Credit Cards Are An Integral Part Of Any Mileage Strategy

Most people I talk to about miles and points don’t believe that they’re able to take the same types of trips that I do.  They just figure because they don’t fly a lot on a yearly basis they surely can’t earn the miles or points they need to enjoy those aspirational trips.

And it’s true, I do earn a lot of miles from flying.  I’ll travel somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 miles this year.  If all those miles earn a 100% bonus (for being a top-tier elite on an airline) that’s 300K to 400K in miles earned this year to use for vacations.

The reality is I earn more than that from other activities.  Shopping portals and credit cards are two of the primary methods along with various promotions throughout the year.  Holiday season is an especially good time to earn extra miles.  You can find some great info here about this year’s promos.  While this year’s promotions are not as lucrative in the past, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to earn thousands of bonus miles for items you were already going to purchase from the very same vendor you planned to purchase them from.

Credit cards is where the rubber really meets the road, and not just any credit card will do.  There are a ton of cards available with sign-up bonuses ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 miles.  Some of these require more minimum spending than others.  But, on the whole, there’s a card to fit every spending plan, IMO.

The cards I’m using most for general spend right now are the Chase Sapphire and Ink Bold cards, followed closely by the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card.  For starters, all of these cards offer a generous sign-up bonus, from 25,000 to 50,000 points.  You’ll have to charge a minimum amount on each of these cards to hit the bonus, but those amounts are generally between $3000 and $5000.  That may sound like a lot but if you funnel all your normal bills to your credit card first, you’d be surprised how quickly it adds up.  There’s also some other ways to churn minimum spend dollars which I’ll discuss in future posts.

Let’s take the Ink Bold card as an example.  If you achieved the minimum spend of $5,000 you’d earn 55,000 points (50,000 point bonus plus at least 1 point per dollar for the charges).  Now, let’s say you put your cell phone bill, home phone and cable bill and your office supply purchases on this card.  Let’s also say you spend $250 a month combined on these categories.  Ink Bold gives you 5 points per dollar for these charges.  So, over the course of a year you’d earn another 15,000 points from these bills.  You’ve now earned 70,000 points without so much as heading to an airport.  You’re 25% of the way to my flight miles for the year and you could have achieved all that without a whole lot of spending on your credit card.

More importantly, what can you do with those 70,000 points?  Well, that’s just shy of 3 domestic US saver tickets (3 tickets pretty much anywhere in the United States with some capacity controls).  It’s a free coach seat to Europe, and it’s almost a business class seat from the US to Europe (usually 100,000 points).

I talk frequently about miles and points as a currency.  If someone told you that by switching your savings account to another bank you could earn thousands of dollars a year in extra interest, you’d do it, right?  Well, miles and points are the same thing.

I get asked a lot of questions by friends and family, most revolving around how to earn the most points.  I’ve generally directed people to the relevant offers available so they can sign up and take advantage of all the earning opportunities.  As my blog has grown more in popularity (thank you for following along) I decided to build a credit card page to direct people to so I wouldn’t have to re-type the same information all the time. 🙂

This represents what I like to refer to as the “meat and potatoes” of mile and points earning cards, with a few side dishes included.  There are more comprehensive lists out there, no doubt.  However, I’ve found when I try and give a newcomer too much advice, they tend to revert to, “this is too hard”.  So, if you do one thing only, I’d say pick up a Chase card or two, and give serious consideration to the SPG Amex.

Some of the cards on this page will offer me a referral credit if you apply for and receive the card (though most don’t).  There are other cards out there that offer referral credits that I either don’t have enough information about or just don’t believe are a good value, so they most likely won’t be covered here.  And, if you happen to use one of the links I get credit for, I genuinely appreciate it.  To the best of my knowledge, these are the best current sign-up bonuses for these cards, and I’ll be monitoring the list to include the best offer if and when they change.

There’s no need to sign up for a ton of cards all at once and jump in whole hog.  But, you do need to get into the credit card game if you want to maximize your earning.

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