Gary over at View From the Wing posted today about the sign-up offer for the Hilton American Express Credit Card, so instead of rehashing what he wrote I recommend everyone check it out. Most importantly though, the Hilton Amex allows one to take advantage of the AXON award, probably the best hotel award out there. Normally category six hotels are 40,000 points a night, but on an AXON award it’s only 125,000 points for four nights, a 35,000 point discount.
While the Hilton HHonors program isn’t as strong as some of the other loyalty programs in terms of promotions (which are essentially non-existent, at least the really good ones like Hyatt’s Faster Free Nights and the double stay credits SPG and Hyatt have been offering for the first quarter of the year) and upgrades for elites (even a Diamond at Hilton only technically gets club access and not a suite upgrade, unlike SPG or ICH), it does have some real strong points. For example mid-tier Gold members get basically the same in hotel benefits as Diamond’s, so without that many nights required you can get a really good deal as a Gold!
Typically I’m more of a fan of airline credit cards rather than hotel credit cards since I typically find award redemptions to be more valuable for flights than hotels because I can get a first class award which would retail for $20,000, while a hotel room would only net me a room that’s maybe $500-600 a night. Nonetheless when trying to determine the relative value it’s important to remember that it’s all about what you would otherwise be willing to pay for the product and not necessarily how much it would actually cost. I would never ever ever ever ever ever ever think about paying anywhere near first class prices for flights, at least out of pocket, while I would consider staying at a more expensive hotel, although probably not one that’s $400/night. Let’s also remember that in some cities $400/night is a bargain, and you’re left with very few options, so a hotel award can add a lot of value to your points “portfolio.”
So while I’m doing a great job of rambling and being off topic, let me get back to the point of this post, the HHonors credit card. Obviously the bonus points that can be earned (52,500 points for things I could do anyway) are quite valuable, not to mention the FIVE points per dollar on stays at Hilton hotels, groceries, gas, and wireless bills, things that I’d use another card for otherwise. So doing a quick breakdown of the AXON award, which is 125,000 points for four nights, we’ll realize that it’s really 31,250 points a night, putting it over four nights of course (you can’t do half an AXON for 62,500, for example). That also means that assuming I’m only using my credit card for stays at Hilton hotels, on gasoline, on groceries, and on wireless bills, I would need to spend $6,250 (31,250/5) for a free night at one of the many great Hilton family hotels in the world. When you compare that to the 6,250 miles I would otherwise earn, not even enough for half of a domestic upgrade, I think it’s hard to argue against it. Best of all Hilton honors elite benefits on award stays and this card doesn’t have an annual fee!
I think I’ll largely be using HHonors points for the Conrad Hong Kong, a great hotel in my favorite city in the world. Add the great hotel to the free upgrade to an Executive room for Gold/Diamond members and it’s quite a steal!