Our 2015 Progress Towards 1 Million Frequent Flyer Miles and Points
Hilary Stockton

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Our 2015 Progress Towards 1 Million Frequent Flyer Miles and Points

Will your family earn 1 million frequent flyer miles and points this year? Since we're over 6 months into 2015, I thought I'd do a mid-year post on our progress so far with our miles and points earning. For new readers, let me recap our travel goals and strategy, since it differs considerably from most miles and points bloggers. 

For us, frequent flyer miles and points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points and AMEX Membership Rewards points are almost exclusively used for international first class and business class award flights. While it's possible to use points for hotel stays, we don't find value there, since we prefer to stay at more luxurious hotels and resorts than are available with points--Aman Resorts, Four Seasons, and Virtuoso boutique hotels. Miles and points allow us to upgrade the flight part of our travel, splurge more on hotels and resorts than we could otherwise, and maximize the ROI of our miles and points, since we would never pay $20,000 or more for a first class award flight, yet some of our first class flights have that retail price, yielding ~15 cents per mile of nominal value.

Because we fly very few paid flights, neither my husband nor I have any kind of elite status with any airline, so likewise we earn an insignificant number of miles, and no elite frequent flyer bonuses. It goes without saying that if you do fly a lot of paid flights and have elite status, you can earn a lot more miles than we do, and aim for 1 million or more miles per person, rather than the 1 million or so miles and points per couple that is our goal.

Here's our rough breakdown so far in 2015 of our earned and purchased miles and points:

  • 60%: Credit Card Signup Bonuses
  • 9%: Spend and Category Bonuses
  • 23%: Purchased/Shared Miles
  • 8%: Other Bonuses/Referral Bonus
And here's a rough breakdown of the miles and points we earned:
  • 38%: American AAdvantage Miles
  • 38%: AMEX Membership Rewards Points
  • 24%: Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Credit Card Signup Bonuses
We really haven't applied for many credit cards this year, in part because of the significant minimum spend required for our targeted 150K AMEX Business Platinum and 100K AMEX Business Platinum, and in part because we're less motivated to apply for some of the cards we could apply for again, such as the British Airways Visa, due to the new Avios devaluation, or the United MileagePlus cards, due to last year's United Award Chart devaluation.
  • 150K AMEX Business Platinum and 100K AMEX Business Platinum: 250,000 Membership Rewards points via 1 card for each of us
  • 50K Citi AAdvantage Platinum: 100K AAdvantage miles via 1 card for each of us
  • 40K Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa: 45,000 Ultimate Rewards points, including 5000 points from adding an authorized user (I hadn't received a bonus for this card in over 2 years)
Total to date: 395,000 miles and points
Spend and Category Bonuses
We buy a great deal on Amazon, and also buy quite a bit at our local Whole Foods, and thanks to our Ink Plus we buy gift cards at Staples in order to earn 5X on all Amazon spend and 5X on all Whole Foods spend. Similarly, we love when the Chase Freedom has restaurants as a category, as that allows us to buy gift cards to our favorite restaurants to get 5X on much of our dining out spend. And Q1 2015 was great, as there was 5X on all grocery spend, which we used to do bulk shopping at Trader Joe's, as well as stock up on gift cards for later use during the year.
Here are estimates of the miles we earned this year from spending, including category bonuses:
  • 30,000 from all Ink Plusspend, much of it at 5X 
  • 30,000 from Chase Freedom, all of it at 5X
  • 20,000 from Chase Sapphire Preferred, most of it at 2X
Purchased Miles 

We ended up purchasing 150,000 AAdvantage miles this year--even with the AAdvantage miles we earned last year and this year, our redemptions for Japan Airlines First Class, Etihad First Class, and future awards in Qantas First Class, Etihad First Apartment and Air Tahiti Nui Business Class required more miles than we had. AAdvantage miles are my favorite miles at the moment, even though I have no desire to fly American Airlines, especially given my recent experience with a crappy, non-working seat and American's refusal to refund the Preferred Seat fee I paid (see American Airlines: "Preferred" Seat Doesn't Work But No Refund of Fee).



Thanks to readers, I earned 50,000 miles for referrals to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.


Bottom Line

So far we've earned 507,000 miles and points this year from credit card bonuses, spend and category bonuses, and referrals, and bought an additional 150,000 AAdvantage miles, for a total of 657,000 miles. Since we weren't targeted for a higher offer, we've applied for the 50K Citi Prestige cardand are working on minimum spend, so those bonuses will bring in another 100,000 miles for our two cards. 

While it would have been great if we had earned more AAdvantage miles and not had to buy them, ultimately it was worth it to us to lock in some great first class and business class award travel for the dates we wanted, and many of those AAdvantage miles were at least bought with a 60% bonus. While we could increase our miles and points totals with British Airways and United cards, and may yet reapply for some of those cards since we qualify for them, our focus this year has been on earning, buying and burning AAdvantage miles ahead of an anticipated "Parkerized" AAdvantage award chart devaluation.

How is your 2015 progress in earning miles and points, and which awards have you redeemed miles and points for?

Related Posts

How We Earned 1 Million Miles and Points This Year

Best First Class Airline Seats for Couples

Top 10 Reasons to Fly First Class with Kids

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Picture?type=large Peggy L. commented 26 Jul 2015
I'm 50,000 miles shy of reaching the 200,000 miles needed for a RTW ticket. Applying for two credit cards diverted spending from my goal, so I may have to buy miles if I don't get the needed miles. Do you think redeeming the miles a month ahead of the November trip is enough time to get the desired flights?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 26 Jul 2015
Hmm, it really depends on which class of service, the route, how flexible you are with your dates...I usually plan our and clients' travel 11 months out, and we at least have a backup flight booked, in case first choice last minute award availability doesn't come through. I'd likely buy the miles and try to book a backup award soon, since paid tickets could be very expensive by that point.
Picture?type=large Andrew M. commented 20 Aug 2015
Hi Hilary, how were you able to earn the 40k Chase Sapphire Preferred signup bonus again. I know there's a 2 year limit but did you have to cancel your existing card and then reapply? Or did you downgrade to some other card and then upgrade? I have held the card for many years (since 2007 I think) but haven't received a sign up bonus in many years. It's where we put the majority of our spend (travel and dining) so I don't want to be without it for a long period of time. Thanks
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 20 Aug 2015
Andrew, thanks for your comment and question; I actually hadn't had the Sapphire Preferred in over 2 years, even though others have successfully reapplied and gotten the bonus after canceling the card several months ago, as long as they hadn't received the new cardholder bonus within the past 24 months. I did not downgrade the card to anything, just cancelled it outright. My husband did have a Sapphire Preferred MasterCard for most of the time I didn't have the Sapphire Preferred, so we sometimes used his card, especially abroad for dining, but honestly we get the best ROI if we're working on minimum spend for a good new credit card signup bonus, or via 5X via the Ink Plus or Chase Freedom.
Picture?type=large Lei Q. commented 18 Sep 2015
Hi Hilary, Thanks very much for running this website and I have found articles and reviews pretty invaluable. You mentioned anticipated "AA" miles devaluation, do you have estimate or related articles on how soon and how bad it will be? I have been accumulating CX's asiamiles and wonder if I should start earning AAdvantage as well, for the purpose of redeeming CX awards. Thanks!
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