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The 5 Million Frequent Flyer Mile Challenge

The 5 Million Frequent Flyer Mile Challenge

Passport Pages for 5 Million Frequent Flyer Challenge

**January 2012 Update**

This post is from way back in 2009. Much of the info is still fairly accurate, but see other entries for updates.

I also have a new credit card offer page where you can learn about current cards that offer big mileage bonuses.

***

This is the true story of how I’ve earned more than 300,000 Frequent Flyer miles in the past five weeks thanks to mileage bonuses from new credit cards. If you’re up for it, you can do this too – and if you’d prefer a more conservative strategy, you may still be able to earn at least 50,000 new miles.

In short, I’ve spent $500 and a few hours of my time in exchange for 300,000 miles that are worth at least $12,000 to me. I’ve closely monitored my credit score along the way, and the effect has been minimal.

The goal of the 5 Million Frequent Flyer Mile Challenge is to help at least 100 readers earn 50,000 miles or more in the next 30 days.

Here are all the details in almost 3,000 words, a free tracking spreadsheet, and a 12-minute video I recorded live from Mexico in late December.

Disclaimers

WARNING: This is not for everyone. Most of the credit cards I used for this Frequent Flyer arbitrage experiment are only available for U.S. residents. There are a few cards you can get in Canada and the U.K. to replicate this on a smaller scale, but otherwise, you’re on your own.

You’ll also need to have good credit to begin with, since presumably the banks don’t want to give out up to $100,000 in new credit lines to just anyone – although ironically, they never verified my income or (lack of) employment, so you never know.

Lastly, if you have any kind of problem with debt or credit card spending, this project is definitely not for you. I have a healthy paranoia about debt, so it’s not a problem for me, but if you can’t possess a credit card without spending money you don’t have, please don’t do this.

Those are the disclaimers, and here’s the fun part.

The Video

On the 12-minute video below you can see the spreadsheet I use to track the applications, the results, and the miles I received. I recorded this live on location in Mexico, where I was facilitating my Annual Review and spending time with Jolie for our end-of-year vacation. The video is not professional quality in any way – it’s just me talking through the process and explaining which credit cards I used. If you get bored partway through, you can find most of the information in the rest of the post.

(Having technical problems or want a larger version? Try this link.)

How It Works

First, some background: I used to earn more than 200,000 Frequent Flyer Miles each year without flying, thanks to the work I did with Google Adwords and Adsense. Those days are long gone now, and with the declining economy, I needed a new source. I’ve taken advantage of credit card bonuses occasionally in the past, but this time I decided to get serious about it.

Over the course of a few weeks, I applied for and received 13 new credit cards that each included bonuses of at least 20,000 Frequent Flyer Miles.

I was accepted for every single card I applied for, and received $102,100 in new credit that I will never use. What I will use are the 300,000 bonus miles I was awarded for accepting the cards. After meeting any minimum spending requirements, most of the cards will be unused, consolidated, or canceled over the next few years. Not everyone will be want (or be able) to emulate this challenge, but I know that enough people will that I decided to put it all out there for you.

Just as importantly, many other people will be able to use this strategy on a smaller scale and earn at least 50,000 new miles within the next month.

The Cost

The cost for my experiment can be summarized as follows:

  • $497 in annual fees (I’ll cancel, consolidate, or ask for a free extension on the cards before the second year’s fees become due)
  • 3-4 hours of my time
  • 4% decline in my credit score

Since I regularly use Frequent Flyer Miles for high-value redemptions, I wasn’t worried too much about the monetary cost. As I’ll explain below, the miles I earned are worth thousands of dollars to me. I also didn’t mind the time investment, since the idea was intriguing to me and I wanted to see how far I could take it.

Before conducting the experiment, however, I was somewhat concerned about the effect on my credit score. I had always heard that your credit score goes down whenever you apply for a new account. Each step of the way, I closely monitored my own report to see what the real effect would be – and I was pleasantly surprised.

Before applying for the cards, I was in the 98th percentile of U.S. credit users. Presumably this was because I have 10 years of good credit history, only a couple of late payments over the years, and no pattern of defaulting or maintaining high balances. After I had applied for eight new cards, I checked again and noticed that I had fallen to the 95th percentile – hardly a significant amount since it is already so high and I have no plans to apply for a mortgage. A couple of weeks after applying for five more cards, I checked again and saw that I had fallen a tiny bit further to the 94th percentile.

In other words, the effect was noticeable, but not seriously damaging. Despite the fact that my credit report listed all the accounts and new inquiries, banks continued to send me new credit cards every week. I was never declined, and never asked to provide any additional information.

At one point I thought the banks were slowing down on the offers of credit, since I received a low $2,000 limit on one card after getting 4-5 others of $10,000 or more – but the following week, another card arrived with a $14,500 limit. We could probably talk for a long time about how crazy the U.S. banking system can be, but that’s another story.

(Practical Info: I use MyFico.com to monitor my credit, but you can also get a free copy of your report from all three credit bureaus every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. There are other sources as well that I did not thoroughly investigate.)

The Benefits

Most importantly, I now have 300,000 new Frequent Flyer miles available to me on all three worldwide airline alliances. I can use these miles for all kinds of awards, including these possibilities:

  • 12 Round-Trip Domestic (U.S. and Canada) Tickets
  • 15 Tickets within Europe or Asia
  • Up to 15 Domestic Upgrades or 10 International Upgrades
  • 6 Round-Trip Tickets to Europe from the U.S.
  • 3 or 4 Round-Trip Business Class Tickets to Anywhere

Those are a few examples, and of course I’ll choose the awards that make the most sense to me for my own goals. Based on how I travel and how I will optimize the awards, I conservatively estimate these miles to be worth at least $12,000 to me.

Once I realized that my credit score would not go down and the fees were reasonable, it was a no-brainer. Spend $497 and invest a few hours of time, get $12,000 in free flights. I like it.

I also received numerous intangible benefits through the process:

  • 8 Alaska Airlines Space Available Upgrades
  • Airline Lounge Passes (multiple)
  • Companion Airfare Discounts (multiple)
  • 6,000 Mile Discount on a Northwest Awards Flight
  • Hilton Gold Status
  • Hertz Gold Status
  • Enterprise Gold Status
  • Free Weekend Car Rental with Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise
  • Other random perks that are still arriving in the mail each week

In reality, some of those things sound nice, but I don’t really need them. I’d love to give them away, but unfortunately most of them are not transferable.

All the Details

Here are the cards I applied for:

1. Citi AA Visa Signature ($0 annual fee for 1 year, 25000 miles)
2. Citi AA Mastercard ($0 annual fee for 1 year, 25000 miles)
3. CitiBusiness AA Mastercard ($0 annual fee for 1 year, 25000 miles)
4. Chase United Visa Signature ($79 annual fee, 25000 miles)
5. Hilton HHonors AmEx ($0 annual fee as long as you have another AmEx, 25000 miles + 10000 bonus miles)
6. Delta Gold Personal AmEx ($0 annual fee as long as you have another AmEx, 20000 miles)
7. Alaska Air Visa ($79 annual fee, 20000 miles)
8. Northwest Worldperks Visa ($0 annual fee for 1 year, 25000 miles)
9. Continental World Mastercard ($85 fee, 25000 miles)
10. Continental World Biz Mastercard ($85 fee, 20000 miles)
11. US Airways DM Visa Signature ($90 annual fee, 25000 miles)
12. US Airways Premier World MC ($79 annual fee, 25000 miles)

There are a couple of cards I’ve skipped for now – the Virgin Atlantic AmEx and British Airways Visa, for example. I may come back to these later depending on when all my other miles post up. There are also cards for JetBlue and Southwest (among others), but I rarely fly on those carriers, and I don’t think I could use the points for much else.

Keeping Track of Everything

After I realized my credit score wouldn’t drop significantly with all the increased applications, the greater problem was figuring out how to keep track of the information. I mean, most people don’t walk around with 12 new credit cards in their pocket, right? I also had to remember which cards I had applied to and on what date.

To stay on top of everything, I made a spreadsheet to track the date I had applied for each card, when it was received and activated, any requirements I needed to meet in order to earn the miles, and so on. If you’re up for some version of this, you can download the template or open it in Google Docs (Gmail users) to add your own details in.

UPDATE: Forget the spreadsheet. I now use MileageManager.com and AwardWallet.com to keep track of things—much easier.

***

Your Turn – Here’s What You Can Do

I could have kept this information to myself, enjoyed the 300,000 new miles, and perhaps included the details in my upcoming Travel Ninja product. Instead, I decided it would be a lot more fun to put it out there for all of you, in hopes that it will help more people be able to travel wherever they want.

I know that not everyone is comfortable with applying for a dozen new credit cards, but the beauty of this strategy is that you only need to apply for (and be accepted by) one card for every 25,000 miles you want. If you want 100,000 miles for two tickets to Europe, for example, then you apply for four cards. If you want a First Class ticket to anywhere in North America, then you apply for two cards.

In other words, you can match your number of card applications to your risk level and that’s how many new miles you’ll earn. And of course, if you have a spouse or partner, they can also earn miles through their own applications, potentially doubling whatever new mileage you end up earning.

Let’s break it down further based on your personality and what you’re willing to do:

For the Adventurous – You too can earn 300,000 new miles or perhaps even more. Start by paying MyFico.com for a copy of your credit report to make sure you’re comfortable with a slight drop in the score. Then, apply for the cards in the rough order I did above. It may not make much difference, but the Citi AA cards are some of the better ones, so I’d work on getting those first in case you get declined later. Be sure you use the spreadsheet to keep track of everything; unless your memory is better than mine, you’ll probably forget some of the details if you don’t write them down.

For the Conservative – You may be wary of applying for so many credit cards at once (I certainly was when I started). If so, start with a couple of them and see what happens. Are you approved? Do the miles post in a reasonable period of time? You can move on and do more if you want, or just enjoy a free flight or two to the destination of your choice.

Regardless of which path you pursue, here are the actions you need to take:

FIRST - You’ll need to join the Frequent Flyer programs of the airlines you end up requesting credit cards for. Do that before applying for the card (it’s always free and can be done on the airline’s web site).

Here are the ones that match the cards I listed above:

And here are the optional ones:

Virgin Atlantic

British Airways
Southwest
JetBlue

SECOND – Choose your cards. You should match the cards you get to the airline or alliance you want to fly with, but I have a couple of general recommendations – first, the AA Citibank cards, including the AmEx and the Visa OR the Mastercard, are especially good since they have no annual fee for the first year. If you have a business, get one personal card and one business card.

Next, the U.S. Airways cards are best used in combination, so if you’re getting one, you might as well get the other to earn a total of 50,000 miles. If you’re loyal to one of the other airlines (United, Alaska, Delta, or Continental), do those cards afterwards.

THIRD – Meet any minimum spending requirements for the cards you choose. These requirements will be disclosed upon application, and you’ll want to keep track of them in the spreadsheet template or elsewhere.

By the way, if you’re worried about not being able to spend enough to qualify for multiple mileage bonuses, there’s a trick for this too: buy $1 coins from the U.S. Mint. They come in boxes of $250 each, and you can exchange them at your bank for the same value. With free shipping, it won’t cost you anything at all, and you’ll also earn additional miles for the “purchase” of the coins.

FOURTH – After the miles post, don’t wait too long to plan your trip. Mileage valuations are going down, and it’s best to use them quickly. I include a few tips for redeeming awards in the Discount Airfare Guide, and if there is enough interest I’ll provide a full tutorial for everyone in the near future.

That’s pretty much it. Be sure and cancel the cards before the year is up, so that you don’t have to pay for the second year. (If you do forget and they charge you, you can still cancel the next month and get the money back. If you are concerned about a credit score hit after cancellation, you can also try your luck by requesting a free extension.)

In short, if you meet the basic requirements and are willing to invest a bit of time, you can really rack up the miles and opportunities for free trips with this strategy. I’m looking forward to using my 300,000 miles, but I’m even more excited about creating mileage wealth for many of you through the challenge. Yes, there is a group challenge – because every good goal has a good follow-up. Here’s this one.

The 5 Million Mile Challenge

A while back I asked you to pick one place you’d like to go in the next three years and showed you how $2 a day can get you there. Well, if you can fly for free, that makes it even easier.

I’ve spent several hours compiling this information for you, and I have two easy requests in return. First, use this information wisely. As mentioned, if you are in debt or have cut up your credit cards to keep from charging something you can’t afford, please don’t do this.

But for everyone else, if you are able to use this information to easily earn at least 25,000 miles (one free ticket anywhere in North America), please let me know.

I’m making a Google Docs spreadsheet to track the information you submit. But for now, please post in the comments section and include this info:

1) Your name (however you want it to be displayed in the list I’m making)

2) The amount of miles you expect to receive (based on the cards you decide to apply for)

The goal is to create new “mileage wealth” of 5 Million Miles in the next 30 days. I promise to report the full results back to you, and I hope that this will help at least 100 people travel for free on their next adventure.

How does that sound? Oh, and if you have any questions about the logistics, post them below.

###

66 Comments

  • Katharine says:

    Hey, I subscribe to your blog, you have so much great information! I was wondering, can frequent flyer miles be used for a ticket for another passenger? Myself and a second party? Also, how long did this process take?

  • Kate says:

    Signing up for followup comments.

  • Sebastian says:

    This is a beautiful description! In total, what will be the minimum spending required for all of the cards?

    Thanks!

  • Chris says:

    @Katherine,

    Yes, you can use the miles for anyone. It takes about 4-6 weeks for the miles to post up. About half of mine have been posted, and I expect the other half to clear soon.

    @Sebastian,

    Good question – I’ll need to check on that. Some of the cards have no spending requirements, and the ones that do I use for my normal spending (i.e., I don’t buy anything I otherwise wouldn’t) – but I’ll see if I can get a precise number.

  • Oliver says:

    Might be worth pointing out that some credit card issuers crack down on churning, which basically means their terms and conditions include a phrase that restricts the sign-up bonus to first-time card holders only. Chase seems to be particularly strict about, i.e., if you had the United MP Visa card before, then canceled it, and later applied again hoping to collect the 25,000 or so miles, you might get the card and a letter indicating that you didn’t qualify for the bonus. There are different products, though, so (for example) applying for the business card when you already have (or had) the personal card would not count as a ‘duplicate’ application for bonus purposes.

    Also, it helps to do a bit of research on the web for the best offer. At any given time, there are often different bonus offers for the same card around, varying by as much as 10-15,000 points. 25,000 miles sounds great… until you find another offer 10 minutes after you submitted your application that would have given you 35,000 ;)

  • Wayne says:

    Way to think “out of the box!” Just wondering what program you used to make the video?

    Thanks

  • Speed Thomas says:

    I think your credit score may be affected when you cancel a card within two years of the last usage. In which case there may be a back end cost to all of this too…however I like the idea and spending money at the US mint is brilliant.

  • Chris says:

    @Oliver,

    GREAT input, thank you. That is all very true. FYI, I didn’t write much about churning since this was already so long, but it’s good to point out that you can *usually* do this only once per card.

    @Wayne,

    I used Viddler.

  • Wayne says:

    Hey Chris,

    Is Viddler just where the video is hosted? Do you have a separate program on your computer that you used to make and edit the video? (cam studio, powerpoint, keynote, etc)

    Thanks Again

  • Chris says:

    @Wayne,

    My fault – I used Camtasia Studio to make the video and Viddler to host it. I also used Mindjet for the mind-map shown on the screen. Good luck!

  • Daniel says:

    I’ve very serious about doing this for the Canadian side of things. Anybody else in Canada looking to pursue this endeavor? Please drop me a line so we can synch up and exchange information!

    triseult@gmail.com

  • Jeff says:

    One thing I don’t quite understand is that although you are racking up a large total in mileage, they are divided among different airlines. Does 50k miles at one airline translate into about 1 domestic round-trip? Also, I’m kind of confused about the Hilton HHonors AmEx. Are those points redeemable for airfare or just hotel stays?

    On a side note, I’ve been thinking about getting those dollar coins anyway so that could be a nice combination with this, good idea.

    Thanks for all the info.

  • Chris says:

    @Speed et al,

    About closing the cards – that is a good point. I will update the post later today to discuss this more.

    In short, I’ll investigate further when the year draws to a close, but instead of closing them I think I may a) simply keep the non-annual fee cards open without using them, and b) see if the annual fee cards can be extended without the fee. My experience with that in the past has been hit-and-miss – some companies will go for it and others won’t.

    At any rate, yes, I will be careful about closing or consolidating the cards when the time comes.

  • Kristian says:

    Just a warning on checking your credit score: whatever program you use, run it by the BBB website and make sure it is legit. For example freecreditreport.com is a fradulent company that is just one DBA alias for a company that has been cited by the BBB and has been subject to class action law suits for dishonestly taking people’s money by pretending to be free and then using fine print and legal loopholes to access users’ bank accounts.

  • Oliver says:

    @Chris — at least for the UA Chase card you might be able to convert it to a fee-free UA card that earns 1/2 mile per dollar. I did that after my no-fee first year. I am not actually using it (1/2 mile isn’t a good value), but I didn’t want to close the account due to the impact on my credit score.

    @Jeff — you can use the HHonors points for hotel stays or transfer them to a variety of airline programs. I earn enough miles as it is and thus use this card to reduce the cost of my lodging in expensive cities. By the way, I am pretty sure it’s a $0 fee card whether you have another Amex or not.

    @Chris again — I was a bit surprised to not see the SPG Amex on your list, as that seems to be a favorite of many mileage collectors. But I guess it might not be a good fit as the sign-up bonus tends to be less impressive than others?

  • Chris says:

    UPDATE: Here is the Google form you can use for submitting miles.

    Submit Your Expected Mileage Here

    @Oliver,

    Correct again – the SPG card is actually one of my favorites, but since I already have it (it has been my main card for years), I didn’t look into sign-up bonuses for it. Looking now, it seems there is a 10k immediate bonus and another 15k contingent on spending.

    @Jeff et al,

    I’ll address that question (and others that have come in) with a more detailed update later in the week.

    Have a great day, everyone.

  • This is amazing, Chris. Thank you for your help. I’m spreading the word on twitter and am looking forward to trying this on my own. Can’t wait for the future updates.

  • That’s a fascinating sequence. Never would have thought of that strategy for airline miles. That’s also a lot of credit cards to keep track of, but at least the credit score remained solid. That can often be an issue with too many credit lines open.

  • Steve says:

    Check out this link that describes how to get 70,000 miles on Delta with just three credit cards and about $90.

    http://www.bestfares.com/news.php?newsID=859

    It works similar way to what you’ve been describing. I’m considering this for myself. Thanks for sharing your expertise with everyone!

    Steve

  • Warren says:

    Difficult in Canada. Just went through

    RBC
    CIBC
    TD
    Scotia
    HSBC

    The two major problems:

    1. Consolidating ‘miles’. They dont’ give airmiles, they give “RBC Reward Points” and crap like that.

    2. 20,000 points from TD is worth $100 flight, so they give away big numbers, where as 15,000 from somewhere else gets you $500 in flights. i.e. consolidation extremely unlikely.

    There was no strict mention of consolidating nor could i find anything on it. Presumably you simply can’t do it. If anyone else knows different let me know.

  • Francyne says:

    The RBC Visa Infinite Voyages card offers 15000 points, consolidating in 350$. Must apply before 28 FEB 2009. See details.

    http://www.rbcbanqueroyale.com/RBC:SW3mbI71A8YAS1Ao1hU/cartes/rbcrecompenses/avion_booking.html

  • to Chris and the great comments of members,

    This article was very useful.The US mint tip for meeting spending requirements was pure genius.

    Olivers tip on searching for the best deal on the Internet is right on.

    I joined Stumble Upon and gave your article a thumbs up.

    This challenge may save the airline industry and put the banks out of business. I hope we the tax payers don’t have to bail them out, smile.

  • Brook Heaton says:

    Is there a limit to the amount of U.S. Mint coins you can buy? Otherwise, can somebody conceivably buy $25,000 worth of coins (and in return get 25,000 miles), then turn in the coins to a bank in order to pay the credit card bill when it comes?

    Could you do this to get an unlimited number of miles?

  • Chris says:

    Hey folks – I’m in Asia and will post an update about the challenge tomorrow. My thanks to Wendy Perrin (Conde Nast) for featuring this on her blog today.

    @Brook,

    No, unfortunately that doesn’t work. You can only use the U.S. Mint exchange for about $2500 or so. If you get creative, you can do it again later, but probably not for much more.

  • Theo says:

    Chris,
    I love the idea of buying coins at from the mint! I’m going to try that in April on my Amex Blue card anniversary. I have to spend >$6,500 before enjoying maximum cash back. Looks like I won’t be able to get $6,500 worth, but it’s a huge first step. Not travel related, I know, but I just wanted you to know that I’m going to realize great value from the idea. Thank you!
    Theo

  • Jude says:

    I’m in for 25,000 miles. Thanks for motivating me to get off of my duff!

  • jphripjah says:

    I think you could also join the Starwood Preferred Guest program, sign up for the AMEX card (no fee for the first year), get 10,000 bonus points, then transfer them to almost any airline. If you can figure out how to amass 20,000 Starwood points, you can transfer them to an airline with a 5,000 mile bonus.

  • durazno says:

    Thanks for the ideas. not to quibble, rather clarify: as far as I can tell, the Hilton Honors Point Card (Amex) gets you HHonors points first. From the online offer, it’s unclear what steps (what requirements for # stays etc) necessary before you can (if you can) transfer these points to FF points. So this offer does not get you FF miles directly.

  • colleen says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not finding an offer for AA Visa. MC and AMEX, yep, but the Visa is the one I’ve missed for a few years now. Are they offering it now for US residents?

  • Paul says:

    I tried posting this earlier, so apologize if you get this twice.

    How can you get 3-4 intl business class tickets from the 300k miles you earned, if you are only earning max 50k miles in a single program? Other than Delta and Northwest combining from their merger, no other programs allow you to easily transfer miles (I don’t count points.com as a viable option).

  • JOE says:

    A couple of late payments “over the years”? Clearly you are not in the 98th percentile at all.

  • Chris says:

    Hi guys. I am in Cambodia with very little internet access, so I’ll respond to the questions in a future update (5-7 days). There is indeed a Citi AA Visa card floating around out there, and the valuation of miles earned is correct.

    @Joe,

    I’m not sure what you mean. Yes, over 12 years as a credit card holder I have had maybe 2-3 late payments. If your record is better than that, perhaps you’re in the 99th percentile.

  • Cameron says:

    This is great. Thank you. I’m well on my way.

    A question about ‘CitiBusiness AA Mastercard’ and any business credit card: can I sign up for this only being a personal consumer? They prompt for the company’s tax id, which I can find, but I don’t want it to generate paperwork at my company here, since it’s not for them. Thanks.

  • CM Burns says:

    I applied for an American Airlines Visa Card, can’t believe all the hoops they wanted me to jump through to get it. They actually wanted me to get a letter from my bank manager verifying funds in the account. And I have a 711 credit score. It sure isn’t as easy as it use to be. Think I’ll wait a month and apply again.

  • Chris says:

    Hi all, greetings from BKK airport.

    if you’re new here, there are a couple of updates in which I’ve answered questions and provided more info:

    Update #1
    Update #2 (will be live Sunday morning PST)

    @CM,

    That’s odd – for a 711 score, I’m surprised they put you through the hoops. Keep in mind you actually have 3 credit scores, so perhaps the bureau Citi uses has a slightly lower score for you? That’s the only thing I can think of – but anything is possible these days. Yes, try again in a month and let us know what happens.

    @Cameron,

    Good question – let’s see if anyone else wants to address that since my internet access is somewhat limited at the moment. If not, I’ll try to cover personal vs. business cards in the third update later on.

  • Allen says:

    This is pretty awesome. It’s a shame the us mint only allows a couple bags of each type of coin. It’s possible that if you could buy another cash equivalent with your credit cards and then pay them off with that cash equivalent that you could earn an indefinite amount of points to the point where you could stay in hotels and fly around for free.

  • Abe says:

    You could purchase up to $500 per president that’s available per your credit cards billing address. I purchased over $11,000! Enjoy.

  • Paul says:

    Great Challenge and contribution to all of us who want to get out there and non conform.

    Anybody have an assessment of options for the UK based traveller ?

    Also any workarounds on how being based out of UK, yet still qualify for US cards ?

    Thx in advance

    Paul

  • dave says:

    Chris:
    I’ve done pretty much the same thing. My strategy is a bit different. I only get cards which are free for the first year, and only get 1 extra card at a time. Then I close them once I get the miles. That way I can keep track. I do the same for my wife, and we’ve earned 300,000 over the past 4 years. I’m even going to Kazakhstan (yes, thats considered Europe.)

  • Cameron says:

    The Hilton Honors Amex appears to only be 10,000 points: I don’t see in the terms where the additional 25,000 you mention appears. Maybe they changed it.

  • dan says:

    Me and my wife are so going to San Francisco this summer and I guess the Bahamas — oh! and Italy next year. Thank you so much for the flights and the rest of your site is awesome. I’m moving in the direction of breaking out of my 9 to 5.

  • Karl says:

    Hey Chris,

    I’ve only been reading your blog for a short while, but it’s already one of my favorites. Add 75,000 miles (all AAdvantage) to the tally.

    Karl

  • Karl says:

    Add another 20,000 to the tally. :) Worldperks this time.

  • Cameron says:

    Hey Chris,

    If you apply for the Alaska Airlines Signature Visa card and you are given a credit limit less than $5,000, they automatically give you a lesser card (e.g. “platinum plus”) and you do not get the 20,000 bonus miles, nor are they available on upgrade. So this card’s bonuses depend on a substantial income/credit rating.

  • Cameron says:

    After 4 months and six new cards my credit score only dropped 6 points, or <1%. Your mileage may vary.

  • Maria says:

    Hi Chris,

    What a great post!! I’m definitely going to give this a try. I am an Irish citizen but I work/travel all over the world. I hear that it’s possible for non-US residents to get US credit cards, so I’ll apply anyway and let ye know how it goes. I have a SSN from a student working visa I had a few years ago.

    Anyway, thanks again, and your site is very inspiring.

  • Aximilation says:

    Very cool, just a note though, I just checked out the mint and see that it says “You can buy up to 500 $1 coins at face value and receive free standard shipping and handling.” on the main page, but when you try to check out, they want to charge you like $4.95 for shipping, very strange. I was interested in it mainly because if you could buy them with a cashback card (paypal for me – 1%) and have free shipping, you could make a little money, but…with shipping not so much. Anyone know anything about that?

  • I just applied for the (3) Citi cards. Expecting 75,000 miles! Woohoo! BTW, one card you may wish to add to your list is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. You can earn up to 25,000 points:
    *Earn 10,000 Starpoints® with your first purchase
    *Plus – earn an additional 15,000 Starpoints when you spend $15,000 in 6 months.
    Transfer Starpoints – almost always on a 1:1 basis – to the frequent flyer programs of over 30 major airlines

    After you earn your 25,000 miles there you can then open a Starwood Business Amex too and do the exact same thing. That’s 50,000 points/miles in 12 months!

  • Amazing information! Thanks for helping those of us stuck at home see some opportunities to get out and see the world.

  • Gary says:

    I can relate to your writing. Exellent explanation and detail.

  • Aaron says:

    My wife and I have got 150K AAdvantage miles apiece churning. 100K in the last 4 months. We apply for a Citi AA AMEX and MC at the same time every 65 days, buy our coins, and close the cards after the miles post 1 week after the first statement. Citi lets you have 6 personal + 2 business cards at a time, and you can get the 25K bonus for each. Keep them rotating, and that’s about 75K every 2 months, possibly 350K+ AAdvantage miles per year if they don’t get wise and shut us down!

    My family and I have already flown to Thailand, NYC, LAX, MI, Hawaii, and London by churning.

  • Val says:

    A year and a half ago I began applying for cards with free miles and no annual fees. I racked up at leat 12 domestic plane tickets in a few months between my husband and I. Then a few months ago I found this site and thought “300,000 miles, no way!” When I calculated what I had gotten, I found it to be the same. I did it and didn’t even realize it. I was encouraged to find someone else doing the same thing. After reading this web site, I applied for more cards and now have another 8 free plane tickets and have never paid an annual fee. My favorite card is the CITI Premier Pass that earns miles through ThankYou.com. I was able to fly 5 of us round trip to Orlando, FL for free on my free miles and then use my miles on the ThankYou network for rent-a-cars, hotels and food. We went to FL for 10 days and had free flights, free hotels, free car, $75 in free gas, & $400 in free gift cards for places like Applebees, Olive Garden, Red Lobster etc. The CITI bank card miles can be used for flights too… they are booked through Expedia.com. I just chose to use them for the food, hotel and card because I had so many free flights already.
    I can’t even tell you how many miles I have accumulated in the last 1 1/2 years. I lost track as I use them as fast as I earn them.

  • Liam says:

    Wouldn’t the mint idea also work if buying casino chips? It doesn’t on one of the programs here in NZ but might work over in the States.

  • Laura says:

    Hey, thank you so much! I’m really appreciating your blog and your sharing of all these awesome tips, as well as your thoughts, experiences and ruminations. Adelante!

  • Cindy says:

    Wonderful information Chris! For those wondering how to meet their required spending obligations, my girlfriend and her husband will often use their credit card to purchase airline tickets for friends and family to earn rewards etc. The friend/family member then simply writes them a check…done deal.

    Of course…if their friends wise up they’ll have to find another source of mileage revenue…

  • Michael A. says:

    Chris, thanks so much for putting all this together.

    Based on this, I’ve already applied for several cards (the Citi AA Mastercard, Hilton Amex, Delta Amex Gold Business, and United Visa Business….I already had the regular Delta Amex Gold and regular United Visa so will be downgrading or cancelling those soon…..)

    I would also recommend the new Spirit Onyx World Mastercard under their “3 Free Flights” marketing. Basically, you get 15,000 Miles and unlike the other airlines Spirit has really low rates for redemption. They break it up into geographic regions (based on distance from your dep. airport) and peak vs. off-peak.

    No annual fee 1st year, $69 after that.

    I’m gonna try and go to Costa Rica in May, so once my miles post, I’ll use 7,500 and still have 7,500! I could take you or someone else (for free) to the Caribbean, or I could take another round-trip to St. Thomas or Cartagena…or if I wanted to go Chicago–>New York 3 times I could (albeit on off-peak)

  • CS Rice says:

    Thanks Chris! I’m on it and definitely up for the challenge! The tip on the US coins is golden! That will really help. Your time, energy and enthusiasm are really appreciated! This will be passed along to reach that goal sure and sweet.
    Grazi, grazi to you!

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