How We Earned 1 Million Miles and Points in 2016 Without Flying
Hilary Stockton

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How We Earned 1 Million Miles and Points in 2016 Without Flying

How was your 2016 in travel, including frequent flyer miles and points? For us, miles and points are very much a means to an end: flying international first class or business class to the destinations and luxury hotels and resorts we really want to visit. Thanks to our frequent flyer miles and points, we were able to fly Etihad First Apartment on the A380, Emirates First Class, Singapore First Class, Lufthansa First Class, Air Tahiti Business Class, Fiji Business Class and Cathay Pacific First Class this year, to Bora Bora, Europe including Russia, Hong Kong and the Maldives.

As nice as some of the flights were, notably Singapore First Class, Etihad First Apartment and Cathay Pacific First Class, the hotels and resorts were far more memorable, especially Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives, Four Seasons Bora Bora, The Peninsula Paris and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand. None of these luxury resorts are available with miles and points, but all are leaders in their markets, and far nicer than anything bookable with points. 

So with our luxury travel focus as context, here's a breakdown of our earned and purchased miles and points in 2016:

  • 46%: Credit Card Signup Bonuses
  • 15%: Spend and Category Bonuses
  • 22%: Purchased Miles and Bonuses
  • 17%: Referral Bonuses
And here's a rough breakdown of the miles and points we earned:
  • 37% Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
  • 22% American AAdvantage Miles
  • 8% British Airways Avios Points
  • 8% Hyatt Points (= 4 free nights at Category 6 property)
  • 7% AMEX Membership Rewards Points
  • 7% Citi ThankYou Points
  • 6% SPG Starpoints
  • 4% Delta SkyMiles

Credit Card Signup Bonuses

In 2016 we were quite modest in our credit card applications, mostly because it's gotten more difficult to get bonuses again (AMEX cards are once in a lifetime for personal and business cards, Chase has implemented 5/24, making many Chase cards difficult to get if you've opened 5 or more accounts in the past 24 months).
My husband signed up for 5 new credit cards and I also signed up for 5 new cards; the highlight for both of us was the 100K Chase Sapphire Reserve, thanks not only to the 100,000 Ultimate Rewards bonus points, but also the $300 per year travel statement credit that makes it effectively a $150 per year card.
We also took advantage of the historically high 35K SPG AMEX bonus, since Starpoints transfer to many airline partners, and we likewise applied and were approved for the 50K British Airways Visa before it became harder to get approved for Chase's cobranded cards. We also both got Hyatt Visas, for our Maldives. The Park Hyatt Maldives is our favorite Park Hyatt, even though the true highlight of our trip was Cheval Blanc Randheli--the best Maldives luxury resort hands down of our 6 Maldivian luxury resort stays.
Finally, we applied for the Citi ThankYou Premier for my husband before the 40K signup bonus was eliminated, since we can transfer ThankYou points to Singapore KrisFlyer, and I applied for the 50K Delta AMEX, although in retrospect I should have held out for a higher offer, especially as I have yet to redeem Delta SkyMiles for our personal travel, given the poor value they represent.
  • 100K Hyatt points (equivalent, since the Hyatt Visa gives 2 free nights at any Hyatt, and we used them at the Park Hyatt Maldives, a Category 6 property that requires 25K points per award night)
  • 70K SPG Starpoints via 2 SPG Business AMEX cards
  • 40K Citi ThankYou points via the Citi ThankYou Premier card
  • 50K Delta SkyMiles via the Delta AMEX card
Spend, Category Bonuses, Retention Bonuses
Much of our spend is at 5X, thanks to 5X on all Amazon spend and 5X on all Whole Foods spend, as well as the Chase Freedom 5X quarterly bonuses. 
  • 95K Ultimate Rewards points, most of it at 5X, from the Ink Plus and Chase Freedom, with some of it at 3X toward the end of the year, from our Chase Sapphire Reserve cards
  • 23K AMEX Membership Rewards points from spend, the new 1.5X bonus for AMEX Business Platinum transactions of $5000 or more, my husband's 10K Extended Pay bonus, and the 6K AMEX Offers bonus for our recent stay at a Marriott
  • 35K other miles and points from spend, including meeting minimum spend on new credit cards
Purchased Miles
We bought another 150,000 AAdvantage miles this year, due to the 115K bonus offer (see American AAdvantage 2016 Award Chart Devaluation). We used these miles towards JAL First Class and JAL Business Class awards for our 2017 trip to Japan, since I had used up our previous AAdvantage balance before the 2016 AAdvantage award chart devaluation on Etihad First Apartment and Cathay Pacific First Class awards.
Referrals and Other Bonuses
Thanks to readers, I earned 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points for referrals to the Ink Plus (now replaced by the 80K Ink Business Preferred) and Sapphire Preferred cards, my husband earned 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for referrals to the Sapphire Preferred, and I earned 55,000 Membership Rewards points for referrals to the AMEX Business Platinum. 
The Bottom Line
We earned a total of over 1 million miles and points (1,068,000) and bought 150,000 AAdvantage miles, for a total of 1,218,000 miles and points in 2016. 
How many frequent flyer miles and points did you earn in 2016, and which awards do you plan to redeem for?
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Picture?type=large Adolfo B. commented 31 Dec 2016
Awesome Post Hilary! I do wonder, how come you don't have the Citi prestige card, wouldn't the 4th free night be a great benefit to use with your hotel book? Would love to hear you thoughts. Thanks. PS> Happy New Year!
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 01 Jan 2017
I do have the Citi Prestige, which was good for the signup bonus and the retention bonus of 7X on travel, but which I plan to cancel as soon as I've received the $250 airfare statement credit in 2017. I've never had a use for the 4th night free, for a couple reasons: I rarely stay at a hotel for 4 nights or longer, and using it means booking with Citi's concierge, so you don't receive any Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner etc. benefits, which are typically worth more than the 4th night free anyway.
Picture?type=large Adolfo B. commented 02 Jan 2017
Now it makes sense! Thanks Hilary
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