TPG Reader Hall of Fame: First-class flights, overwater villas — and you can do it too

Oct 4, 2019

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At TPG, we aim to make travel easier, more affordable and whenever possible, more luxurious. A few weeks ago, we asked members of our Facebook community, TPG Lounge, to submit their best uses of points and miles to a reader Hall of Fame thread. Stories ranged from fabulous round-the-world family trips to five-star multi-destination vacations. They all had one thing in common: Using points to make these bucket list trips a mere fraction of their retail price. Today, we’re sharing the first of a now-weekly series celebrating our readers’ accomplishments. Hopefully they’ll help bring you closer to redeeming points for a dream trip of your own.

Today’s TPG Reader Hall of Fame story comes to you from Patrick Gall, whose 2018 honeymoon took him and his new wife around the world on first-class flights and in luxury, thanks to the power of points and miles. They traveled to three different countries over the course of 10 days, maximizing rewards earned across multiple currencies to minimize their cost out of pocket.

Let’s take a look at how they did it.

(Photo courtesy of Patrick Gall)

Their first flight was New York-JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) in Cathay Pacific first class, using 110,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles each. Though Pat states that they’re big travelers, and most of the miles were earned by actual butt-in-seat flying, they also applied for a travel rewards credit card and utilized the bonus to help build their balance. The best part? A bottle of Krug to take with them as they deplaned.

They then saved their miles on the Hong Kong to Singapore leg, instead splashing out on an incredible Singapore (SIN)-Tokyo Haneda (HND)-New York-JFK flight on Japan Airlines in both business and first class. These tickets also clocked in at 110,000 AA miles each, bringing their total flight cost to 440k AA miles + taxes and fees.

Related: How to redeem miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Fortunately, American Airlines has some really competitive credit card offerings, which means that you (and a partner) can fly this itinerary via welcome bonuses alone:

  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® – Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® – Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®- Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you make a purchase within the first 90 days of card opening and pay the card’s $99 annual fee.
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard- Earn up to 60,000 miles: 50,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Earn 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card, Citi AAdvantage Platinum, and Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business 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.

Note that both Citi and Barclaycard have some pretty strict restrictions when it comes to card applications and welcome bonuses, so you’re better off with you and your partner getting one from each provider.

Of course, first-class flights would mean nothing if at the end you landed in a shared dorm (sorry, hostels). Luckily, Pat found some awesome availability for world-class hotels, spending a whopping eight nights at some of the best properties in the world:

Any one stay at these hotels could be the trip of a lifetime, but these two managed to swing stays at three separate locations, including an overwater villa in Malaysia.

(Photo courtesy of Patrick Gall.)

Now, Pat is a TPG reader, which means he knew some of the better ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points. As a holder of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this meant that when he went to redeem via the Chase Travel Portal he received 1.5 cents of value per point. This allowed him and his wife to spend five nights at a St. Regis — which would ordinarily price out to over $1,000 a night — for free.

Though you may not want to splurge on the penthouse like Pat did, you can still book incredible awards with the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, using a number of different cards to build your balance:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Of course, they also spent three nights at the Conrad, and luckily for us, these luxurious hotels are very attainable, with a single welcome bonus via the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card nearly covering all three nights (150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership). You can read our guide to find out which Hilton credit card is best for you.

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: How to maximize redemptions with Hilton Honors

Points value aside, Pat also had this to say about the highlights from their trip: “For Cathay, the whole crew signed a nice card for us & gave us a $300 bottle of Krug as we deplaned. On the JL flight, they gave us a model 777-300ER and wrote our flight details on it. The St. Regis was incredible.  An overwater villa with a private pool was so good. The breakfast spread was incredible. The service with our butler was top notch with her doing something special each day.” Sounds like a honeymoon to me!

A huge thank you and congratulations to Pat and his wife for a job well done on their honeymoon. We love to hear about successes from our readers — and show you how to achieve the same vacations with your hard-earned rewards. 

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

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.

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