Skip to content

TPG Reader Hall of Fame: $145,000 worth of vacations for 5.3 million points

Jan. 10, 2020
22 min read
TPG Reader Hall of Fame: $145,000 worth of vacations for 5.3 million points
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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

Today's incredible TPG Hall of Fame story comes to you courtesy of Tom, who went all-in on the points and miles game with his wife to earn and redeem an whopping 5.3 million points over the last couple of years.

We mean it when we say these two have got it going on: From bucket-list stays in the Maldives to incredible uses of hotel free-night certificates, Tom and his wife are the ultimate vacation inspirations. Let's check out what they did.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

(Photo courtesy of Tom Savage.)

A self-professed TPG nut, Tom (and his wife) used a mix of credit card welcome bonuses, travel and spending to earn their points. Here are the cards they used:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees)
  • British Airways Visa Signature Card- Earn 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Additionally, cardmembers can earn 5x Avios on eligible flights within the first 18 months of account opening (thereafter 3x Avios) and 3x Avios on hotels booked directly with the hotel within the first 18 months of account opening (thereafter 2x Avios). Of course, cardmembers continue to earn 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. (Card no longer available for new applicants)
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. ($95 annual fee; see rates & fees)
  • 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. ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (they actually used the discontinued Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, but this is the closest comparison)
  • United Explorer Card: Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.
  • Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card: Earn 100,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from 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 travel credit cards

(Photo courtesy of Tom Savage.)

If you're thinking this is an insane amount of points and traveling, you're right. After years of making their way around the world, Tom and his wife have a lot of travel tips and tricks to share:

  • Book as far in advance as possible — 48-50 weeks when possible — as you can usually cancel for free with status — this yields the lowest points/ miles and best availability.
  • Show the utmost respect to everyone who works on planes and hotels from front desk person to GM. Get to know them. It pays off and it’s the right thing to do. If there’s a service issue, handle it professionally and with respect.
  • Get off the beaten path to experience the real country as locals do.
  • Talk to locals but more importantly listen to them.
  • La dolce vita.
  • Take time to do the special things in each place that are a fit for you. In Venice for us, get out on the water into the lagoon; in Maui, in or on the water or into nature; in Greece, out on a catamaran or the seven-mile Santorini hike, etc.

Related: How far in advance can you book a flight?

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Here are the points they used:

ProgramPoints or miles usedCurrent TPG valuation (cents per point)
Chase Ultimate Rewards30,0002
Marriott Bonvoy4,140,0000.8
United Airlines749,0001.3
Hilton380,0000.6
Total points and miles used5,299,000

Here's how they used them for flights:

FlightsCityNameClass of serviceCash valuePoints usedComments
FlightsDenver-San Francisco-Singapore-Denpasar-Singapore, Male’-Singapore-San Francisco-DenverUnited, SingaporeBusiness

$20,000

159,000

United Airlines miles (open-jaw ticket). Used Excursionist perk for free stop in Bali.
FlightsSingapore-Male’SingaporeEconomy

$1,000

30,000

Chase Sapphire Reserve (flight takes place in between open-jaw ticket above)
FlightsDenver-Chicago-RomeUnitedEconomy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
FlightsVenice-Frankfurt-DenverUnitedEconomy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
FlightsDenver-Washington D.C.- Geneva-HerklionUnitedEconomy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
FlightsMykonos-London-DenverUnited, LufthansaEconomy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
FlightsDenver-KahuluiUnitedEconomy

$1,200

45,000

United Airlines miles
FlightsKahului-DenverUnitedEconomy/businsss

$3,000

45,000

United Airlines miles
FlightsDenver-Tocumen-Lima, Cusco-Lima-Quito-Tocumen-DenverCopa, AviancaBusiness

$5,000

140,000

United Airlines miles. Used Excursionist perk for free stop in Quito.
FlightsLima-CuscoAviancaBusiness

$500

N/APaid cash
FlightsDenver-Frankfurt-Santorini, Athens-Venice, Florence-Frankfurt-DenverLufthansa, UnitedEconomy

$5,000

120,000

United Airlines miles. Used Excursionist perk for free stop in Venice/Florence.
Totals

$43,700

779,000

And here's how they used them for hotels:

HotelsLocationNameCash valuePoints usedComments
HotelNusa DuaSt. Regis Bali

$4,500.00

240,000

5 nights
HotelSingaporeJW Marriott Singapore

$600

N/A3 nights (cash)
HotelMaldivesSt. Regis Maldives

$25,000

680,000

10 nights
HotelRomeSt. Regis Rome

$5,000

240,000

5 nights
HotelPerugiaN/A

$400

N/A2 nights (cash)
HotelOrvietoN/A

$450

N/A2 nights (cash)
HotelPienzaLa Bandita Townhouse

$2,000

240,000

5 nights
HotelSienaHilton La Bagnaia

$500

N/A2 nights (used free night certificates from Hilton Surpass)
HotelFlorenceSt. Regis Florence

$5,000

240,000

5 nights
HotelVeniceGritti Palace

$7,500

240,000

5 nights
HotelCreteDomes, Marriott

$2,500

240,000

5 nights
HotelSantorini Mystique, Luxury Collection

$6,000

240,000

5 nights
HotelParosN/A

$600

N/A2 nights (cash)
HotelMykonosSanta Marina Luxury Collection

$5,000

240,000

5 nights
HotelWailea, MauiGrand Wailea Waldorf Astoria

$9,800

380,000

7 nights (including two free night certificates from Hilton Surpass)
HotelWailea, MauiMarriott Resort

$3,500

200,000

5 nights
HotelKaanapaliWestin Nanea Villas

$1,400

N/A2 nights (used free night certificates from Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant)
HotelMauiCourtyard

$900

N/A2 nights (used free night certificates from Marriott Chase Visa)
HotelLimaAC Hotel by Marriott Lima Miraflores

$200

N/A1 night (cash)
HotelCuscoJW Marriott Cusco

$1,000

N/A2 nights (used free night certificates from Marriott Chase Visa)
HotelUrabamba, PeruTambo Del Inka

$3,000

240,000

6 nights (used free night certificate from American Express Bold)
HotelQuito, EcuadorHilton Colon Quito

$170.00

1 night (cash)
HotelEcuadorMashpi Lodge

$4,000

N/A3 nights (cash)
HotelQuito, EcuadorJW Marriott Hotel Quito

$170

N/A1 night (cash)
HotelSantorini Vedema, Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini

$2,500

240,000

5 nights
HotelSantorini Mystique, Luxury Collection

$6,000

340,000

5 nights
HotelNaxosN/A

$750

N/A3 nights (cash)
HotelMykonosSanta Marina Luxury Collection

$6,000

280,000

5 nights
HotelAthensHilton Athens

$750

N/A3 nights (cash)
HotelVeniceJW Marriott Venice

$3,600

240,000

6 nights
HotelFlorenceSt. Regis Florence

$2,500

N/AComped stay due to services issues May 2019
Totals

$111,290

4,520,000

We have no words. Amazing job, Tom!

Feature photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/ The Points Guy.

For the rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Aspire, please click here.
For the rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Surpass, please click here.
For the rates and fees of the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.

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.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers