The one exception is the AMEX Krisflyer Ascend, which issues a free night voucher with Millennium Hotels and Resorts, and once upon a time, this was easily the best perk offered by any credit card in card in Singapore simply because the Ascend waived the first year annual fee.
When I visited London in 2015, my travel companion and I both applied for the card and opted for the first year fee waiver, which allowed us to enjoy 2 free nights in a nice hotel in one of the most expensive cities in the world during peak period. It was glorious. This, together with other perks like free lounge vouchers and hotel elite status, led me to call the Ascend “the best credit card you’ll never use“.
But like all good things, it went away. AMEX devalued the free night voucher by imposing minimum stay restrictions for certain properties, and eventually the first year annual fee waiver was stopped too. I don’t see too much value in the Ascend today, except maybe when they run a generous sign up bonus like they did back in August.
Ascend is changing its free night hotel voucher provider from Millennium to Hilton
Voucher holders will need to go to this site (it doesn’t appear to be live yet) to enter their voucher code and redeem their free night. Perhaps this site is part of AMEX’s effort to crack down on the resale of hotel vouchers (there was quite the active secondary market for the Millennium hotel vouchers on HWZ) by linking one voucher to one card only.
Blackout dates do apply, and rooms are subject to availability (it is unclear if hotels block special limited inventory for this voucher, or whether the voucher can be used so long as a revenue room is available…but my guess is the former).
Is this a good or bad thing?
Don’t get so excited. You won’t be kicking up your feet with a free stay at the Conrad Maldives or Conrad Koh Samui anytime soon.
That’s because the T&C of the new hotel voucher specifies a list of 114 hotels in Asia Pacific, and you can bet the true luxury properties are nowhere to be found here. I found nothing to get excited about the hotels on the list, with perhaps the exception of the Conrad Bangkok.
I’ve taken the liberty of putting the list of hotels into an excel and adding how many points each hotel would cost to redeem. A quick refresher on how Hilton award nights work. Early this year, Hilton did away with its award chart and started pricing hotel awards dynamically, based on revenue room rates. That’s normally a bad thing, but Hilton promised that they would cap hotel award prices at existing rates, and instead lower the minimum number of points needed during off peak season. So, for example, the Conrad Koh Samui would keep its current 95,000 point maximum cost, but could go as low as 72,000 points during off-season. Consequently, Hilton no longer has “hotel categories” per se.
Hilton has a points calculation tool that shows you the maximum points price for any hotel property (it used to show minimum too, but that feature has been enhanced away). I’ve used this tool plus an excel created by LoyaltyLobby back in April to price out the maximum and minimum (where I can find it) cost of each of the 114 hotels. For fun, I’ve included how much each hotel would cost to “buy with points” if you bought Hilton points at 0.5 US cents (0.67 SG cents) whenever they went on sale, which they frequently do.
Here’s the result. Feel free to download the excel and play around with it
- Slim pickings if you’re looking for luxury. The most expensive hotel (in terms of points) is the Hilton Parmelia Perth, which doesn’t really look all that. There are beach destinations, but the Hilton Hua Hin and Hilton Bali aren’t exactly aspirational properties.
- The list is extremely China heavy, with more than 60% of the properties located there. That’d be one thing if they were in swanky places like Shanghai, but what you’ll find is the vast majority are in Tier 2/ Tier 3 cities whose names I had to Google. A lot of these appear to be 5,000/10,000 point write offs, the kind of Cat 1/2 hotels under the old system. Fancy spending a night at the Hilton Garden Inn Dandong anyone? Great views of the North Korean border come standard.
- The average max price of the hotels is about 23,000 points, which under the old 10 category system would put this on the lower end of a Category 4.
Hilton has a bigger footprint than Millennium so some might think that from a reach perspective, this is a positive move. But that’s to forget that AMEX restricts the list of properties you can redeem the voucher at to 114 selected ones within Asia-Pac.
A lot of the hotels available are functional rather than luxurious. You’d struggle to get excited about a Hilton anywhere (think of it like the Sheraton of the Hilton chain), and although there are a handful of Conrads available these are the exception rather than the rule.
Given that the Ascend has a hefty non-waivable annual fee of $337.05, I’d think very carefully about getting the card solely for the free hotel night because I find the list underwhelming. If a great sign up offer comes along, perhaps, but otherwise this is in the no column for me for now .