TPG Reader Hall of Fame: A $36,000 vacation for a million points and miles

Dec 20, 2019

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Today’s TPG Reader Hall of Fame story comes to you courtesy of Brandon Wong, whose incredible vacation spanned six countries, 17 days and just over a million points and miles. His trip included stops in New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong, and luxurious business- and first-class seats on Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Let’s check out how he did it.

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(Photo courtesy of Brandon Wong.)

Brandon is a longtime member of the TPG Lounge, where he shared his 32,000-mile journey with fellow members. As an avid points and miles enthusiast, he took advantage of several different rewards programs to manage this trip, including American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Hilton Honors points and IHG points.

To earn all these points and miles, he used a combination of travel rewards credit card welcome bonuses, maximizing credit card spending and butt-in-seat flying.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Wong.)

What did Brandon have to say about his trip? Tons of positive things, but one of his favorites happens to be one of my favorites as well — a visit to The Shire from the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand.

“After Auckland the next morning we headed down to Lake Taupo where we stayed two nights at the Hilton Lake Taupo for 54,000 Hilton points total. We chose this location because it was close to two places we wanted to visit — The Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Hobbiton movie set.  Both were incredible, but the Hobbiton movie set is very special and absolutely amazing!  I would definitely go there again.”

Related: How to redeem points with the Hilton Honors program

Photo by Brandon Wong.
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Wong.)

Here are the points Brandon used:

Program Points or miles used Current TPG valuation (cents per point)
American Express Membership Rewards 280,000 1.90
Chase Ultimate Rewards 55,000 2.00
Barclays miles 47,000 1.00
United Airlines 40,000 1.30
American Airlines 80,000 1.40
IHG 60,000 0.50
Hilton 414,000 0.60
British Airways 40,000 1.50
Total points and miles used 1,016,000


Here’s the breakdown of how he used them for flights:

Flights City Name Class of service Cash cost Points used Comments
Flight New York to Frankfurt to Singapore to Auckland Singapore First $10,000 280,000 American Express MR (transferred to Singapore)
Flight Auckland to Queenstown Air New Zealand Economy $200 N/A Cash
Flight Queenstown to Milford Sound Air New Zealand Economy $500 47,000 Barclays miles (covered most of the cost)
Flight Auckland to Sydney to Bangkok to Hong Kong Air New Zealand, Thai Airways Business, First $4,500 40,000 United Airlines miles
Flight Hong Kong to Tokyo Cathay Pacific First $5,000 40,000 British Airways Avios
Flight Tokyo to New York American Airlines Business $12,000 80,000 American Airlines miles
Totals $32,200 487,000

Here’s the breakdown of how he used them for hotels:

Hotels City Name Cash value Points used Comments
Hotel rewards Singapore Andaz Singapore $245 25,000 Chase UR (transferred to Hyatt, day room only)
Hotel rewards Auckland Hilton Auckland $400 60,000 Hilton (one night)
Hotel rewards Lake Taupo Hilton Lake Taupo $245 54,000 Hilton (one night)
Hotel rewards Queenstown Hilton Queenstown $1,332 300,000 Hilton (six nights)
Hotel rewards Auckland Holiday Inn Auckland Airport $135 25,000 IHG (one night)
Hotel rewards Sydney Park Hyatt Sydney $1,000 30,000 Chase UR (transferred to Hyatt, one night)
Hotel rewards Bangkok Intercontinental Bangkok $300 35,000 IHG (one night)
Hotel rewards Hong Kong Intercontinental Hong Kong $250 N/A Free night certificate
Totals $3,907 529,000

Because Brandon’s been collecting points and miles for a long time, he didn’t use any specific travel rewards credit cards for these redemptions. You could earn rewards from the same programs from cards from cards like:

Brandon scored some awesome value from his redeemed points, earning the opportunity to fly premium cabins a whopping seven times in 17 days. Awesome!

Featured photo courtesy of Brandon Wong.

For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For the rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, please click here.

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CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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