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

Jan 10, 2020

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

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.

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(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 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn a Travel Together Ticket after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • 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
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. ($95 annual fee, see rates and fees)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card:  Earn 125,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new card to make $5,000 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. Offer ends 5/12/2021. ($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 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months.
  • Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card: Earn up to 100,000 Avios: 50,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, an additional 50,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 on purchases within your first year 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 travel credit cards

Image courtesy of Tom Savage.
(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?

Here are the points they used:

Program Points or miles used Current TPG valuation (cents per point)
Chase Ultimate Rewards 30,000 2
Marriott Bonvoy 4,140,000 0.8
United Airlines 749,000 1.3
Hilton 380,000 0.6
Total points and miles used 5,299,000
Here’s how they used them for flights:
Flights City Name Class of service Cash value Points used Comments
Flights Denver-San Francisco-Singapore-Denpasar-Singapore, Male’-Singapore-San Francisco-Denver United, Singapore Business

$20,000

159,000

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

$1,000

30,000

Chase Sapphire Reserve (flight takes place in between open-jaw ticket above)
Flights Denver-Chicago-Rome United Economy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
Flights Venice-Frankfurt-Denver United Economy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
Flights Denver-Washington D.C.- Geneva-Herklion United Economy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
Flights Mykonos-London-Denver United, Lufthansa Economy

$2,000

60,000

United Airlines miles
Flights Denver-Kahului United Economy

$1,200

45,000

United Airlines miles
Flights Kahului-Denver United Economy/businsss

$3,000

45,000

United Airlines miles
Flights Denver-Tocumen-Lima, Cusco-Lima-Quito-Tocumen-Denver Copa, Avianca Business

$5,000

140,000

United Airlines miles. Used Excursionist perk for free stop in Quito.
Flights Lima-Cusco Avianca Business

$500

N/A Paid cash
Flights Denver-Frankfurt-Santorini, Athens-Venice, Florence-Frankfurt-Denver Lufthansa, United Economy

$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:

Hotels Location Name Cash value Points used Comments
Hotel Nusa Dua St. Regis Bali

$4,500.00

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Singapore JW Marriott Singapore

$600

N/A 3 nights (cash)
Hotel Maldives St. Regis Maldives

$25,000

680,000

10 nights
Hotel Rome St. Regis Rome

$5,000

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Perugia N/A

$400

N/A 2 nights (cash)
Hotel Orvieto N/A

$450

N/A 2 nights (cash)
Hotel Pienza La Bandita Townhouse

$2,000

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Siena Hilton La Bagnaia

$500

N/A 2 nights (used free night certificates from Hilton Surpass)
Hotel Florence St. Regis Florence

$5,000

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Venice Gritti Palace

$7,500

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Crete Domes, Marriott

$2,500

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Santorini Mystique, Luxury Collection

$6,000

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Paros N/A

$600

N/A 2 nights (cash)
Hotel Mykonos Santa Marina Luxury Collection

$5,000

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Wailea, Maui Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria

$9,800

380,000

7 nights (including two free night certificates from Hilton Surpass)
Hotel Wailea, Maui Marriott Resort

$3,500

200,000

5 nights
Hotel Kaanapali Westin Nanea Villas

$1,400

N/A 2 nights (used free night certificates from Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant)
Hotel Maui Courtyard

$900

N/A 2 nights (used free night certificates from Marriott Chase Visa)
Hotel Lima AC Hotel by Marriott Lima Miraflores

$200

N/A 1 night (cash)
Hotel Cusco JW Marriott Cusco

$1,000

N/A 2 nights (used free night certificates from Marriott Chase Visa)
Hotel Urabamba, Peru Tambo Del Inka

$3,000

240,000

6 nights (used free night certificate from American Express Bold)
Hotel Quito, Ecuador Hilton Colon Quito

$170.00

1 night (cash)
Hotel Ecuador Mashpi Lodge

$4,000

N/A 3 nights (cash)
Hotel Quito, Ecuador JW Marriott Hotel Quito

$170

N/A 1 night (cash)
Hotel Santorini Vedema, Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini

$2,500

240,000

5 nights
Hotel Santorini Mystique, Luxury Collection

$6,000

340,000

5 nights
Hotel Naxos N/A

$750

N/A 3 nights (cash)
Hotel Mykonos Santa Marina Luxury Collection

$6,000

280,000

5 nights
Hotel Athens Hilton Athens

$750

N/A 3 nights (cash)
Hotel Venice JW Marriott Venice

$3,600

240,000

6 nights
Hotel Florence St. Regis Florence

$2,500

N/A Comped 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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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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More Things to Know
  • 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®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • 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.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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