TPG Reader Hall of Fame: A week at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and the Middle East in style

Dec 6, 2019

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information from the reader. It was originally published on Dec. 6, 2019.

Today’s TPG Reader Hall of Fame story is a truly inspirational vacation. With over a million points spent (and over 200,000 earned), TPG reader Tom pulled out all the stops for his world-class vacation to the Maldives and the Middle East.

Tom has read TPG since 2015 and it shows — not a penny was wasted on this trip. He opened over a dozen travel credit cards, redeemed annual free-night certificates and accomplished a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Let’s see how he did it.

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Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.)

As a longtime reader, Tom has spent the last five years opening travel rewards credit cards, maximizing everyday spending, referring others to new cards (and thus earning bonuses) and taking advantage of increased earning promotions, such as United’s Mile Play. All told, he’s earned a million points, become a top-tier elite member with both Hilton and United, and managed to take high-value vacations with low out-of-pocket costs.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.)


What did Tom have to say about his bucket-list vacation?

“This itinerary was chosen for a few reasons, but mostly because one of the first TPG articles I read a few years ago talked about how you can take a trip to somewhere magical like the Maldives for free. So take that with my desire to go as big as possible and attain the highest amount of value possible from my points and this trip is what I came up with. Did I also mention this was my girlfriend’s first trip out of the country?

I had originally planned for the Conrad Maldives but when I got wind of the new Waldorf Astoria Maldives opening, I quickly shifted my focus to Hilton’s newest top property in the world and safe to say it did not disappoint. I have been to many of Hilton’s top properties already, including Conrad Bora Bora & Koh Samui, so the bar was set very high. After a week of relaxing in an overwater villa, week two had to be for adventure. Jordan and Egypt have been high on my list and i figured they would be the perfect 49th & 50th country for me to visit, and a great sweet spot for business-class flights from the Maldives — not to mention being able to see a couple wonders of the world up close and personal at Petra & the Pyramids of Giza!”

Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.)

Here are the cards he used for this trip:

  • 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 and a companion certificate after your first purchase and payment of the annual fee in the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Citi Premier® Card — Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 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.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Terms Apply.
  • 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. Terms Apply.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express- Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
  • American Express® Green Card- Earn 45,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership. Terms Apply.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum, Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, Hilton Aspire card, Amex Green 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.

Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Lonergan.)

Here are the points they spent:

Program Points used Current TPG valuation (cents per point)
United MileagePlus 16,000 1.3
Citi ThankYou Rewards 80,000 1.7
Hilton Honors 658,000 0.6
American Airlines AAdvantage 200,000 1.4

Here’s how they used them:

Flights City Name Class of service Cash Cost Points used Comments
Flight Chicago to Male’ Etihad Business $16,000 140,000 American Airlines miles
Flight Male’ to Colombo to Doha to Amman Sri Lankan, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian Business $3,800 60,000 American Airlines miles
Flight Amman to Cairo EgyptAir Economy $440 16,000 United Airlines miles
Flight Cairo to Zurich to Washington, D.C. to Chicago Swiss Air, United Economy, Business $7,000 80,000 Citi ThankYou points at 1.25 cents each


Hotels Location Name Cash Cost Points used Comments
Hotel rewards Maldives Waldorf Astoria Maldives $24,000 600,000 Seven nights- fifth night free, free weekend night certificate from Hilton Aspire
Hotel rewards Petra Marriott Petra $350 N/A Annual free night certificate from Marriott Boundless
Hotel Rewards Dead Sea Hilton Dead Sea $250 28,000
Hotel rewards Cairo Marriott Mena House Cairo $553 N/A Used annual statement credit from Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant available on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
Hotel rewards Cairo Conrad Cairo $468 30,000

This is a phenomenal example of the power of points and miles. Great job Tom and thanks for being such a dedicated reader!

Featured photo by Marco Prosch/Getty Images.

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WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, 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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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
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