Getting great value from a new card — reader success story

5d ago

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Dan, who is making good use of the welcome bonus and benefits from his Hilton card on two trips this year:

When Southwest Airlines announced service to Hawaii, my wife and I made a point to start putting some of our hard-earned rewards to use. She had already signed up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card earlier this year when the bonus offer included the Companion Pass. After a few transfers from our Chase Ultimate Rewards accounts to Southwest, our flights were covered.

We started looking at which hotels would get us the best value and settled on the Hilton Hawaiian Village. That brought me to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which offered a 150,000-point [welcome bonus] bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, Hilton Diamond status (which also meant getting the fifth-night-free benefit), a $250 resort credit, free breakfast, and (hopefully) an upgrade to a suite. I was offered a transfer bonus to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Hilton at 1:3. A few clicks later and we had a five-night stay booked for 240,000 points (with the fifth night free and no resort fees or taxes)!

While we are super excited for that trip, it was this next booking that made me want to write in. We recently moved to the Denver area and have enjoyed heading out to the ski resorts around the holidays. I decided to see what kind of availability the Hilton properties in those areas have around New Year’s Eve. A quick search led me to the DoubleTree by Hilton Vail, where I found availability for 80,000 points per night for a two-night stay from Dec. 30, 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020. That seemed a little high, but I was surprised to find any availability between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Out of curiosity, I checked the cash rates for those nights and my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw they were charging $829 per night for the same room! With taxes and the $40 nightly resort fee, the total came to $1,908. That put the redemption value of each Hilton point at almost 1.2 cents, nearly double TPG’s valuation! I quickly went back and booked the award, hoping it was still there and not some tragic glitch, and now we are looking forward to ringing in the new year in the mountains.

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When I begin planning a vacation, one of my first moves is to investigate which travel credit card(s) I can get to augment my travel experience and defray my out-of-pocket expenses. I want cards that offer not only a lucrative welcome bonus, but also perks that pay off immediately, and I find cobranded hotel cards often meet both criteria. Many hotel cards confer elite status upon approval, so you can get benefits like complimentary breakfast, welcome amenities and a better shot at scoring an upgrade, on top of those that come from being a cardholder. That’s in contrast to airline credit cards, which may offer cardholders shortcuts to elite status, but don’t provide it outright.

The Aspire card is especially attractive if you’re heading to a property where you can redeem the $250 resort credit, since that offsets more than half of the $450 annual fee (see rates and fees). Unlike most hotel cards, it also comes with a free weekend night certificate that you can use in your first year as a cardmember (rather than having to wait until your account anniversary). Tack on a 150,000-point bonus and up to $250 annual airline fee credit, and I think the card is an easy win when you’re planning a Hilton stay.

The stay Dan booked in Aspen reinforces the idea that you can often get outsized value on hotel awards around peak travel dates and major events. Cash prices spike when demand is high, but award rates tend to be less inflated even with programs that use dynamic pricing. Award availability is naturally limited at those times, but searching for it doesn’t take long and can pay off handsomely. If you’re not set on precise dates and destinations, you can also try letting award availability guide your plans.

Related: When to get a credit card for specific reasons

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Dan a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo courtesy of Hilton.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.