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The Day Hilton Points Became More Valuable Than Marriott for a Trip to Bora Bora

March 29, 2019
9 min read
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Every year our family likes to trade in a stash of miles and points for a big trip. Along those lines, we thought this would be the year we returned to the Maldives, but it turns out we are likely heading in the opposite direction thanks to a somewhat surprising type of award currency.

Backing up a bit, we had originally booked award nights at the St. Regis Maldives via the old redemption rate of 60,000 Marriott points per night (with a award fifth night free). The resort looks gorgeous and those were really "once in a lifetime" award prices given the very high cash prices, but we changed our minds. The St. Regis Maldives looks incredible, but as it came time to nail down flights, that trip really was just too big and too far for what we were after. Since we hadn't booked flights, canceling the hotel award reservation was simple and pain free.

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St. Regis Maldives (Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

We settled on a new-to-us destination: Bora Bora. While more adventure-seeking travelers have been known to call it "Boring Boring," Bora Bora has all the allure of the Maldives for our crew and hotels you can book with points. Perhaps most importantly, it is much easier to get to from our corner of the world. It's still a big trip, but once you get to California, you are looking at an eight-hour flight to Papeete, which is immensely more doable with kids -- and a somewhat travel-resistant husband -- compared to the 30 hours it takes to get to the Maldives.

At first, we thought that the St. Regis Bora Bora would simply replace our St. Regis Maldives award reservation since both sit at the same top tier on the Marriott award chart.

The St. Regis Bora Bora. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

We knew that scoring a standard award at the St. Regis Bora Bora is hard. There are a couple of Reefside Villas that are considered "standard" and that price at the intro award rate (formerly 60k points, now 85k points). On many dates, the cheapest award you will find is for the Over-water Superior One-Bedroom Villa that costs 85,000 Marriott points plus 34,000 XPF (roughly $320 USD) per night. When we initially considered the resort, the cheapest villa available for our dates was 60k points plus that cash copay per night. We don't usually like being over water (it's hotter without shade), and with kids it isn't a great choice from a safety perspective -- not to mention the over-water villas are typically smaller than those on land.

St. Regis Bora Bora (Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

But for a while, we hung on to that five-night award reservation at the St. Regis Bora Bora that would have cost 240,000 Marriott points and about 196,000 XPF (about $1,800) in copays. Now, after the introduction of an eighth Marriott award category, the number for the same number of nights in the same room type would be 340,000 Marriott points and the same $1,800 cash copay.

There had to be a better option -- and there was.

Hilton Points Save the Day

The Conrad Bora Bora is located on the opposite side of Bora Bora from the St. Regis, just a few miles away as the crow flies. At the Conrad, there are 114 villas on both land and over water with award rates for standard rooms at 80,000 Hilton points per night.

Image courtesy of Conrad Bora Bora

That 80k Hilton number looks similar to the 85k Marriott number, but keep in mind that a Marriott point is valued significantly higher than a Hilton point. Currently, TPG values Marriott points at 0.8 cents each and Hilton points at 0.6 cents each. Cash rates at both properties are similar for our dates at a little under or over $1,000 per night, depending on how you book. (Which is well over what I'd want to spend with cash.)

Instead, we were able to spend 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night to book a 1,000+ square foot suite at the Conrad Bora Bora that is actually listed as acceptable for two adults and two children aged 13 and under with no additional fees or copays. (The St. Regis told us verbally we could have two kids stay in the existing bedding, but their base villas aren't technically listed for two adults and two kids.)

As with Marriott, Hilton offers the fifth standard award night free, though you need to have elite status to get that fifth free night with Hilton. Thankfully, Hilton elite status can easily be obtained with any of the Hilton credit cards.

Credit Card Welcome BonusTPG Bonus Valuation   Annual Fee   Elite Status
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card150,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months.TPG values the bonus at $900$450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) (up to $500 in annual travel credits)Hilton Diamond status
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card125,000-point bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months.TPG values the bonus at $750$95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)Hilton Gold status
Hilton Honors American Express Business Card130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.TPG values the bonus at $780$95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)Hilton Gold status
Hilton Honors American Express Card80,000-point bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months.TPG values the bonus at $480$0 annual fee (See Rates & Fees)Hilton Silver status

As our plans currently stand, we still need an additional night that is not available for the 80k standard points rate, but even if that night never becomes available on points, one night on cash at the Conrad Bora Bora is less out of pocket (by half) than the cash copay I was facing for the trip at the St. Regis Bora Bora.

I plan to get the Hilton Aspire card before our trip later this year so that I will have Hilton Diamond status, which will translate to free breakfast (which starts at Gold status). That card will also give us up to a $250 credit to use at this Hilton resort, up to $250 in airline fee credits, a 150k Hilton point welcome bonus after meeting the minimum spend and more.

Note that the Conrad Bora Bora did not have 80k award availability when we first started considering Bora Bora as a destination, but as is often reported on the related thread Conrad Bora Bora on Flyertalk, standard award availability frequently becomes available at this resort if you pay attention and keep checking. Use Hilton's flexible date search to quickly spot when 80k availability is and isn't available.

Bottom Line

At the end of it all, the Conrad and St. Regis Bora Bora resorts look pretty similar on paper. While the location and view from the St. Regis is said to be a bit better, by several accounts the Conrad is actually the nicer of the two resorts at the moment. I'm sure we would have had a great time at either.

But I was genuinely thrilled to be able to use 80,000 Hilton points per night for a room we can all stay in without a cash copay. Getting all my Marriott points back to use another day didn't hurt either. Families certainly don't need to travel all the way to French Polynesia to have an amazing beach vacation, but I'm ready for a new big adventure to mix into our Disney and closer-to-home jaunts.

With the standard Marriott award chart now as high as 85,000 points per night (and going even higher when peak and off-peak pricing is introduced) and Hilton's (unpublished) chart topping out at 95k points (except for here), I anticipate situations where a Hilton point will go further than a Marriott point for high-end redemption -- especially when factoring in that Hilton never charges resort fees on full award stays and Marriott does (to the tune of almost $100/day at some resorts).

For us, yesterday was the day that a Hilton point was indeed more valuable than a Marriott point for a big family trip to Bora Bora -- and I couldn't be happier.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Ascend Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex Card, please click here.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases