I’ve been accumulating credit card signup bonuses since 2006. The single best way to earn large amounts of miles and points is through cards. If you’re responsible and pay your bills on time, getting even a single card can help you see the world.
It’s a common misconception that getting multiple credit cards simply for the signup bonuses is “gaming the system.” In fact, banks are happy to pay for acquiring customers. These banks purchase millions of miles in bulk from airlines and hotels, then distribute them as signup bonuses and ongoing incentives for their new customers. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
The best current offers are always listed on our partner site, Cards for Travel. A few long-standing favorites are listed below.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- The Amex Everyday Preferred Credit Card from American Express
- The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN
- The JetBlue Card
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
- United MileagePlus Explorer Card
- The Hyatt Credit Card
Disclaimer: it’s important to make sure you can pay off your balance every month. Travel hacking with credit cards can serve you well in the long-term, but be sure you manage it well, too.
Frequent Flyer Challenge
As mentioned, I’ve been earning mileage bonuses on credit cards for a long time—but a few years ago, I had an idea for an experiment. Instead of just getting one or two cards a year, I’d go all-out and apply for every possible card I could find.
What would happen? Would I wreck my credit and fall into debt, as many people predicted?
Not exactly. I was approved for every single card, I earned 300,000 miles in one fell swoop, and then a year later my credit score was actually higher than before. Nice. Even the haters started signing up for cards.
I’ve repeated a version of the challenge every year, and hundreds of AONC readers have done it in their own way too.
- (many other posts linked there)
It’s still possible to do a version of the challenge and earn a ton of points all at once. If you want to be more conservative, though, start with a few cards and see how it goes.
Once you have the right cards, you want to do everything you can to put all your spending on them. If you need to reach the minimum spend required for the signup bonus, or if you just want to earn more miles and points for an award, here are a few strategies.
- Prepay expenses whenever possible
- Buy gift cards (especially when you can earn extra miles for them)
- Consider “manufactured spend,” where you essentially churn money by purchasing debit cards, depositing the funds back into your bank account and paying off the charge
One time I rented out the Oregon Zoo for the largest charge I’ve ever placed on a card … but you may not be able to replicate that one.
Looking for international cards? There aren’t as many, but you still have some options.
Looking for debit cards? Again, there aren’t many—but the Suntrust Delta SkyMiles card is probably the best.
A few cards offer added perks that help with elite status.
- Complimentary Hilton HHonors(TM) Gold Status with The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Two free nights at Hyatt hotels, worldwide with the Hyatt Visa
- Enjoy complimentary Silver status with your Hilton HHonors™ Card from American Express
- You can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection (including Centurion Lounge Access!) with the The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN