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

Oct 18, 2019

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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 140,000 IHG points 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 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® CardEarn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of card membership. Offer ends 1/13/2021. 
  • The World Of Hyatt Credit Card– Earn up to 50,000 Hyatt points: 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, plus, 25,000 points after you spend $6,000 total in the first six months of account opening

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


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.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 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, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 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.
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