Why January 2013 was an amazing sweet spot for a free Maldives holiday

There is a generally accepted view that, over time, all reward schemes get worse.  People say that you should spend your points as your earn, rather than holding them for retirement or some unspecified time in the future.

I don’t necessarily agree with this.

It is very easy to pick out examples of how loyalty programmes have got worse.  If we take Avios, for example, there are many areas you can grumble about.  In truth, on a five year horizon, the Avios / BA Miles scheme has actually got a lot better in many ways:

Reward Flight Saver cut the tax on European redemptions from £100+ to £35.  No other European frequent flyer programme has copied this move, shamefully.

Qatar Airways, airberlin and Sri Lankan joined oneworld, giving you new earning and spending options.  Emirates is also now an Avios earning partner when you fly them on a Qantas codeshare.

The Lloyds Avios credit card gives you an easy route to an upgrade voucher

Amex Gold and Amex Platinum have introduced high sign-up bonuses which convert 1:1 into Avios, with very generous rules on how many times you can earn them

Guaranteed ‘2 business, 4 economy’ availability even on the busiest routes at the most expensive periods

The truth is that a couple can earn 100,000 Avios per year without breaking sweat, and combined with a 2-4-1 voucher from a BA Premium Plus American Express card they can easily get one decent premium redemption per year.  

I have been in this game long enough to remember the days before 2-4-1 vouchers and before generous Amex bonuses.  You may need more miles for a reward flight these days but the miles are easier to earn.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the generous new Nutmeg deal which launches tomorrow.

But back to the Maldives ….

It is true, though, that there are times when various deals coincide to create what, in retrospect, was a great opportunity.  This was one of them.

The Conrad Maldives is probably the most luxurious hotel in the Hilton family.   The cheapest villa sells for around £1,000 per day including taxes during high season.

For anyone thinking of a Maldives holiday there has always been a way of using Tesco Clubcard points to book this.  It involves converting Tesco points into Virgin Flying Club and then converting Virgin Flying Club points into Hilton Honors points.

Whilst we didn’t know it then, January 2013 was an amazing sweet spot to book the holiday of a lifetime in the Maldives via Tesco.

In January 2013:

  • Conrad Maldives was 50,000 Hilton points per night (now up to 95,000 Hilton points per night)
  • The Virgin to Hilton conversion rate was 1:2 (now 2:3)
  • Virgin was running a 50% conversion bonus from Tesco

Conrad Maldives 2

What did that mean in practice?

January 2013

10 nights at Conrad Maldives (worth £10,000) cost 500,000 Hilton Honors points

Hilton elite members save 20% (Silver is free with their credit card) so that fell to 400,000 Hilton Honors points

400,000 Hilton points required 200,000 Virgin Flying Club points at 1:2

With the 50% conversion bonus running that January, that meant you needed to convert £533 of Clubcard vouchers

Yes, £533 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers would have got you £10,000-worth of Maldives villa for 10 nights!

It is also fair to say that Clubcard bonus promotions were a LOT thicker on the ground back in 2013.

Let’s compare that to March 2017:

10 nights at Conrad Maldives (worth £10,000) costs 950,000 Hilton Honors points on most dates

Hilton elite members save 20% (Silver is free with their credit card) so that falls to 760,000 Hilton points

760,000 Hilton points requires 506,000 Virgin Flying Club points at 2:3

With no recent ‘open to all’ Virgin to Tesco bonus, you would need to convert £2,024 of Clubcard vouchers

The net effect of all of these changes means that the cost of redeeming for this dream Maldives break is now 3.8 x what is was if you use the Tesco to Virgin to Hilton route.

Conrad Maldives restaurant

Here is the thing though – it is still a decent deal.  Whilst very few people will have £2,024 of Clubcard vouchers sitting around, those who do would still be very happy to get a Maldives villa for 10 nights which would cost you £10,000 in cash.

Conrad Maldives is still the best value Hilton redemption, I think.  Remember that you can even redeem the free nights from the Hilton credit card sign-up bonus here!  Even buying Hilton Honors points in the current ‘100% buy points bonus’ is good value if you want to book here.  Any hotel with an underwater restaurant – see photo above – must have something going for it.

Bits: new Radisson sale, last chance for BA Holidays sale, the Haynes Heathrow manual
Two things about Marriott Rewards that I am growing to love
About Head for Points

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Comments

  1. * make that 380k HH points 😉

    • See you’re already obviously subconsciously considering going back for a 10 night stay 😉

      • Just been looking at your Bali reviews, v useful, got 3 nights in Bali next year, I fancy visiting Ubud for a day/night and then an eve at the Conrad Bali…. :)

        • I’ve just left Bali. It’s a schlep from Ubud to Nusa Dua. Wouldn’t do it for a day personally.

          • How about 2 full days, staying just 1 night?

          • Genghis says:

            We’ve got 4 nights in Ubud and then a night at the Ritz Carlton and 7 nights at the Conrad in mid-end April. Going between Ubud and the RC we’ve got a driver for a long day to take us to Mount Batur, to some temple and the famous rice terraces. Happy to answer any Qs once I’m there / back.

          • Those sort of numbers stack up about right to me. Ubud “town” I thought was a bit of a dump tbh, crazy traffic, so make sure you have plans for what you want to do in the area. Got back from Bali this morning at 5am. Cathay a350 etc. to LGW via Hong Kong. It’s a long way…..

        • Genghis says:

          Depending on what you’ve got planned for the rest of your trip, you might appreciate 3 days in Ubud to do some walking etc over moving between a resort and Ubud?

          • Hey Genghis!

            We are staying the Courtyard Seminiyak for 7 days then to Ubud for a couple of nights then Gili Air and Lombok.

            We have already booked a dinner at Locavore which is normally a sell out – with this link you have much better availability https://uk.resdiary.com/ts/find.aspx?id_prov=6292

            Would be nice to meet up for a drink at some point maybe? My twitter is kirilld8

    • Jarvis what an incredible blog you’ve got, impressed

      Anon, nice read of your Rangali trip, thank you for sharing.

  2. Must have missed something. What nutmeg deal starting tomorrow ?

  3. I cash in around 300k HH points for an 8 night family stay in a private villa with infinity pool at the Conrad Koh Samui.

    That was around £4K worth of benefits and since Inwas diamond the free breakfast massage racked up about her 1k of benefits as the honoured all 4 of us eating breakfast.

    We did look at the Conrad Maldives at the times, but the private transfers and food cost really racked the cost up.

  4. I just had a look for the Conrad Rangali over xmas and the points are pricing up at 540,000 per night. Rooms around GBP2,000. That is for a family of four, two adults and two older teens.

    • by the sound of things Xmas at Rangali is really premium time to attempt a visit, plenty of very wealthy guests & VIPs prefer to go then.

      • Letsfly says:

        I went last winter, bought points in the same deal as now.

        $1600 = 380,000honors points
        Got me 5 nights…

  5. We were there over New Year just gone. Great place but you are completely reliant on the buggies to ferry you around. The welcome I found rather perfunctory, the staff seemed to struggle to cope during what is probably their busiest period and the manager was in his last few weeks there so didn’t seem to bothered to listen to any feedback. The New Year’s Eve gala was priced at 14k baht per person. We could have mitigated the F&B costs somewhat by taking out Hilton Thailand Premium Club membership.
    All in all I found it very overated and much preferred the IC up the road!

  6. Does the elite membership only save 20% on points at the Conrad Maldives or is this valid when using points at an Hilton property?

  7. haha, you’ve got me dead to rights there @Anon 😉
    I haven’t been to the Conrad Bali but my parents were extremely impressed when they went. Their Diamond recognition is off the charts.

    @Rashad Thanks for the kind words, it’s nice to know that somebody is reading my blog!

    As far as the Conrad KS goes, I personally feel like points are a waste. The value to be had with the Hilton Premium club is so great that the effective pence per point value comes tumbling down.

    I heard that the Premium Club Asia used to include Rangali as well, back in the day. The 50% F&B discount would have been amazing…

  8. O/T:
    Hi Rob,

    Not sure where to ask this, but what’s your stance on owning both the US and UK versions of an Amex if the cardholder is based in UK? i.e. the US SPG Amex currently has a sign-on bonus of 35k points and apparently no foreign exchange fees…

    I currently have the UK SPG Amex and was thinking of referring my spouse, but the bonuses pale in comparison to her obtaining the US SPG Amex on her own (she has a social security number and a relatively dormant bank account over there).

    Are there any repercussions for her applications to future UK Amex cards? How would this work in practice?

    Any tips appreciated!

    • I can’t see any issues if you’re eligible to apply for the US card – of course you’d need to be able to satisfy Amex of income, etc. but if you can get the higher bonus then sounds worth it! Esp on the SPG card where even the once per card per lifetime US restriction wouldn’t be an issue since it is shortly to disappear anyway!

      • Pojapoja says:

        Thanks for the response. Just checked the details and it’s 25k points for $3k spend in first 3 months, then additional 10k points for $2k spend within 6 months.

        Sounds like a relatively good deal – though I’d be inclined to understand what exchange rate Amex uses given there are no foreign exchange fees – there must be some catch.

        Also, knowing the US credit card companies is there some risk they’d decline the application given my spouse is resident in the UK? This could also potentially hurt her credit score?

        • Why would it matter? What possible use is her US credit score now anyway? It has no impact on anything whilst she is living here.

    • If you can apply and Amex lets you get them, then do it – it is very unlikely to be a problem. Remember you’ll be paying a 3% FX fee, I imagine, on the minimum spend requirement assuming you spend it in the UK.

      • Pojapoja says:

        Fair point.

        Regarding the 3% FX Fee, I’m not sure this is entirely true – unless you mean they will bake the fee into the exchange rate?

        https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/starwood-preferred-guest/

        “No Foreign Transaction Fees
        American Express will not charge any foreign transaction fee on the purchases you make outside of the United States with your Card. However, there may be circumstances where ATMs or merchants charge a fee on foreign transactions.”

        • Nope, 3% is in UK cards, not US. Should be standard Amex international rates, not loaded. Of course if you need to pay the bill by transferring cash from the UK to US, you’ll likely incur a fee for doing so by your bank /transfer service…

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