Reader success story: How this newbie booked a dream trip to Hawaii with one card bonus

Jul 12, 2021

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Today I wanted to share a story from TPG reader Doug Sporrer, who booked a family vacation worth over $5,000 by picking up a new Marriott cobranded card.

Doug’s story shows how you don’t need to be a road warrior to be in the points game. You just need to be strategic about how you spend your money and redeem your rewards.

My family and I (wife and 2 teenagers) are finishing up 5 free nights at the Westin Hapuna Beach resort on the Kohala Coast in Hawaii. Thanks to your website I signed up for the Marriott Bonvoy card last fall that was offering 5 free night certificates and we really got lucky to find this place on the beach in Hawaii! We even have an ocean view. We are both teachers. I never really thought we could take our kids to Hawaii. But thanks to your website it has all worked out. It has been an unbelievable trip. These rooms are over $1,000 a night currently and ours was free! People don’t believe me. Ha! Thank you for the work you do. 

Doug Sporrer

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As you can see, it doesn’t take much to get into the points and miles game. Regardless of what line of work you’re in, or even if you’re still in school, you can still start to collect travel rewards. What’s great about this hobby is that so much of it can be done from the comfort of your own home.

All you have to do is take advantage of some credit card sign-up bonuses and you’ll rack up a lot of points and free night awards before you know it. In Doug’s case, one card alone was enough to cover an entire vacation.

Related: TPG’s beginner’s guide to credit cards: Everything you need to know

While the sign-up bonus Doug took advantage of is no longer available, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card‘s current bonus is still pretty exciting. Right now, new cardholders get three Free Night Awards (each free night award has a redemption value of up to 50,000 bonus points) for a total value of up to 150,000 total points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, you’ll earn 10 points per dollar on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations within the first six months from account opening.

The 50,000-point free night awards can be used at any Category 1–6 Marriott hotel with standard award availability on standard and off-peak dates. Or, you can use them to book an off-peak date at a Category 7 property.

Doug was able to maximize his certificates by redeeming them at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort when cash rates were high and there was standard award availability. As a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy property, standard award nights here normally cost 50,000 points.

Related: Here are the offers on Marriott cards right now

Westin Hapuna Beach Resort family pool
(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Normally, Marriott Bonvoy offers a “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” perk that allows you to get a complimentary night when you redeem points for five consecutive nights. But unfortunately, Doug couldn’t stack that offer with his certificates because free night awards are excluded.

Still, Doug was able to get thousands of dollars in value from his sign-up bonus and you can do the same.

Related: Can I mix hotel points and free night certificates to get a fourth or fifth night free?

Aside from a generous sign-up bonus, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card comes with some valuable perks. For instance, it provides automatic Bonvoy Silver status and a pathway to upgrade to Gold Elite status by spending $35,000 on the card each year. Silver status is typically earned after 10 nights, while Gold requires 25 nights.

But as you can see, you don’t need to be a frequent traveler to fast-track them. Other perks of the card include an annual free night award (worth up to 35,000 points) at each account anniversary, 15 elite qualifying night credits per year and more.

Doug was able to get great value at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, but if you need some more inspiration on where to redeem your 50k certificates, check out the on-Disney-property Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, the new JW Marriott Bonnet Creek, the perfectly located Springhill Suites Zion National ParkRenaissance Aruba Resort & Casino or the just-opened AC Hotel Maui Wailea. For more ideas, see this guide.

Related: TPG readers’ best Marriott Bonvoy redemptions

I love this story and we want to hear more like it. Please email your own award travel success stories to; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. You can also feel free to submit your worst travel mistakes. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Featured photo courtesy of The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.