Amex derails my Hilton plans with great new offers (on my mind)

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Madison Beach Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. See my bottom line review, here.

Despite their sad approach to pandemic breakfasts, I’m hoping to return to the Madison Beach Hotel in Connecticut later this year (see my bottom line review here).  The bad news is that cash prices are crazy high.  The good news is that standard room rewards are available.  The bad news is that I don’t have enough Hilton points to pay for our desired 3 night stay.

Cash rate after taxes: $792.12 per night

On the dates of interest, the cash rate is $792 per night after taxes.  At 80K points per night instead, an award stay offers very close to 1 cent per point value vs. cash rates.  Compared to the 0.45 cents per point Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) for Hilton points, that’s a terrific award price.  Alternatively, it would be an excellent use of a free night certificate.

I don’t have any Hilton free night certificates, but I do have 106K Hilton points. That’s enough for one night, but not 3.  I would need either 134K more points or two free night certificates to book the award stay.  No one in my family currently has a Hilton credit card for generating points.

The obvious way to earn enough points or free night certificates for this trip is to sign up for one or more Hilton cards.  My wife and I each have more than the maximum 5 credit cards allowed by Amex, so signing up for a new Hilton card bonus wasn’t an easy option for us.

I could buy the required points when Hilton next has their points on sale for a half cent each, but that would be like spending $400 per night at this property.  That’s a huge discount off the cash rate, but still very high.  I’d prefer to find a way to get the points or certificates more cheaply.

I had considered transferring points from Membership Rewards while Amex was offering a 40% transfer bonus to Hilton.  That bonus meant that Membership Rewards points transferred to Hilton at a ratio of 1,000 to 2,800.  48,000 Membership Rewards points would have been enough to meet my needs (48,000 x 2.8 = 134,400).  I was earning an incredible number of Membership Rewards points at that time due to various promos and so it would have been an easy and cheap solution.  I should have done it, but Nick talked me out of it.  He convinced me to try for a new card welcome bonus instead…

Original Plan: Son gets new Hilton card

My son has fewer than 5 Amex credit cards and so we had an easy solution: he would sign up for a Hilton card and move the bonus points to me.

He gave it a shot… Or three.

He tried first for a Hilton Surpass 150K offer (at the time).  Denied.  How about a 100K offer (at the time) for the fee free card (I figured I could then transfer just a handful of Membership Rewards points to make up the gap)?  Denied.  Finally, he tried a 150K offer (at the time) for the business Hilton card.  Denied again.  Amex used to love him, but he now seems to be on their do not approve list.

Plan B: I try to get Aspire

I’ve wanted the Hilton Aspire card for quite a while. This seemed like the perfect time to get it.  I have 8 Amex credit cards, though, so I knew I wouldn’t technically qualify.  On the other hand, I’ve had success before in getting Amex cards when I shouldn’t have qualified.  I tried applying, but I was instantly denied.  An Amex agent called me and said that she could approve me if I cancelled four of my existing cards.  No thanks!

Plan C: Wife drops Delta card and gets Hilton Aspire

If my wife signs up for the Hilton Aspire card and meets the spend requirements, she would get 150K points plus a free night certificate upon approval.  I could then move my Hilton points to her so that she could book the stay.

I knew she would be blocked by Amex’s 5 credit card limit, though, so I looked at the Amex credit cards she had:

  1. Blue Business Plus
  2. Bonvoy Business
  3. Bonvoy Brilliant
  4. Delta Platinum business
  5. Delta Platinum consumer

She also has the Amex Gold card, but that’s not a credit card but rather a card previously known as a charge card (we now describe them as “pay over time cards”).  Amex has a separate 10 card limit for those cards.

For various reasons, I was happy for her to drop her consumer Delta card.  In early January (when I hatched this plan) she was earning an extra 3 miles per dollar on all spend with that card (thanks to an expired Amex refer-a-friend offer).  So, the plan was this: she would continue to spend on that card until the offer expired near the end of January.  Then she would cancel the card, wait a week or so, and then apply for the Aspire card.

Amex Derails Plan C

On February 1st, my wife would have cancelled her consumer Delta card, but that same day Amex came out with great new offers for existing cardholders of Delta cards, Hilton cards, and Marriott cards.  Consumer cards got monthly restaurant rebates and business cards got monthly wireless cell service rebates.  These amounted to easy free spend.

On my wife’s Delta Platinum card, she found that she would get $20 per month in dining rebates through the end of the year:

An eagle-eyed and detail-oriented reader might wonder why her offer was for $20 per month rather than $15 per month which we reported was the amount for Delta Platinum cards.  The reason is that her card was a Delta Reserve card at the beginning of January and she had only recently downgraded it.  It turns out that Amex gives you an offer based on what type of card you had earlier (presumably on January 1) and you get to keep that offer even if you downgrade your card.

Now, closing this card in order to sign up for a Hilton card is less attractive than before.  If she closes it now, she’ll lose out on 11 x $20 = $220 in restaurant rebates.  If she wanted to, she could even downgrade to the fee-free Delta Blue card and should be able to keep the monthly rebate offer.

It’s important to note, too, that if she gets a new Hilton card now, the Hilton card won’t come with a monthly restaurant rebate.  Those rebate offers are limited to those who had their cards open on January 1st, 2021.

Developing Plan D

Let’s go back to my wife’s remaining cards to see which one she should cancel (if any).  Here’s a list of her Amex credit cards, along with which great Amex offers are tied to each:

  1. Blue Business Plus: Spend $500+, Get $25 –10 Times (details here)
  2. Bonvoy Business: $15 monthly wireless
  3. Bonvoy Brilliant: $20 monthly restaurants + Spend $200 at Marriott, Get $50
  4. Delta Platinum business: $15 monthly wireless
  5. Delta Platinum consumer: $20 monthly restaurants

I find the wireless credits to be super easy to use.  I simply log into AT&T each month to pay $15 with each enrolled card towards our family’s bill.  Done.  The restaurant rebates are a bit harder, but still pretty easy to get.

Ultimately, I’m leaning towards having her cancel her Blue Business Plus card.  That’s an awesome card, in general, but she doesn’t need it.  She hasn’t been using it for its 2X spend (we’ve been earning 2.62% cash back with my Premium Rewards card instead), and she doesn’t need it to keep her Membership Rewards points alive since she has a Gold card that she’s unlikely to cancel anytime soon.  And while the Spend $500, Get $25 Amex Offer is really good, we have the same offer on both my and my son’s Blue Business Plus cards.  I think there’s a good chance we wouldn’t use this offer on her card anyway.

Conclusion

Amex’s new restaurant and wireless credits have made it harder (or at least more costly) for my family to secure a new Hilton card right now.  Of course, I’m not mad at Amex for giving us great deals!  I do wish I hadn’t listened to Nick, though, when I considered moving my Membership Rewards points while a transfer bonus was in effect.  That would have pushed the question of whether to get a Hilton card to a far later date.  Thanks Nick.

My new plan is for my wife to cancel her Blue Business Plus card so as to open a slot for a new Hilton card.  I don’t see much downside to it right now.  However, I’m half hoping that Amex will come out with fantastic new Amex Offers for that card so as to make the decision difficult again…

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