Two million airline miles is a lot for any flyer, no matter how frequent. So when I tell friends that I, at 25 years old, managed to save two million airline miles and hotel points in three years to enable my dream trip around the world, I’m usually met with disbelief (or outright rejection).
Today I’d like to demystify how I earned those miles and why it wasn’t as hard, risky, or time-consuming as others would have you believe.
Below is a chart of all the credit cards I have received in the last three years, including the miles earned from spending. Yes, that’s right, I’ve applied for 32 credit cards and am still breathing. For those privy to earning airline miles from credit cards, a slight head nod and maybe a “good job” will be the only acknowledgement I receive.
But for those that aren't privy and may already be dismissing this post, I suggest reading my highly popular post on why applying for multiple credit cards doesn’t hurt your credit score. I should know – in the last three years, while I earned all those free miles, my credit score has risen.
As you can see above, my primary means of earning cards and a full quarter of my two million airline miles came from a now discontinued product. That’s the bad news. The good news is 32 credit cards over three years is, believe it or not, a pretty average haul in the credit card churning space.
To replicate that many applications a year requires roughly $3,500 per month in spending – not a massive number, and brought down to nearly $2,000 when removing the extinct AA Executive card. Through a variety of completely legal methods to increase spending on cards, receiving even more credit cards is entirely possible.
How To Do It
If you are still reading, then I have piqued your interest. Which is good – this was a life-changing discovery for me and I hope it is the same for you. But the absolute hardest part – and where 99% of readers give up – is going from interested to actually doing it.
This is where I come in. While I could never list the vast amount of knowledge available on the subject, what I can do is help you get started as I just did the same (and documented it thoroughly).
Start With Your Credit Score
I know it is boring and potentially a foreign concept. You come to websites to be entertained, maybe learn something, but by no means work.
But here is the catch: if you learn how to maximize your credit score and then profit with free airline miles, you can unlock thousands of dollars in value and barely alter your behavior.
Apply to Different Credit Cards from Different Banks
As you could see with my card applications, I applied to a wide array of banks, airline and hotel relationships. And with the exception of a still valid Citibank card, my miles and points came from all angles at all times.
So here is my suggestion: as long as you don’t plan on buying a house in the next two years, apply to every single card you can get and overlap the cards as often as possible, based on your spending.
If you want to manufacture spending, go for it – I don’t do it much because I don’t like the headache. If I did though, the title of this post would probably read “How I Earned 4 Million Airline Miles” if you see what I am saying...
Maximize Your Spending
This means different things to different people. For online shoppers, it means taking advantage of bank portals that offer up to 30 points per dollar spent (!!!). For others, it means use your “dining card” at restaurants and your “gas card” at the pump.
For me, it is different. I focus on bonus miles – what the banks offer to get you to sign up, in hopes you keep the card relationship for years and years. So when I say, “maximize your spending,” I mean have every single dollar you spend going to a bonus mile offer. This means that when you hit a $3,000 bonus spend on card X, you should already have card Y in your possession or in the mail.
What always shocks my readers is how conservative I am at my core. I was incredibly skeptical of earning bonus miles in mass and - only after hundreds of hours of research - very cautiously dipped my toes in the water with a Capital One application. So my next piece of advice comes from a lifetime of loving organization and structure.
Track everything: when you applied to each card, the bonus miles associated, even what you redeemed them on if you fancy it. Dates, numbers, and passwords – everything is important to keep. I built an excel that served my purpose and it is free for you (note that clicking will download the file and I don’t receive any money for it).
Why this is important is because different banks have different time windows for approving applicants of multiple cards. Two examples.
- First, Citibank currently allows two applications for every 65 days, but they must be eight days apart – strange, but as of today its full proof.
- And secondly, Chase has it written in their terms & conditions that an applicant can get the same bonus offer twice, as long as there are two years apart.
These rules exist for every major issuer and can fluctuate from card to card. So having these dates and other notes are highly important to earning bonus miles long-term.
Keep Your Composure!
Your credit score will fluctuate at times. Don’t worry, it won’t stay lower long-term if you do this right. Parents and other relatives will tell you that something isn’t right about what you are doing. Don’t worry, it is. Thousands and thousands of people do this, even a guy who made millions of miles off pudding.
Just keep your composure, tell your interested friends or even build a website – wherever your journey takes you.