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.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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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  1. Agreed. Went for honeymoon 2 years ago and still my fav place ever. I highly recommend going for the FREE honeymoon package. With this plus diamond status we easily scored free dinners and champagnes during dinners at restaurants since alcohol is overpriced. It is a must to splurge on the undersea restaurant. Tip: if u can sail, u can take the sailboats out for free!

    • Or even better , get your son to make friend’s with the son of a billionaire, at the kids club, and he gets taken out on fishing trips 😉 on the Conrad’s private motor cruiser!!!!!

  2. What's the Point says:

    We spent 5 nights at Rangali last year after converting 200k worth of Amex MR points into Hilton. IMO the best use of points I have ever done.
    Yes its a bit pricey when you are there, but then it is worth the splurge both in terms of points and pounds spent.

  3. We spent 10 days one month ago during term break
    2x(4+1) redemption nights
    we used Hilton Points and also trade some avios at Coupon Connections we got 2.7 Hilton Per Avios….

    so very good value
    we also use Pegasus promo and pay 120 pounds per ticket STN-DOHa where we took use avios to get into MLE
    see plane transfer is very expensive in my opinion not worth to stay where for few days

    Kids Club amazing for my 4 Year Old Son, we only paid for one activity for him banana ride 20$, he was extremely happy where,
    as Diamond we got upgrade on second day for Water Villa which should be for 4 days, we can stay they longer but prefer to return to Main Island,
    amazing place
    expensive but…..worth it
    On Thursdays is Cocktails on Boat for Diamond members,
    Free drinks every day and some tea Time with sandwiches

    we ware 2Adults+4Year Old+1 Year Old and we got free breakfast as diamond benefit, next time we think to go where in February 2019 when our girl be over 3 Years so she could take advantage of kids club (for kids over 3 year old),
    also next Year they should finish second runways and new terminal at MLE

    • Genghis says:

      I flew Pegasus last year as only direct option to get to Izmir and despite my expectations, I thought they were decent. Leg room was sufficient, prices were decent, left and landed on time. I’d happily fly with them again.

      • Johnny_c-l says:

        Good to hear that, I’ve only ever used Pegasus for internal flights in Turkey but am considering using them from the UK.

  4. Peter K says:

    Maybe I’m missing something but apart from the sea life, why fly so far to go here when your can find similar style holidays closer (sun, sea, nice food, relaxing)?

    • You have a very valid point. You could go 5* on exclusive resort in Greece, Middle East or similar, but you find private individual villa bungalows serviced twice a day with direct access onto the beach/reef?

      The service is terrific at the Conrad, the resort is a good size offering variety of views/aspects.

      So personally I can’t directly answer that one, as my main reason for going was the reef, we snorkelled every day, most days 3+ hours head underwater looking at the incredible sea life, in my experience only Thailand & Reefs in Oz come close.

      What I am puzzled by is why anyone goes there and doesn’t snorkel? 🙂

      • dgsupersonic says:

        How about scuba diving or other activities? Staying by the beach doing f-all for 7+ days must be quite boring.

        • Not for me, we could of stayed another week, loved the place.

          I did also dive this time which was really worth it and also checked out some of the activities available in the lagoon area, they even have totally free catamaran sailing if you are suitably qualified.

        • How was the reef, any bleaching?

        • I’ll cover that in my review and include pics, still tons of sealife and soft corals, but yes in short, Idid see a marked difference to the appearance of plate and fan corals, along with most of the Australian GBR, approx 1/2 of the Maldives hard corals were worse off following the El Nino event in 2016.

  5. It is kind of incredible how much value there was back in the ‘good old days’. Still, I feel like this is largely cyclical and as you quite rightly pointed out, some things have dramatically improved.

    I really think that our stay at the Conrad Maldives last year was the ultimate aspirational redemption (and still quite repeatable):

    80k AA miles per person on Etihad apartments thanks to miles accumulated on the Viking Fare.
    760k Hilton points earned on stays in Thailand using the Premium Club + 200k purchased at 100% bonus.
    Complimentary Diamond Upgrade to Retreat Water Villa thanks to status match (a knock on effect of HGP’s crazy status matching).

    The whole thing still ended up costing around £3500. When you factor in our diving, seaplanes and food: for a 5 day holiday on an enormous over-water house, which we reached in a flying apartment, that’s a pretty amazing value!

    • Agreed Jarvis, very much matches my experience, nice blog & liking your cover pic from the deck of the RWV 🙂

  6. * 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.

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

  8. 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.

    • Still 300k for 8 days?

      Surely the going rate for the Koh Samui is higher these days?

    • Very tempted with the Koh Samui redemption if anyone has any reviews/tips?

    • Rather annoyingly I check for availability at Koh Samui and its 239k for at least the next 6 months

  9. 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…

  10. Waribai says:

    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!

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

    • I mean’t to write “any” rather than “an”

    • Valid for all points-only redemptions – 5 nights for the price of 4 for Silver upwards.

      • Ahh yes, I didn’t realise it was the 5th night free that was being referred to – Doh!

  12. 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…

  13. 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?


        “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…