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How to Earn 1,000,000 Miles by the End of the Year…Without Flying

The other day a friend of mine applied for 2 Amex cards and received 150,000 Membership Rewards points after reading this post about how to get 75,000 bonus miles for an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. He called to tell me how excited he was about the bonus points, and it made me think about how jaded I’ve become about miles. I’ve got around 2 million points sitting in various programs and because I have little kids, we don’t travel the way I used to (ie, my wife and I aren’t going on 2 week trips to Southeast Asia anymore. At least not alone.) My friend had approximately zero miles previously and was beyond thrilled about 150,000 points for free.

Thinking about that, I decided that, with all apologies to The Social Network, that 150,000 miles isn’t cool. You know what is cool? 1 million miles. (Eh, even that’s not particularly cool). But to most people 1 million miles is just a pipe dream.

But if you can get 150k miles with almost no work, I decided there must be a way to get 1 million miles without much more work. It turns out, there is.

While you’re sitting around doing who-knows-what this Labor Day weekend, I’ve got a plan to net you 1 million miles and points by the end of this year without you ever setting foot on a plane or sleeping in a hotel. If mileage running is when you fly a ridiculous trip just to get the miles, then I’m going to lay out a plan for Credit Running, where you get a bunch of cards just for the signups. For this plan to work for you, there are 3 things to consider:

1) Your credit. This is only going to work if you have great credit (think 750+). And if you’re planning on buying a house in the next 2 years I wouldn’t go anywhere near this. While applying for credit cards won’t destroy your credit (in fact, it could conceivably help your credit, as you do get rewarded for having a reasonable amount of credit relative to your income), opening the number of credit cards required to get to 1 million miles is going to look funny on your credit report if you are applying for a mortgage in the short term. In short, if you have to borrow money in the next 2 years, you should take a pass.

2) Most of the cards below will only offer you these bonuses if you have not been a cardholder before.

3) Although the spend requirements for the cards I recommend aren’t particularly burdensome, you’re going to need to put some spend on many of these cards. If you don’t put business spend on personal credit cards, and if your monthly expenditures are pretty limited, this may not work for you (unless you do this, and I don’t really recommend it.)

So, here’s what your 1 million mile Credit Running plan will look like (If you have a spouse, you can drag them into it if you’d like so you can double this amount, but good luck explaining this scheme to them…I mean “scheme” in a good way):

September 2nd: Apply for the Citi AA Visa and the Citi AA Amex (details on how to do that here). You will earn 75,000 miles for each card. The Visa requires $1,500 in spend in the first 6 months and the Amex $4,000 in that period. Annual Fee is waived for each.

Apply for the Amex Platinum Card – (sign out of your Amex account to get the link to work) to earn 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after $1,000 in spend. $450 annual fee (not waived first year). After receiving your card, call 1-800-297-1300 and ask to have Promo Code 5748 added to your account to get that bonus. Then cross your fingers, because this is very much a YMMV situation. Yes, people report it working. Yes, people report it not working. Spend that $1,000 quickly, then call Amex back and ask if they can expedite those points showing up in your account. Why? Because you have until September 30th to get a 50% bonus for transferring the points to Delta. So those 100,000 MR points become 150,000 Delta miles.

You can only apply for 1 Chase card every 30 days, so we’ll start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You’ll get 40,000 miles after $3,000 in spend, first year free. Details here.

September 8th: Apply for the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Business card (here) to get 75,000 miles after $2,000 in spend. First year is free. Again, call Amex after you receive the card and ask to have code 6678 applied to your account. Ask nicely and call back if the answer is no.

Apply for the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card (here – sign out of your Amex account to get link to work) to earn 75,000 Membership Rewards Points after $1,000 in spend. First year is free. To get the 75,000 points, call Amex after you receive the card and ask to have code 6939 applied to your account. This doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it will likely work 95% of the time if you find a helpful agent.

September 15th: Apply for the Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature card (here). $79 annual fee. You’ll earn 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 4 months. You’ll take those miles once you earn them and transfer them to Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2 ratio, earning you a total of 70,000 HHonors points.

Apply for the US Airways Premier World Mastercard here. You’ll earn 30,000 Dividend Miles after $750 in spend in 4 months. $89 Annual Fee. (UPDATE: As Hans notes in the Comments, you can actually earn 40k Dividend Miles thru this link. Thanks for the heads up, Hans! If anyone finds better deals than those I’ve posted here, then by all means let me know and I’ll update.)

Apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. You’ll earn 25,000 miles for no minimum spend. Plus, we’ll churn this one a bit later. However, freefrequentflyermiles.com reports that if you call 800-654-2584 you’ll earn 40,000 miles, not 25,000. Annual fee is $75.

October 4th: Apply for the Hilton HHonors Visa, earning you 40,000 points after $1,000 in spend in 4 months with no annual fee.

We can apply for another Chase card since it’s been 30 days, so we’ll grab the British Airways Signature Visa. Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $2,500 in 90 days. $95 annual fee.

November 5th: Time for another Chase card. You’ll get the Chase Priority Club Rewards Visa. You’ll earn 60,000 Priority Club points after your first purchase, plus the first year annual fee is waived.

November 15th: It’s been more than 65 days since we applied for the Citi AAdvantage cards so we can now apply for the Citi AAdvantage Business Visa card. You’ll get 75,000 bonus miles after $1,500 in spend in 6 months. First year fee waived.

December 15th: Our final Chase card: The Marriott Rewards Premier Visa will net you 50,000 points after your first purchase. $65 annual fee.

The Gold Delta Skymiles Amex will earn you 20,000 miles with your first purchase plus an additional 5,000 miles when you add two cardmembers to your card. Annual fee is waived in the first year. In truth, this isn’t a great offer but it will get us to 1 million miles, you don’t have to put any spend on it, and there is no fee the first year.

December 30th: Time to churn that Alaska Airlines card. Get that 40,000 mile signup bonus again. Yes, you’ll pay the $75 annual fee again.

There you have it! You’ll earn 980,000 miles from signup bonuses. You’ll earn 20,168 miles from required spend and annual fees, giving you 1,000,168 miles for the cost of $918 and $19,250 in required spending (remember – that required spend is spread out over a bunch of months).

If you care about the breakdown, in the end you’ll have 225,000 American Airlines miles; 175,000 Delta Miles; 150,000 Membership Rewards points; 110,000 Hilton HHonors points; 80,000 Alaska Miles; 60,000 Priority Club points; 50,000 Marriott Rewards points; 50,000 Chase Sapphire points which you can transfer easily to Continental; 50,000 British Airways miles; and 30,000 US Airways miles.

Do I recommend doing this? No. But it’s an overview of the deals out there (except for Continental/United, which I didn’t include here, but will net you up to 40,000 points on their card). And the next time you think that you’ll never be able to earn a million miles, just know that it’s only 1 Credit Run with 16 credit cards away.

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23 Comments.

  1. Good stuff Jared, just sent the link to your site to my buddy. Hopefully he’ll one day become your client!

  2. In theory, this would work. In reality, 16 cards would result in lots of inquiries. You’ll start getting denials towards the end. The good news is that applying for the same card type, in some cases, will result in 1 inquiry (like the 2 AA cards). Also, Chase says 1 card every 6 months. They will give you more, but it is a battle.

    I’d recommend the App-o-rama (apply for 3-6 cards on the same day) every 3-4 months. The inquiries aren’t seen by the other companies that you are applying to on this day. Plus, the inquiries fall off together.

    Once you hit 16-18 inquiries over a 2 year period you will start getting denials based on too many requests for credit.

    • Yes, apporama is a better idea, but I really wanted to see if u could do 1 million miles that quickly. In truth, I agree – you would probably run into denials at some point. But you could always call the reconsideration line :)

  3. This is a much better US Airways offer for 40K after first use. (I used that link a month or two ago and it worked fine and no, I’m not a Chairman Preferred.)

    Also, if you’re a Priority Club member, you probably got targeted for an 80K Chase PC Visa bonus after fist use. If you use GMail, just do a search for “subject:Earn 80,000 points + a Free Night” (without the quotes). PC sent me an email *every month* since April targeting me with that offer and I just finally applied yesterday (since I’m going to start staying at PCs a bunch and got Plat RA status).

    • Thanks Hans! Appreciate the US Airways link. Gets us that much closer to 1 million :)

      • Is the reason you didn’t update the post because you get commissions for the 30K but not the 40K? I really appreciate FTG’s approach of posting the link that has the best deal, no matter whether he gets commissions or not. That builds trust.

        • You’ve got to be kidding me.

          I actually don’t get any referral bonus from US Airways, regardless of the link. I hadn’t yet updated the post because I’m on vacation in Maine and I was out when you originally wrote in. I was able to post a quick thank you reply on my phone to your comment with the new link. I’m now in the process of updating the post with your link.

          I’m hoping that I’ve built up enough trust with my readers over the 7 years that I’ve been writing this site that they know I wouldn’t try to blow that trust over 10,000 miles.

          I’m updating the link now.

  4. Interesting post! I’m a newbie to miles/points world and I’ve only gotten the Chase SW card(July) and the 2 Citi AA cards(August) and an old HSBC card for 5 years and I’m planning to do an app-o-rama sometime in October to coincide with the Citi AA Business (65+ days since). Which cards would you prefer I do during that time in addition to the Citi AA Business card? I’m thinking the next Chase card would be the Sapphire Preferred because of the 2:1 transfer to Hilton points. If I were not to qualify for the Preferred, would I still get the 50,000 points?
    Also, what do you think of the US Airways Premier World Mastercard? They pull TransUnion in NY so that might be good.

    • I think Sapphire Preferred is your best next bet because of the flexibility of using it for the $625 toward travel or 50k Continental points You mentioned a 1:2 Hilton transfer, but that’s on the Hawaiian Airlines card, not the Chase Preferred Card. The Hawaiian card is good because of the 1:2 Hilton transfer (if you’re looking for Hilton miles), but there’s a $79 annual fee with that card.

      The Amex deals are out there, but they are very much YMMV, so if you’re looking for a sure thing, I would take a pass if I were you.

      What are you looking at the US Airways Premier World Mastercard for? Just for the points or for an everyday card?

      I use the Amex Starwood Preferred Card as my everyday card because the Starwood accrual allows a ton of flexibility where I transfer those miles (plus the 5k bonus for 20k transfer). Other bloggers out there like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card because of the 3x points on Airfare spend. The high annual fee on that one has scared me off (though I did get it because the first year was free – I’m not sure I’m going to keep it). That Sapphire Card, though, is also a pretty solid everyday card.

      In any case, I think I’d start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred for you as your next card along with the Citi AA Business card.

      • I wanted to get the Starwood before the deadline but I had just gotten my 2 Citi AA cards so I didn’t want additional minimum spends to tackle.

        The US Airways mastercard interested me because of it being a Transunion pulled card which I currently don’t have it being the highest US Airways bonus miles offer I’ve seen (40,000). I’m just looking for the points for that card.

        I’m thinking the Sapphire card would most likely be the next but I’m nervous about not receiving the full 50,000 points if I don’t qualify for the Preferred and instead get downgraded to the other Sapphire card.

        • Without knowledge of your finances, I can’t say about whether you’d be eligible for the Sapphire Preferred Card, unfortunately…

          If you’re looking for the bonus miles on US Airways, that 40k deal is pretty good. I was thinking that the United & Continental offers (25k + 5k for authorized users) also wouldn’t be bad as there’s no minimum spend and no annual fee, plus the miles are good on Star Alliance carriers like US Airways. But I’d go for US Airways card before those.

  5. okay. Thanks for the advice! =]

  6. I’ve a question about the Amex Business Gold card. Did Amex recently pull this card from the market and replaced it with the PRG Amex Gold Business card?

    Does the 75K promo code for the business card still apply for the new PRG Biz card?

  7. One more question for the road! Do you know what the churn schedule is like for the Alaska card? i.e. how many months to wait before the next application and should i count those months beginning from my first application or from when I cancel the card. Thanks a bunch! I just ran into your site yesterday and have been reading non-stop since! Keep it up!

  8. regarding churning card for B of A Alaska airlines. I opened one in July 2011 with 40k bonus miles. If I churn , am I still allow the bonus?

    • My understanding is that you can get the bonus again 3 months after applying for the first card. If anyone has different info, please let us know.

      • How useful are the miles when churning for someone that lives in NYC?

        And every time someone applies, they get the bonus and have to keep paying the annual fee right?

  9. Yes, you’ll have to re-pay the annual fee.

    The Alaska miles are useful because you can use them on American and a bunch of OneWorld airlines and on Delta and a bunch of Skyteam airlines. See the list of partners here:
    http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/partners/partner-overview.aspx

  10. Thanks for posting the number to call for the 40,000 Alaskan Airlines offer! I just called and immediately approved.

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