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How the Hilton Aspire Card Saved Me $866 in Bora Bora

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Even with some recent changes, both good and bad, we still think the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the single-best hotel credit card on the market. A recent trip to French Polynesia and a stay at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui made it personal, saving me enough to easily justify keeping the Aspire Card for at least a few more years.

Holding Hilton's top-tier credit card almost singlehandedly made what should have been a budget-busting, bucket list stay at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui not just cheaper, but genuinely affordable. Combining the card's various money-saving credits and a free daily breakfast benefit saved us more than $800 … and that's before you consider the Hilton Honors points and free night certificates I used to book our four-night stay. Add those in, and it's over $5,000 in value.

At $550 a year, the Hilton Aspire certainly isn't cheap – though the card's recent $100 annual fee increase won't kick in for me until I renew it again, so I'm still in at $450 a year. But even at that higher price point, this one big trip helped me come out far, far ahead.
 

hilton aspire card
 

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All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card and Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

Here's how.
 

 

Pre-Paying Boat Transfers to Save $250

Much like any trip to an iconic resort in the Maldives, a flight to French Polynesia isn't enough to get you to the Conrad Bora Bora Nui. You'll also need a 30-minute flight from Tahiti (PPT) to Bora Bora (BOB), then pay again for roundtrip boat transfers from the airport to the resort.

I covered all but a sliver of that final boat ride – $250 of the $276 we paid for a pair of boat rides, to be exact – with my Aspire Card.
 

conrad bora bora nui boat transfer 

Read my full Conrad Bora Bora Nui review!

For years, Aspire cardholders got a $250 Hilton resort statement credit to use at select Hilton properties worldwide – and it works at hundreds of participating Hilton properties around the globe, not just spots with the word “resort” in them. That changed to kick off 2024: Aspire cardholders now get $400 in resort credits, split into two, $200 installments to use (or lose) each half of the year.

But before 2023 drew to a close, I realized I hadn't yet used that final, $250 resort credit. So I sprung into action, emailing the Conrad Bora Bora to see if I could pre-pay for our mandatory boat transfers. No problem: They quoted me 15,000 XPF per passenger (about $137, as of publication). Oddly, the resort's website lists an 18,000 XPF-per-adult charge. Another win!

I put the roughly $276 USD charge for two roundtrip boat transfers on my Hilton Aspire card. Three weeks later, the credit finally kicked in to cover all but $26 of that cost.
 

hilton resort credit 

Covering all but a tiny fraction of the cost of a boat ride to and from the resort was a big win in my books. The new, twice-a-year $200 resort credits might not go quite as far this year … but there's a silver lining: You should have no problem pre-paying for that cost just as I did – or plane transfers to a Hilton resort in the Maldives, car transfers to the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, or any other prepaid cost billed directly to a Hilton resort.

That means you could pay up now, burning your first $200 credit for 2024 and preserving the second one to cover drinks, meals, and other expenses during your actual stay in the back half of the year.

That's exactly what I did.

Read more: How I’m Making the Most of the Changes to the Hilton Aspire Card

 

Another $200 for Dinner, Drinks & Other Charges

Because I paid in advance for our boat rides to and from the Conrad in Bora Bora, we had another $200 in resort credits burning a hole. And it's a good thing we did because – surprise! – Bora Bora is expensive.

Welcome to the land of overwater villas and crystal blue waters, where a bottle of beer will typically cost you $11, a medium pepperoni pizza is at least $33, and a decent-sized dinner for two easily clocks in at $150 … before drinks. That's just the price you pay in paradise.

Thrifty Tip: Heading for the Conrad Bora Bora yourself? Head to the poolside bar from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. for “Golden Hour” and half-off many drinks!
 

conrad bora bora sushi 

But knowing we had another $200 in credits allowed us to live (a bit) larger while still keeping things relatively thrifty. By the end of our stay, we had racked up a substantial bill of dinners, drinks, snacks, and room service charges. So when I settled up during checkout, I put the entire bill on my (you guessed it) Hilton Aspire card.

About a week later, that $200 credit kicked in to erase a decent chunk of it. Every bit helps!
 

hilton resort credit at conrad 

Plus, I'll have another $200 credit to use come July 1.

 

Free Breakfast to Save $400+

Breakfast in paradise ain't cheap, either.

Get this: A continental breakfast buffet full of pastries, fruit, charcuterie, and some eggs and other hot dishes at the Conrad Bora Bora normally costs 5,700 XPF: a whopping $52. Multiply that by two, and our morning meals would have cost us over $100 a day … and likely much more if we were ordering eggs or french toast a la carte.

But if you've got Hilton Gold status or higher, you can get complimentary breakfast for two at almost any Hilton property abroad. After a change a few years ago, status-holders now get daily on-property credits at U.S. properties instead.

The Hilton Aspire Card automatically unlocks top-tier Diamond status, so I was set. But you can also get free breakfast at international Hilton properties with the automatic Hilton Gold status from the much cheaper *Hilton Surpass* – or even *amex platinum*.
 

conrad bora bora breakfast 

During our stay, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui was playing some tricks with this breakfast benefit. We were given a choice between free breakfast for two or a daily property credit of 7,000 XPF (about $64) for the pair of us … and heavily encouraged to pick the latter. But do the math, and the value of breakfast for two – at more than $50 a pop – far outweighed the other option.

Unless you're not a morning person, it's an easy choice – especially when croissants as flaky and buttery as these are up for grabs. The pastries out each morning were on par with what I've had from top European bakeries. And there was plenty more food to fill up on.
 

conrad bora bora croissants 

Each morning of our stay, I signed a bill charging more than $100 to our room. But thanks to my Aspire Card and Hilton status, those charges were completely removed from our final bill at checkout.

The final savings? About $416 on breakfast alone.

 

Bonus: An Overwater Upgrade

How can you put a price on this? You can't.
 

conrad bora bora overwater villa 

When you book a standard room at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui using free night certificates (which the Hilton Aspire Card gets once a year) or points, you typically get a fairly standard room: A King Lagoon View suite. Thanks largely to my Aspire Card and its automatic Diamond status, we were upgraded to one of the resort's few tropical pool villas. It was spacious and beautiful, with our own private plunge pool overlooking the property's immaculate grounds.

 

conrad bora bora nui pool villa

 

But in French Polynesia, you cannot beat an iconic overwater villa. So, lucky us, we were offered another complimentary upgrade halfway through our stay to spend the final two nights in a deluxe overwater villa. We couldn't say yes fast enough.

With this view, can you blame us?
 

conrad bora bora 

I won't factor in those savings from those complimentary upgrades here – even with top-tier status, you can't always count on an upgrade like this. But I'll be forever grateful … and in some ways, it's priceless.

 

Bottom Line

It's only been a few weeks but I can safely say I'll never forget our time in Bora Bora. And while there's much more to a great travel experience than credit cards and saving money, I won't soon forget how much the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card saved us here, either.

It just goes to show that even the priciest hotel credit cards can make perfect sense for a big trip in a spendy place – whether you keep it for good or get rid of it the next year.

 

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.

5 Responses

  • Nice Kyle! I used the Aspire to prepay part of a stay at the Hilton Resort in Queenstown. You can also prepay $50 per quarter with the Surpass.
    I find the resort credits difficult to use as there are very few properties they can be used at.

  • Thank you for this! Our family of 4 is booked for mid-Feb 2025. What airlines did you fly? We are planning to get the aspire soon and wonder if we use the 200 usd before 6/30/24 to get the RT transfers for 2 and another RT transfers for 2 to use the other 200 usd before 12/31/24, will we get a new fresh 200 usd for food when we get there?

    • Yes that would work in theory. In practice, I’m not entirely sure if they would allow you to pay for just two boat transfers at a time … but it’s worth a shot!

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