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

Dec. 20, 2019
8 min read
tpg brandon wong hof hobbiton
TPG Reader Hall of Fame: A $36,000 vacation for a million points and miles
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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

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

Here are the points Brandon used:

ProgramPoints or miles usedCurrent TPG valuation (cents per point)
American Express Membership Rewards280,0001.90
Chase Ultimate Rewards55,0002.00
Barclays miles47,0001.00
United Airlines40,0001.30
American Airlines80,0001.40
British Airways40,0001.50
Total points and miles used1,016,000

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

FlightsCityNameClass of serviceCash costPoints usedComments
FlightNew York to Frankfurt to Singapore to AucklandSingaporeFirst$10,000280,000American Express MR (transferred to Singapore)
FlightAuckland to QueenstownAir New ZealandEconomy$200N/ACash
FlightQueenstown to Milford SoundAir New ZealandEconomy$50047,000Barclays miles (covered most of the cost)
FlightAuckland to Sydney to Bangkok to Hong KongAir New Zealand, Thai AirwaysBusiness, First$4,50040,000United Airlines miles
FlightHong Kong to TokyoCathay PacificFirst$5,00040,000British Airways Avios
FlightTokyo to New YorkAmerican AirlinesBusiness$12,00080,000American Airlines miles

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

HotelsCityNameCash valuePoints usedComments
Hotel rewardsSingaporeAndaz Singapore$24525,000Chase UR (transferred to Hyatt, day room only)
Hotel rewardsAucklandHilton Auckland$40060,000Hilton (one night)
Hotel rewardsLake TaupoHilton Lake Taupo$24554,000Hilton (one night)
Hotel rewardsQueenstownHilton Queenstown$1,332300,000Hilton (six nights)
Hotel rewardsAucklandHoliday Inn Auckland Airport$13525,000IHG (one night)
Hotel rewardsSydneyPark Hyatt Sydney$1,00030,000Chase UR (transferred to Hyatt, one night)
Hotel rewardsBangkokIntercontinental Bangkok$30035,000IHG (one night)
Hotel rewardsHong KongIntercontinental Hong Kong$250N/AFree night certificate

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 like:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, $95 annual fee
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve — Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, $550 annual fee
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card — Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, $95 annual fee
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express — Earn 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening, $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first three months of card membership, $595($695 if application is received on or after 1/13/2022) annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply.

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

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.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of Brandon Wong.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.