Credit Card Sign On Bonus

A Real Example Of How To Earn 115,000 Miles

How To Earn 115,000 Miles

This past month, my Parents told me they needed some new credit cards because they have some large purchases coming up.

Since I’ve been doing this credit card game for a while now and I manage all the miles for my family, over the years I’ve basically signed them up for almost all the “big offers”. This means that there is a smaller pool of cards to pick from for every new round of credit card applications .

One thing that has been really helpful in managing this process is that last year I finally started tracking all the open / closed cards my family has via this spreadsheet. So instead of guessing when my Mom last had the Hyatt card, I can simply now just check the spreadsheet.

Normally I wouldn’t share “mundane” posts like how I signed my Parents up for some basic credit cards but the reason I am writing about this is because I forgot how easy it is to earn miles…

Not Rocket Science

Whenever I meet new people, they always ask what I do for a living, so of course I tell them about FFU and how to earn miles etc. From those experiences and the reader questions I get, I think there is a general sense that earning miles via credit cards is extremely difficult and takes some sort of rocket science.

So I am sharing my “mundane” experience about how I signed my Parents up for a couple credit cards and earned them 115,000 miles, so when random people stumble across this blog, they realize that anyone can do this and there isn’t any rocket science involved.

3 Cards = 115,000 Miles

As I stated earlier, my Parents have already had most of the “big” cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Starwood, etc.

Their upcoming large purchases total around $4,000, so I didn’t want to sign them up for any cards with a large minimum spend requirement that would require them to do any manufactured spend (ie. more work for me).

After taking a look at my spreadsheet, I opted to sign them both up for the following cards.

  • Citi American Airlines – 50,000 AA miles after $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months
  • US Airways Mastercard – 40,000 miles after 1st purchase
  • Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles after $1,000 in 3 months. Plus $100 statement credit.

The total haul for each person will be 115,000 miles after completing $4,000 in minimum spend!

The Cards & My Rationale

1. Citi American Airlines – 50,000 miles

Link To Application

This offer is pretty standard at 50,000 miles for $3,000 minimum spend but because AA has now merged with US Airways, these AA miles are becoming increasingly valuable as the OneWorld route network expands.

To make matters even better, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year!

By signing up each of my Parents for this AA card and by completing the $6,000 total minimum spend, they will earn a total  of 100,000 miles!

2. US Airways – 40,000 miles

Link To Application

There certainly have been better US Air offers in the past but it is honestly surprising that this card is still available given the US Air / AA merger is complete.

Not only is there no minimum spend on this card but you can get it more than once…

I’ve signed my Parents up for this card in the past, so I went ahead and got them each another one. Once they spend $1 on the card, they will get 40,000 miles!

While the $89 annual fee is not waived for this card, it is a small price to pay for 40,000 miles.

Also since these miles will eventually be converted into AA miles later this year, it is an easy way to proactively stock up.

3. Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles + $100 statement credit

Link To Application

This isn’t a card that most people even consider because unless you live on the West Coast, you probably would never fly Alaska.

While that is definitely true, since Alaska isn’t part of any alliance, they have crafted one of the best airline partnerships out there.

So even if you never plan to fly Alaska, you could potentially redeem your 25,000 Alaska miles for a free flight on Delta, AA, British Airways, Emirates, etc. Full list of partners is here.

While the $75 annual fee isn’t waived, I was able to find an offer that gives a $100 statement credit. So if you were to get this card, you are actually making $25…

As for the $1,000 minimum spend, since I have Amazon Payment accounts for both my Parents, I am just going to use those to complete the minimum spend for them.


Having to sign my Parents up for normal credit cards and not having to do any of the two-browser tricks or creating an eBay business to get a business credit card, was a refreshing reminder of HOW EASY IT IS TO EARN MILES!

These banks are literally giving miles away or in some cases paying you $25 to take their miles.

3 credit card sign ups each netted my Parents 115,000 miles for around $64 ($89 + $75 – $100 statement credit) and $4,000 in minimum spend each.

If they go to India in the next few years, then those 115,000 miles + the miles from minimum spend is almost enough for a free Business Class ticket! Even if they were to redeem those 115,000 miles for just domestic economy travel, they would get probably 5 free trips worth upwards of $1,500 total!

Not bad for 30 minutes of work on my end!

Basically, if you are new to earning miles or this site, hopefully my Parents experience showcases that it is in fact possible to earn quite a few free miles / free trips with a minimal amount of work.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me!


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Most Recent Round Of Credit Card Applications


Last week (pre SEZ-DUB mistake fare), I began thinking about my future travel plans for Fall and Winter 2013 / 2014.

While I have a pretty decent stockpile of miles / points, the one thing I always try to stress is the value of long term planning.

Much like retiring where you don’t just wake up and decide you are ready to retire, you need to slowly save money in your earlier years, the same thing applies to traveling on miles / points.

In order to use miles / points to take a free trip, you need to start earning and saving in advance!

Currently I have the following balances:


  • United – 108,000 miles
  • AA – 50,000 miles
  • British Airways – 170,000 miles (family account)
  • US Air – 55,000 miles
  • Delta – 16,500 miles
  • Southwest – 46,000 miles
  • Hawaiian Airlines – 72,000 miles

Hotel Points

  • Hyatt – 7,000 points + 2 free nights in a Suite certificate
  • Club Carlson – 17,000 points + 1 free night certificate
  • Starwood – 18,000 points
  • Hilton – 2,000 points
  • Priority Club – 7,000 points
  • Marriott – 600 points

Although it is a very diverse collection of various miles and points, one big trip could deplete my balances (little did I know how big of a trip it would be…). Therefore I figured last week, it would be a good time to start build a reserve for future travel.

My two big trips planned (prior to SEZ-DUB) for Fall 2013 & Winter 2014 were going to Asia to visit my Brother while he studies abroad in Singapore and going skiing in either Colorado or Canada.

Those trips are still on but now Africa / Europe is included.


While for most flights to Europe, I will suck it up and fly in Coach.

I have also done Australia and India in Coach and it was not fun. Therefore my rule is anything above 12 hours, I try to do Business Class if possible. I don’t really care about the food, service, or alcohol, I really only care about the seat and if it is a lie-flat.

Typically the difference between Coach (80,000 miles) and Business (120,000 miles) to Asia is only 40,000 miles (or 20,000 each way), so in my opinion it is well worth it to be able to sleep in a lie-flat seat.

I currently have 108,000 United miles, so to fly to Asia in Business Class, I will need another 12,000 United miles.

Depending on availability, I could also do a one way using United miles and come back on Cathay Pacific using British Airways Avios.

As for Hotels, I currently have 3 free night certificates which will be useful in expensive cities like Tokyo.


I talked about going skiing last year and all the different options available. Unfortunately those plans fell through, so I will try again this year.

Since the distance to ski resorts isn’t that far, depending on where I am going, I will either use Southwest Points (in the US) or British Airways to Canada.

Given how expensive ski resorts in Colorado and Canada can be during the peak winter season, this also would be a great use of hotel points or free night certificates!

Africa / Middle East / Europe

Given that the SEZ – DUB fare just happened, I haven’t really begun researching much for it. Given we will probably be gone for close to two weeks, hotel points and free night certificates are going to be a necessity to minimize our out of pocket expenses.

To fly Business Class to Africa will take 60,000 United miles (One Way) and coming back from Dublin should be around 25,000 – 35,000 Avios in Business Class on Aer Lingus. Just finding availability will be tricky!

Credit Card Applications

I actually applied for all the Cards below last week with the belief I was going to use them for Asia and skiing.

Plans obviously changed but because I am always working towards to collecting miles and points even if i don’t have a destination in mind, I should still be fine.


Chase INK Plus – 50,000 points after $5,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months

Link To Application

Since I currently only have 108,000 United miles, I know I will need another 12,000 United miles to redeem for a Business Class ticket to Asia.

I picked up this Chase INK card because it earns Ultimate Rewards Points that can be transferred to United. As for the leftover 38,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, I might transfer them to Hyatt for a 2 free night hotel nights.

To complete the $5,000 minimum spend requirement, I plan on buying Chase giftcards for free and then loading them onto Bluebird.

Fairmont – 2 free nights after $1,000 minimum spend requirement in 3 months

Link To Application

While this Fairmont Card is not heavily advertised on travel blogs (primarily because there is no affiliate link…), in my opinion the Fairmont Card is as good as the Hyatt Card.

There certainly aren’t as many Fairmont properties (map) in the world compared to Hyatt, but what Fairmont lacks in quantity they make up in quality.

There is a really nice Fairmont property in Whistler that I have visited (not stayed at unfortunately), which could be a good use of the 2 free nights.

Also Fairmont has these cool Safari Resorts in Africa that look pretty amazing. I am not sure if you can use the 2 free nights at those properties because the safari in included in the price, but if you could that would be unreal!

American Express

Delta Gold AMEX – 30,000 miles after $500 minimum spend in 3 months

Link To Application (if you aren’t seeing the offer, try clearing your cookies or using a new browser. I was having problems earlier)

To be honest, I have never gotten a Delta credit card before.

This is because it is fairly common knowledge that Delta SkyMiles are called SkyPesos for a reason.

That being said, there weren’t really any great AMEX offers available that I hadn’t already applied for. Also given that the minimum spend was only $500, it was a hard offer to pass up.

Since I currently have 16,500 SkyMiles, might as well add another 30,000 and hopefully be able to use them for something in the future.

Bank of America

Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles after 1st purchase

Link To Application

Alaska Airlines is probably one of the strangest frequent flyer programs out there, in that they aren’t part of an alliance but seem to be partners with every airline.

This Card was also like the Delta AMEX in that I don’t really have a need for Alaska miles but I figure they are good to have since they can be redeemed on Delta and American Airlines.

In addition, the card comes with a $99 companion certificate that could be useful.

Since there wasn’t any minimum spend requirement and the Card is issued by Bank of America, there wasn’t any really downsize to getting this card.

US Bank

Club Carlson – 85,000 points after $2,500 minimum spend in 3 months

Link To Application

US Bank just recently got into the hotel credit card business with their Club Carlson card.

While Club Carlson’s brand of hotels isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, their card is fairly lucrative in that 85,000 points can get you 2 – 4 free nights at some of their Radisson Blu properties.

In addition, with the card if you redeem points for 2 nights or more, you get the last night free! So if you only stay for 2 nights, then the 2nd night is free!

Not to mention that every year you renew the card, you get 40,000 additional points!

While the card is great, unfortunately US Bank is EXTREMELY STRICT and won’t approve you if you have too many credit card applications, regardless of your credit score.

Unfortunately I fell into that category and was denied for this card which stinks because I could really use the points in Europe and Middle East!

I am guessing this credit vigilance by US Bank is to stop people who just sign up for credit cards for the sign up bonus and then cancel them later.

However the irony is that this card is so lucrative with the 40,000 point annual renewal bonus and “Stay 2, Get 1” perk, that most people (including myself) would probably pay the annual fee and keep that card.


US Airways – 30,000 miles after 1st purchase

Link To Application

For those of you paying attention, this is the same exact US Airways card I got back in November during my last round of apps.

From what I have heard, Barclays will approve you for the same US Airways card again if you tell them you need the new card to keep your “expenses separate”.

For me, I didn’t even have to call in and was approved online!

The best part is that there is no minimum spend on the card!

I already have 55,000 US Airway miles so another 35,000 will be nice.

Worst case is that my 90,000 US Airway miles turn into AA miles after the merger, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.


Hilton Reserve – 2 free weekend nights after $2,500 minimum spend in 4 months

Link To Application

While Hilton has severely devalued their hotel points program, this Hilton Card comes with 2 free weekend night certificates.

There are some limitations on where you can’t use the weekend night certificates (full list here), but it actually is a fairly small list and mostly covers Hilton Vacation Club properties and all inclusive properties.

That being said, from my understanding you can use the free weekend night certificates at any of the non-excluded properties like the Conrad Maldives, which is famous for its underwater restaurant, not to mention the ridiculous scenery.


All in all, I was approved for 6 out of 7 applications.

Besides for the Fairmont card, all the other cards were approved without having to call the reconsideration line!

In total, I will receive around 135,000 miles / points and 4 free night certificates after completing $9,000 in minimum spend requirement in 3 months.

While this round of applications wasn’t as lucrative as last time (due to the 85,000 point Club Carlson denial), the 4 free hotel nights will be useful for my future trips and it will be good to diversify some of my other accounts like Delta, US Airways, and Alaska.

Thankfully, the minimum spend requirement isn’t as steep as last time. I should be able to do almost all of it with Chase giftcards / Bluebird, Amazon Payments, and the new Google Wallet service. If I am a little short, I can always hit up CVS and buy some Vanilla Reloads.

All in all, although it wasn’t the best round of credit card applications, I am glad I did it because I am going to need more miles and hotel points for the new Africa / Europe trip.

Although I applied for these cards without knowing of the upcoming trip, it just goes to show you the importance of long term planning.

You never know what deal could be coming down the pipeline, so it is best to be prepared!


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United MileagePlus Explorer Visa & MasterCard Versions

I am always amazed at how awesome Frequent Flyer University readers are.

I try to do my best on covering as much information about frequent flying and travel hacking on the site, but I am always grateful when readers submit new information to me because to be honest I am constantly learning.

Chris M. from Libertyville, IL, sent me this email this weekend. For taking the time to think about FFU while on the phone with Chase, I’ll be sending a $50 Starbucks giftcard his way.

How To Get Your Annual Fee Waived By Chase /  The United MileagePlus Explorer Visa & MasterCard

Parag, I was just talking with Chase, because I was hit with annual fees on my old United MileagePlus card (the old gray visa with the $60 fee), and the British Airways card which I signed up for last year.  Your readers might find this information quite useful:

  • The front line phone rep doesn’t have any power to waive fees— if you want to get your fees waived, you need to ask to be transferred to a “loyalty adviser”.  They are pretty quick and happy to waive the fee for you, and it doesn’t take a lot of strong-arming on your part.
  • If you had the Continental OnePass MasterCard before (the entry level one with $85 fee), that card automatically switched over to a United Explorer card, but as a Mastercard.  I asked the rep if it was possible to have both the old Mastercard version, and the new Visa version, and she said yes. Hopefully that means its possible to get a second sign up bonus for the Explorer card.
  • The rep was able to waive the fee on the United Card, but not on the BA card.  I asked if this was because I was asking for two fees to be waived at the same time, or if it was something unique to the BA card.  The rep said that the Chase marketing department only budgets refunds for certain cards they are promoting.  She said that the United card was one that had a budget, but the BA card did not.  Either way, it was pretty painless to get the $60 statement credit.

What Does This Mean

Thanks to Chris’s due diligence, we now know some pretty groundbreaking news that really changes the game. I’ll be writing more in-depth about these topics this week, but here is a basic summary.
  • You can get an annual fee waived on your Chase Cards, you just have to ask to speak to the right person and the Card has to have a marketing budget.
  • There are 2 types of MileagePlus Explorers Credit Cards, a Visa and MasterCard version, which most likely means that you can get a sign up bonus for each version of the card. If anyone who has the MasterCard version, and has tried or gotten the Visa version along with the sign up bonus, please let me know.
  • If you previously had the Continental OnePass MasterCard and had your card automatically switched over to the United MileagePlus Explorer MasterCard, you are still eligible for the current United MileagePlus Explorer Visa 30,000 mile offer because it is a Visa.
Overall, I am really excited about this news and I think everyone will be extremely happy if you can get a second 30,000 mile sign up bonus for the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa.

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