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

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There is a generally accepted view that, over time, all reward schemes get worse.  People say that you should spend your points as you 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 6-7 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 and Sri Lankan joined oneworld, giving you new earning and spending options.  Aer Lingus has also developed as an option for low tax US redemptions.  Emirates is also an Avios earning partner when you fly them on a Qantas codeshare.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold and Amex Platinum have introduced high sign-up bonuses (20,000 points and 30,000 points respectively) 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 simply by applying for the right American Express cards at the right time, 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 far easier to earn.

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.  January 2013 was one of them.

The Conrad Maldives is probably the most luxurious hotel in the Hilton family.   The cheapest villa sells for around £800 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 (now you get 20% at best during promo periods)

Conrad Maldives 2

What did that mean in practice?

January 2013

10 nights at Conrad Maldives (worth £8,000 at peak periods) 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 Honors 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 £8,000-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 than they are today.  With Tesco Direct and Tesco Wine now closed it is very difficult to run up a high Clubcard balance.

Let’s compare that to December 2018:

10 nights at Conrad Maldives (worth £8,000) costs 950,000 Hilton Honors points on most dates

Hilton Honors elite members save 20% so that falls to 760,000 Hilton points – but with the Hilton credit card, which gave free Silver status, no longer available this is trickier to obtain

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

With no ‘open to all’ Virgin to Tesco bonus this quarter, 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 it was when the stars paths crossed in January 2013, 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 – frankly, it is virtually impossible now that Tesco Direct and its bonus point deals have gone – those who could would still be very happy to get a Maldives villa for 10 nights which would cost you £8,000 in cash.

Conrad Maldives is still the best value Hilton redemption, I think.  Even buying Hilton Honors points in the current ‘80%-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.)

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  1. Shoestring says:

    I researched Ethiopia the other day and said to myself: good place to go, don’t believe the stuff about them wanting to kill you the moment you arrive.

    Famous place with a remarkable history. War went away about 25 years ago.

  2. Without bagging a rare direct flight, does anyone know the best way to get to Male using avios on BA metal?

    Also, new Waldorf will not require the $500 seaplane flight per person.

  3. Sitting on some hilton points and looking at rangali (been there once as a couple and loved it although now not so sure with two kids!). Does cw flight ever go on sale from London to male? Thanks!

    • Only from lgw, and I think October to march.
      Which means you have to book the seats 355 days ahead as soon as they are released.

      Right now, there are only two flights that have availability for 2 X CW tickets and they are for MLE-LGW only and they are random days in October and November 2019!

      • Actually there are quite a few premium economy seats available for November 19 in both directions.

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