I started this process by looking around for credit cards that offered bonuses in AAdvantage or Starwood points. I was surprised to learn that Citi offers more than one variety of American AAdvantage card, and that they have no problem with their customers holding all the different varieties. Another thing I had not previously considered was that spouses could each have their own account for each card product, instead of just sharing one account. With these thoughts in mind, I went on a credit application rampage. I applied for all these cards in one evening, and was approved for all of them:
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express,* in Erik’s name. Just like I did, he’ll be able to transfer his 25,000 signup bonus to 30,000 AA miles after he spends $3,000. (Through the end of March, new cardholders get an even better deal than Erik’s getting: 35,000 Starwood points!)
- AAdvantage Gold Master Card in Erik’s name. This will give him 25,000 miles for a $750 spend.
- Platinum Select AAdvantage card, in my name. This will earn 50,000 miles after I spend $3,000 on it.
- CitiBusiness Platinum Select World MasterCard, in the name of my incorporated business. This will give me 50,000 miles after a $3,000 spend.
So, counting the one AAdvantage card we’d had all along and the two cards we had already gotten in this effort, our round trip to Australia is “costing” us seven credit cards. Six new ones paying sign-up bonuses and one old one that had been racking up miles for years.
When we spend a combined $9,750 on the four new cards, we will not only get the 155,000 bonus miles described above, we’ll also get an additional 10,000 miles or so, because all these cards pay one mile or more per dollar spent.
If you’re good at math, you might note that this is not the 50/50 balance I was going for across our two AAdvantage accounts. After collecting these bonuses, Erik’s account will have about 135,000 miles, and mine 240,000. That’s enough to get six and a half one-way tickets with my account, and only three and a half with his, which obviously won’t work. Fortunately, Starwood allows members to transfer points to other members in the same household. So when Erik gets the 25,000 bonus from his Starwood American Express, I’ll transfer it to my Starwood account, before transferring it to my AAdvantage account. Crazy, I know. But once that’s done, I’ll be able to transfer 20,000 of his points to my AAdvantage account, which will show up as 25,000 AA miles with the transfer bonus. Then, with all the other bonuses I’m expecting, I’ll have 265,000 miles, enough for seven one-way tickets, and Erik should have enough miles for three tickets.
Since I put together this plan, we actually already hit the required spend on all the above cards. We have received some of the bonuses already, but not all of them.
Our current mileage holdings:
106,601 miles to go! Of the miles we still need, 50,000 should show up within the next week or so. Another 50,000 will hit my account around the end of March. The 10,000 or so miles for the spending will show up around the same time. Not getting some of these miles until the end of a month is a bummer, because American will start charging more miles for our trip on March 22. Not only that, but the longer we wait to book, the more chance that the frequent flyer seats we need might get snapped up by someone else.
Smaller miles earning efforts
Credit cards are the big, fast way to earn miles these days, but I’ll also pursue a few side efforts to pad our accounts:
- I will call Citi customer service and ask them to add a 1,000 mile per month bonus as an incentive for me to keep my older Cit AAdvantage Gold Card. They surprised us by doing this when we tried to cancel another card.
- I’ll remember to book rental cars and shop through the American AAdvantage shopping portal.
- I’ll give my AAdvantage number when checking into a hotel (unless I can earn Starwood points which would be even better).
- I’ll make sure to register the current card I’m using with the AAdvantage Dining program for when we charge restaurant meals.
- I’ll try to get friends and family to sign up for Starwood American Express cards so I can earn more 5,000-point bonuses (email me at carrielynnkirby AT gmail.com for an invite).
Next time, I’ll talk about how on earth it makes sense to spend $10,000 in one month to get miles, what we spent the money on, and talk about some financial precautions to take before embarking on a project like this. Obviously, it’s very important not to get yourself into credit card debt in pursuit of miles, but we’ll go into this more deeply in the next post.
* If you sign up through this link, Erik will get 5,000 Starwood points which will help us reach our goal!