At the beginning of the year, I had a little over 500,000 miles. But it was through a couple years of my company’s business expenses (amounting to over half a million dollars) that got us to that amount. We primarily used just two cards – the Chase Business Preferred Visa and the AMEX Business Gold. Those miles had a cash valuation of over $7,000 but I chose to use it a lot more effectively through travel and airline redemption. The two biggest redemption purchases I used it for was a trip around the world (all on business class flights) that would’ve cost about $16,000 and three round trip international tickets for my family that would have cost about $4,000. Those two purchases amounted to about 350,000 miles.
Half way through the year, I’m close to having around 400,000 miles again. Here is how I got half a million miles a lot quicker and for a lot cheaper…
I will preface this with saying you need pretty good credit in order to get a lot of miles. If not, you may still be able to get a significant amount of miles but it may not amount to the same amount someone with excellent credit can get.
I will also preface this with a caution to make sure you’re always able to pay back debt – especially if it’s on credit. You don’t want to be stuck paying high APR’s nor risk ruining your credit score. If paying off credit cards is difficult, I would suggest you not read on and instead use all cash to avoid some of the pitfalls of credit cards.
Lastly, there are limits to how many credit cards you can open – how credit card companies determine your eligibility is a complex factoring of your total available credit vs used credit and credit history. In a nutshell, they want to know what’s the risk of you paying off your debt. In general, don’t open too many cards all together; I’ve opened one every 3 months healthily.
That being said, here is how to get a lot of miles for cheap and relatively quickly.
#1 Plan Your Spending
The key to getting miles is not just accumulating through regular spending but rather through bonuses.
Credit cards constantly offer high bonuses up to 70,000 to even 100,000 points with a minimum spending requirement usually within 3 months.
The requirement is not unreasonable though. For example, the most common minimum is $3000 in 3 months which is only about $1000 per month. If you just pay regular bills like electricity, internet, phone, insurance, and food you’ll probably easily go over that amount each month.
Obviously, this requires opening several credit cards throughout the year. But contrary to some myths, opening multiple credit cards really have very little effect on your credit score. Having had several credit cards, my credit is still excellent.
Once you have a pretty good understanding of the available cards out there, you want to plan which bonuses to get and make sure you get that bonus. 2-3 weeks before you anticipate reaching the $3,000 mark, go ahead and apply for another card with a similar bonus. As soon as you get the bonus, stop using the card and start using your new card.
Now you’re probably asking about the annual credit card fees. A lot of cards waive the first year’s annual fee so you won’t get dinged if you cancel it before the year ends! But even if the card does have a fee, the bonus is normally significantly more valuable than the annual fee. For example, a 50,000 chase points bonus is equivalent has a valuation of $625 but if you transfer it and use it strategically you can stretch those points even more! That’s way more than a typical $95 annual fee.
At the end of the year, it’s also important to evaluate which cards you want to keep.
So where do you start?
Here is one way I would approach it:
In general, Chase miles and AMEX miles have the most flexibility in terms of what you can spend the miles on. You can transfer to airlines if you want to save on flights. You can transfer to hotels if you want to use the miles to book hotel nights. You can also use miles for car rentals.
Generally, product or gift items have the worst transfer value so you want to avoid using miles to pay for product. But if you needed the cash, of course you can also use those miles to get cash back.
That being said, I would start with the Chase Card. The Chase Sapphire and Reserve card will get you over 100,000 points alone. These points can be transferred to several airline partners including Southwest, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, United, and more. It would be pretty easy to get the bonuses if you plan your spending in 6 months or less.
If you have a business, you can also qualify for the Chase Business Preferred Card which will get you 80,000 points alone.
Once I’ve exhausted those three Chase Cards, I would move onto AMEX Gold or Platinum Cards that are easily over 100,000 points as well.
AMEX points are also very valuable and can be transferred to a number of airline partners.
If you were to get all three Chase Cards (Sapphire, Reserve, & Business Preferred) and both AMEX Cards (Gold & Platinum), the bonus points alone would be over 300,000 (and that’s not counting the points you get from spending and the bonus point categories you get with each card).
After the Chase & AMEX cards, there are literally dozens of other Cards you can get with awesome bonus mileage (e.g. Chase United Explorer, AMEX Starwood, AAdvantage Mastercard, Hilton Honors, etc.).
Some cards are more limited in what the bonus miles can be used for. But you’ll begin to learn what perks you get with each bonus and how to maximize the value you get from it.
I don’t consider myself a high spender (I average less than $2,000 a month) but in less than a year, I’ve obtained the following bonuses:
Chase Ink Business Preferred – 80,000
Chase Reserve – 100,000
Chase United Explorer – 70,000
AMEX Starwood – 40,000
AAdvantage Mastercard – 60,000
With the miles I get from spending and bonus categories, I’ll easily hit 250,000 miles this year. If you want to know what you can do with 250,000 miles, you can visit the article I wrote on 5 awesome ways to use 250,000 miles here.
For a list of Credit Cards and its bonus offerings, you can visit – http://milecards.com/1031/top-bonus-mile-offers-with-credit-cards/
(Note* a lot of these websites do get commission for sign-ups through their links. That said, although it’s a good resource, I would still do due diligence to search around for the best bonus offering).
What are some ways you have racked up a lot of miles? Share with us below!