Reflections on One Year in the Points Game – 2.4 MILLION MILES/POINTS

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As I sit here in my seat, 30,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean between Maui and the US mainland, I must pause to reflect on how we ended up here. Two hours ago, we concluded an amazing vacation that started by touring Alcatraz, strolling among redwoods, sipping wine, and visiting friends. Then, we spent the next two weeks on a three-island Hawaiian adventure that, until now, has only existed in our dreams! We both earn a decent wage, but we are by-no-means “wealthy.” All of this, and much more, has been made possible during our first year utilizing travel loopholes. Follow along for a recap of what is possible if you dive into the points game for just one year.

In November 2014, I nervously dipped my toes into the points game by applying for two Chase Southwest cards to earn a Companion Pass. By February 1, 2015, we had our Companion Pass in hand, and I was hooked! Over the course of the year, we have applied for and earned many credit card bonuses totaling over TWO MILLION MILES/POINTS!! We have traveled to exciting destinations this year like New York City, Dubai, New Orleans, Austin, San Francisco, and Hawaii using our cache of points… and we have only scratched the surface! (See our Dare to Dream page for info on our trips)

Thumbs up

The points game can be played solo, but we find it much easier as a two-player game. The following table shows the totals we earned with each program, including sign up bonuses, refer-a-friend bonuses, and manufactured spending. Totals do not include points earned from actual travel.

Program 2015 Total Earned
Chase Ultimate Rewards 295,510
Amex Membership Rewards 489,140
Citi ThankYou Points 58,000
American Airlines Miles 865,820
Southwest Miles 149,040
United Miles 58,000
Starwood Points 234,060
IHG Points 207,000
Barclay Arrival Miles 66,000
Discover Cash $1,550+ (with double cash promo)
Bank of America Cash $1,200
Amazon Credit $655
Amex Offers/Checkout Cash $593
Annual Fees Paid -$501
Gift Card Fees (approx 104 gift cards) -$322 (after rebates)

TOTAL MILES/POINTS FROM BONUSES = 2,027,620

TOTAL MILES/POINTS EARNED = 2,422,570

TOTAL CASH EARNED (NET OF FEES) = $3,275

TOTAL CARDS = 35

TOTAL CHECKING ACCOUNTS = 6

The table below breaks down what cards/products we used to earn the miles and cash.

Who Date Card/Product Minimum Spend Annual Fee in 2015 Bonus + Spending
Jesse 11/4/14 Chase Southwest Premier $2,000 $99 50,000 + 2,020
Jesse 11/4/14 Chase Southwest Plus $2,000 $69 50,000 + 2,020
Jesse 2/13/15 Chase Sapphire Preferred $4,000 $0 45,000 + 4,040
Jesse 2/13/15 Chase Ink+ $5,000 $95 60,000 + 25,510
Jesse 2/13/15 Barclays US Airways $1 $89 50,000
Jesse 2/13/15 Citi AA Platinum $3,000 $0 50,000 + $3,030
Jesse 2/13/15 CitiBusiness AA Platinum $3,000 $0 50,000 + $3,030
Brooke 3/15/15 Barclays US Airways $1 $89 50,000
Brooke 3/15/15 Citi AA Platinum $3,000 $0 50,000 + $3,000
Brooke 3/15/15 CitiBusiness AA Platinum $3,000 $0 50,000 + $3,000
Brooke 3/15/15 Amex Starwood $5,000 $0 30,000 (matched) + 5,000
Brooke 3/15/15 Amex Starwood Business $5,000 $0 30,000 (matched) + 5,000
Jesse 4/7/15 Amex Platinum Business $10,000 $450 (refund) 100,000 + 10,060
Brooke 5/5/15 Chase Sapphire Preferred $4,000 $0 45,000 + 4,000
Brooke 5/5/15 Chase IHG $1,000 $0 80,000 + 1,000 + 25,000 extra
Jesse 6/1/15 Barclay Arrival+ $3,000 $0 40,000 + 6,000
Jesse 6/1/15 Citi ThankYou Premier $3,000 $0 55,000 + 3,000
Jesse 6/1/15 Chase United Mileage Plus $3,000 $0 55,000 + 3,000
Jesse 6/1/15 Amex PRG $1,000 $0 50,000 + 1,000
Jesse 6/1/15 Amex BRG $10,000 $0 75,000 + 10,000
Jesse 7/1/15 Pinnacle Checking $0 $0 $100
Jesse 8/7/15 B of A Business Checking $2,000 $0 $1,000
Jesse 8/7/15 B of A Cash Rewards $1 $0 $100
Brooke 8/10/15 Citi AA Executive $7,500 $450 (refund) 75,000 + 13,8501
Jesse 8/10/15 Citi AA Executive $7,500 $450 (refund) 75,000 + 8,8501
Jesse 8/10/15 Amex Starwood $3,000 $0 30,000 + 3,030
Jesse 8/15/15 Amex Starwood Business $5,000 $0 30,000 + 5,050
Jesse 8/15/15 Amex Everyday $1,000 $0 10,000 +1,010
Brooke 8/18/15 Citi AA Platinum (#2) $3,000 $0 60,000 (matched) + 3,030
Jesse 8/18/15 Citi AA Platinum (#2) $3,000 $0 60,000 (matched) + 3,030
Brooke 8/26/15 Amex Platinum $3,000 $450 (refund) 100,000 + 3,030
Jesse 8/26/15 Amex Platinum $3,000 $450 (refund) 100,000 + 3,030
Brooke 10/3/15 Amex Everyday $2,000 $0 25,000 + 2,020
Brooke 10/3/15 Discover IT None $0 $100
*Brooke 10/24/15 Citi AA Platinum (#3) $3,000 $0 60,000 (matched) + 17,5002
*Jesse 10/24/15 Citi AA Platinum (#3) $3,000 $0 60,000 (matched) + 17,5002
*Brooke 10/30/15 Citigold Checking $1,000 $30 50,000 AA
*Jesse 10/30/15 Citigold Checking $1,000 $30 50,000 AA
*Jesse 11/5/15 Chase IHG $1,000 $0 80,000 + 1,010+ $50

*Bonus earned but not yet posted to account.

1Funded LMCU account

2Funded Citigold account

As if earning almost 2.4 million points/miles was not enough, both of our credit scores have improved from the mid-700’s to over 800 now!  We have also utilized many benefits of our various cards including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Amazon Gift Cards
  • Amex offers
    • Staples: Earning $17 per card x 17 cards
  • Amex checkout
    • Sabon: Earning $9 per card x 11 cards
    • NewEgg: Earning $9.51 per card x 11 cards
  • Chase Sapphire Visa Checkout
    • NewEgg: $14.51 per card x 2 cards
  • Lounge access (Amex Platinum)
  • Global Entry x 2 (Amex Platinum)
  • Gogo in-flight internet – 10 passes (Amex Platinum)
  • Starwood Gold (Amex Platinum)
  • Discover Cash Back which will double after one year (Discover IT)
  • Primary rental car insurance (Sapphire)

I hope this post inspires you to get into the game now!  Next year at this time, you could be throwing darts at a map of the world, knowing that you can fly wherever the dart lands for FREE!  If you are brand new and want to get the ball rolling, check out our Getting Started page.  Cheers!

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25 thoughts on “Reflections on One Year in the Points Game – 2.4 MILLION MILES/POINTS

    • Business Platinum – About 6 months after I got the card, Amex removed the benefit of 20% back on travel booked through the MR portal. I wrote an email asking to cancel my card and citing that as a critical loss of benefit. They offered a full refund of the $450 fee.

      Personal Platinum cards – After earning the bonus and redeeming the $200 credit, and maxing the other benefits, we didn’t really need the cards anymore. I sent a message asking to cancel (about 3 months in), expecting a prorated refund, but they gave back the full $450.

      AA Executive – Sent a message requesting that they waive the fee, got a firm no. They offered to cancel the card since I had not had it very long for a full refund of the fee. I happily accepted.

      Like

      • Hi,

        Great blog with lots of great information!

        Regarding your reply to Walter Chen and the refund for AmEx Platinum card, did you use/redeem your Membership Rewards bonus points before canceling? Just wondering if I can still redeem it later on after canceling the card. I don’t plan on redeeming the points anytime soon but want to make sure before I cancel the card to avoid the $450 annual fee.

        Also, what is your take on holding onto the Chase Sapphire card since it has a $95 annual fee? Do you always cancel a credit card when the annual fee kicks in? Or is the idea to max out the benefits of each credit card before the annual fee comes into play?

        Thanks in advance, so much to learn!

        Like

      • Thanks! Before cancelling the Plat, make sure you have another MR card. I recommend the Amex Everyday, because it has no annual fee. This allows you to “store” your points for free until you decide to use them.

        Before cancelling any card, call and ask for a retention offer. If they refuse, decide whether the annual fee is worth it to you. If not, cancel the card.

        Like

    • I guess you’ll have to subscribe for updates 😉 Actually, we are thinking about a trip to Australia/NZ. No definite plans for card applications, but I imagine that we will slow down a bit and focus on using the points we have earned. It all sort of depends on what offers we find… All part of the game!

      Like

  1. Just read about you on Million Mile Secrets. (and then subscribed.) Excellent year and just a bunch of great information. I have a question: I’ve read so much about AMEX only allowing someone to get points from one card in a lifetime. But I see you have several AMEX products. I’m confused as to how the points work with AMEX?

    Like

  2. Just read about you on Million Mile Secrets. (and then subscribed.) Excellent year and just a bunch of great information. I have a question: I’ve read so much about AMEX only allowing someone to get points from one card in a lifetime. But I see you have several AMEX products. I’m confused as to how the points work with AMEX?

    Like

    • Hi Jesse.. I know you replied yesterday to my comment…but I must not have been clear on my question..the link you provided just listed the cards but didn’t offer help or explanation..but I am looking forward to piersonsr0726 response because that may be clearer than my question was.. maybe you should do a blog on this 🙂

      Like

    • American Express only allows one bonus per lifetime PER PRODUCT. For example, the Amex Premier Rewards Gold, Everyday, Platinum, Platinum Business, Starwood, Starwood Business, etc. are all different products. This means, you can get the bonus for each card, but only once. With this in mind, be sure to seek the best bonus available when you apply for an Amex card. If you get the 40,000 MR bonus for the Platinum card, you will not be able to get the 100,000 MR bonus, since you’ve already received a bonus from that product. Does this make sense?

      Like

      • Thanks Jesse. I do understand now. A follow-up question: I got an offer in the mail the other day for one of the AMEX products with an 80000 point bonus. In reading through the ways you CANNOT accrue the points, pre-paid cards were listed. Are the Visa gift cards you use for MS considered pre-paid cards? Thanks again. Just want to say your explanations are really detailed, yet simple. I hope your blog takes off!

        Like

      • Thanks for the kind words! Most card agreements contain this language. I have not yet had an issue with any of the cards. Gift cards post as a purchase, which will trigger the bonus.

        Like

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