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Million Mile Secrets reader, Garrick, commented:
Would you be able to provide strategies and insight into collecting miles at different income levels? Many cards are touted as great, but require spending of $20,000+ a year.
For young people like myself who don’t come anywhere near that, do you have any recommendations for cards or programs to stick with? Based on my yearly spending I feel like it would be best to stick to 1 program such as AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Garrick, you’ve come to the right place! Million Mile Secrets is all about how folks like you can get Big Travel with Small Money.
Let’s take a look at how folks who don’t do much spending can still save thousands of dollars on travel! And I’ll explain how to decide which cards to start with.
Do You Need to Spend a Ton of Money to Get Into This Hobby?
No. Some cards offer incentives (i.e. bonus miles and elite status) for Big Spenders. But most folks don’t push to earn these extra perks.
That’s because the most efficient way to earn miles and points for Big Travel is by applying for Big Travel credit cards and earning the sign-up bonuses.
For most folks applying for lots of credit cards does NOT hurt their credit score. In fact, many times it increases your score because you’re showing you know how to handle credit responsibly.
But Garrick should keep in mind, there are some risks! If you don’t pay your bills on-time, signing-up for credit cards can ruin your credit score. So I recommend folks who are new to this hobby start out slow.
Sign-up for 1 or 2 cards to get a feel for how everything works and to make sure you can keep track of it all.
Then he can use his 2 nights at luxurious hotels like the Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa!
Plus, he’ll get a night at a category 1 to 4 hotel each year he keeps the card and pays the $75 (waived the 1st year) annual fee.
That’s a fantastic deal!
You May Be Able to Spend More Than You Think!
Garrick likely has a major expense like rent or college tuition. Imagine if that expenditure counted towards your credit card spending!
He can make it happen by charging PIN-enabled gift cards on his credit card. Then using the gift cards to fund an AMEX Prepaid account and send a check to cover these bills from his online account!
Keep in mind, these payment services charge fees and each gift card comes with a ~$4 to ~$7 activation fee. But it could be worth it for a sign-up bonus you wouldn’t otherwise be able to earn.
For example, you could sign-up for the Citi ThankYou Premier and buy $3,000 in PIN-enabled gift cards within the 1st 3 months of opening your account. $3,000 in gift cards would cost you $42 ($7 fee per card X 6 $500 gift cards).
After adding that money to your AMEX Prepaid account such as Bluebird, Serve, or REDcard, (here’s how) you use the service to send checks to your landlord, school, etc.
I’d definitely pay $42 to earn the 50,000 Citi ThankYou points sign-up bonus!
That’s because 50,000 Citi ThankYou points can be worth $625 in airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals. So you’re coming out ahead ~$583 ($625 in flights – $42 in fees).
There’s no annual fee the 1st year with the Citi ThankYou Premier card, and it’s easy to cancel later if you decide it’s not worth it.
And for cards that have larger minimum spending requirements, you can use my 40+ tricks for putting money on your card without breaking the bank.
Flexible Points Are a Great Place to Start
Garrick is new to miles and points, so I suggest he read my Beginner’s Guide for overview of how to get started.
It’s a good idea to set your travel goals before you start applying for cards, so you don’t spend time collecting points that aren’t useful to you.
Once you know where you want to go, you can decide which cards will help you get there. My guide on choosing the right hotel credit card can help.
Don’t know what adventure life may lead you to next? Flexible points are an excellent option. They transfer to a variety of airline, hotel, and rail partners.
AMEX Membership Rewards partners include:
|American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners|
|ANA||Asia Miles||British Airways|
|Etihad||Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)||Hawaiian Airlines|
|American Express Membership Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners|
And you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to:
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners|
|Aer Lingus||British Airways||Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)|
|Southwest||United Airlines||Virgin Atlantic|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners|
Or if you collect Citi ThankYou points you’ll get access to the following partners:
|Citi ThankYou Points Airline Transfer Partners|
|Avianca||Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)||EVA Air|
|Etihad||Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)||Garuda Indonesia|
|Jet Airways||JetBlue||Malaysia Airlines|
|Qantas||Qatar Airways||Singapore Airlines|
|Thai Airways||Turkish Airlines||Virgin Atlantic|
|Citi ThankYou Points Hotel Transfer Partners|
Finally, Starwood has 30+ airline partners:
|Starwood Preferred Guest Airline Transfer Partners|
|Air China||Air New Zealand||Alaska Airlines|
|Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)||Asiana Airlines||British Airways|
|Etihad||Flying Blue||Gol Smiles|
|Hainan Airlines||Hawaiian Airlines||Iberia|
|Japan Airlines||Jet Airways||Korean Airlines|
|LifeMiles (Avianca)||Miles & More (Lufthansa)||Qatar Airways|
|Saudi Arabian Airlines||Singapore Airlines||Thai Airways|
|United Airlines||Virgin Atlantic||Virgin Australia|
With so many partners to choose from, you can keep your options open, and make a decision when you’re ready to book!
You do NOT need Big Money to earn Big Travel with miles and points! By applying for credit cards and earning sign-up bonuses, you’ll quickly have enough points to go just about anywhere in the world.
There are cards that require very little spending to earn the bonus and for other cards, there are tricks that can help you meeting the minimum spending requirement!
Finding the right cards to apply for starts with deciding where you want to travel. And if you can’t decide, flexible points are a great way to keep your options open.
Thanks for your question, Garrick! And welcome to the world of miles and points!