Playing the Transfer Partner Game
Based on the upcoming changes to the Hilton Program that I outlined yesterday I am trying to see how I can best position myself to weather the storm. Simply what I want to do is burn through any Hilton Honors that I might have now before the devaluation date of March 28th… the only problem is that I don’t really have any Hilton Honors points. On top of that, just to make it a little more annoying, we are running out of vacation time right now as we are booked up to September already for major trips, and booking further ahead than that drives me crazy.
Problem solved! I hear you cry, but no, technically I have a few Hilton Honors points and I also set up Mrs Saverocity to have AXON Status and Hilton Gold a few weeks ago. Check out the current state of play for our awards and see if you can spot the cunning plan I have in mind…
As you can see, Mrs Saverocity has 43886 Hilton Honors, and I have 44621. The points savvy among you will also recognize that Membership Rewards are a Transfer Partner for Hilton. they transfer at 1.5 HHonors for 1 Amex Membership Reward so that 71658 could turn into 106,500 HHonors points. The good thing with such a transfer is I could send them to either Mrs Saverocity or Myself, at this point there isn’t a lot of difference between our two HHonors balances, but it might come in handy (perhaps even a little later in this post..)
Here are our travel plans for the year:
- Next Month: Maldives, Sri Lanka and Tokyo with 12 Hotel Nights. We are using AXON awards for Maldives and Tokyo, and 1 night in Colombo at the Hilton, the other 3 are going to be somewhat ‘off the beaten track’ so no Hiltons in sight, and no way to use up more points.
- May – my Dear Mother is visiting, and I booked a 6 Night Reservation in the Sheraton Tribeca for 60,000 SPG points.
- September – 7 Day Cruise from NYC to Bermuda
Obviously the gaping opportunity to use Hilton Points would be to mess with my Mothers itinerary, which is something I can hopefully convince her is a great idea (since she reads this blog lets see about that..)
The great thing with Hotel Reservations is that cancelling is very easy, especially with plenty of notice. This applies also to Reward Reservations, so if we could somehow get to the place where we have enough points to book a room in NYC for 6 nights with Hilton, then we could cancel the Sheraton and get the 60K points credited back to us.
However, to book a room for 6 nights with Hilton in Manhattan would typically cost 40K or 50K HHonors per night, so based upon the property we would require 240K-300K for the trip. Even if we transferred all of our Membership Rewards to Hilton, we would only have 150K…
The good news is that we have GLON and AXON awards available to both of us, these allow a great discount, and based upon a 6 night stay the GLON award would price out at 30K or 37.5K per night based upon property, making the trip now require only 180K-225K. Still above where we are, even with Membership Rewards, but getting better!
Transfer Partners for Rewards Programs
Almost every program allows a transfer of some kind to another program – and whilst not are created equal some are very impressive. The purpose here is to explore how to best leverage the transfer Partners, and see if I have any opportunities to transfer and get the most value.
Starwoods SPG – these points are simply fantastic. Not only are they very valuable for staying at a property (for this trip 60K will get me 6 nights for my Mother, vs something between 180K-300K Hilton points) furthermore, they transfer to a huge list of airlines, at a 1:1 level with a bonus whenever you transfer a block of 20K points.. 20K becomes 25K. That 60K reservation is now valued at 75K American Airlines miles (more than enough for one way in First Class on Cathy Pacific to Asia!)
Membership Rewards from American Express – Transfer at various rates to the following Airline and Hotel Partners:
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase also has a great program, very similar to American Express Membership Rewards, but they partner with few alliances, and do not partner with Hilton. I think they will be a subject for further discussion, but for now I’ll leave it.
Transferring Miles from an Airline to Hotel Points
When you look at our chart of current mileage balances above, you will notice that we have major amounts in 4 Airlines, American, British Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic. One of the cardinal rules of Travel Hacking is never to fly to the UK on a British Airways, because the fees are terrible and sometimes almost as much as buying the ticket outright. However these airlines do have their value. British Airways is fantastic for short domestic hops in the US flying on American Airlines metal, and Virgin… well they are good for nothing apart from their Transfer Partners.
Whilst Virgin does have some other interesting redemption’s available, the one I like right now is Hilton. Virgin Atlantic will transfer to Hilton at 1:2 ratio. What that means for Mrs Saverocity (who currently has 75K of these) is an extra 150K Hilton Honors. If we add that to the 44K Hilton Honors, and the GLON rates she can access we already have 194K Hilton Honors, more than enough for a Cat 6 Hotel for 6 nights.. however between now and March 28th I think we might be able to earn a few more Hilton Honors from regular spend, and a little manufacturing might get us another 15K… so we are now into the possibility of Cat 7 top flight Hotel.
A couple of Cat 7’s Hiltons that are in New York are the Waldorf Astoria and The Conrad, the prior being one of the most famous hotels in the world, and the latter one of the nicest Hiltons in New York City.
So we get to burn out those Virgin Miles (only collected to feed Hilton) and if we are a touch short I can transfer a few thousand Membership Rewards to Mrs Saverocity’s Virgin Atlantic account which in turn she then calls in and transfers to Hilton (taking this extra step gets us 2 Hilton Honors for 1 Membership Reward (better than transferring straight to Hilton and only receiving 1.5 for 1 Membership Rewards point) and we are making the Virgin transfer anyway, so lets do it with enough to book the best hotel!