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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Carly, who put her perks to good use during a trip to the Maldives. Here’s what she had to say:

My boyfriend and I stayed in an overwater villa at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in May. I booked five consecutive nights at the standard room reward rate (with the fifth night free) and for the sixth night I used a free weekend night certificate from my Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card.

I had held Hilton credit cards for a couple of years, and when Hilton came out with their new lineup, I was immediately attracted to the premium Aspire card and planned to get it eventually. But then I realized I should do so before my Maldives trip, where I’d be able to use nearly every benefit. It was the best decision I could have made.

First, the Diamond status could not have been more clutch. Because we came in on an overnight flight, we arrived pretty early and were offered early check-in. Then, we were upgraded to a Superior Water Villa (which runs for more than $1,000/night) with perfect sunset views and a private hot tub on the balcony! A bottle of bubbly was waiting for us in our room, which we used to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday. As anyone who has visited the Conrad Maldives knows all too well, drinks there run about $20 each, so this alone saved us $80!

Speaking of saving on food and drink, Diamond members get free breakfast, free tea time (with a buffet of snacks), a daily happy hour with snacks and unlimited drinks, and discounts at some of the resort’s restaurants. We also used the $250 resort statement credit on lunch at the Conrad’s famous underwater restaurant, which we never would have been able to afford otherwise!

The best part (aside from the hot tub) was that by bringing the card with us, we earned enough to cover our next adventure. Between the pricey food at the Conrad and the $500 per person seaplane charges required to get you to the resort, we easily met the spending requirement for the 100,000-point welcome bonus. Plus, being able to earn 14 points per dollar on such a large bill was great. Adding in the Aspire’s free night certificate and airline fee credit (which I used to purchase American Airlines gift cards), we easily had enough for our next domestic trip!

Premium credit cards come loaded with valuable benefits, but their value is only realized if you actually use them. When you’re thinking about applying for a new card, consider how likely you are to use each benefit both within the first year and beyond. Signing up is a no-brainer if you expect to get full value (or close to it) like Carly did. If the card offers a substantial bonus, it may still be worth getting even if you won’t use the perks, but it probably isn’t a good fit for you long-term. There’s a lot of middle ground, so assess your travel tendencies and upcoming plans earnestly before you decide.

Another important consideration is whether you should apply for a new card immediately or wait for a larger welcome bonus. Now is a good time to apply for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express or any of the co-branded Hilton cards, since Amex recently increased welcome bonuses across the board. However, even if Carly had known the bonus on her card would go up by 50,000 points, applying when she did would still have made sense. I value those points at $300, but that’s outweighed by the value she got from her card during her stay at the Conrad Maldives.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Carly for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline 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; 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, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

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

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Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

This card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.99%-26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.