Big Spenders: Airline & Hotel Credit Cards with Bonus Miles for Big Spending

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BIG SPENDER SERIES:

Airline & Hotel Credit Cards with Bonus Miles for Big Spending

The following cards give you extra redeemable miles and points once you cross a certain amount of spending on the card.

I’ll cover credit cards which earn elite miles or points (which count towards airline or hotel elite status) in a later post in this series.

Note that the calculations do NOT take into account the sign-on bonus – because you may already have these cards – but just the recurring benefit for regular big spending (that is spending which doesn’t qualify for category bonuses) on the credit card.  The calculations also assume that you will meet the spending threshold to earn the bonus points.

This post shows us that the best card for Big Spenders to earn:

  • Delta miles via regular spending (that is spending which doesn’t qualify for category bonuses) is the American Express Delta Reserve card
  • United Miles via regular spending is the Chase United Club card
  • Virgin Atlantic miles via regular spending is the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic card
  • Hilton Honors points via regular spending could be the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic card
  • American Airlines, US Air, Alaska Airlines is the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card

Definitions:

  • A Calendar Year refers to the 12 months from January 1 to December 31 of any year
  •  Redeemable miles refers to miles which you can redeem for award seats or other merchandise
  • Elite miles refers to miles which can NOT be redeemed for award seats, but count towards elite status on airlines

Delta

1.   American Express Delta Platinum (Personal & Business) – Up to 1.4 miles per $1 spent

Link:  American Express Delta Platinum (Personal & Business)

  • Earn 10,000 regular & elite (counts towards Medallion status) on the Delta Platinum personal or business card after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.

This means that you earn 35,000 Delta miles (25,000 miles for regular spending + 10,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year or a return of 1.4 miles per $1 spent on the card.

  •  Earn another 10,000 regular & elite (counts towards status) miles on the Delta Platinum personal or business card after spending $50,000 in a calendar year

This means that you can earn 70,000 redeemable Delta miles (50,000 miles for regular spending + 20,000 bonus miles) after spending $50,000 within a calendar year or a return of 1.4 miles per $1 spent on the card.

2.   Delta Reserve (Personal & Business) – Up to 1.5 miles per $1 spent

Link:  American Express Delta Reserve (Personal)

Link:  American Express Delta Reserve (Business)

  • Earn 15,000 regular & elite (counts towards Medallion status) miles on the Delta Reserve personal or business card after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.

This means that you earn 45,000 redeemable Delta miles (30,000 miles for regular spending + 15,000 bonus miles) after spending $30,000 in a calendar year or a return of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on the card.

  • Earn another 15,000 regular & elite (counts towards status) on the Delta Reserve personal or business card after spending $60,000 in a calendar year

This means that you can earn 90,000 Delta miles (60,000 miles for regular spending + 30,000 bonus miles) after spending $60,000 in a calendar year or a return of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on the card.

The Delta Reserve card earns more miles per $1 spent (1.5 miles for the Reserve card versus 1.4 miles for the Platinum card), but it also has a higher annual fee of $450.

But you do get Delta lounge access and other benefits such as a companion pass and the ability to transfer elite miles to others (or have them transfer elite miles to you!)

United

1.   Chase United Explorer personal and business credit cards – Up to 1.4 miles per $1 spent

Link:  Chase United Explorer (Personal)

Link:  Chase United Explorer (Business)

  • Earn an extra 10,000 miles when you spend $25,000 within one calendar year

This means that you earn 35,000 United miles (25,000 miles for regular spending + 10,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year or a return of 1.4 miles per $1 spent on the card.

2.   Chase United Club personal and business credit cards – 1.5 miles per $1 spent

Link:  Chase United Club (Personal)

Link:  Chase United Club (Business)

If you’re a Big Spender who wants United miles, you may be better off with the United Club card which offers 1.5 United miles per $1 spent on the card with no cap on the maximum amount of miles earned

The United Club card has a $395 annual fee, but does get you free access to United Clubs, 2 free bags, and waived late ticketing fees and Premier Access.

Virgin Atlantic

Bank of America Virgin Atlantic credit card – Up to 2.1 miles per $1 spent 

Link:  Bank of America Virgin Atlantic credit card

  • Earn 7,500 miles after spending $15,000 within a calendar year

This means that you can earn 30,000 Virgin Atlantic miles (22,500 miles for regular spending because you earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent + 7,500 bonus miles) after spending $15,000 in a calendar year or a return of 2 miles per $1 spent on the card.

  • Earn another 7,500 miles after spending $25,000 within a calendar year

This means that you can earn 52,500 Virgin Atlantic miles (37,500 miles for regular spending because you earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent + 15,000 bonus miles) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year or a return of 2.1 miles per $1 spent on the card.

Virgin Atlantic charges fuel surcharges for award flights, and there is a very stiff penalty (25% of the miles if cancelled outside of 7 days of departure or 100% of the award miles if cancelled within 7 days of departure) for cancelling award bookings. But Virgin Atlantic miles could be useful for upgrading paid tickets on Virgin Atlantic or for transferring to Hilton.

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors via Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Credit Card – Up to 4.2 points per $1 spent

Link:  Bank of America Virgin Atlantic credit card

You can currently transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, in increments of 5,000 miles starting with 10,000 miles, though this could end anytime.

So you could earn 30,000 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $15,000 within a calendar year which could then be transferred to 60,000 Hilton points. Top category 7 Hilton hotels usually cost 50,000 points a night to redeem and the lowest category Hilton hotels cost 7,500 points.

And you could earn 52,500 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $25,000 within a calendar year which could then be transferred to 105,000 Hilton points.  This works out to 4.2 Hilton points per $1 spent.   Actually, you’d need to spend a wee bit more to ensure that you’re transferring in increments of 5,000 points.

As we’ll see in a future post, you can earn 3 Hilton points per $1 spent using the American Express Hilton Surpass card.  More importantly, you can get top tier Diamond status after spending $40,000 a year with the American Express Surpass card which will get you free internet, free breakfast, and the best chance of room upgrades.

That’s why it could be better for Big Spenders to use the American Express Hilton Surpass card to accumulate Hilton points because the benefits of top tier Diamond status will make for a better hotel stay.

However, if you’re a Big Spender who already earns Hilton status by staying in Hilton hotels or who spends $40,000 on the American Express Surpass card, you could be better off spending on the Virgin Atlantic card (up to $25,000 a calender year) and earning 4.2 Hilton points per $1 spent.

American Airlines,  Alaska Airlines, US Air

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) – Up to 1.25 miles per $1 spent

Link:  American Express SPG card (Personal)

Link:  American Express SPG card (Business)

• Earn an extra 5,000 points when you transfer in increments of 20,000 SPG points to many different airlines

This means that you earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent on the SPG card.  In many instances such as US Air, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, this is a better earning rate than using the airlines’ own co-branded credit cards!

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20 responses to “Big Spenders: Airline & Hotel Credit Cards with Bonus Miles for Big Spending

  1. Daraius,

    Just so you know, your Amex PRG link is redirecting to the SPG card.

  2. is the PRG bonus for every $30,000 spent on hte card or is it just a one time bonus per calendar year?

    • @Extra Pack of Peanuts – Thanks! I updated the link.

      @nd – It is only for the 1st $30K spent in a year.

      @Jill P – 50K is a good sign-up bonus, but it may not be worth it after the 1st year, because you will have to spend a lot to justify the $175 fee.

      I am happy to have a FICO score above 700, though I’d stop applying for cards if I was in the market for a mortgage or refinancing to make sure that I’m doing everything possible to get the lowest rate. My score usually goes down when I apply for cards because of the effect of the credit inquiry, but it recovers slightly after a few months.

  3. Just got the American Express PRG offer in the mail yesterday. It offers a 50K sign up bonus. It’s got an extra spend catagory for gasoline and that would fit in nicely with my spending habits. Tempting, oh so tempting! But the $175 yearly fee is a real turn off for those of us who like to keep the cards for years (me). My fico score, when it was 800+, claimed that one ding was due to having newer credit. That’s because my youngest credit card was only 3 years old– FWIW, my oldest credit card is over 20years old!

    This week alone I have gotten 5 or 6 targeted offers in the mail… including AA Citi Platinum Select w/ 35K sign up; American Express Blue Sky w/30K sign up, no annual fee and every 7500 points gets you $100 statement credit; and a Capital One Venture- 1.25 miles per dollar, no annual fee and a 10K sign up bonus.

    Couple of questions for you, Darius (first, congrats on your wedding and for sharing all that with us. Best of luck to both of you!)– what kind of fico score do you aim for holding? Do you see your score go up and down when you apply for and cancel cards? Do you usually pay for the yearly fees or not too often?

  4. Robert Hanson

    Last time I transferred Virgin miles to Hilton points {several weeks ago} they required a minimum of 10K for a transfer.

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  6. another question if anyone knows. if i get the mqm bonus points and such in the calender year, not my card yr. That would mean I can get the card bonus in 2012 amd 2013 with one 450 fee? theans means alot because mqms rollover and i can get others in my family to get the card and we can get the bonus for this yr and next yr. i could make diamond this yr and be able to get it next as well.

    • @robertw – You won’t get the sign-up bonus again, but you should be able to get the MQM both in 2011 and in 2012 with just one annual fee.

      I don’t have personal experience, but here’s what the terms say: “The close of the calendar year is December 31, without regard to the time of the year that the account is opened. If in any calendar year your Eligible Spending on your Delta Reserve Card is $30,000 or more, you will be awarded 15,000 Bonus Miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). The 15,000 MQMs are not redeemable and only count toward Medallion status. The MQMs are yours to keep or gift to someone else…”

      It reads to me that you get the bonus for spending in *any* calendar year in which you complete the spending requirement. But, again, I don’t have personal experience so would love to know how it worked out for you!

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  12. According to the Virgin Atlantic credit card fine print, the $15k/$25k are counted by card anniversary, NOT by calendar year:

    “7,500 anniversary Flying Club miles will be posted to your Flying Club account when you spend a minimum of $15,000 in Net Purchases within the anniversary year with your Virgin Atlantic Card. An additional 7,500 anniversary Flying Club miles will be awarded when you spend $25,000 in Net Purchases within the anniversary year with your Virgin Atlantic Card. Earned Anniversary Flying Club miles will be posted to your Flying Club account each year within four to six weeks of the anniversary of your Card’s open date.”

  13. The British Airways Visa from Chase could make it on this list. $30,000 spend in a calendar year gets you a companion pass.

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