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Perhaps a Better Way Than Transfers to Virgin Atlantic to Use Ultimate Rewards Points for Hilton Stays

Rather than just complain endlessly about the changes to the Hilton program, I thought I’d share a way to use fewer points than you might expect for stays at top-tier Hilton properties.

I’ve been looking at rooms at the Grand Wailea in Maui, and they now start at 95,000 Hilton points per night. Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic both allow you to transfer miles to Hilton at a 1:2 basis, which is why many people get the Hawaiian Airlines credit cards. That’s fine. Theoretically, though, Hawaiian will not allow you to transfer points into the Hawaiian program and then out to Hilton (you’d have to earn the Hawaiian miles through flying or credit cards). Virgin Atlantic, however, doesn’t have any issue with that.

So you could transfer Membership Rewards points or Ultimate Rewards points into Virgin Atlantic. In this case, it would take 47,500 UR points for a free night.

But what if you just bought the room and paid for it with Ultimate Rewards points? I know that we bloggers tend to dismiss the 25% bonus you get by booking travel through UR and using points to pay for it. However, in this case it may make sense: A room including breakfast is $453. You can pay using UR points and it’s only 36,248 points per night – 10,000 fewer than if you booked an award night using those points.

The Hilton Bora Bora is, gulp, 166,000 HHonors points per night – 83,000 UR points transferred to Virgin Atlantic. Or you can pay with UR points and it’s 48,000 points per night.

The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is 50,000 UR points (transferred to Marriott) or you can buy a room for 27,800 UR points.

My larger point is this – the 25% point bonus is always worth a look, especially with the Hilton program because of the ridiculous amount of points they charge for top-tier rooms.

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  1. I completely agree. I’ve actually started doing the same with airline travel. For that it even makes more sense since you also can collect EQMs when paying with URs through the portal.

  2. Sorry — this doesn’t make the argument for redeeming Ultimate Rewards at 1.25 cents a point, it underscores the poor value of Hilton points and more generally the poor value from Chase or Amex points transfers to hotel programs (with the exception of Chase -> Hyatt, which still lags airline redemptions).

    • This assumes that people want to use the UR points for airline redemptions. Some people don’t fly. Some don’t want to fly biz class. Some would rather use the points at a nice hotel and fly coach and save the points. If someone wanted to go the Grand Wailea, I think this is a good way to go about it.

      Sure assuming you want to use UR miles for international premium cabin travel, that’s a great way to use UR points. But if you want to stay at the GW and don’t want to lay out the cash, this is a great way to do that.

  3. This is great although the UR bonus doesn;t seem to work out as 25% for Marriott. I just looked up Ritz Carlton and UR would be 50.5k points versus 60k Marriott rewards.
    Stupidly in the past I would have transferred the 60k UR points to Marriott to book the stay. Never again! (especially as this would not count as a points redemption to Marriott so the night stay counts towards whatever promo they are running).
    It brings to question whether the Marriott preferred card is actually pointless as you are better off earning UR, even for exclusively Marriott usage.

    • It depends on when you’re traveling. I looked up dates at the Ritz in Kapalua in late August…you’re better off buying the room with UR points.

    • If you stay a lot of nights in the Marriott hotel family, the Marriott card is worth it (and from an int’l business travel view, let’s face it – Hyatt and Starwood properties aren’t quite as ubiquitous). From an elite status perspective, you start at 15 nights/silver status instead of 0. Then for each $3K in spend, an additional elite night is credited to your account (no limit). Spend at Marriott properties is bonused at 5x points. Taking all that into consideration, I can usually achieve gold status after 25-30 nights, depending on the hotel rates and non-hotel spend that I put on the card (it is chip-and-signature and also no foreign transaction fee, so very handy when I’m in Europe). Gold status gives you decent odds for nicer rooms, free internet, lounge access, breakfast, and some hotels will give you a welcome amenity even though it is not required. Plus every year you get a free night in a cat 1-5 hotel, which can be well worth the $85 annual fee if you use it wisely.

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