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The Frequent Flyer Challenge Returns!

The Frequent Flyer Challenge Returns!

In the early days of this blog, I conducted a public experiment.

Over the course of 45 days, I applied for every credit card I could find that offered a sign-up incentive of Frequent Flyer Miles or hotel points.

I had been applying for cards for years with success, earning 200,000+ miles every year with little effort and no adverse effect on my credit score, which remained in the 90th percentile or higher.

However, I had never applied for so many cards all at once. Would it work? Would my accounts be shut down?

Some people predicted that my credit score would take a real beating, either by applying for so many cards or by canceling them at the end of the year, before the annual fee came due.

And… it was a huge success.

I was approved for every single application, I received more than 300,000 points and miles that I used to travel the world for the next six months, and a year later when most of the cards were cancelled, my credit score was higher than before I attempted the challenge.

Many AONC readers used the original post and a free spreadsheet I created to pursue their own Frequent Flyer Challenge, racking up millions of miles and supporting countless worldwide adventures.

Since then, some of the card opportunities highlighted in the original post are no longer available—but others have sprung up.

Well, I’m bringing back the Frequent Flyer Challenge–and just like last time, some of you can join in the fun.

1. How It Works

Banks, other card issuers, and travel companies partner up in a search for new customers. Over the past few years, it’s become an arms race, with each company trying to attract more customers. A good sign-up bonus used to be 25,000 points or miles. Now, there are numerous cards that offer 40,000, 50,000, and sometimes even more miles for a single signup.

As I’ve done for more than five years, you can apply for multiple cards and earn multiple bonuses. Card companies are happy for you to do this, and they are well aware that many people get their products simply for the bonuses. (Essentially, they are betting that enough people will stick around that it will be worth it for them, and they often bet correctly. There are several cards that I initially received only for the bonus, but decided that I liked them enough to pay the annual fee when it came due.)

Of course, having a lot of miles at hand is only good if you’re going to use them—and you’ll want to make sure to use them well. The basic rule is to use the miles for flights that would otherwise be expensive and for trips that would otherwise be once-in-a-lifetime.

In short, if you’re eligible and can manage the process well, applying for card bonuses is the easiest way to rack up a lot of miles—and then head out to see the world.

2. My Goal

My current goal is to earn 250,000 new miles in the next 30 days. This should cost less than $300 in annual fees and about two hours of my time. (It’s worth the time and expense: I’ll use 250,000 miles for international plane tickets worth at least $15,000.)

Important: If you haven’t done this before, you can likely exceed this figure by quite a bit. I’ve already had some of the best cards on the market, which typically (but not always) only allow one lifetime bonus.

3. The Cards: My Recommendations

The list below is a current run-down on the best credit card bonuses that I’m aware of. Things change quickly in the world of travel hacking, but lately we’ve been experiencing a good run of strong offers.

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest. An all around great American Express and longstanding favorite currently offering a 25,000 point reward after completing a $5,000 minimum spend. Get 5,000 bonus Starpoints after you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program with more than 30 airlines. The annual fee is waived for the first year, and after the year is up you may choose to keep it around. (Read more)

American Express Starwood Business. Double your Starwood AmEx sign up bonus and get another 25,000 points by also applying for the business version of the card and completing a $5,000 minimum spend. No tax ID number? Use your name and your social security number instead. The $65 annual fee is waived for the first year. (Read more)

Chase Sapphire. The go-to card at the moment, especially for travelers. Get 40,000 Ultimate Reward points after a minimum spend and keep the rewards balance growing with 2 bonus points per dollar spent on any travel or dining transactions. Points are transferrable 1:1 to United, Hyatt and many other hotel and airline partners. No annual fee for the first year and no foreign transaction fees. (Read more)

Chase Ink Bold & Chase Ink Plus. The two business versions of the Chase Sapphire each offer a reward up to 50,000 points (25,000 with first purchase and additional 25,000 points with a minimum spend) and no foreign transaction fees. The primary difference between the two Ink business cards is that Ink Plus allows you to carry over a balance while the Bold card does not. Chase will allow you to carry both of these cards together to give you a combined bonus of up to 100,000 Ultimate Reward points that transfer 1:1 to United, Hyatt and other partners. (Bold: Read more. Ink Plus: Read more)

American Express Platinum. This pricey card is the active travelers best friend. Though it comes with a steep annual fee of $450, it is worth it if you take advantage of the annual $200 airline credit and flash it for access to hundreds of airline lounges, which would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars a year for a single membership. (Read more)

Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®. Citi frequently offers several American Airlines cards that let you rack up AAdvantage miles. For a limited time, Earn 40,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of cardmembership. AAdvantage miles are best redeemed on longhaul and premium awards with One World partner airlines including Cathay Pacific. (Read more)

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card. This Visa earns you two weekend nights at any Hilton property and automatic Hilton Gold status. The annual fee of $95 is not waived the first year, but easily pays for itself if you cash in your free nights at pricy properties like the Conrad or Waldorf Astoria. (Read more)

Chase Hyatt Visa. Get two free nights at any Hyatt property with first purchase and automatic Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status. Existing Platinum and Diamond members applying for new card membership receive bonus benefits including suite upgrades. The $75 annual fee is not waived for the initial year, but a certificate for an additional free night on your membership anniversary makes up for it. (Read more)

Marriott Rewards Premier. Get a free night stay certificate with account approval and an additional 50,000 Marriott bonus points after your first purchase. Card members receive automatic Silver Elite status and the annual fee is waived the first year. (Read more)

Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express. A low minimum spend of $500 will get you 30,000 SkyMiles you can use for any Sky Team redemption. Additional bonuses include free checked bags, priority boarding and in-flight discounts when you fly Delta. Annual fee is waived the first year. (Read more)

Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature Card. Get an easy 35,000 miles with a low minimum spend. Redeem for a trip to the islands or with partners including Delta, Jet Blue, Virgin Atlantic and others. This Bank of America Visa has a $79 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year, but in return offers a bonus 2,000 miles every year on your card member anniversary and a one time 25% travel discount for two between North America and Hawaii. (Read more)

***

For me, I’ll be starting with the Chase Ink Plus (I already have the Sapphire and Ink Bold), the Chase Hyatt, the Citi Hilton, and the Hawaiian card from Bank of America.

I may then try to get another AAadvantage card from Citi. I’ve had at least a dozen of them in the past few years for more than 500,000 total miles, but they don’t seem to mind as long as the applications are reasonably spaced out.

4. Don’t Live in the U.S.? You *May* Have Options

The cards listed above all require U.S. residency or citizenship (basically, you need a social security number to successfully apply). If you live elsewhere, as much of our readership does, your options are fewer.

Canadians, there are an increasing number of cards that are available to you. We recommend the AmEx Gold Card and the Canadian version of Starwood Preferred Guest. Both cards are available in personal and business versions, and you can apply for both simultaneously.

Australians, there are a few options for you guys too. Visit the Australia page on CardsforTravel.com for more details.

Elsewhere, there is still a lot of travel hacking you can take part in, but you’re not eligible for most of these bonuses. (Sorry!) You’re still eligible for Round-the-World tickets, regular purchases of discounted miles from U.S. Airways and other airlines, and all the regular Deal Alerts we publish to subscribers of the Travel Hacking Cartel.

5. Disclaimers

It’s very important to maintain good credit. Bad credit doesn’t come from getting credit cards, it comes from not paying them. For those who have credit issues or think credit cards are evil, well, this plan isn’t for you.

If applying for multiple cards, it’s best to do so on a single day, every 3-6 months. This will ensure that all credit inquiries are posted at roughly the same time. In the long-term your credit score will increase (not decline) through the careful use of new cards, but you may see a slight drop when applying for a new group of cards.

The most important thing is to be responsible and pay your balance every month. If you do it right, you’ll be eligible for another big influx of miles a few months later.

Lastly, if you sign up for some of these cards through one of these links, I’ll receive a referral bonus. Though I appreciate you doing so, you certainly don’t have to. Generic links can be found on the card issuers pages (Citibank, Chase, AmEx, etc.).

***

I’ve used Frequent Flyer miles to go all over the world, often at great savings. If you’re eligible, this is a great way for you to do the same thing.

Oh, and if you complete your own Frequent Flyer Challenge, let us know how many miles you expect to earn. All info will be reported anonymously—it’s just fun to see what happens.

Have you traveled with Frequent Flyer Miles? Where did you go?

Tell us here.

###

Image: KnowsPhotos

85 Comments

  • Eric says:

    My wife and I want to take our 4 kids (none under the age of 2, rats!) from the US to England to visit my aging father. Will going through this process of applying for card and getting the miles enable me to purchase multiple tickets to get the whole family over there for cheap? Thanks.

  • I’m somewhat credit averse and fine print averse, as well. Are you cancelling most of the cards after you use the bonus or are you keeping most of them open and using them? I have good credit and only use my debit card (one credit card from Best Buy for the 0% interest!), but, I would love to take advantage of something like this.

  • Sachit Gupta says:

    Love it! I’ve applied for a few of these, for at least 100,000+ miles this year, already. So for any doubters, it definitely works!

    My question, do you have any hacks for meeting the minimum spending requirements, if you apply for multiple cards at once? For example, lets say someone’s burn is around $1500-$2000 / month, are there other ways (like ordering coins from the US Mint – seems like they’re not doing it anymore) to meet the minimum requirements? Thanks!

  • Kerri says:

    I love how you never fail to think about Canadians!

    Thanks Chris :-)

  • Gail Mooney says:

    I used Frequent Flyer miles for a two round the world tickets for my daughter and myself. We were making a film about people on six continents who were making a positive difference in the world – one person at a time.

    You can see the trailer here – all possible because of FF points.

  • Scott says:

    I did this from Janurary to June of this year and earned 250,000 miles. Thanks for the info Chris.

  • Benny says:

    @Sachit One way I’ve read a lot about is to buy a Vanilla Prepaid Visa with the card. Also if you have the Ink Bold you would get 5x the points at office supply stores. And guess where they sell the prepaid card? At office supply stores.

    Then just use those prepaid cards later.

    There are extensive posts covering it but I didn’t want to drop a link here in case it wasn’t cool with Chris. But contact me if you want and I can point you to those posts.

    You can guy gift cards if for a store if you know you’ll have a big spend in the future. Some people pay their rent or mortgage with credit cards but there is a fee. But to them it’s worth the small fee to get those points.

  • Nathan Barry says:

    I just got the Chase Ink Bold and Chase Saphire cards for 90,000 points. Unfortunately I now have $13,000 to spend in 3 months. Luckily I have some business expenses that will cover half of that, but otherwise reaching the minimum spends has been a challenge.

    Any tips?

  • Benny says:

    I used 260,000 points and $362 to book a trip to Sydney and Bali next Feb! Flying Singapore airlines. A mix of biz and first but all the longest legs are on first including once in the suites on the A380!! So excited. May not want to leave the plane. :)

  • Thanks so much for the guide! I’ve often wondered where to start with the credit cards, and it’s great to have suggestions. I appreciate the footwork!

  • I’ve been hesitant to try this before because of my credit score, but I think I’m going to give it a go now since other people (especially you, Chris!) have had such success.

    Chris, do you have difficulty combining miles/points from multiple cards to purchase one ticket?

  • Chris says:

    @Elizabeth,

    You can’t usually combine miles from different accounts. You can, however, use miles from any account to book travel for anyone you’d like.

  • Justin says:

    Big fan of this! Been saving miles for years to help take my family around the world. Looking to attack the business card this time.

  • Kurt Swann says:

    Have made several trips using miles, including a roundtrip from San Diego to Rome for 40,000 miles on United. But my best credit card/mileage story is from a Capital One card, which I learned about because of your recommendation. Capital One offered to match miles from other airline credit card programs. Because of some sign-up bonuses I had on Citi/AA, I received 110,000 points on a new Capital One card. That translated into $1,100 to spend on airfares, rental cars, and hotels with only a $59 annual fee (waived for first year.) Thanks for all the helpful info!

  • Chris says:

    Thanks, all — and greetings from PDX airport. Next stop SFO for a conference with Evernote tomorrow.

    Re: minimum spend (Sachit, Nathan, etc.), yes, there are often some creative ways to manage that. I’ll do a follow-up post with more info on that and any other questions in a week or so.

  • Stacy says:

    I just recently signed up for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and recieved 50,000 miles (so long as the acct remains active 6 months) 5,000 miles for getting an additional card for a family member (my husband). They waived the annual fee for the first year. There was an additional bonus of miles if you spent x amount in a year but I cant remember what it was because I knew I couldn’t meet that.

  • Derek Hippler says:

    I’m really interested to see what you do this time around, especially since these card bonuses come in waves. For instance, a few months ago all the bonuses were really miles heavy, and now the bonuses seem to be in hotel rewards.

    I’m glad you haven’t forgotten how to be a Travel Ninja!

  • Salvatore says:

    I was inspired by the original post and over the past year have earned a little less than 200,000 miles & points and I’m working on another 60,000 right now.

    I’m very excited to use these miles/points, but my question is what do you recommend as a planning technique to determine which cards to apply for? In the past I’ve been collecting miles for the sake of collecting them, now I’d like to target my earning based on a specific travel goal. I’d appreciate any advice. Thanks!

  • Tom says:

    Thanks for this – love the concept. For UK readers feeling left out, MoneySavingExpert.com has a big page on airline credit cards and their bonuses.

  • Wow! Thanks for the great tips and resources. My wife would love to visit Italy and I think this could make it happen.

  • Meredydd says:

    Slight tangent: how are you checking your credit score? I’m loathe to pay Fair Issacs $20/pop to check on the FICO score.

    (Years ago Washington Mutual provided unlimited free credit score reports for their MasterCard holders, but sadly that’s gone.)

  • Jeremy says:

    Thanks for this amazing post and looking forward to the follow up on min spending. I have some business expenses coming up so a few thousand shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Allison says:

    My husband and I are flying from Colombia to Peru to Easter Island to Tahiti on LAN using our rewards from the old 100k bonus on British Airways. We booked before the switch to Avios. We used 75k total miles for the two of us for all segments. Booking those flights fueled my love for travel hacking!

  • Leslie says:

    This may sound like a silly question–I recently signed up for a few cards with the annual fee waived the first year. These are my first “annual fee” cards. You say you cancel cards before the year is up to avoid the annual fee…but after 12 months (even 11 months) I may forget to cancel or downgrade the card. Do you set a reminder to yourself on day 364 to call the credit card company to cancel the card? Or does the credit card company send a reminder stating that you’ll be charged the annual fee? Thanks.

  • Chris says:

    @Leslie,

    I usually just wait for the bill and then cancel. When doing so, they credit the fee. Also, on some occasions they’ll let you keep the card another year without paying the fee.

    As mentioned, there are also some cards I am happy to keep (and pay the fee). The SPG and Chase Sapphire cards, for example, are in my wallet for the long-term.

  • Thanks so much for responding, Chris!

  • Maria says:

    I’ve never figured out how to do the whole frequent flyer thing. But once I get my bills paid off I’m gonna sign up for your program and start getting around! Thanks for this.

  • Jim B says:

    Have been amassing miles for a number of years. Put a most of my small business on mileage based credit card for about four years. That usually averages about 375,000 miles a year. Most of it with my Seattle-based Alaska Air but they let me trade with anyone. I did follow a note Chris put out about a BA card but BA’s Avios are worthless compared to what I can get from my Alaska card. Here’s what I mean. Cost me 350K Avios to fly FC SEA to HRW plus $2K. Yikes. Last year went RT SEA to SYD in FC on CX. AMAZING. Cost me 160K miles per person and $52. That’s it! Cost of that flight was $20K if I had paid for it. Have had Hilton cards before and don’t see the value. Takes almost 160K to get 4-5 nights at some properties. Compare that to a $20K FC flight. I’ll stick with miles. I may go and get some of the ones Chris listed today. Have applied for a bunch in the past to get the bonuses and it has never effected my top 90% credit score either. Just pay them off every month (never paid a cent of interest in the last 10 years).

  • Thanks for the frequent flyer challenge. You’re right Chris, it is limited for Canadians at this point in time.

    I have been able to fly to Germany, and lots of U.S. locations, including Portland for WDS and many times to Phoenix and L.A. Most of my points come not from sign-up bonuses, but from consistently using a card that has unrestricted flight booking privileges.

    Happy travels and appreciate how you share your experiences for all of our benefits.

  • Brandon says:

    Great info Chris! I think you’ve finally motivated me to join the Travel Hacking Cartel :)

    Also, as you pointed out in your previous post, MileageManager.com and AwardWallet.com are excellent resources for keeping track of mileage. Thanks!

  • Ryan Victoria says:

    Too bad this is not available here in the Philippines. I guess I’ll have to settle for budget airlines for the moment ;-)

  • Mike R. says:

    Since you’re planning to address some questions, Chris, maybe you could include this one:
    With the Chase Sapphire Preferred and its Ultimate Rewards program, you can purchase points ($25 per 1,000 points with a limit of 5,000 points per month). Does it make sense to purchase them in this case or not?

  • Itai says:

    What happens if you already have all the cards? You seem to mention you can get the same one again? Is that possible? Do you cancel and then re-apply? I already have the 3 ones which are available to Canadians but I sure would like the bonus again :)

  • Sarah Ray says:

    My business partner and I followed your advice and signed up for a few different frequent flyer cards in the past year. 16 months later from the date of our first card, we have both been awarded our mileage bonuses.

    My husband and I are headed to Ireland for 2 weeks and have so far spent $110 total on airfare, rental car, and 11 nights of hotel stays for both of us!

    My business partner heads off on a similar trip paid for with his miles and we still have a companion voucher left to use at the end of the day. LOVE IT!

  • Noch Noch says:

    If your readers live in Asia, there are actually lots of other options too – HSBC, Standard Chartered, Bank of East Asia, Bank of China, ICBC, Citibank, DBS, Hang Seng Bank, American Express HK all do similar partnership cards with airlines and hotels. Most of them will get free upgrades at hotels, airport transfers, complimentary breakfast etc if you book with their partner hotel. I have all of these cards and lots of mileage waiting to be used :)

  • I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and I love it because it has no foreign transaction fees. I live in Japan, so that was really useful to get points and buy plane tickets to travel home. I had the card sent to my parent’s house and timed it to pick up on my annual visit. Then I just contacted customer service and changed my permanent address. It’s been working well so far.

  • Marv and Jo says:

    Chris, our life was changed because of your book and your willingness to share the knowledge you gained through your own journey into travelhacking while pursuing your big dream of seeing every country in the world.

    We saw 12 countries last year in Southeast Asia and flew transatlantic and transpacific in business class thanks to your tips. We’re back at ‘home’ in the SF Bay Area, and would love to meet up if you’re planning to hang out beyond your conference!

    We tend to time our card blitzes when we’re back in the U.S., and this year We started right before #WDS2012, applied for:

    Chase Sapphire 50K Chase Ink Bold 50K Chase Ink Plus 50K Delta Gold Biz 20K Citi Amex 50K
    Citi Mastercard 50K USAir Mastercard 40K

  • Tom says:

    Nice timing Chris. We’ve had the Chase Sapphire for a while. I applied for the UA Mileage Plus Explorer and got that bonus as well. Then we transferred our Chase UR points out to top off our UA accounts and redeemed for Royal Silk class on TG BKK-MEL :) Just downgraded our HHonors Surpass card to the HHonors fee-free variety (rather than cancelling to maintain our credit line) after amassing ~ 500k HHonors points.

    Switching back over to the SPG AMEX to build up the Starpoints balance again, although the online application couldn’t be approved immediately and the fine print says if you’re approved after Sept. 4th, you will *not* receive the bonus points (I’m assuming they mean the extra 5k over and above the usual 25k bonus). I like that I can transfer SPG Starpoints->AS miles with the 25% extra redemption, our primary loyalty program now out of PDX.

    @Benny, I’m jealous! I expect to see photos and a trip report :)

  • Luc says:

    I don’t see how you can “earn 250,000 new miles in the next 30 days” with 5 cards you said you are applying for, and two of the cards are giving you free hotel nights, not even points.

  • Chris says:

    @Luc,

    I’m counting both points and miles, since Hilton and Hyatt free nights are worth a certain amount of points. So far I’m at 140,000 on this round — I’ll post a detailed follow-up soon.

  • et says:

    Which of these work in Canada?

  • Tom says:

    Chris,

    Thanks so much this is awesome info!

  • Christina says:

    After reading this email, I applied for (and received last night) the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I have normally shunned credit cards, though I had a measly student credit card from a few years back that gave me no benefits whatsoever and a high interest rate. I decided it was time to start working the system and earning free plane tickets! Thanks for the guidance, yet again!

  • Josue says:

    Hey Chris, My wife and I love Southwest and use them for 99% of our domestic travel (about once a year). I’d love to start traveling more, so we’ve recently opened a Southwest Visa Sig card, and are building up points there. I was reading through the Sapphire card details, and I’m excited because I can transfer 1:1 to the Southwest rewards program. Any other cards that you know that allow that? I’m trying to take a more targeted hacking approach to my mile-collecting efforts.

  • JC says:

    Big Question – do the points expire, or are they deleted when you cancel a card? Has anyone lost points by canceling a card or have you had to spend to keep the points current?

  • Chris says:

    @JC,

    Points/miles and card accounts are separate. Once they are deposited in your account, you won’t lose them by canceling the card. Most points and miles accounts require some type of activity every 18-24 months. As long as there is some kind of activity, they will continue to be active.

  • Danni says:

    G’day Chis. This is great but I don’t see it working for pensioners in Australia. People on pensions or unemployment benefits find it very difficult to get credit cards. If it’s okay with you I might investigate what is possible here in Australia and put it on my blog. Unless you already have some ideas about how it works here. By the way I love your book ‘The $100 Startup’. Cheers.

  • Chris says:

    @Danni,

    We have a link to Australian cards on the CFT site. It’s true that the offers are more limited there than in the U.S. or Canada, though.

  • Ryan says:

    Chris,

    So one you have received your cards, how long do you need to keep them & do you cancel them after a set time frame? Also, do they just sit in a safe or do you shred them?

    Thanks

  • Chris says:

    @Ryan,

    It depends on the card, but most of them I keep for a year. They sit on my desk. :)

  • Adam says:

    For people that are really interested in earn free miles, I’d suggest checking out some of the big travel blogs that are dedicated to this kind of information. FF University is a good one if you are brand new to this and want to learn.

  • Murtuza says:

    @Chris,

    Can you provide more details on churning AA personal Card? I only have AA MC which I am holding for ~14 months now. I would like to know if I will get bonus for applying on AA Visa/AMEX now? Could not find definite info on flyertalk :(

  • Chris says:

    @Murtuza,

    Definitive info re: AA card churning is hard to find these days, since people are having different experiences. However, if you haven’t had the Visa or AmEx before, your odds of success for more signup bonuses are good.

  • Anita Horton says:

    Hi, Chris! Thank you for being so generous with your information. Over a year ago I applied for, and received both a British Airlines Visa and SPG American Express, based on your suggestion. They both had awesome bonuses and I’ve continued to use those cards. In a previous post you responded to a comment about minimum spends with this statement, “Re: minimum spend, yes, there are often some creative ways to manage that. I’ll do a follow-up post with more info on that and any other questions in a week or so.” Did you ever write about this? Did I miss it?

  • Chris says:

    @Anita,

    Glad to know the info has served you well! As for minimum spend, yep, see this new post.

  • Nill says:

    Ha! This is actually pretty awesome (just read the update too) definirely never something I have thought of!

    I wonder if something similar would work here in the UK?!

  • Maggie says:

    I live in South Florida so AA is our “hub” airline. I have used miles to go everywhere from Oregon to UK and saved thousands of dollars.

    The *best* use of my miles was to upgrade us to First Class when we went on our honeymoon – the hubs was very impressed.

    Great article!

  • Janelle says:

    My last round of FF miles came in handy when I almost got stuck in Portland, OR two weeks ago while flying standby. Instead of sitting in the airport for two days, I flew first class and made it home in time for an important meeting. Looking forward to stocking up on more miles this round. Thanks, Chris!

  • Tove Skarstedt says:

    I’ve gone to Nairobi, Johannesburg and Hong Kong on free miles. Also have booked a trip with free miles to Tokyo this coming New Year. We’ve travelled a lot these past years and have lots of bonus points to claim. :)

  • Janelle says:

    Chris, I just wanted to pop in to say thanks for having the Chase reconsideration line on cardsfortravel.com. I got a decline letter from Chase saying that I had a delinquent bank account with them–I don’t–which prompted me to call in. Turns out this has happened to several people. I was able to speak with a representative and get approved over the phone. Finding the number on your site made life easier.

    I just wanted to post this info for anyone else who runs into this issue. The number is 888-245-0625.

  • Kate says:

    Chris, longtime reader, first time posting here. I just finished applying for the seven of these, high hopes for approvals on all and lots of fun using the rewards. I’ve never done something like this before, mostly out of that old fear of having “too many credit cards.” From everything I have read recently, including your posts, it’s an irrational fear, but I will be interested to see how it affects my credit, spending, etc. this year. Thanks so much for posting this! It’s great information and something I’ll enjoy experimenting with in the future.

  • Heidi says:

    It looks like the Starwood AMEX cards give you 10K upon first purchase and then 15k after a minimum spend of 5K in 6 mos. according to the info I just received with the card. Is this how it works? I did apply before the 9/4 deadline.

  • DrKoob says:

    I would love to get some of these great AMEX deals but I can’t. My business (just me) spends more than $30K a month for which I get VISA miles on Alaska and 2x miles on a VISA from Capitol One but out of 20 vendors we buy from, only 1 (Staples) will accept AMEX. Small business hates it because of its high charges.

  • Chris says:

    @DrKoob,

    Tell those small businesses that AmEx cardholders spend more than Visa cardholders on average. This fact more than compensates for interest charges, which aren’t actually that much higher.

  • Chris, You are the man. Found you via Marie Forleo’s RHH B-School…but this may have been what I was really looking for…(or let’s just say both!)

    2 Questions for ya (or whomever):
    Can you make a big purchase on a CC, then return it for a refund + still get points?

    and…
    Can a big purchase (with points rewards) include a cash advance?
    Was thinking, hey, I should just get a cash advance and then get a cashier’s check and pay my RENT that way, since my rent is usually my biggest expense in a given month.

    Planning my first trip to Australia and France in 2013.

  • Chris says:

    @Caroline,

    Thanks – glad to have you around.

    Neither of these strategies will work well. Cash advances incur substantial interest fees, and points usually post a few weeks after purchase – so if you get a credit, you won’t get the miles.

  • vivek says:

    please advise how residents of INDIA can earn miles ?

  • Alec Barron says:

    This is awesome advice, Chris. I applied for just 4 credit cards and will get 110,000 miles from it. (55,000 on UA, 55,000 on AA)

    My only regret is not being more aggressive! I’ll wait 3 months and then go for a bigger round of miles.

  • K. Robinson says:

    Very informative post. I have been overwhelmed with how and where to begin and this made it easier! Thanks a lot!

  • hayli says:

    I am a college student that pays about 3000 a semester in cash for tuition, but its only about 500 a month. I obviously don’t travel ever really, because i’m stuck paying for school. How could I do this without A) not reaching the minimum, and B ) not going into debt…credit cards scare me a bit.

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  • I just returned from a 15 month round-the-world trip where I cashed in only 220,000 American miles for a 16-leg business class ticket through a One World reward. I then used about another 80,000 of United miles and 30k British Airways miles for most of the other legs. Now seeking ways to quickly replenish my miles and go around again! Thanks for this…a nice kick to get on it ASAP!

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