TPG Reader Hall of Fame: $605,000 in vacations for 15 million points
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Today's Reader Hall of Fame story is absurd. And when we say absurd, we mean it in the best way possible. The story brought to you here today is courtesy of Darren and his family, who have spent the last seven years amassing points and spending them for the most far-flung vacations you can imagine.
Let's see what they did, and how they did it.
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Darren and his family have a small business, which helped them build up a massive stash of points. Aside from this, applying for nearly every top travel rewards credit card over the years has meant tons of rewards in welcome bonuses.
This includes cards for Darren and his wife and versions of credit cards in both the U.S. and Canada — so that they've got a total of 45 open cards. Here's just a sampling of some the U.S. cards they're using:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Ink Business Plus (no longer available to new applicants, replaced with Ink Business Preferred Credit Card): Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card (x2): Earn a $750 bonus after you make $7,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (x2): Currently offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn Earn 140,000 bonus points + 1 free night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express: Earn 15,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after after you use your new card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (x2): Earn 150,000 bonus points after after you use your new card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.
- American Express® Business Gold Card: Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card (x2): Limited time offer-50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (x2): Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum, Hilton Aspire Amex card, Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: The best business credit cards
Where exactly have they gone with 15 million of these points? Darren shared an astounding (and impressive) list:
- Our first trip was just for myself to be able to visit with my mother when she had a health emergency in 2014.
- Second trip was to send my father and a helper from Edmonton to Washington, D.C. to receive an award for his wine making.
- Our next trip, my wife, four children and I flew business class from Orlando to London and return from Munich (on Lufthansa) and my mother and father-in-law from Edmonton to London and return from Munich (on Air Canada). We used 800,000 United Miles transferred over from Chase Ultimate Rewards, as well as welcome bonuses from the United MileagePlus credit cards.
- We followed that up with a trip from Orlando to Costa Rica at Thanksgiving in 2014.
- Next was a trip from Orlando to Vancouver for six of us where we had to renew our U.S. entrepreneur visas. We then went on to visit family for Christmas.
- For 2015, the six of us went to Montreal (12-hour connection to visit old Montreal and have some poutine!), Athens, Rhodes, Bodrum, Cairo, Luxor, Amman (Petra), Istanbul, London and New York.
- In 2016, our big trip for the six of us was to Hong Kong, Macao, Shanghai (we were at Shanghai Disney for the second day of it's grand opening!), Tokyo, Osaka/Kyoto, and Beijing.
- Also in 2016, the six of us took a short trip to Washington using 53,500 Southwest points (and a Southwest Companion Pass).
- In 2017, we moved across the continent, so no big summer overseas trip, but we did drive from Orlando to Edmonton over the course of 13 days.
- For Christmas, 2017, I gave my wife and two oldest children tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago (which is way better than seeing Chicago in Hamilton!).
- Also in 2017, my wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by taking a trip without the children to Sorrento, Pompeii, Naples, Venice, Innsbruck and Vienna.
- In spring, 2018, all six of us went to Lima, Paracas, Cusco (Machu Picchu) and Lake Titicaca.
- In the summer of 2018, we all went to Iceland.
- In the summer of 2019, all six of us went to Ireland and New York for a total of 13 days.
- Finally, in the fall of 2019, my wife and I went completely around the world without the children. We flew from Edmonton to Dubai in business, Dubai to Singapore (two-night stopover) to Siem Reap in first class and business, Siem Reap to Da Nang using Servus Circle Rewards (the rewards program at our local credit union). We also took advantage of the Cathay Pacific first class ultra-low fare from Da Nang to Vancouver for $1,600 between us and then flew onward from Vancouver to Edmonton.
Related: The top budget family destinations
If you're out of breath just reading that, you're not alone. That's a ton of travel! The logistics of flying six (or more) people together in premium cabins is practically a full-time job. Here are the total points they've spent:
|Program||Points used||Current TPG valuation (cents per point)|
|Servus Circle Rewards||58,390|
|Total points used||14,934,528|
What does Darren have to say about all of this?
"We have always obtained as many welcome bonuses as we could when the offers seemed particularly lucrative without knowing where we might use the points or miles. This method to our madness has served us well, as having numerous options available, especially for hotels, allows us to use the ones that are most lucrative in any given location.
With four children, our budget would not have allowed us to travel to virtually any of these places even in economy seats and budget hotels, but with points and miles, we have been able to show our children the world and, frankly, spoil them with business-class flights and luxury hotels!"
Related: How families can afford to travel (without a trust fund)
Here's how they spent their points on airfare:
|Airline||Route||Net price||Points||Value per point|
|Orlando- Belize City||$660||19,180||$0.0344|
|Dubai-Singapore, Siem Reap||$7,064||150,000||$0.0471|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards|
|Citi Thank You|
|Servus Circle Rewards|
|Siem Reap-Da Nang||$437||58,390||$0.0075|
|Edmonton- New York||$728||50,000||$0.0146|
|Bodrum to Cairo to Luxor- Cairo to Amman to Istanbul||$4,753||132,000||$0.0360|
|Shanghai-Tokyo to Beijing||$5,101||102,000||$0.0500|
|Edmonton-Baltra to Quito to Panama City||$25,026||375,000||$0.0667|
Here are the points they used for hotels:
|Radisson||City||Hotel||Nights||Value||Points||Value per point|
|London||Park Plaza Westminster Bridge||4||$2,278||124,000||$0.0184|
|London||Park Plaza County Hall||4||$1,774||124,000||$0.0143|
|Istanbul||Radisson Blu Bosphorous||4||$2,386.08||150,000||$0.0159|
|Belize City||Radisson Fort George||4||$1,241||114,000||$0.0109|
|Dublin||Radisson Blu Dublin Airport||2||$460||88,000||$0.0052|
|Berlin||Grand Hyatt Berlin||4||$1,289||37,500||$0.0344|
|Paris||Park Hyatt Paris Vendome||6||$8,083||180,000||$0.0449|
|Costa Rica||Andaz Peninsula Papagayo||10||$4,909||150,000||$0.0327|
|Amman||Grand Hyatt Amman||4||$2,276||28,000||$0.1779|
|New Orleans||Hyatt French Quarter||1||$285||4,000||$0.0715|
|New Orleans||Hyatt French Quarter||2||$801||24,000||$0.0334|
|New York||Hyatt Regency on the Hudson||2||$864||24,000||$0.0360|
|Tokyo||Hyatt Regency Tokyo||6||$4,779.00||120,000||$0.0398|
|Tokyo||Hyatt Regency Tokyo||3||$1,034||36,000||$0.0287|
|Jacksonville||Hyatt Regency Jacksonville||1||$227.12||7,200||$0.0315|
|Park City, Utah||Hyatt Place Park City||2||$495||30,000||$0.0165|
|Vienna||Park Hyatt Vienna||2||$1,299||50,000||$0.0260|
|Orlando||Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport||1||$362.30||12,000||$0.0302|
|Siem Reap||Park Hyatt Siem Reap||2||$1,340.47||24,000||$0.0559|
|Paris||Intercontinental Paris Le Grand||2||$1,647||70,000||$0.0235|
|Munich||Holiday Inn Munich Unterhaching||4||$767||72,000||$0.0107|
|London||Intercontinental Park Lane||3||$1,844||150,000||$0.0123|
|New York||Intercontinental New York Times Square||4||$2,373.26||200,000||$0.0119|
|Edmonton||Staybridge Suites West Edmonton||10||$1,813||45,000||$0.0403|
|Culpeper||Holiday Inn Express, Culpeper||2||$269||6,000||$0.0449|
|Ruckersville||Holiday Inn Express, Ruckersville||1||$247.80||20,000||$0.0124|
|Ruckersville||Holiday Inn Express, Ruckersville||1||$165||8,000||$0.0207|
|Moab||Holiday Inn Express, Moab||2||$477||80,000||$0.0060|
|Lima||Holiday Inn Lima Airport||2||$306.32||26,000||$0.0118|
|New York||Kimpton Eventi||4||$2,485||280,000||$0.0089|
|Billings||Days Inn Billings||2||$205||30,000||$0.0068|
|West Yellowstone||Days Inn West Yellowstone||4||$1,271||60,000||$0.0212|
|Cochrane||Super 8 Cochrane||1||$377||15,000||$0.0252|
|Puno||Tierra Viva Puno Plaza||3||$257||17,136||$0.0150|
|Aguas Caliente||Taypikala Boutique Machupicchu||2||$292||15,604||$0.0188|
|Kingscourt||Cabra Castle Hotel||3||$733||47,538||$0.0154|
|Puerto Villamil||Hotel Cally Galapagos||6||$597||39,844||$0.0150|
|Puerto Ayora||Hotel Coloma||9||$885||59,052||$0.0150|
|Butte, MT||Econolodge Butte||1||$118||8,000||$0.0148|
|Ennis, Ireland||Hotel Woodstock||4||$636||48,000||$0.0133|
|Bodrum||JW Marriott Bodrum||2||$893||30,000||$0.0298|
|Washington||Residence Inn Arlington||1||$431||25,000||$0.0173|
|Edmonton||Renaissance Marriott at the Airport||1||$201||15,000||$0.0134|
|Marion, Illinois||Fairfield Inn, Marion Illinois||2||$546||30,000||$0.0182|
|Calgary||Courtyard Calgary South||2||$328.38||40,000||$0.0082|
|Independence, MO||Fairfield Inn, Independence||2||$347.64||30,000||$0.0116|
|Vienna||MOXY Vienna Airport||1||$116||15,000||$0.0078|
|Edmonton||Renaissance Marriott at the Airport||1||$237||15,000||$0.0158|
|Cusco||JW Marriott El Convento||6||$3,273||240,000||$0.0136|
|Calgary||Delta Calgary South||2||$447||40,000||$0.0112|
|Anaheim||Residence Inn Anaheim Convention Center||2||$585||70,000||$0.0084|
|Edmonton||Renaissance Marriott at the Airport||1||$366||20,000||$0.0183|
|Dubai||Al Maha Desert Resort||3||$5,677||180,000||$0.0315|
|Da Nang||Sheraton Grand DaNang||3||$793||105,000||$0.0076|
|Vancouver||Westin Wall Centre||1||$222||35,000||$0.0063|
|Calgary||Delta Calgary South||2||$390||25,000||$0.0156|
|Toronto||Sheraton Gateway in YYZ||2||$421||70,000||$0.0060|
|Flight YEG to GPS to UIO to PTY to YEG||$5,173.94||180,000||$0.0287|
|Miami||Hilton Miami Downtown||1||$405||47,800||$0.0085|
|New York||Double Tree Suites Times Square||2||$1,005||160,000||$0.0063|
|Versailles||Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace at Versailles||3||$2,449||240,000||$0.0102|
|New York||Doubletree Suites Times Square||2||$814||80,000||$0.0102|
|St Augustine Beach||Hilton Garden Inn||2||$260||32,000||$0.0081|
|Hong Kong||Conrad Hong Kong||4||$3,485||320,000||$0.0109|
|Shanghai||Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund||2||$1,874||160,000||$0.0117|
|Los Angeles||Embassy Suites LAX South||2||$491||80,000||$0.0061|
|Edmonton||Hampton Inn Sherwood Park||1||$96||17,000||$0.0057|
|Lake City||Home2 Suites||1||$177||29,000||$0.0061|
|Chattanooga||Embassy Suites at Hamilton||1||$223||34,000||$0.0066|
|Colby, Kansas||Hampton Inn Colby||2||$277||46,000||$0.0060|
|Breckenridge, CO||Doubletree Breckenridge||2||$489||68,000||$0.0072|
|Great Falls, Montana||Hampton Inn Great Falls||2||$293||51,000||$0.0057|
|Chicago||Hampton Inn Majestic||2||$760||100,000||$0.0076|
|Chicago||Hilton O'Hare Airport||1||$261||39,000||$0.0067|
|Sorrento||Hilton Sorrento Palace||2||$1,152||102,000||$0.0113|
|Venice||Hilton Molino Stucky||2||$1,318||104,000||$0.0127|
|Paracas||Doubletree Resort Paracas||6||$2,366||238,000||$0.0099|
|Cusco||Hilton Garden Inn Cusco||2||$527||78,000||$0.0068|
|Orlando||Doubletree Suites Orlando||3||$627||91,000||$0.0069|
|Reykjavik||Hilton Reykavik Nordika||3||$1,689||180,000||$0.0094|
|San Diego||Hotel del Coronado||3||$2,031||285,000||$0.0071|
|Belfast||Hilton Belfast Templepatrick||6||$1,096||180,000||$0.0061|
|New York||The London NYC||4||$2,420||380,000||$0.0064|
|Las Vegas||Home2 Suites Las Vegas Strip South||1||$114||15,000||$0.0077|
|Singapore||Conrad Centennial Singapore||2||$1,139||120,000||$0.0095|
|Cairo||Le Meridien Cairo Airport||2||$382||8,000||$0.0478|
|Cairo||Le Meridien Pyramids (suites)||2||$483||12,000||$0.0403|
Darren and family have completely blown us away with their points savvy and incredible trips. You guys are truly an inspiration!
Updated on 9/7/22.