Getting Started with Miles & Points

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Hilton Moorea, French Polynesia

Author’s Note: We earn a commission for some credit card links on this site.  Please see our Advertiser Disclosure for information.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Miles & Points!  In this post, I will list four of my favorite credit card bonuses to kick start your travels.  Follow the links to apply for each of the cards if you like.  This should get the ball rolling for you.  Before applying for any of the cards, I highly recommend opening a Credit Karma account.  This account is free and 100% secure.  It will give you an estimate of your credit score from 2 credit bureaus without a “hard credit pull.”  If your score is below 660, you have a lower chance of approval and may want to wait.  Otherwise, let’s get going…

sapphire_preferred_cardChase Sapphire Preferred – this is my everyday spending card

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5,000 UR point bonus if you add one authorized user.  I recommend a spouse, parent, or trusted friend, and you can do this when you apply.
  • 2pts per dollar spent on travel and dining
  • 1pt per dollar on everything else
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Points can transfer to 13 airline/hotel partners or can be redeemed as cash
  • $95 annual fee waived for first year

**Learn how this ONE card can earn you TWO ROUNDTRIP TICKETS TO HAWAII!

Chase-Freedom-2014

Chase Freedom – Use this for spending in bonus categories each quarter for 5pts/dollar.

  • 15,000 UR point sign-up bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
  • 2,500 UR point bonus if you add one authorized user
  • 5pts per dollar spent in rotating categories each quarter (gas, groceries, hotels, dining, etc)
  • 1pt per dollar on everything else
  • Points can transfer to 13 airline/hotel partners or can be redeemed as cash (must also have Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus card to transfer points)
  • No annual fee

citi-aadvantage-platinum-select-credit-card

American Airlines Citi Platinum Select

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles (RT USA to Europe = 36,000) if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Free checked bag for yourself and up to 4 companions
  • 25% off in-flight purchases
  • 10% discount on mile redemption for reward flights
  • $95 annual fee waived first year

American Airlines CitiBusiness Platinum Select

  • Same benefits as above card
  • Must apply as a business – If you have a business, use the Tax ID number for the application.  If you do not, use a “sole proprietorship” and your Social Security Number.
  • Ideally, you would have revenue.  However, this is not likely the case for everyone.  Just put in a reasonable number.  You can earn this later 🙂

Total value – These cards are my best recommendations right now.  This post will continually be updated as new offers are made available.  If you get all four of these cards and hit the spending bonuses, you will have at least 66,000 American Airlines miles and 62,000 Chase UR Points.  That’s enough for multiple round trip flights to Europe and Hawaii, and some spending cash … depending on how you redeem the points!

App-o-Rama – The best way to get these bonuses all at once is to do what’s called an app-o-rama.  This means applying for all 4 cards within one day.  This increases your chances of getting approved for all cards and limits the “hard pulls” on your credit report (although this makes very little impact on your score – my score actually went UP!).  Banks usually aggregate hard credit pulls within a short time period to a single hard pull for reporting purposes.  I highly recommend applying for the Chase cards first, as they have recently tightened their approval rules.

Spending – For all of these bonuses, you will need to spend $6,500 in 3 months.  This can be quite a bit to spend!  To accomplish this, you can use Visa gift cards and money orders, so you actually spend almost nothing.  This is a relatively simple, 4-step process:

  1. Purchase $500 VISA gift cards issued by Metabank or Sunrise Bank using your credit card of choice.  They can be found at most grocery stores and usually have gray packaging.  They will have a $3-$6 purchase fee.  If you are using a Chase or Amex card, the 1pt/$ spending bonus should negate the fee.  You may encounter a fraud alert if you make a large gift card purchase.  Simply call the number on the back of your credit card to clear the alert, and then retry the transaction.
  2. Take gift cards to the Walmart Money Center or anywhere that money orders are sold.  Use your pin-enable Visa gift cards to purchase money orders.  There will be a fee per money order, which varies by location.  For simplicity, request a money order that equals the amount of your gift card, minus the fee.  For example:  MO fee = $0.68, ask for a $499.32 money order.  This will bring the total to exactly $500.
  3. Deposit the money orders into your checking account.  Some people opt to open a bank account specifically for this activity.  Banks may question this activity or deem it suspicious as part of their efforts to prevent money laundering.  You are not doing any thing illegal, so you should not need to worry.
  4. Use the funds in your bank account to pay off the credit card balance.

There you have it!  If you would like to explore additional credit card offers, check out our Top Offers page.  Hopefully these instructions are clear to get you started.  If you have any additional questions, check our FAQ page or post below.  Good luck, and again, welcome to the wonderful world of Miles & Points.  Cheers!

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11 thoughts on “Getting Started with Miles & Points

  1. The only thing that kept me from this whole loophole travel was the “artificial spending” exercise. I decided to give it a shot and last night, I went through the whole process of using the serve card to pay back the credit card and everything worked! I was very surprised how easy it was!

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  2. Jesse first time visitor to this site and I gotta say I’m blown away. I plan on doing this app-o-rama you point out, but want maximize these offers. I have a 2yr old Citi Platinum WE card that started as a regular Elite card. After the 18month period I can reapply for the bonus on an Elite card correct? Also, can I combine this with the Citigold Checking Account Offer (since the 75k for the Executive WE offer is gone) to get the most AA miles? Thanks again, looks like I have much to learn!

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    • If you have had the AA plat card for two years, you should be eligible to reapply and earn the bonus. Combining it with the Citigold bonus is a great way to earn another big bonus! Sounds like you’re on the right track.

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  3. I love your website and your articles. They are very easy to understand and work with as someone who is on the newer side to churning. So the news is that the Amex Serve is out for most people. I don’t have it yet, what other alternatives would you suggest?

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  4. Hi Jesse, I have a question about the App-o-Rama for Chase. I applied/was approved for the Southwest Plus card, and then tried to apply for both the Southwest premiere and the Chase Sapphire. Both times it brought up a page saying ‘thank you for your submission we have received the information you have submitted’. Does that mean they kept the info I used to apply to the 1st Southwest card? In your experience is that going to be a problem applying for multiple cards?

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    • To apply for multiple chase cards, you must completely close out of your browser for the subsequent cards. Otherwise, their system sees the applications as duplicates. You will need to resubmit apps for the second and third cards.

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