TPG Reader Hall of Fame: A month of luxury down under

Nov 22, 2019

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Today’s TPG Reader Hall of Fame story comes to you courtesy of Kevin, who spent an entire month visiting Australia, New Zealand and Singapore while still managing to log 30,000 butt-in-seat miles. Let’s check out how he did it.

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Photo courtesy of Kevin Lew.
A quokka selfie on Rottnest Island. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Lew.)

Kevin spent years accumulating the points required for his trip, using a variety of methods in order to earn the massive 535,000 points required to make his holiday happen. This included tons of actual flying, spend on credit cards, and welcome bonuses. Here are the cards he used:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • United Explorer Card- Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card- Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points plus a free night reward 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- Earn 150,000 Hilton points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three 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.

Related: The best ways to use points and miles to fly from the U.S. to Australia

Kevin’s clever mix of business, first and economy flights means that he was able to fly nearly 30,000 total miles for just 235,000 miles out of pocket. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he swung the lengthy San Francisco — Sydney — Auckland legs of his flight in economy, which he snagged for just 40,000 United Airlines miles. In contrast, he spent 80,000 United miles for his Melbourne — Los Angeles — San Francisco return. Perhaps his best redemption, though, was his phenomenal Singapore — Bangkok — Sydney routing in Thai Airways first and business class, which afforded him eleven hours in top-notch first class for 65,000 United Airlines miles.

All flights aside, he spent a total of 26 days in high-end hotels, nearly all of them in Hilton properties. He took full advantage of the Hilton Diamond elite status afforded by his Aspire card to gain access to room upgrades, executive lounge access and tons of free drink vouchers.

Even better than that? He spent 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, transferred to Hyatt, for a fantastic room at possibly my favorite hotel ever: The Park Hyatt Sydney. A cash upgrade to his award netted him this view:

Photo courtesy of Kevin Lew.
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Lew.)

Here are the total points he spent:

Program Points used Current TPG valuation (cents per point)
United MileagePlus 185,000 1.3
Chase Ultimate Rewards 60,000 2
American Airlines AAdvantage 50,000 1.4
Hilton Honors 240,000 0.6

Here’s how he spent them:

Flights Cities Name Class of service Points used Comments
Flight San Francisco to Sydney to Auckland United Airlines Economy 40,000 United Airlines miles
Flight Christchurch to Auckland to Perth Air New Zealand Economy N/A Free with United Excursionist perk
Flight Perth to Singapore Qantas Economy 30,000 American Airlines miles
Flight Singapore to Bangkok to Sydney Thai Airways Business and first 65,000 United Airlines miles
Flight Sydney to Melbourne Qantas Business 20,000 American Airlines miles
Flight Melbourne to Los Angeles to San Francisco United Airlines Business 80,000 United Airlines miles


Hotels City Name Points used Comments
Hotel rewards Auckland Hilton Auckland N/A Free night award via Hilton Surpass
Hotel rewards Singapore Conrad Centennial Singapore 240,000 Fifth night free
Hotel rewards Sydney Park Hyatt Sydney 60,000 Chase UR transferred to Hyatt
Hotel paid Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Christchurch N/A N/A Paid 17 nights total

These redemptions show how mixing points and miles with cash can really make your vacation stretch, even in high-end hotels and the pointy end of the plane. Great job, Kevin!

Featured photo courtesy of Kevin Lew.

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