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US Airways

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.

Recap

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!

-Parag


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When You Should Think About Buying Miles

If you have a US Airways Frequent Flyer Account, it seems every month you get offers for a 100% Bonus on Purchased Miles. In fact, just yesterday Morning I received the following email.

99% of the time these offers are still a terrible deal so I don’t even open them. This time however, I decided to check it out so I opened the link in the email.

It did ask me to Log-In, so the offer might be targeted but I am not sure.

Normally US Airways sells Miles for 3.5 Cents per a Mile, so 100,000 Miles would cost you around $3,500 + Tax.

With this promotion, you get a 100% Bonus, so if you purchase 50,000 Miles for $1,750, then you get an additional bonus of 50,000 Miles. Basically you are buying 100,000 Miles for $1,750 + $131.25 in Taxes and Fees, so a Grand Total of $1,881.25.

The basic rule of thumb when buying Miles is that anything under 1 Cent per a Mile is a great deal.

At 1.88 Cents per a Mile, even with this 100% Bonus, for most people it still doesn’t really make sense to buy the Miles given how easy it is to earn Miles via Credit Cards.

When It DOES Make Sense To Buy Miles

That being said, there are a few times when it does make sense to purchase Miles at a discount.

1. Top Off An Account

For any of you that recently signed up for the US Airways Card and got 40,000 Miles after spending $1 on the Card, you may be wondering how to effectively use those Miles.

While 40,000 Miles is more than enough for an Off-Peak Award to Europe for 35,000 Miles, if you want to go to Europe in the Summer, it will cost you 60,000 Miles.

With this 100% Bonus, an additional 20,000 Miles (10k + 10k) would cost you $350 + Taxes & Fees. Although that does sounds like a lot, a typical Summer Economy Fare to Europe can be anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500, so $350 is still a steep discount.

2. Miles For Family Members

As easy as it is to get Miles from Credit Cards, there certainly are limitations on how many times you can get the same Card, etc, which may limit how many Miles you can earn. 

On the majority of Trips that I go on, when I take someone with me, I usually end up paying for their Ticket with Miles because the price of a Revenue Ticket is outrageous.

Although I earned over 500,000 Miles last year, spending 100,000 – 140,000 Miles per a trip on Award Tickets can quickly deplete your balance.

Therefore I can only imagine if you are trying to use Miles and are traveling with a Family of 4.

Although the 2 Adults in the Family can sign up for Credit Cards, the Children obviously cannot.

For example if you wanted to take your Family of 4 on a Domestic Trip, that would set you back at least 100,000 Miles (25,000 Miles each).

For a trip to Europe, that would cost you at least 240,000 Miles (60,000 Miles each).

And for Asia, that would be at least 320,000 Miles (80,000 Miles each).

While it is possible to earn that many Miles in a single program solely with Credit Cards, it can be difficult. 

When my Parents and I went to India in Business Class this past December, it was 120,000 Miles EACH, so 360,000 Miles total. All 3 of us had signed up for Credit Cards, so it wasn’t a big deal, but if my younger Brother wanted to come, we certainly wouldn’t have had enough Miles for him since that would be an additional 120,000 Miles.

The reason I bring all this up is because with these targeted 100% Bonuses, many times it is cheaper or close to the same price to buy 100,000 Miles rather than purchase an Economy Ticket.

Many of my Parents Friends go with their Families to visit India every year. Even in my Parent’s case, when we were younger and would go to India, they would use Miles for 1 ticket, and then purchase 3 tickets out of pocket. Back then it was around $1,000 a ticket in Economy, so at least $3,000 out of pocket.

In recent years though, the price of Airfare has gone up substantially.

For example, if you were going to India in June, the cheapest Economy Ticket is $1,871.

However if you bought Miles via this US Airways Promotions, it would be around $2,100 for 120,000 Miles (Although there are yearly caps on how many Miles you can buy, so be sure to check that first).

So for about $200 more than what you were going to pay for a Coach Ticket, you could be flying in Business Class!

For Europe in the Summer it is a similar situation, the cheapest Flight I could find in June was $1,602.

Of course you could just spend $1,750 + Tax on this US Airways promotion and fly in Business Class for 100,000 Miles. Also there are cheap Paid Business Class fares to Europe in the Summer as The Points Guy pointed out.

3. You Live Outside The United States

My Cousin and her Husband, who live in Australia, want to come visit the U.S this Summer. Since it will technically be their Winter when they want to come, fares coming out of Australia are really expensive! I had another Friend who lives in Sydney that came back to visit last Summer and his Economy ticket was $2,500.

Since the majority of FFU Readers are Americans, it is easy to forget how lucky we are to get these INSANE Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses. No one else in the World gets offers like these. If you don’t believe me, just ask any Canadian Readers.

That being said the cheapest Sydney -> Chicago fare in August is $2,374 FOR AN ECONOMY TICKET!

Looking at the US Airways Award Chart, I can see that it is only 110,000 Miles in Business Class from the South Pacific to USA. So for around $1,925, they can each buy the 110,000 Miles they need and actually pay less to NOT fly in Economy!

Limitations

While for a few hundred dollars more, it is a no brainer to buy Miles and fly Business Class rather than pay the same price and fly in Economy, there are some limitations when doing this.

1. Yearly Caps On How Many Miles You Can Buy

Each Airline has their own caps on how many Miles you can buy in a year. US Airways from what I have read DOES NOT have this cap (please correct me if I am mistaken) and they seem to run promotions every month, so it shouldn’t be hard to reach the 120,000 Miles or however many that you need in each Account.

2. Award Availability

Unlike a Revenue Ticket, Award Availability changes on a whim and may not be able for the exact dates you are looking for. Additionally, depending on the Airline and when you are flying, 4 Business Class may not always be available.

When my Parents and I went to India, I flew back separately from them because there wasn’t 3 Award Seats available on any flights out of India.

Recap

While 99% of the time buying Miles is not a good idea, as you can see there are certain instances when it does make sense.

As always, the key here is long term planning. If you know you have a Family Trip to Europe coming up later in 2013, NOW would be the time to buy the miles and book it.

-Parag

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US Airways Premier 40,000 Mile Offer

Over the past few months, as many of us have rotated through the entire portfolio of “low hanging” Credit Card Miles like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX, etc, I have been getting quite a few FFU Reader Emails asking what is an easy Card to get next.

This is going to come as a surprise, but I have been recommending the US Airways Card from Barclays.

If you are scratching your head wondering why I’d recommend US Airways over any of the other Chase or AMEX Cards, the reason is simple, THERE IS NO MINIMUM SPEND!

If you have noticed in recent months, Chase has added at least a $1,000 Minimum Spend Requirement to all their Travel Credit Cards.

While $1,000 isn’t terrible and you could easily Amazon Payment it, most people still prefer the No Minimum Spend Cards.

It is astonishing to think that at one time last year, you could get 2 Free Nights at any Hyatt Worldwide simply by signing up for their Card and charging a cup of coffee to it.

Well luckily with US Airways that is exactly what you can still do!

US Airways Premier World Mastercard

Link To Sign Up For US Airways Premier World Mastercard

By signing up for the US Airways Card, you get 40,000 US Airways Miles after 1st purchase. (50,000 Miles if you do a Balance Transfer)

While most people write off US Airways because they aren’t one of the Big 3 (United, Delta, or AA), US Airways Miles are fairly valuable.

The reason for this is because US Airways is a Star Alliance Partner. This means that almost any Award Ticket that you can purchase with your United Miles, you can also purchase with your US Airways Miles.

What is also exciting is that with the potential merger of US Airways and American Airlines, more than likely any US Airways Miles will become AAdvantage Miles in the future!

I signed up for the US Airways Card in November. I had 20,000 or so US Airways Miles laying around from their Grand Slam Promotion a few years ago, so with the additional 40,000 Miles from the Credit Card, I now have 60,000 Miles! That is enough for a FREE trip to Europe!

Also what is neat about the US Airways Card is that there are a few perks in addition to the 40,000 Miles.

  • $99 Companion Certificate that allows 2 Friends to fly with you
  • 1 Complimentary US Airways Club Day Pass (not sure why they didn’t offer 2)
  • 5,000 Mile Rebate on certain Award Tickets
  • Waived Award Processing Fee (YMMV)

While the other benefits are okay, the real gem here is the 5,000 Mile Rebate & waived Award Processing Fee.

Off-Peak Award Tickets

Way back in October I talked about US Airways Off-Peak Award Chart where in January and February you could fly to Europe for 35,000 Miles in Economy or 60,000 in Business.

Well if you have the US Airways Credit Card, you get 5,000 Miles off of that, so it is only 30,000 in Economy or 55,000 in Business!

That is almost a 50% discount compared to the normal amount of Miles (60,000) it takes to fly to Europe!

Also with the Credit Card you might not have to pay the annoying $50 Award Processing Fee! Although YMMV because this is a benefit defined in the Welcome Packet and it worked for my Friend below, but when I tried to do it online, I couldn’t get the $50 fee waived (My screenshot is below).

Literally this afternoon my Friend decided at the last minute to join my other Friend and I in Madrid for the Alitalia $287 Mistake Fare this upcoming February.

The options were either to spend $800 on a Revenue Flight, 60,000 United Miles on an Award Ticket, or 30,000 US Airways Miles for an Off-Peak Award. I’ll let you guess which one she picked…

Honestly if I had remembered that US Airways offers Off-Peak Awards, I would have just spent 55,000 US Airways Miles to fly in Business Class instead of paying $287 out of pocket for a 16 hour Alitalia flight in Economy!

Targeted 15,000 Mile Bonus

Additionally what I have heard from Friends who have had the US Airways Card is that after a few months of Card Membership Barclays will send you an offer in the mail for 15,000 additional Miles if you spend $750 in the following 3 months.

I haven’t received that offer yet because I just got the Card at the end of November, but if it is true, then you should be able to easily get 55,000 US Airways Miles!

Recap

If you don’t have a US Airways Card, I’d suggest getting one or including it in your next App-O-Rama.

Since the Card is issued by Barclays, I’d recommend getting it when you apply for your next Chase or American Express Card.

From what I have heard, the US Airways Card is also churnable which is a huge plus.

Overall, you can’t beat this US Airways Card because for spending $1, you can get 40,000 Miles.

Depending on how you use those Miles, if you did an Off-Peak Award like my Friend did, you could go to Europe for 30,000 Miles and still have another 10,000 Miles left over!

-Parag

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