TPG Reader Hall of Fame: $605,000 in vacations for 15 million points

Feb 28, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Image courtesy of Darren Keast.
(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

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:

The information for the 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

(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

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

(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

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)
American Express 131,178 2
Citi 31,158 1.7
Chase 1,505,834 2
Alaska Airlines 125,000 1.8
ANA 234,000 1.4
Virgin Atlantic 50,000 1.5
American Airlines 842,500 1.4
Delta 9,500 1.2
United Airlines    1,805,000 1.3
Southwest Airlines         84,168 1.5
Sinapore Airlines       190,000 1.3
Avianca         39,000 1.7
Aeroplan 1,225,000 1.5
British Airways 314,000 1.5
Radisson 752,000 0.4
Wyndham 105,000 1.1
Hyatt 711,500 1.7
Choice 56,000 0.6
Marriott 1,360,000 0.8
IHG 957,000 0.5
Hilton 4,272,800 0.6
SPG 67,000 N/A
Servus Circle Rewards 58,390
Airmiles 8,500
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)

Image courtesy of Darren Keast.
(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

Here’s how they spent their points on airfare:

Airline Route  Net price Points  Value per point
United
Orlando-Edmonton  $1,655 25,000  $0.0662
Orlando (Edmonton)-Europe  $91,852 600,000 $0.1531
Edmonton-London  $15,487 100,000 $0.1549
Munich-Edmonton  $12,426 100,000 $0.1243
Edmonton-Washington, DC  $774 25,000 $0.0310
Edmonton-Orlando  $585 12,500 $0.0468
Istanbul-Orlando  $33,224 345,000 $0.0963
Calgary-Chicago  $1,077 37,500 $0.0287
Edmonton-Naples  $10,554.60 140,000 $0.0754
Edmonton-Los Angeles  $1,111 75,000 $0.0148
Edmonton-Montreal  $1,728 75,000 $0.0230
New York-Edmonton  $812 50,000 $0.0162
New York-Edmonton  $4,131 50,000 $0.0826
Edmonton-Dubai  $8,796 170,000 $0.0517
Total  $184,215.80        1,805,000 $0.1021
American
Orlando-Vancouver  $7,662 90,000 $0.0851
Edmonton-Portland  $667 45,000 $0.0148
Orlando-Hong Kong  $25,967 215,000 $0.1208
Orlando-Hong Kong  $11,960 100,000 $0.1196
Orlando-Hong Kong  $11,855 67,500 $0.1756
Beijing-Orlando  $41,542 310,000 $0.1340
Orlando-Edmonton  $124.00 15,000 $0.0083
Total  $99,780            842,500 $0.1184
Southwest
Orlando- Belize City  $660 19,180 $0.0344
Houston-Orlando  $350 11,488 $0.0305
Orlando-Washington  $1,228 53,500 $0.0230
Total  $2,239.12               84,168 $0.0266
Airmiles
Edmonton-St. Johns  $1,445 8,500 $0.1701
Total  $1,445                  8,500 $0.1701
American Express
Edmonton-Orlando  $2,988 131,178 $0.0228
Total  $2,988            131,178 $0.0228
Alaska
Vienna-Edmonton  $10,405 125,000 $0.0832
Total  $10,405            125,000 $0.0832
Avianca
Lima-Cusco  $885 39,000 $0.0227
Total  $885               39,000 $0.0227
Singapore KrisFlyer
Orlando-Edmonton  $2,717 40,000 $0.0679
Dubai-Singapore, Siem Reap  $7,064 150,000 $0.0471
Total  $9,781            190,000 $0.0515
Delta
Orlando-Edmonton  $197 9,500 $0.0208
Total  $197.80                  9,500 $0.0208
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Spokane-Edmonton  $1,134 75,624 $0.0150
Edmonton-Orlando  $300 20000 $0.0150
Edmonton-Lima  $7,992 532,811 $0.0150
Edmonton-Victoria  $386 25,774 $0.0150
Edmonton-Rekjavik  $7,157 386,368 $0.0185
Reykjavik-Revjavik  $1,200 80,000 $0.0150
Vancouver-Edmonton  $220 14,706 $0.0150
Total  $18,871        1,135,283 $0.0166
Citi Thank You
New York-Orlando  $588 31,158 $0.0189
Total  $588               31,158 $0.0189
Servus Circle Rewards
Siem Reap-Da Nang  $437 58,390 $0.0075
Total  $437               58,390 $0.0075
Virgin Atlantic
Edmonton- New York  $728 50,000 $0.0146
Total  $728               50,000 $0.0146
ANA
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
Total  $9,854            234,000 $0.0421
British Airways
Miami-Liberia  $4,573 90,000 $0.0508
Orlando-Miami  $1,590 54,000 $0.0294
Hong Kong-Shanghai  $1,893.19 45,000 $0.0421
Montreal-Dublin  $2,264 50,000 $0.0453
Montreal-Dublin  $8,022 75,000 $0.1070
Total  $18,343.08            314,000 $0.0584
Aeroplan
Orlando-New York  $895 50,000 $0.0179
Edmonton-Orlando  $2,029 75,000 $0.0271
Edmonton-Orlandon  $508 25,000 $0.0203
Vancouver-Edmonton  $1,385 55,000 $0.0252
Orlando-Athens  $54,820 315,000 $0.1740
Dublin-New York  $21,053 330,000 $0.0638
Edmonton-Baltra to Quito to Panama City  $25,026 375,000 $0.0667

 

Image courtesy of Darren Keast.
(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

Here are the points they used for hotels:

Hotel Points
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
Athens  Radisson Blu 8  $1,719 152,000  $0.0113
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
Total  $9,859 752,000
Hyatt
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
Total  $28,048. 711,500
IHG
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
Total  $12,398 957,000
Wyndham
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
Total  $1,853.93 105,000
Chase
Edmonton  Hotel MacDonald 2  $612 22,505  $0.0272
Pompeii  Hotel Forum 1  $131 8,774  $0.0150
Puno  Tierra Viva Puno Plaza 3  $257 17,136  $0.0150
Aguas Caliente  Taypikala Boutique Machupicchu 2  $292 15,604  $0.0188
Husavik  Fosshotel Husavik 3  $570 38,000  $0.0150
Neskaupstadur  Hildibrand Hotel 1  $412 27,490  $0.0150
Hofn  Hotel Jokull 3  $831 55,410  $0.0150
Kirkjubaejarklaustur  Hotel Geirland 2  $587 39,198  $0.0150
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
Total  $5,911.95 370,551
Choice
Butte, MT  Econolodge Butte 1  $118 8,000  $0.0148
Ennis, Ireland  Hotel Woodstock 4  $636 48,000  $0.0133
Total  $754.84 56,000
Marriott
Bremen  Courtyard Bremen 6  $1,093 90,000  $0.0121
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
Enniskerry  Powerscourt Hotel 3  $910 105,000  $0.0087
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
Total  $21,364 1,360,000
Hilton
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
Luxor  Hilton Luxor 6  $1,552 72,000  $0.0216
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
Macau  Conrad Macao 4  $3,014 64,000  $0.0471
Shanghai  Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund 2  $1,874 160,000  $0.0117
Tokyo  Conrad Tokyo 4  $3,683 320,000  $0.0115
Osaka  Hilton Osaka 4  $1,907 200,000  $0.0095
Beijing  Doubletree Beijing 9  $1,759 90,000  $0.0196
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
Innsbruck  Hilton Innsbruck 1  $379 40,000  $0.0095
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
Reykjavik  Reykjavik Konsulat 3  $2,444 210,000  $0.0116
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
Total  $42,593 4,272,800
SPG
Weimar  Hotel Elephant 4  $904 40,000  $0.0226
Cairo  Le Meridien Cairo Airport 2  $382 8,000  $0.0478
Cairo  Le Meridien Pyramids (suites) 2  $483 12,000  $0.0403
Rhodes  Sheraton Rhodes 2  $279 7,000  $0.0400
Total  $2,049 67,000

Darren and family have completely blown us away with their points savvy and incredible trips. You guys are truly an inspiration!

Featured photo by Jorge Fernández/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.