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

Dec. 06, 2019
8 min read
TPG Reader Hall of Fame: A week at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives and the Middle East in style
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Editor's Note

</strong>This post has been updated with additional information from the reader. It was originally published on Dec. 6, 2019.

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

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.

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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.)

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.)

Here are the points they spent:

ProgramPoints usedCurrent TPG valuation (cents per point)
United MileagePlus16,0001.3
Citi ThankYou Rewards80,0001.7
Hilton Honors658,0000.6
American Airlines AAdvantage200,0001.4

Here's how they used them:

FlightsCityNameClass of serviceCash CostPoints usedComments
FlightChicago to Male'EtihadBusiness$16,000140,000American Airlines miles
FlightMale' to Colombo to Doha to AmmanSri Lankan, Qatar Airways, Royal JordanianBusiness$3,80060,000American Airlines miles
FlightAmman to CairoEgyptAirEconomy$44016,000United Airlines miles
FlightCairo to Zurich to Washington, D.C. to ChicagoSwiss Air, UnitedEconomy, Business$7,00080,000Citi ThankYou points at 1.25 cents each
HotelsLocationNameCash CostPoints usedComments
Hotel rewardsMaldivesWaldorf Astoria Maldives$24,000600,000Seven nights- fifth night free, free weekend night certificate from Hilton Aspire
Hotel rewardsPetraMarriott Petra$350N/AAnnual free night certificate from Marriott Boundless
Hotel RewardsDead SeaHilton Dead Sea$25028,000
Hotel rewardsCairoMarriott Mena House Cairo$553N/AUsed annual statement credit from Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant available on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
Hotel rewardsCairoConrad Cairo$46830,000

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

Featured image by Getty Images
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.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Rewards

2 - 6X points
6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
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  • Terms apply.
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Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees