When you think of the Maldives, you probably envision crystal clear water and sandy beaches surrounding a beautiful, remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Sounds like paradise, right? Well, paradise has its price. The Maldives is essentially a country of islands inhabited by high-end hotels catering to Western travelers. Translation: Everything is expensive.
Luckily, it's possible to book a vacation to the Maldives using points and miles. Here are some of the best miles and points redemptions available.
One of the easiest ways to cover airfare is with American AAdvantage miles. Etihad Airways is an American Airlines partner and offers flights between the following U.S. cities and Abu Dhabi, where you can then connect to the Maldives:
It costs just 35,000 AAdvantage miles one-way to fly from the U.S. to Male, the Maldivian capital, in economy. It’s a very long flight to Abu Dhabi, and you may have a long layover before continuing to Male, so book a business class award if possible. Business class will cost you 70,000 miles each way. American's Oneworld partner Qatar Airways is also a solid option to look into, with their enclosed Qsuites business class available from several U.S. cities.
There are several credit card welcome bonuses that can help you earn the miles you’ll need to book award flights to the Maldives:
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
This card offers 60,000 bonus miles after first purchase. It also happens to be the highest publicly available welcome bonus of all the personal AAdvantage credit cards at the moment.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Need more miles than the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® offers? Then consider applying for a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® if you can meet the minimum spend to earn the sign-up bonus.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® usually offers a solid welcome bonus as well. This card also earns 2 points per $1 at several merchants, making it easier to earn extra miles if you don’t have enough for a round-trip award:
American Airlines purchases.
Cable and satellite providers.
Select telecommunications merchants.
There are many options if you’re looking for a points hotel in the Maldives. We’re going to focus on ones where you can book at least two free nights or some valuable elite benefits with the welcome bonus from one credit card.
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
The Park Hyatt Maldives is a Category 7 Hyatt hotel, requiring 30,000 points per night. Booking with points gets you a Park Villa with direct beach access. Hyatt even allows points and cash bookings so you can stretch your points even further. The cash portion will be 50% of the standard rate and the points portion will be 50% of the points rate (15,000 points per night in this case), which could work out well if you’re traveling off-season. During peak season, when rates are higher, it can get expensive. Below are some credit cards that can help you earn points to book free nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives:
World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer to Hyatt 1:1, so those cards are your best bet if you want more points from a welcome bonus.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
While Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart anymore, a free night at the Conrad Maldives normally goes for 95,000 points per night. This gets you into a beach villa steps from the crystal blue waters.
Waldorf Astoria Maldives
The newly-opened Waldorf Astoria Maldives is a ritzier option than the Conrad, if you can imagine that. (I recently stayed at this resort, and it’s pretty unbelievable.) Be prepared to pay through the roof for everything, though, even if you're using points. Starting at 120,000 points, you can book a 2,518-square-foot villa with a private pool and direct beach access. While 120,000 points per night is certainly a lot, you can cover several nights with the welcome bonuses from the Hilton credit cards.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Cardholders who spend $15,000 in a calendar year earn a free weekend night.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms apply. Cardholders also get a free weekend night reward with their welcome bonus.
You thought you had transportation covered, but like a late-night infomercial, there’s more: the transfer from Male Airport to the resort. This will usually involve a boat, a seaplane or both. It can be quite costly, especially if you’re traveling with another person. At the above-mentioned resorts, you can expect to pay between $520 to $700 per person for the round-trip transfer:
Park Hyatt Maldives: $520 per adult (excluding taxes).
Conrad Maldives: $526 per adult (excluding taxes).
Waldorf Astoria Maldives: $700 per adult (excluding taxes).
The total cost of my transfer to the Waldorf Astoria was $862.40, including taxes.
There are a few ways you can cover these transfer fees. For starters, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with an annual $250 resort credit. Charge your final bill at the Conrad or Waldorf Astoria to this card and $250 will be deducted from your statement.
Similarly, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual $300 travel credit that can be applied toward any travel purchases. You can save a great deal by staying at a Hilton resort and splitting your final bill between these two cards.
Everything in the Maldives is expensive, which is why having elite status can be so valuable. Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members receive free breakfast for two at Conrad and Waldorf Astoria resorts, as do Hyatt Globalists at the Park Hyatt. Breakfast can easily cost at least $40 per person post-tax at these resorts, so this benefit can offer significant savings.
Another way to cover dining, spa treatments and incidentals is through cash back rewards. I normally save up rewards over the year and then use them to pay off my credit cards post-vacation. But if you want to start off with a nice boost, consider a card like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. The welcome bonus can help take the sting out of the bill you’ll likely receive at check-out: Receive 50,000 online bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
The bottom line
With the right points strategy, traveling to the Maldives doesn’t have to be so expensive. In fact, if you have a good credit score and can leverage the welcome bonuses from some of the above-mentioned credit cards, traveling to these dreamy islands can be downright attainable.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card