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 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Additionally, cardmembers can earn 5x Avios on eligible flights within the first year of account opening (thereafter 3x Avios) and 3x Avios on hotels booked directly with the hotel (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 Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. ($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 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • 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

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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