation for this hotel when the rates rise to 60,000 points per night.


Hilton Garden Inn Monterey, California HHonors 4-night standard reward = 160,000 points for every month over the next year, except August 2013 when the standard reward rate is 240,000 points.

The new HHonors AXON rewards do not account for seasonal variation. Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is listed as a category 7 hotel and a 4-night HHonors AXON reward will always cost 190,000 points.

The AXON reward at 190,000 points for a 4-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Monterey is priced 30,000 points higher than the HHonors standard reward rate of 160,000 points for four nights.  For 11 of the next 12 months, the HHonors standard reward is a better value than AXON at this hotel, except August 2013 when the 4-night HHonors standard reward rate rises to 240,000 points and the AXON 4-night reward at 190,000 points saves 50,000 points on a 4-night reward stay.

Except for AXON reward rates, the new HHonors monthly rates have no impact on HHonors members since HHonors Points & Money reward rates align with the standard reward rate shown for the month and not the hotel’s listed HHonors category.

I created the chart below and removed seasonal variability to show how HHonors Points & Money rates align to the posted standard reward rate for any specific month at any specific hotel.

Hilton HHonors Standard Reward and Points & Money Reward Rate

(These categories are not the same as HHonors designates hotel category on the hotel’s website. These category numbers are based on the actual reward cost per night for any specific hotel.)

  • Hotel Category 1 – 5,000 points (PM 2,000 + $30)
  • Hotel Category 2 – 10,000 points (PM 4,000 + $35)
  • Hotel Category 3 – 20,000 points (PM 8,000 + $40)
  • Hotel Category 4 – 30,000 points (PM 12,000 + $50)
  • Hotel Category 5 – 40,000 points (PM 16,000 + $65)
  • Hotel Category 6 – 50,000 points (PM 20,000 + $85)
  • Hotel Category 7 – 60,000 points (PM 24,000 +100)
  • Hotel Category 8 – 70,000 points (PM 28,000 + $125)
  • Hotel Category 9 – 80,000 points (PM 32,000 + $150)
  • Hotel Category 10 – 95,000 points (PM 38,000 + $200)

PM = Points & Money Reward rate.

The only real impact of the HHonors hotel reward category listed on any specific hotel’s webpage is for HHonors AXON rewards. And in most cases the posted hotel reward category is a negative impact making AXON rewards less useful as a reward stay savings.

Related Post:

HHonors Hotel Reward Category and Seasonal Drift Explained (April 5, 2013)


  • Ric Garrido April 29, 2013

    Oops. Original title stated AXON changes effective June 16 when it should have read June 15, 2013.

  • D Wonderment April 29, 2013

    This is simply way too complicated and confusing as to what Hilton did
    They had it right before the changes and should have made the devaluation/increases tied to a reasonable and acceptable
    set of increases. I never thought Id return to Marriott
    Though Hyatt and SPG are my top 2 go to programs
    I have left HHonors,stopped staying Hiltons, torn up my credit card and will never look back.
    A former Diamond member for over a decade

  • daniel April 29, 2013

    can AXON rewards be booked before june 15 for later dates and still get the old rate?

  • Paul W April 29, 2013

    Also, if you book a 4-night non-AXON award stay, you get the fifth night free, which makes AXON an even worse deal (and kind of makes 4-night stays a bad deal regardless).

    Fifth night free is for Hilton elites, but Hilton elite status is notoriously easy to get without having to ever stay in a Hilton on a paid night.

  • Jeff April 29, 2013

    Likewise. Former Diamond member with 100-200 nights annually for 5+ years. Haven’t stayed in a Hilton property in 2 years now. This was the icing on the cake. Cancelling the credit card and will work to burn through my 500k remaining points (burned more than half prior to deval.)

    Starwood is my new #1 and they have received almost all of my stays thus far this year. Marriott is my backup for cities without SPG properties.

  • Well Traveled Mile April 30, 2013

    Well, this was the last straw Hilton…

  • Lark April 30, 2013

    Ric –

    Please tell me what you think of this…

    In the paper letter I received from AMEX (RE Hilton HHonors Surpass), the final paragraph states the following:

    “If you are not satisfied with these changes you can cancel your account by calling us at xxx-xxx-xxxx by June 15, 2013. If you cancel, the changes won’t impact your account…”

    So, if I cancel by June 15, it sounds like I should be able to continue to take advantage of AXON at the current (soon to be old) rates.

    What is your interpretation?



  • Ric Garrido May 1, 2013

    You are not eligible for AXON awards if you cancel your American Express card.

  • Travis Swanson May 1, 2013

    Lark, I agree that the last paragraph makes no sense. However, I highly doubt that if you cancel you will receive the old rates. Ain’t gonna happen, however strange that wording is.

  • afterbang May 2, 2013

    Ric – do you think Hilton will ever realize they went too far and.. come back to earth? Do the hotel companies have any metrics to measure how many loyal customers they lose every year? I’d imagine Hilton would have the biggest spike this year.

  • Ric Garrido May 3, 2013

    I’m sure Hilton will run extensive analyses to determine customer satisfaction. It is hard to say if they will change much. They are the big chain on the block and I think that there will be few changes. There are new customers who will start Hilton stays and become loyal to replace the ones that left.

    The credit cards are powerful draws for new members and the ability to earn top elite Diamond status on spend alone makes HHonors an attractive program for many guests.

  • Paul May 6, 2013

    Hilton may have significantly devalued, but they are still a way better place to use award miles than the absurd SPG program. Loyalty Lobby just did an indepth comparison and even after the massive devaluation, Hilton is still a significantly better award program. SPG is dead last and trails by a long way.

    Hyatt/Marriott are the best redemptions thanks to Inks and 5x. Carlson is the best if you don’t get 5x URs.

  • Ric Garrido May 6, 2013

    SPG does not compare well in base points earning to other programs. The promotions have always been SPG’s area to be competitive with bonus points for Platinum and Gold members and promotions offering 1,000 points or more per stay.

    SPG has never been competitive for rewards at the high end. SPG outshines HHonors and many of the programs for the ability to book category 1-4 hotels at low cost using standard rewards or Cash & Points.

    Many of my analyses show that paying for category 6 and 7 properties is often a better deal than redeeming points. The redemption value is not competitive at high category Starwood properties compared to the value using points for category 1-4 hotels.

  • […] Update:  Hilton has devalued their AXON awards.  See this post for more details. […]

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