How the Amex Cobalt pays for my Hilton Honors sweet spots
I have adopted the American Express Cobalt card a year after it came out. Because I’m more of a bonus hunter, I prefer to spend the required amount, cash the large sum of points bonus and move on.
However, the Cobalt card (referral link) requires a different kind of discipline. To make the most of the card’s monthly bonuses, spending needs to be tracked and optimized. On top of reaching the monthly spend of $500 requirement, the card’s value lies in:
- 5x on every $1 on food (restaurants, groceries) & drinks (coffee shops, bars);
- 2x on every $1 on transit (local transit, taxi, Uber), gas and travel (air, water, rail, lodging).
Certainly these category bonuses help grow the Membership Rewards points faster month over month.
The Amex Cobalt bonus points accrual
Consolidating food (groceries, bars & coffee shops) spend on the card is a big leverage for a travel hacker. For instance, let’s see what a month looks like in the following example:
Groceries: $500 x 5 = 2,500
Restaurants: $200 x 5 = 1,000
Coffee shops: $100 x 5 = 500
Gas: $300 x 2 = 500
On top of 4,500 points, you will receive a monthly bonus of 2,500. Therefore at the end of month you end up with 7,000 Membership Rewards points.
Now, how does this make sense in travel hack terms?
Amex Cobalt members can transfer their Membership Rewards points to the Hilton Honors and the Marriott Bonvoy programs. In this post we will focus on the transfer towards Hilton Honors is interesting thanks to the reward programs many sweet spots.
Transfer to Hilton Honors points
Hilton sweet spots properties are geographic with some exceptions in North America and other areas. Furthermore, countries like Poland, Turkey, Egypt and Malaysia are a great demonstration of that. Properties will cost between 5,000 and 15,000 Honors points in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Warsaw, Cairo or more exotic ones like Luxor, Cappadaccio or Malaysian Borneo.
Upon reaching a high level of bonus points on a monthly basis, you are basically earning 1 free night per month.
Let’s use a real life example. In 2019 I intend on visiting Turkey. Not only Hilton properties are well spread across the country, I wrote a full post about it, but close to 20 of them require only 5,000 Hilton Honors per night (in the Hilton Garden Inn, DoubleTree & Hampton brands):
You can apply the same on Egyptian and Malaysian properties.
To sum-up, after a 12-month period, my Membership Rewards points balance will hover at around 84,000. That’s 84,000 Hilton Honors which will deliver either:
- Close to 17 reward nights at 5,000 Hilton Honors per night;
- Or 8 reward nights at 10,000 Hilton Honors per night;
- Or 6 rewards nights at 15,000 Hilton Honors per night.