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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
For many travelers, the Maldives is to hotels what Emirates first class is to commercial aviation: a stunning, over-the-top travel experience so beautiful that you simply need to experience it for yourself. Both are also so expensive that for most people, redeeming points or miles is the only way to make this dream come true.
As both credit card rewards and general demand for travel increase, major hotel chains are opening up a slew of new properties in the Maldives where you can redeem your points for a (nearly) free stay. This qualifier is important, because no matter which hotel you choose, you’ll have to pay extra for a seaplane or speedboat transfer from Male International Airport (MLE) to your property. While your choice might be limited by what points you have, you shouldn’t pick where to stay in the Maldives without at least knowing the cost of the transfer to your resort.
Here’s a roundup of how the major points hotels compare, including a few properties opening later this year:
|Chain||Hotel Name||Type of Transportation||Round-trip Cost Per Person (ages 12+)|
|Marriott||St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort||Seaplane||$695|
|Marriott||Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort||Seaplane||$475|
|Marriott||Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort||Speedboat||$142|
JW Marriott Maldives Resort
(opening July 2019)
|Hilton||Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi||Speedboat||$912|
|Hilton||Conrad Maldives Rangali Island||Seaplane||$526|
SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton
(opening August 2019)
|Hyatt||Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa||Domestic flight and speedboat||$520|
|IHG||Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives||Speedboat||$229|
InterContinental Hotels Maldives Maamunagau Resort
(opening October 2019)
In almost every case, these seaplane flights are operated by Trans Maldivian Airways, the world’s largest seaplane operator. While these are likely “common carrier” flights for the purpose of using your credit card travel insurance, you won’t be booking these tickets yourself. The hotel will schedule the flight to best accommodate the arrival(s) and departure(s) of guests and then add the charge to your bill.
Unfortunately, this means the hotel gets to set the price. While speedboats are generally cheaper than seaplanes, you don’t see much correlation between the length of the journey and the cost of the ticket. Perhaps the worst offender on this list is the brand new Waldorf Astoria Maldives, which charges $370 plus a 23.2% tax each way for the 30-minute speedboat ride.
Of course, there are a few strategies you can take to reduce the impact of these costs and rack up bonus points in the process.
Tips for Dealing With Transfer Fees
Although you can’t use points or miles to redeem for the flight and boat transfers connected to your Maldivian hotel stay directly, you can still minimize out-of-pocket expenses by choosing the right card. If you have a fixed-value credit card in your wallet, like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can use those points for statement credits against travel purchases. This effectively removes the charge from your bill. If you’re looking to add one of these cards to your wallet before your trip, you can check out our list of the best fixed-value credit cards.
If you go with the Arrival Plus, you’ll take home a sign-up bonus of 70,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. This haul would be worth $700 towards travel purchases, enough to cover the transfer costs for one person at every hotel on this list except for the Waldorf Astoria. Note that when you redeem Arrival miles for travel purchases, you’ll also get 5% of your redeemed points back, so spending 70,000 points to cover $700 worth of transfers would get you 3,500 points back for a future redemption on the card.
That being said, you may want to stick with using a cobranded hotel card for the transfer cost. Since these charges typically appear on your hotel folio, you should be able to earn elite bonuses as well as bonus points for using the card. For example, when I stayed at the St. Regis Maldives, I had to pay $1,389.99 for seaplane transfers for two. That was a steep bill for sure, but I charged it to my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and earned 6x points (it coded as a Marriott purchase). I earned another 17.5x points as a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite, bringing my total haul to 23.5x points per dollar spent, or ~32,600 points on the transfers alone. TPG values those points at just under $300, and I shouldn’t have any trouble getting that much value by redeeming them for a free night at a Category 5 hotel.
However, if you want to best of both worlds, consider asking to pay for the transfer charge separately using your fixed value card. As long as the charge appears on your folio, you’d still earn points in the corresponding hotel program; the charge would simply be paid using a different card. Just make sure to cover the rest of your stay (food/drinks/activities) on a more rewarding card.
More than any other destination, the Maldives really reminds us that there’s no such thing as a truly “free” stay. While the high transfer costs might not be enough to push you towards one hotel or another, it’s certainly something to keep in mind when planning your trip. It’s a little astonishing to think that the seaplane ride for my three-night stay for two at the St. Regis Maldives was almost as expensive as the entire rest of the stay. While I didn’t have any fixed-value points I could redeem for those charges, I did manage to earn almost a 20% return on that spending by combining the 6x bonus category on a Marriott Bonvoy card with my Titanium Elite bonus multiplier.
Featured photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images
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TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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