TPG Reader Hall of Fame: 18 months, 20 countries and a million points

Oct 18, 2019

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 TPG Reader Hall of Fame story comes to you from Joey and Kara, a power (points) couple midway through a trip spanning 9 months, three continents and well over a million points. Let’s see how they did it.

Kara and Joey knew well in advance that they’d be traveling so they were able to spend 18 months saving up for the trip. Kara, a former auditor, traveled a lot for work and was able to save points for personal use. While she had a nice little stash, they’ve also used welcome bonuses from travel rewards credit cards to accumulate a sizable balance, including:

  • IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card — Earn 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card — Earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve — Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card – Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.​ Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.
  • World of Hyatt Credit Card– Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x bonus points total spent on purchases that normally earn 1x point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.

They’ve also continued to put all regular spending on credit cards, while offering to pay friends’ restaurant tabs in exchange for Venmo payments. All told, they’ve spent 1.2 million points on hotels and flights thus far, with a focus on free — not luxury. This means they’ve legged it in long-haul economy, gaining incredible value on flights such as Detroit (DTW) to Lima (LIM), which cost just 17,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles off-peak for a route that would normally run them $1,000+.

Photo courtesy of Kara Patterson

They’ve used the annual free nights afforded by their credit cards for hotel stays, in addition to Hilton, Marriott, IHG and Hyatt points in order to maximize their savings. Combined with Airbnb stays and housesitting, they’re making their way around the world for free. Here’s the breakdown of the points they’ve spent:

Program Points used Overall value received (less expenses incurred) Overall cents per point Current TPG valuation
Marriott Bonvoy 250,000 $1,654.00 0.66 0.80
World of Hyatt 104,000 $2,100.89 2.02 1.70
Hilton Honors 404,000 $2,145.96 0.53 0.60
IHG Rewards 140,000 $1,640.00 1.17 0.50
American AAdvantage 70,000 $4,306.48 6.15 1.40
Chase Ultimate Rewards 262,000 $10,324.56 3.94 2.00

Here’s how they’ve redeemed them:

Savings type City Name Points used Cents per point
Valuation @ booking (TPG)
Flight Detroit to Lima, Peru American Airlines 35,000 5.43 1.4
Flight Rio de Janeiro to Lisbon Air France 72,000 4.32 2.1
Flight Rome to Bali United Airlines 90,000 3.22 1.3
Flight Bangkok to Lima United Airlines 100,000 4.32 2.0
Flight Lima to Detroit (Joey) American Airlines 17,500 7.08 1.4
Flight Lima to Missoula (Kara) American Airlines 17,500 6.68 1.4

 

Savings Type City Name Points used Cents per point Valuation @ booking (TPG)
Hotel rewards Zurich, Switzerland Hilton Zurich Airport 200,000 (50k / night) 0.59 0.6
Hotel rewards Zurich, Switzerland Hilton Zurich Airport 48,000 (48k / night) 0.59 0.6
Hotel rewards Bali, Indonesia Hilton Bali Resort 96,000 (48k / night) 0.42 0.6
Hotel rewards Bali, Indonesia Hilton Bali Resort 60,000 (30k / night) 0.45 0.6
Hotel rewards Singapore, Singapore Grand Hyatt Singapore 54,000 (27k / night) 2.05 1.7
Hotel rewards London, U.K. St James Hyatt Hotel 50,000 (25k / night) 1.98 1.7
Hotel rewards Amsterdam, Netherlands Renaissance Amsterdam 250,000 (42k / night) 0.66 0.8
Hotel rewards Munich, Germany Holiday Inn – City Centre 140,000 (35k / night) 1.56 0.7

These incredibly detailed charts come courtesy of Kara, whose fabulous spreadsheet shows just exactly how much value points can have. And while they haven’t always redeemed points for maximum value, that’s OK. In total, they’ve saved over $20,000 by making smart redemptions where it counts, so that their trip is truly priceless.

All photos courtesy of Kara Patterson

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*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 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
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.