Skip to content

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

Oct. 18, 2019
8 min read
2. Iguazu Falls (Brazil)
TPG Reader Hall of Fame: 18 months, 20 countries and a million points
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.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

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 Premier Credit Card — Earn 125,000 bonus points, plus a reward night after you spend $3,000 on purchases in 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 50,000 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 of card membership. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases made on your new card 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+.

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:

Sign up for our daily newsletter
ProgramPoints usedOverall value received (less expenses incurred)Overall cents per pointCurrent TPG valuation
Marriott Bonvoy250,000$1,654.000.660.80
World of Hyatt104,000$2,100.892.021.70
Hilton Honors404,000$2,145.960.530.60
IHG Rewards140,000$1,640.001.170.50
American AAdvantage70,000$4,306.486.151.40
Chase Ultimate Rewards262,000$10,324.563.942.00

Here's how they've redeemed them:

Savings typeCityNamePoints usedCents per point
Valuation @ booking (TPG)
FlightDetroit to Lima, PeruAmerican Airlines35,0005.431.4
FlightRio de Janeiro to LisbonAir France72,0004.322.1
FlightRome to BaliUnited Airlines90,0003.221.3
FlightBangkok to LimaUnited Airlines100,0004.322.0
FlightLima to Detroit (Joey)American Airlines17,5007.081.4
FlightLima to Missoula (Kara)American Airlines17,5006.681.4
Savings TypeCityNamePoints usedCents per pointValuation @ booking (TPG)
Hotel rewardsZurich, SwitzerlandHilton Zurich Airport200,000 (50k / night)0.590.6
Hotel rewardsZurich, SwitzerlandHilton Zurich Airport48,000 (48k / night)0.590.6
Hotel rewardsBali, IndonesiaHilton Bali Resort96,000 (48k / night)0.420.6
Hotel rewardsBali, IndonesiaHilton Bali Resort60,000 (30k / night)0.450.6
Hotel rewardsSingapore, SingaporeGrand Hyatt Singapore54,000 (27k / night)2.051.7
Hotel rewardsLondon, U.K.St James Hyatt Hotel50,000 (25k / night)1.981.7
Hotel rewardsAmsterdam, NetherlandsRenaissance Amsterdam250,000 (42k / night)0.660.8
Hotel rewardsMunich, GermanyHoliday Inn - City Centre140,000 (35k / night)1.560.7

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

Featured image by Photo courtesy of Kara Patterson
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.