Friends always ask me how I am able to fly around the world so much redeeming my miles. I tell them it’s because of credit cards, but it’s not that I’m spending over $100,000 USD each year racking up miles, it’s due to the bonuses for signing up for a new card.
One of the few and nice benefits of being a U.S. citizen is the access to ample credit at low or no cost. This holds true for credit cards (assuming you don’t hold a balance.) Since the U.S. is such a competitive marketplace, credit card companies will throw tons of incentives at you to sign up for their products, including airline miles and hotel points. In fact, I think since the financial crisis, they’ve lost a lot of their revenue and need to throw more incentives at people, so I’ve being seen 25,000 bonus miles as a normal signup bonus, as opposed to maybe 10,000 miles a few years ago. Sometimes these bonuses go up to 50,000 or 100,000 upon first purchase or a minimal spending amount.
A couple of weeks ago I signed up for 5 different credit cards:
- Alaska Airlines BOA (25K miles upon approval)
- Hawaiian Airlines BOA (20K miles upon first use, 10-15K additional for meeting spending requirement depending on card type.)
- Hawaiian Airlines BOH (20K miles upon first use, 10-15K additional for meeting spending requirement depending on card type.)
- United Chase (25K miles upon first use, 5K miles for adding additional user)
- American Airlines CITI (50K miles upon $3K spending)
Each of these cards will provide the bonus points upon first use of the card, so I can literally charge $1 and get bonus points. For the AA Citi card, they require $3,000 USD spending in 4 months which is not a huge amount of money and they give you enough time to rack that up.
Assuming I meet the requirements to get these miles I’ll have after 4 months
- Alaska Airlines: 25K miles
- Hawaiian Airlines: 60-75K miles
- United Airlines: 30K miles
- American Airlines: 50K miles
Of course if I already had miles with any of these programs they would be added to my existing balance, but assuming I don’t have any miles with any of these programs I can still redeem some great trips.
Alaska: http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/using-miles/award-chart-domestic-canada.aspx Cathay Pacific: coach intra-asia roundtrip ticket 25K American Airlines or Alaska: coach roundtrip within continental 48 US states 25K
Hawaiian Airlines: http://www.hawaiianair.com/HawaiianMiles/use-on-partner-airlines/ Korean Airlines: 2 roundtrip coach within Asia or 1 first/business roundtrip 60K Hawaiian Airlines: 1 one-way coach between Japan, Korea, or Philippines and Hawaii
United Airlines: http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/news/United_Award_Chart_2012-03-03.pdf Thai Airways / United: 1 roundtrip coach within South Asia region 25K
American Airlines: http://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/aadvantageAllPartnerChart.jsp#1 American Airlines: 1 roundtrip coach between US and Japan during off-peak 50K Qantas: 1 roundtrip coach between Asia 2 (HKG) and South Pacific (Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa.)
As you can see, you can travel for free just by using these credit card bonuses. You can avoid any annual fees by canceling before the year is up. For travel between HKG and the US or Europe usually you’ll need a few more miles, around 60-70K, so if you have some already in the program and add these bonuses on top, it should get you there.