Update: This post is now outdated. To read the more recent version, click here.
The hardest part of earning frequent flyer miles is getting started. One question I frequently get asked is how to really do it. Meaning, you’ve read my Getting Started Guide and understand how to get your first credit card that earns you 50,000 miles or so.
But where do you go from there? How can you piece together all the necessary card applications to earn some meaningful miles. That is what this post is for. Below is my guideline to earn 450,000 frequent flyer miles in the next 10 months – and what you can do once those miles are safely yours.
- Citibank American Airlines World MasterCard – 53,000 American Airlines
- Chase Marriott – 71,000 Marriott Rewards
- Barclays Arrival Plus – 41,000 World Points
- Capital One Venture – 22,000 No Hassle Rewards
- Citibank Hilton – 71,000 Hilton HHonors
- Chase United Explorer – 57,000 United Airlines
- American Express Gold – 27,000 Membership Rewards
- Citibank American Airlines World MasterCard (Business) – 53,000 American Airlines
- Chase Ink Bold – 55,000 Ultimate Rewards
When to apply
While your applications will always depend on your individual situation – credit score, ability to hit the spends, etc. – the following is a rough guideline to follow. First, remember to space out your applications at the same bank. There is a reason I outline this as one of the top 5 mistakes to avoid when applying for a new credit card. And while you typically can be approved for multiple applications at the same bank at the same time, it is a habit you should tend to avoid. Another tip I’ll mention is downloading and using my free CardTracker excel. This is an easy way to organize your cards and know when to apply next.
Okay, so lets get started. Looking at the list of cards above, applications #1-4 can be done all at once and, by design, include applications at four different banks. While it is signing up for considerable spend – a total of $7,000 in the next three months – the average of slightly over $2,300 a month is still manageable in some cases. If you need ways to “manufacture” spending, the folks at FlyerTalk have a few ideas in mind including buying prepaid cards or utilizing Amazon Payments.
“Plan your applications before any major expenses come up. Are you moving soon? Are you planning on buying furniture? How about a new computer? Major expenses can often knock of entire card spends – so you can use the card, pay it off to earn the bonus and then never use it again if you so choose.”
— Travel Tip
Once you are able to complete the spends on credit cards #1-4, the next step will be credit cards #5-7. This should be done as soon as you hit the previous spends – whether you’re a high spender and it takes a month or it takes the full three months. For our purposes, let’s assume the latter and you would be applying for #5-7 at the beginning of month four. This will be a total of $5,000 spend over the next three months, or slightly less than $1,700 a month which makes it even more manageable.
The same rule applies for the last leg of applications, #8-9 – as soon as you’re ready, make the applications. Let’s assume it takes the full three months again, so now we are at the beginning of month seven. For #8-9, I recommend spacing these out by a month – so credit card #8 first, and then a month later #9 (or vice-versa). This will keep the quite large spend of $8,000 spread out over four months and maintain your monthly average spend at $2,000 a month. These final two applications are perhaps the most valuable though, netting valuable airline miles if you choose to transfer the Ultimate Rewards points.
The final haul
What do these applications net you? Quite a final haul as you will have earned a grand total of 450,000 miles over the ten months with an average monthly spend of $2,000. As you can imagine, if you are able to afford a larger spend per month you can easily increase the total amount of miles by finding additional Credit Card Deals. Or you can spread out the applications over a larger time frame – whatever works for you. Below is the breakout of what you’ve earned, which will come in handy as we think about how to use them.
- 106,000 American Airlines miles
- 71,000 Marriott Rewards points
- 71,000 Hilton HHonors points
- 63,000 points for any travel purchases (Barclays & Capital One)
- 57,000 United Airlines miles
- 55,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- 27,000 Membership Rewards points
- 450,000 Total miles and points
How to use your miles
I never intend to tell you what to do with your miles. But I also can’t ignore the facts – my Travel Tales continues to be the most trafficked page on my website, so it seems that a little guidance goes a long way. So now, with 450,000 freshly earned miles through your regular spending now sitting in your mileage accounts, what to do?
Trip 1: Go see the Great Wall of China and make a stopover in Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok
That’s right, why not go on your dream trip to Asia. By transferring 23,000 Ultimate Rewards points to United and 9,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott from the above final haul, the below itinerary could be booked today.
- 80,000 United Airlines miles for one economy ticket from San Francisco to Beijing to Kuala Lumpur and back
- 7,000 Capital One points for the $70 United Airlines booking fee
- 60,000 Hilton HHonors points for six nights at the Hilton Doubletree Beijing
- 80,000 Marriott Rewards points for five nights at the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur or Marriott Bangkok
Trip 2: Spend a romantic week for two getting lost in the streets of Paris
Let me be clear: you’re total miles will allow you to go on both of these trips, not just one. By transferring 22,000 Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt, the below itinerary could be booked today.
- 80,000 American Airlines miles for two economy tickets from New York to Paris and back
- 15,000 Barclays points and 4,000 Capital One points for the $190 American Airlines booking fee
- 22,000 Hyatt points for one night at the Park Hyatt Vendome (if possible, I’d advise also applying for the Chase Hyatt Card to add two more free nights at this amazing hotel)
- 36,000 Barclays/Capital One points for $360 worth of travel expenses (hotels, taxis or trains, meals at hotel, etc.)
So there you have it. Two dream destinations at your fingertips that you could realistically be booking as your new years resolution next January – all you have to do is start. As always, if the above itinerary isn’t your cup of tea then just comment below and I’ll help you build your dream trip from scratch.
Disclaimer: Photos credit to respective airlines mentioned.