Points Destination #2 – Cheap Hilton Award Option
I just got back from the wedding of two friends in Gainesville, Florida this past weekend where I needed a hotel. Some of my friends found rooms for $60-$70 each night in the area. I used my Bluebird account combined with Vanilla Reloads to get a room at the Hilton Garden Inn nearby for $39.95. Since I have Hilton Gold from the Citi Hilton Reserve card this also included wifi and a hot breakfast.
It was nothing fancy, but it was easily acquired for less than I would have paid otherwise.
Up until this month, the Hilton HHonors American Express card offered 6x at drug stores – like CVS where Vanilla Reloads are found. By purchasing $5000 worth of Vanilla Reloads (VR) and putting that money into my Bluebird account to pay bills and loans while getting points – I was able to generate the 30,000 points required to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. Since VR cards are $3.95 fee/$500, this was a total cost of $39.95 plus a little gas and time.
This month the card has now permanently changed to 5x at grocery stores instead of 6x at drug stores. It is still possible to generate points this way but is not as sweet as Vanilla Reloads at CVS. Now that the 6x is gone I may consider aiming for more flexible points like Chase Ultimate rewards which can be used at United or Hyatts.
Over the weekend, Travel Summary released a great post about doing something similar with Ultimate Rewards and the cost for manufacturing spend that way. Travel Summary also points out that Virgin Atlantic is now an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so it is possible to transfer to Virgin Atlantic and then to Hilton and double the number of Ultimate Reward points transferred (since Virgin Atlantic miles convert at 1:2 to Hilton). This effectively nets 10x Hilton on Chase Ink. You can also manufacture Southwest airlines points through 5x office spend, which may be useful for wanna get away fares. But without the previous $500 gift card options or Vanilla Reloads at office stores (currently only $200 gift cards with a $6.95 fee) it is a little more expensive than before.