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. Milo234 says:

    O/T – apologies – IHG status question.
    I am currently IHG Spire Elite, I got this originally through a combination of stays, IHG Premium CC spend and a transfer from Virgin. I am currently short of the requisite points for a renewal, my account states I need xxx points by 31 Dec. I have plans to get there through a planned stay next week and some significant CC spend in December. However, I have just checked my IHG CC statement for Nov and noticed it was marked up as an annual statement. I then totted up my current qualifying points and noted that my Dec 17 stays and CC spend are in my 2018 points total. Does that meany any points earned this month will not count as 2018 points?

    • I’m in the same position. 5k short of spire renewal. I have 5k of points to sweep across in December statement. AFAIK, my December statement will be produced around 21st December and points will hit my IHG account a few days later. I’m just hoping they are not late and end up sweeping across in December and not January…..

    • Is your annual statement for credit card spend purposes though? Just a co-incidence it is generated now? My annual statement is produced in June each year. My May spend will not be included in my annual spend to decide if I have spent £10k to get the free night voucher but is not relevant for spire as that is decided by how many points sweep across to your IHG account by end of December I THINK!!!

      • Milo234 says:

        Well, I did wonder if it was for credit card purposes, it might just be the anniversary of when I got the card. However, my IHG account qualifying points total for this year includes both hotel stays and CC points from Dec 17. I did stay in a HI this week and those points have credited. Last year I overshot on points, wondering if they start to credit for next year once you have the total points for Spire Elite. Very confused. Don’t really want to call IHG as I have found an small error in my favour.

        • You should find that points sweep from the CC to your IHG account a few days after the statement date (used to be a day or two, recently it’s been taking longer). Last December my statement date was 26 Dec and the points credited on 27 Dec.
          When is your statement date Milo? If you have significant spend still to make in December it should be through this month *but* remember the spend must be posted to the account (not be pending) before the statement date, so don’t leave it too late.
          If you find that the points sweep is delayed and they arrive in early January because of Creation/IHG and it means you miss out on Spire, I suggest contacting IHG to get this adjusted, otherwise it would mean (certainly for me) only 11 credits from 12 statement in 2018. I hit Spire with a stay last weekend so I’m not dependent on December spend!

        • To reach Spire Elite you need to have 75k qualifiying points actually credited into your account by 31/12 because it resets to zero on 1st Jan. The credit card spend up to around 20/12 or 21/12 should catch the Dec statement and will be added to your 2018 total. Any stays for qualifying points will need to have credited by 31/12 in order to count for this year. Anything you spend after the Dec statement is generated will go in to 2019 as you won’t rceive that bill till around 22/1. I am now holding back some spend as I hit Spire last month. It’s all about timing and not leaving it too late. Your annual statement is just your anniversary statement and nothing to do with your Spire Elite qualifying year which is 1/1 to 31/12. Check your IHG account to see how many qualifying pts you have and try to get your spend in before the Dec statement generates.

  2. What's the Point says:

    We did a 5 night for 4 points redemption at Rangali 2 years ago, best use of our points for a once in a lifetime hotel experience.

  3. And the now-withdraw credit card which could have got you a free night (two between two).

  4. BluehorizonUK says:

    For an article that ‘no-one’ wanted there sure are a lot of comments……lol

  5. >>Reward Flight Saver cut the tax on European redemptions from £100+ to £35. No other European frequent flyer programme has copied this move.<<
    Yes they have. Finnair have short haul redemptions (eg HEL-LHR) for 53euro. And I have had flights for 1euro + points with japan airlines (domestic) and 42euro Helsinki – Tokyo return in JAL business class (the UK prices are much higher due to APD which we do not have in Finland)

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      Not just APD, also ridiculous carrier charges, YQ particularly, but I see your point. BA are one of the biggest offenders with YQ charges.

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      Also, I think the point Rob was making is that BA have genuinely capped the charges, rather than them just being cheap – BA make a loss in some redemptions because of this (APD + airport fees, particularly at LHR, are more than £35 a lot of the time.

  6. Voltron says:

    Theres a new waldorf Astoria opening in Maldives early 2019 so that may be another go to place for people with big Hilton point balances, should also be 95k per night

  7. Sorry OT – I’ve received the 25,000 Avios for the signup bonus from the BAPP in my Amex account but they haven’t transferred to BA yet, is it safe to downgrade to the BA free card now? The Avios should remain there as it is basically the same account with a new card?

    • Don’t fancy going for the £10k spend and getting a companion ticket (if have someone in your household account you wish to treat)?

      Only £7k to go

    • I wouldn’t, it might leave a mark on your internal amex file. Despite churning, I never ditch a card soon after receiving the bonus.

      • They don’t seem too bothered yet, and if they do start being bothered by it they’ll change the rules for everyone, not just those who’ve been churning rapidly. That said, I always wait until the bonus has transferred before cancelling, just in case.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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