Hilton Just Created a New Top Award Category, Sort Of

Feb 12, 2019

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Update: The Hilton American Express Ascend Card is now the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and is offering a bonus of 150,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership plus, a $100 Statement Credit after your first purchase on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 12/31/2019.

One of Hilton’s most anticipated properties of 2019, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, opened up for award bookings yesterday — with a twist.

Since the 2013 devaluation, Hilton award rates have varied greatly, but every hotel has been capped at 95,000 points a night — even the program’s high-end properties on peak dates like the Conrad Maldives or Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.

However, with the booking floodgates open for the newest Hilton Honors-branded hotel in the Maldives, TPG found that the rates for a standard room were pricing at 120,000 points a night. That’s a 25,000-point (or 26%) increase over the current highest price to book a base-level room. As far as we know, this is the only Hilton property that is available at this elevated rate.

Does this mean Hilton is adjusting its award chart, and could other properties could potentially follow? We reached out to Hilton and received the following response.

“The points needed for a standard room at Waldorf Astoria will be slightly higher than standard rooms at our other luxury properties – members will need 120K points per night for a standard room there,” a Hilton spokesperson told TPG. “This is to account for the unique nature of this hotel, offering some of the most exclusive suites and luxurious amenities in our portfolio at a standard room redemption rate.”

In other words, it seems that due to the nature of the base rooms being so luxurious, Hilton is justifying the higher rate. I’ll be honest; they do seem to have a valid point. If this is what a base room will actually look like — a full-on villa, with a pool and just steps to the beach — then it feels quite reasonable that they are charging a premium for award rooms at this property.

Beach Villa with Pool. Image by HIlton
The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi Beach Villa with Pool. Image by Hilton.

What award travelers should worry about is whether or not Hilton will extend this to other luxury properties. Could this come to the Conrad Koh Samui or the Grand Weilea on Maui? It sounds like that for now, you shouldn’t be losing any sleep over a new award category.

“At this time, we do not have any other hotels that we deem would fit into this pricing model,” a Hilton spokesperson said.

This increase brings to mind SPG charging double the amount of points needed on its standard award at some all-suite hotels, like the St. Regis Maldives, though the pricing for these properties was brought into Marriott’s standard award chart as of the August integration.

While 120,000 points is a lot, you can still get a great value by using points at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives. Base rooms are pricing at $1,833, but in reality it’s $2,264 after taxes and fees. Fortunately award bookings waive the taxes and fees, and you can currently purchase 120,000 points for $600 through the Hilton’s points sale. The end result is that you’re paying about a quarter of the cash price and getting a redemption value of 1.9 cents per point. TPG normally pegs Hilton points at 0.6 cents each, so this is a fantastic award.

With Hilton offering the fifth night free on award stays for elite members, you can even bring the cost down to 96,000 points per night — nearly the cost of any other standard high end redemption in the program. Finally, three of Hilton’s co-branded credit cards offer complimentary weekend night certificates that can be used at any property and should be applicable at this one:

Bottom Line

Many travelers and Hilton loyalists were likely scared to see a new “standard” award rate for the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, but the program has confirmed that it only applies to this unique property — for now. Hopefully Hilton won’t decide to expand this award rate to other properties and that this is just a (reasonable) exception. But if you’ve followed award travel long enough, you know devaluations of loyalty programs are a regular occurrence — just take Marriott’s introduction of Category 8 properties and coming peak pricing, which could lead to rates as high as 100,000 points a night. As we always recommend here at TPG, #EarnAndBurn.

If you still want to head to the Maldives but save some points, the SAii Lagoon Maldives will open this year and will be priced lower than both the Waldorf and Conrad, Hilton told TPG. You can also look at other point hotel options in the Maldives, as your dream tropical vacation may be closer than you think.

Featured image courtesy of Hilton. 

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