If you don’t know already, the number one way for the average non-business travelers to earn large amounts of miles and points is through credit card signup bonuses. This may be a new concept for some of you and old news for others. Most all serious mile and point collectors use this method to build huge balances. As a stay-at-home mother this is how I have accumulated millions (not exaggerating) of miles over the years. Collecting the miles and points I have over the years has afforded my family so may fun travel adventures; it’s amazing. Sometimes I just stop and pinch myself and say “This is unreal”! Like when I booked my families tickets to London this summer for next spring and paid only $208 in award fees. Here’s how I did it:
- I used 80,000 American Airlines miles plus $20 in taxes for (4) one-way economy tickets from Santa Barbara to London. How about that? These miles came from the Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage Visa Signature Card and the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage World MasterCard. You can get both of these cards at the same time using the two browser trick. Basically you open up two browsers and apply for them at the same time. Approval is easy because one is a personal card and the other is a business version.
- For the return, I used 120,000 United miles plus $188 in taxes for (4) one-way economy tickets from Dublin to LAX. These miles came from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Chase Ink Bold.
I was going to book us both ways with American Airlines and use the Milesaver (40,000 Round-trip -Europe) option but the return flight taxes were terrible and the flight choices were bad too. American Airlines partner for the Dublin route is British Airways or Iberia. British Airways routes you from Dublin back through the UK (London) and triples your taxes to about $300 per person. Talk about giving it to you! If you don’t like that option on American then they will have to route you to Madrid through Iberia which is more like $130+ in taxes which is better but still not great. Oh, and by the way, you have to overnight in Madrid because the flights don’t connect in the same day. American Airlines recently opened a seasonal route flying their own planes from Dublin to Chicago but this summer when I booked our seats they weren’t given those seats out to their frequent flyers.
So bottom line, I paid $208 to fly our family to Europe because of my good credit. Sound crazy! I know! I wasn’t a believer until I started dabbling in credit card bonuses years ago. Now my family travels regularly because I’ve learn this craft very well and so could you.
The most important thing I always stress to new people wanting to learn is to guard your credit. I learned years ago that your credit is one of your most valuable assets. Nurture it, love on it and it will love you back. I remember in my early 20’s when I was buried in credit card debt and I was not properly using credit. I was using it to live a lifestyle I couldn’t afford to live and it wasn’t fun climbing out of that debt when I was first married. I’m thankful I always made a commitment to never miss a payment and always pay my minimum payment which kept my credit in great standing even though I had debt. After a few years of marriage, my husband and I were able to climb out of debt and have stayed that way ever since. Being debt free (except our mortgage) is something I cherish and never want to lose sight of that when making financial decisions. That was 12 years ago. I learned so much about myself and what I didn’t need. I love the simple life now and I don’t have to have anything. I can save up and wait till I have the money. My husband was such an inspiration with regards to finances. He was a debt free man when we married and show me the simple life I know and appreciate today! That being said, he was very hesitant years ago when I started dabbling in credit card bonuses. He wasn’t concerned anymore about my ability to be self-controlled with a credit card in my wallet but more about the affect this might have on my excellent credit scores. So I took it slow and watched my scores closely. Over time I saw my scores not decrease but actually increase. The more credit I attained the higher my score rose. Each time you apply for a credit card you only lose 2 – 3 points on your score. It’s very insignificant. Where I see any drop is when I close an account. I’ve seen at most 10 -15 points for closing a couple cards at the same time. My score always rebounds though after 60 – 90 days back up to where it was. So I have never experience any long term affects from opening cards and closing them. I generally keep all accounts open for 1 year and close them before the annual fee is due unless they are what I call a valuable “wallet” card. This is a card I deem so valuable in earning potential that I feel it’s worth paying the annual fee. So I bet you are wondering what’s in my wallet. Well, I can tell you I don’t have a bulging wallet of credit cards. I have a draw full. I only carry 3 cards; the Starwood Preferred Guest card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and the Chase Ink Bold Charge card. These cards in my opinion are the three power houses right now that give me the ultimate earning power. I do also use my American Express Business Gold Rewards card but it’s not always in my wallet. I’ll discuss all the benefits of these favorites in a later post.
That all being said, I firmly believe that anyone with decent to excellent credit that loves free travel should be seriously considering involvement on some level in credit card bonuses. Each individual needs to research and discover their own strategy but I currently apply for credit cards every quarter. I recommend those interested in using this method to spread out their credit card applications by 90 days to achieve the best results. Take it slow! Monitor your credit regularly and watch it carefully. I believe that if you use credit cards as the tool they were meant to be, they can be a super asset. If you don’t have self-control and find yourself living outside your means than this method is probably not for you. If you are in debt than this is really not for you right now. Get debt free and then you will be ready to go. If you have no credit score or a poor score work to improve it. You can find help here to repair your credit.
I would highly recommend using the following sites to track your credit on a monthly basis. CreditSesame & CreditKarma are good for long term monitoring as they are completely free. Freecreditscore.com & GoFreeCredit.com are good to get your free reports and then be sure to cancel before the trial period is up if you decide not to continue the monthly service.
I completely understand that many people are skeptical about using your credit to earn miles but after many years of seriously churning credit cards I can say my credit scores are as great as ever (780 – 794) and have never been below the excellent range. The highest score I’ve ever achieved was 804. I guard my credit because it is one of my most valuable financial assets.
My current scores:
Note my fluctuations through the year as I was applying for new cards and closing old cards. This year I opened 10 new cards between February and August. You can see my current credit card bonus spreadsheet here. I generally keep two years back on my spreadsheet. This is a great way to organize your earnings and project for new earnings.
Now back to my current travel example:
Airline tickets to Europe for our family of 4
I paid 200,000 miles (50,000 miles per person – 20,000 AA & 30,000 UA ) plus $208 taxes ($20 SBA – LHR and $188 DUB – LAX) to fly us all there round-trip. This is what you call as close to free as you can get! Sweet deal if you ask me! See how my credit really loves on me!! (Note: I wanted to only give up 160,000 AA miles (40,000 Milesaver x 4) but not at the price of the taxes and the hassle. I almost cracked up when this message showed up while booking my United tickets. See below.)
Hmmm, let me think about it for a minute. Should I pay $7,744.00 for this one-way Dublin to LAX flight or use my miles? Such a tough decision. Maybe I should ponder it for a while. Are you cracking up yet? I sure did. I share these real booking pics to show you the real “POWER OF THE MILES“. They are a seriously valuable currency if you love to travel like me. Building your miles and points “travel bank” is a great investment that will pay off. You can save hundreds and thousands of dollars. The value of my miles is clearly shown in this example. Check out my other one way. I actually priced the flight we are booked on and it would have cost $5,000+. So do you think my average family with a single family income would be booking these tickets right now for $12,000+ cash? I don’t think so.
Well, if you have been on the fence about using your good credit to secure free travel, hopefully my example tonight will motivate you. There are lots of great credit card signup bonuses out there and they are always coming out with new exciting ones. I think it’s funny how American is currently heavily soliciting me to get their Citibank AAdvantage Visa card and I’ve had it so many times I can’t remember in the past years. They always want ya back! I’ll probably get it again at the end of this year or maybe next year. I just canceled my recent card at the end of last year. I receive 150,000 American Airlines miles for that offer. (75,000 per card – 1 business, 1 personal).
Here are some of the great offers that are available currently. Check them out and grab some free travel for your family. If you have excellent credit you are set and ready to go. If you don’t, then work on improving your credit and pay off your debt. You’ll get there. There are credit cards that can help you improve your credit; check out this section on my site. Or if you are a student, check out this section.
Chase Sapphire PreferredSM Card – 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points
Ink Bold Charge Card – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
Ink Plus SM Business Card – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express – 30,000 miles
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN – 50,000 points
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express – 25,000 points
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card – 50,000 bonus points
Hyatt Credit Card – 2 free nights anywhere worldwide
Citi Hilton HHonors TM Reserve Card – 2 free weekend nights worldwide
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card – 40,000 bonus points
Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage Visa Signature Card – 30,000 miles
US Airways Dividend Miles Premier World Mastercard – 60,000 miles (40,000 on first purchase)
These are just a few of the many great offers. You can find a very comprehensive credit card guide with every major lender’s rewards cards here on the Miles Momma site. Check it out. I think you’ll find it to be a great resource. If you don’t know what cards to get and need advice, I’m always available via email or live chat. Send me an email with your goals and I’ll help you put together a plan of how you can achieve those goals. I love helping people and see them realize the dream of travel. Traveling the world is really possible for the average person. My family is living proof. I love this hobby and I’m happy to share it with anyone who wants to learn more. Feel free to contact me anytime. Have a great weekend!