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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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.
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.”
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|
|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|
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|
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:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, $95 annual fee
- Chase Sapphire Reserve — Earn 60,000 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 75,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening, $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express — Earn 125,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership, $595 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!
Featured photo courtesy of Brandon Wong.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
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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