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

Feb. 28, 2020
39 min read
Icelandic Landscapes
TPG Reader Hall of Fame: $605,000 in vacations for 15 million points
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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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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:

  • 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

(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

Where exactly have they gone with 15 million of these points? Darren shared an astounding (and impressive) list:

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  • 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:

ProgramPoints usedCurrent TPG valuation (cents per point)
American Express131,1782
Alaska Airlines125,0001.8
Virgin Atlantic50,0001.5
American Airlines842,5001.4
United Airlines   1,805,0001.3
Southwest Airlines        84,1681.5
Sinapore Airlines      190,0001.3
Avianca        39,0001.7
British Airways314,0001.5
Servus Circle Rewards58,390
Total points used14,934,528

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)

(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

Here's how they spent their points on airfare:

AirlineRoute Net pricePoints Value per point
Orlando-Edmonton $1,65525,000 $0.0662
Orlando (Edmonton)-Europe $91,852600,000$0.1531
Edmonton-London $15,487100,000$0.1549
Munich-Edmonton $12,426100,000$0.1243
Edmonton-Washington, DC $77425,000$0.0310
Edmonton-Orlando $58512,500$0.0468
Istanbul-Orlando $33,224345,000$0.0963
Calgary-Chicago $1,07737,500$0.0287
Edmonton-Naples $10,554.60140,000$0.0754
Edmonton-Los Angeles $1,11175,000$0.0148
Edmonton-Montreal $1,72875,000$0.0230
New York-Edmonton $81250,000$0.0162
New York-Edmonton $4,13150,000$0.0826
Edmonton-Dubai $8,796170,000$0.0517
Total $184,215.80       1,805,000$0.1021
Orlando-Vancouver $7,66290,000$0.0851
Edmonton-Portland $66745,000$0.0148
Orlando-Hong Kong $25,967215,000$0.1208
Orlando-Hong Kong $11,960100,000$0.1196
Orlando-Hong Kong $11,85567,500$0.1756
Beijing-Orlando $41,542310,000$0.1340
Orlando-Edmonton $124.0015,000$0.0083
Total $99,780           842,500$0.1184
Orlando- Belize City $66019,180$0.0344
Houston-Orlando $35011,488$0.0305
Orlando-Washington $1,22853,500$0.0230
Total $2,239.12              84,168$0.0266
Edmonton-St. Johns $1,4458,500$0.1701
Total $1,445                 8,500$0.1701
American Express
Edmonton-Orlando $2,988131,178$0.0228
Total $2,988           131,178$0.0228
Vienna-Edmonton $10,405125,000$0.0832
Total $10,405           125,000$0.0832
Lima-Cusco $88539,000$0.0227
Total $885              39,000$0.0227
Singapore KrisFlyer
Orlando-Edmonton $2,71740,000$0.0679
Dubai-Singapore, Siem Reap $7,064150,000$0.0471
Total $9,781           190,000$0.0515
Orlando-Edmonton $1979,500$0.0208
Total $197.80                 9,500$0.0208
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Spokane-Edmonton $1,13475,624$0.0150
Edmonton-Orlando $30020000$0.0150
Edmonton-Lima $7,992532,811$0.0150
Edmonton-Victoria $38625,774$0.0150
Edmonton-Rekjavik $7,157386,368$0.0185
Reykjavik-Revjavik $1,20080,000$0.0150
Vancouver-Edmonton $22014,706$0.0150
Total $18,871       1,135,283$0.0166
Citi Thank You
New York-Orlando $58831,158$0.0189
Total $588              31,158$0.0189
Servus Circle Rewards
Siem Reap-Da Nang $43758,390$0.0075
Total $437              58,390$0.0075
Virgin Atlantic
Edmonton- New York $72850,000$0.0146
Total $728              50,000$0.0146
Bodrum to Cairo to Luxor- Cairo to Amman to Istanbul $4,753132,000$0.0360
Shanghai-Tokyo to Beijing $5,101102,000$0.0500
Total $9,854           234,000$0.0421
British Airways
Miami-Liberia $4,57390,000$0.0508
Orlando-Miami $1,59054,000$0.0294
Hong Kong-Shanghai $1,893.1945,000$0.0421
Montreal-Dublin $2,26450,000$0.0453
Montreal-Dublin $8,02275,000$0.1070
Total $18,343.08           314,000$0.0584
Orlando-New York $89550,000$0.0179
Edmonton-Orlando $2,02975,000$0.0271
Edmonton-Orlandon $50825,000$0.0203
Vancouver-Edmonton $1,38555,000$0.0252
Orlando-Athens $54,820315,000$0.1740
Dublin-New York $21,053330,000$0.0638
Edmonton-Baltra to Quito to Panama City $25,026375,000$0.0667
(Photo courtesy of Darren Keast.)

Here are the points they used for hotels:

Hotel Points
RadissonCity HotelNightsValuePointsValue per point
London Park Plaza Westminster Bridge4 $2,278124,000 $0.0184
London Park Plaza County Hall4 $1,774124,000 $0.0143
Athens Radisson Blu8 $1,719152,000 $0.0113
Istanbul Radisson Blu Bosphorous4 $2,386.08150,000 $0.0159
Belize City Radisson Fort George4 $1,241114,000 $0.0109
Dublin Radisson Blu Dublin Airport2 $46088,000 $0.0052
Total $9,859752,000
Berlin Grand Hyatt Berlin4 $1,28937,500 $0.0344
Paris Park Hyatt Paris Vendome6 $8,083180,000 $0.0449
Costa Rica Andaz Peninsula Papagayo10 $4,909150,000 $0.0327
Amman Grand Hyatt Amman4 $2,27628,000 $0.1779
New Orleans Hyatt French Quarter1 $2854,000 $0.0715
New Orleans Hyatt French Quarter2 $80124,000 $0.0334
New York Hyatt Regency on the Hudson2 $86424,000 $0.0360
Tokyo Hyatt Regency Tokyo6 $4,779.00120,000 $0.0398
Tokyo Hyatt Regency Tokyo3 $1,03436,000 $0.0287
Jacksonville Hyatt Regency Jacksonville1 $227.127,200 $0.0315
Park City, Utah Hyatt Place Park City2 $49530,000 $0.0165
Vienna Park Hyatt Vienna2 $1,29950,000 $0.0260
Orlando Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport1 $362.3012,000 $0.0302
Siem Reap Park Hyatt Siem Reap2 $1,340.4724,000 $0.0559
Total $28,048.711,500
Paris Intercontinental Paris Le Grand2 $1,64770,000 $0.0235
Munich Holiday Inn Munich Unterhaching4 $76772,000 $0.0107
London Intercontinental Park Lane3 $1,844150,000 $0.0123
New York Intercontinental New York Times Square4 $2,373.26200,000 $0.0119
Edmonton Staybridge Suites West Edmonton10 $1,81345,000 $0.0403
Culpeper Holiday Inn Express, Culpeper2 $2696,000 $0.0449
Ruckersville Holiday Inn Express, Ruckersville1 $247.8020,000 $0.0124
Ruckersville Holiday Inn Express, Ruckersville1 $1658,000 $0.0207
Moab Holiday Inn Express, Moab2 $47780,000 $0.0060
Lima Holiday Inn Lima Airport2 $306.3226,000 $0.0118
New York Kimpton Eventi4 $2,485280,000 $0.0089
Total $12,398957,000
Billings Days Inn Billings2 $20530,000 $0.0068
West Yellowstone Days Inn West Yellowstone4 $1,27160,000 $0.0212
Cochrane Super 8 Cochrane1 $37715,000 $0.0252
Total $1,853.93105,000
Edmonton Hotel MacDonald2 $61222,505 $0.0272
Pompeii Hotel Forum1 $1318,774 $0.0150
Puno Tierra Viva Puno Plaza3 $25717,136 $0.0150
Aguas Caliente Taypikala Boutique Machupicchu2 $29215,604 $0.0188
Husavik Fosshotel Husavik3 $57038,000 $0.0150
Neskaupstadur Hildibrand Hotel1 $41227,490 $0.0150
Hofn Hotel Jokull3 $83155,410 $0.0150
Kirkjubaejarklaustur Hotel Geirland2 $58739,198 $0.0150
Kingscourt Cabra Castle Hotel3 $73347,538 $0.0154
Puerto Villamil Hotel Cally Galapagos6 $59739,844 $0.0150
Puerto Ayora Hotel Coloma9 $88559,052 $0.0150
Total $5,911.95370,551
Butte, MT Econolodge Butte1 $1188,000 $0.0148
Ennis, Ireland Hotel Woodstock4 $63648,000 $0.0133
Total $754.8456,000
Bremen Courtyard Bremen6 $1,09390,000 $0.0121
Bodrum JW Marriott Bodrum2 $89330,000 $0.0298
Washington Residence Inn Arlington1 $43125,000 $0.0173
Edmonton Renaissance Marriott at the Airport1 $20115,000 $0.0134
Marion, Illinois Fairfield Inn, Marion Illinois2 $54630,000 $0.0182
Calgary Courtyard Calgary South2 $328.3840,000 $0.0082
Independence, MO Fairfield Inn, Independence2 $347.6430,000 $0.0116
Vienna MOXY Vienna Airport1 $11615,000 $0.0078
Edmonton Renaissance Marriott at the Airport1 $23715,000 $0.0158
Cusco JW Marriott El Convento6 $3,273240,000 $0.0136
Calgary Delta Calgary South2 $44740,000 $0.0112
Anaheim Residence Inn Anaheim Convention Center2 $58570,000 $0.0084
Enniskerry Powerscourt Hotel3 $910105,000 $0.0087
Edmonton Renaissance Marriott at the Airport1 $36620,000 $0.0183
Dubai Al Maha Desert Resort3 $5,677180,000 $0.0315
Da Nang Sheraton Grand DaNang3 $793105,000 $0.0076
Vancouver Westin Wall Centre1 $22235,000 $0.0063
Calgary Delta Calgary South2 $39025,000 $0.0156
Toronto Sheraton Gateway in YYZ2 $42170,000 $0.0060
 Flight YEG to GPS to UIO to PTY to YEG $5,173.94180,000 $0.0287
Total $21,3641,360,000
Miami Hilton Miami Downtown1 $40547,800 $0.0085
New York Double Tree Suites Times Square2 $1,005160,000 $0.0063
Versailles Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace at Versailles3 $2,449240,000 $0.0102
Luxor Hilton Luxor6 $1,55272,000 $0.0216
New York Doubletree Suites Times Square2 $81480,000 $0.0102
St Augustine Beach Hilton Garden Inn2 $26032,000 $0.0081
Hong Kong Conrad Hong Kong4 $3,485320,000 $0.0109
Macau Conrad Macao4 $3,01464,000 $0.0471
Shanghai Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund2 $1,874160,000 $0.0117
Tokyo Conrad Tokyo4 $3,683320,000 $0.0115
Osaka Hilton Osaka4 $1,907200,000 $0.0095
Beijing Doubletree Beijing9 $1,75990,000 $0.0196
Los Angeles Embassy Suites LAX South2 $49180,000 $0.0061
Edmonton Hampton Inn Sherwood Park1 $9617,000 $0.0057
Lake City Home2 Suites1 $17729,000 $0.0061
Chattanooga Embassy Suites at Hamilton1 $22334,000 $0.0066
Colby, Kansas Hampton Inn Colby2 $27746,000 $0.0060
Breckenridge, CO Doubletree Breckenridge2 $48968,000 $0.0072
Great Falls, Montana Hampton Inn Great Falls2 $29351,000 $0.0057
Chicago Hampton Inn Majestic2 $760100,000 $0.0076
Chicago Hilton O'Hare Airport1 $26139,000 $0.0067
Sorrento Hilton Sorrento Palace2 $1,152102,000 $0.0113
Venice Hilton Molino Stucky2 $1,318104,000 $0.0127
Innsbruck Hilton Innsbruck1 $37940,000 $0.0095
Paracas Doubletree Resort Paracas6 $2,366238,000 $0.0099
Cusco Hilton Garden Inn Cusco2 $52778,000 $0.0068
Orlando Doubletree Suites Orlando3 $62791,000 $0.0069
Reykjavik Hilton Reykavik Nordika3 $1,689180,000 $0.0094
Reykjavik Reykjavik Konsulat3 $2,444210,000 $0.0116
San Diego Hotel del Coronado3 $2,031285,000 $0.0071
Belfast Hilton Belfast Templepatrick6 $1,096180,000 $0.0061
New York The London NYC4 $2,420380,000 $0.0064
Las Vegas Home2 Suites Las Vegas Strip South1 $11415,000 $0.0077
Singapore Conrad Centennial Singapore2 $1,139120,000 $0.0095
Total $42,5934,272,800
Weimar Hotel Elephant4 $90440,000 $0.0226
Cairo Le Meridien Cairo Airport2 $3828,000 $0.0478
Cairo Le Meridien Pyramids (suites)2 $48312,000 $0.0403
Rhodes Sheraton Rhodes2 $2797,000 $0.0400
Total $2,04967,000

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.

Featured image by LightRocket via Getty Images
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.