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5 Million Frequent Flyer Challenge: Update #2

5 Million Frequent Flyer Challenge: Update #2

bangkok-airport

If you haven’t seen the Frequent Flyer Challenge before, read these posts first:

The Original Post
The First Update

***

Here’s the Second Update

Hi everyone – after traveling through Cambodia and Laos last week (trip report coming on Thursday), I’m transiting back through Bangkok before going on to Bangladesh, the final stop on this trip.

I’m happy to report that I did NOT sleep in the airport last night, and it looks like there are no more airport camping adventures scheduled for the rest of the trip. Minimal airport sleepovers make for a much happier traveling writer.

In this update:

1. Feedback and the Total Mileage So Far
2. AA Visa Link & Hilton HHonors Points
3. Valuation of Miles
4. Thanks to Travel Bloggers

Feedback and the Total Mileage So Far

We are now up to 710,000 new miles that have been earned through the challenge. As I’ll explain below, mileage valuation is completely relative, but even if we take half the valuation that I use for my own miles, that’s $14,200 worth of free flights that have been earned in a couple of weeks. Free travel is good, I say.

Here’s what a few other people have had to say in the mileage submission form:

(I’ve removed last names to preserve the privacy of our co-conspirators)

Micki: I had quit doing this, but was inspired by your post… I didn’t know you could get multiple offers for the same airline. Thanks for sharing – I will earn 95,000 miles with this.

Jon: Thanks Chris! I already had the AA Mastercard for 25,000, but your blog helped me to get the AA Amex and Visa for an additional 45,000 (the VISA for non-business owners only offers 20,000 now). Kenya in July 2009, here I come! I also intend to cross over to Tanzania while I’m there and spend a week hiking Kilimanjaro. Keep being awesome!

Camille: I’m starting with 50,000 miles on U.S. Airways. The plan is to go the Caribbean or Mexico, someplace warm. I’ve told my friends as well!

I could discuss mileage valuation and credit scores all day, but in the end comments like those are probably the best response to anyone who objects to the experiment. I fully intend to keep it up! Remember to submit your mileage if it works for you.

American Airlines Visa Link

At least five people have asked for the AA Visa link that provides a 20k mileage bonus. Yes, there is such a link, and yes, they keep it hidden for some reason. Here it is. Note that the Mastercard offers 5,000 more miles, so if you don’t have a preference, choose that one.

Remember that with AA you can have multiple cards – one Visa or Mastercard, one American Express, and one business card if you qualify. When I got started with the project, I earned 70,000 miles in one day using this method.

Hilton HHonors

The Hilton HHonors link mentioned in the article only provides 10,000 points now. When I applied for the card a while back, there was a 25,000 bonus after $750 was charged to the card for a total of 35,000.

Interestingly, neither the 10k or the 25k posted up in the expected time, so I called both Hilton and AmEx to check on it. I’m not sure what happened, but somehow they ended up posting the points twice for a total of 70,000! I thought they might realize the error and take away the extra bonus, but 45 days later and it’s still there – so I’m calling it good at this point.

By the way, you can transfer Hilton points to AA and a couple of other airlines if you’d prefer, but in my case I think I’ll keep them in the program and use them for hotels.

Valuation of Miles

A couple of people have asked, some nicer than others, how I arrived at my valuation of $12,000 for the 300,000 miles I earned through the experiment. The answer could be long and technical, and therefore more suited to FlyerTalk than this site. I’ll give you the short answer here, and if anyone else has a specific technical question, just check with me directly.

The short answer is the only way to accurately value Frequent Flyer miles is based on the actual flights you will redeem them for. That’s exactly what I do.

For example, I redeemed 30,000 of the miles a few weeks ago (through United) for a Business Class award on Singapore Airlines to Bangladesh. That flight would otherwise cost more than $2,000, so in that case my miles are worth $.066 each – a lot more than the overall valuation I used in the original post.

If I wanted to go full-tilt and focus only on high-value tickets, I could put 150,000 of my AA miles (I currently have 250k just in that one account) towards a First Class award to Japan or Australia, where the ticket price often exceeds $10,000. My travel plans don’t really call for an award like that, but I include the example to show that high valuations are indeed possible. Also, before I applied for the cards, I had active accounts with most of the airlines I received miles for (Continental and Alaska being the only exceptions), so having the miles in multiple accounts is not a problem for me.

The point is that $12,000 for the 300,000 miles is a conservative estimate for my travel needs. I fully expect to receive at least that much value, if not more. To anyone who remains cynical, just keep following the site and you’ll see all the redemptions I use.

Thanks to Travel Bloggers

My thanks to all the travel and personal finance bloggers who have helped publicize the original article, especially Wendy Perrin from Condé Nast Travel. (Fingers crossed that we’ll make the actual magazine.) The site was in MSNBC last week as well, thanks to Chris Elliott, for which I’m also grateful.

About 15 other bloggers have also mentioned the article and provided good feedback, and I appreciate that. If you have your own site and think this might help your readers, it’s not too late – you can link to the original article here:

http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/the-five-million-frequent-flyer-mile-challenge

Lastly, I’ve decided to remove the 30 day limit to the challenge, since it was somewhat arbitrary. We’ll keep it up as long as the information remains relevant, and I’ll provide updates on the total every couple of weeks. Sound good?

See you again tomorrow, where I should be posting live from Bangladesh. I’ve been working on some other fun things while I’ve been traveling, and I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Keep working hard over there!

###

IMPORTANT: If this helps you earn Frequent Flyer Miles, please use this form to let me know.

BKK Airport Image by Nikon Guru

8 Comments

  • Hey Chris, this is an excellent update, I just signed up and my first Capital One No Hassle card, do you have any experience with it for Frequent Flyer issues?

    Also, quick question: what other travel/freelance/lifestyle design blogs do you follow? Which are your favorites?

    Thanks from Argentina!

  • Jen says:

    Hey Chris, I’m guessing this has probably been asked before, but do you know of any similar programmes that work in the UK? I’m struggling to find many but quite keen to participate! jen x

  • Gennaro says:

    The Associated Press (It’s on Yahoo! News Travel) ran a story last week about credit card companies cutting back on airline miles or increasing the number of miles to receive airline tickets. It was called “Credit card rewards programs getting stingier.”

  • Philippe says:

    Very interesting challenge to do but I have a better way for you to travel for nothing: Work for the travel industry. If you are a IT, you can work for a major travel company and while doing IT stuff, you’ll be able to go anywhere in the world for very very cheap.

    Cheers!

  • Micki says:

    Bonus! I got rejected for the Starwood Amex (10000 points) , they said I had reached the limit of Amex cards I could hold. So I also gave up on applying for the Amex Business Gold card (10000). I was going to transfer the Amex points into the Starwood account (1:1) and then transfer the Starwood points to AA or Delta because they give a 5000 pt bonus when you transfer 20000 points to an airline. The next time I logged into my Amex account, the banner at the top said I was pre-approved for a Gold Business card with a 25000 points bonus! So now if I transfer to Starwood I’ll have an extra 30000 points. I’m looking at a total of 140,000 points on two airlines, and I haven’t had to pay a single annual fee. Later this year we should all post where we’re travelling to and meet up to have a drink and laugh about this.

  • Daniel Mick says:

    @Micki

    I was just about to post details on the Starwood Amex myself, especially the 5000 bonus point for transfers. Clever scheme about shuffling points to obtain that. I hadn’t thought of that! Have you checked the fine print on that though…?

  • Coco M Davis says:

    Another idea I had to speed up the spending process on all these cards. Buy a Visa gift card online. You’ll pay a few bucks in shipping but your minimum will be met and you can spend money at leisure on regular stuff. I’m going to give this and the $1 coins a try.

  • Coco M Davis says:

    Can’t resist posting that I’m off on my first of many free flights this month. Destination: Peru! New country and new continent to tick off my list.

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