How We Earned Nearly 1 Million Miles and Points in 2019 Without Flying

How We Earned Nearly 1 Million Miles and Points in 2019 Without Flying


In 2019 We Earned Nearly 1 Million Miles and Points without flying. For TravelSort, I do travel internationally for work, yet I (and for that matter my family) take very few paid flights. Hence, the frequent flyer miles we earn from flying are negligible.

Instead, our primary miles and points earning comes from credit card signup bonuses, category spend bonuses, and our organic spend, with some additional points contributed by shopping portal bonuses and referral bonuses. Of course, there are many miles and points hounds who earn many more frequent flyer miles per year than we do, and some who engage in manufactured spend to earn many millions of miles a year. We are slow earners by comparison, so this post is an example of what is possible without making miles and points your obsession.

For our family, high frequent miles and points balances are never the end goal, but rather a means to an end: international first class and business class award travel. These awards are also the highest value return on miles and points, with redemption values of 5-10 cents or more per mile or point. There's not a single cash back credit card card that can compare, if you value international first class or business class.

Due to the nature of TravelSort, which focuses on luxury hotels, we ignore most hotel credit cards and points. The finest luxury hotels and resorts, such as Cheval Blanc, Four Seasons, Aman Resorts, Oetker Collection, and similar can't be reserved with miles and points. And while it's great to be able to sleep better en route in a first class or business class cabin, it can't compare to staying in hotels and resorts such as Velaa and Joali in the Maldives, Four Seasons Lanai, the Dolder Grand, or the Park Hotel Vitznau, in Switzerland. That said, we did end up earning a few Hyatt points this year, which I've included in the totals.

But let's return to the topic of this post–2019 miles and points earning. In total, we earned 961,500 miles and points this year, primarily from credit card signup bonuses (5 new cards for me, 3 for my husband) and organic spend/category bonuses, along with shopping portals.

  • 36%: Credit Card Signup Bonuses
  • 31%: Spend and Category Bonuses, Including AMEX Offers and Shop Through Chase
  • 10%: Referral and Relationship Bonuses
  • 4%: Purchased Miles
  • 2%: Award Bonus

And here's a breakdown by the type of miles and points earned:

  • 48%: AAdvantage miles
  • 30%: Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • 7%: AMEX Membership Rewards points
  • 5%: JetBlue TrueBlue points
  • 4%: Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • 4%: Hyatt points
  • 2%: Lufthansa Miles & More miles

Credit Card Signup Bonuses

We received several targeted snail mail offers to earn Citi AAdvantage card signup bonuses, both for personal cards and business cards. The only other signup bonuses we earned were a 50K JetBlue card bonus, a 45K AMEX Green card bonus, and a 40K Alaska Visa bonus.

Spend and Category Bonuses

Much of our spend is in 3X-5X categories. With the Ink Cash card we earn 5X on Internet, cell phone service, and crucially, office supply stores, since that lets us buy Whole Foods and Amazon gift cards such that we earn 5X on all Amazon and Whole Foods spend. In fact, most all of our grocery and wine spend earns 5X because we stock up on Trader Joes gift cards when the Chase Freedom has grocery stores as a 5X category. We earn 3X on all travel and dining from the Chase Sapphire Reserve .

The card we generally use for other spend when we're not working towards minimum spend for a new card is the AMEX Blue Business Plus, as it's a no annual fee card and earns 2X on all spend.

The Bottom Line

Every year, I suspect that the following year we won't earn as many miles and points, as it's unquestionably become harder to earn many credit card signup bonuses, with AMEX restricting applicants to a signup bonus for a given card once in a lifetime, and Chase putting in place a 24 month-48 month rule for earning a signup bonus for its cards. It's very possible that we'll end up buying more miles next year, which can still be attractive compared to paying for business class tickets, depending on the award availability. We'll see.

How many frequent flyer miles and points did you earn in 2019, and more importantly, what do you plan to do with them?

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4 years ago

Wow! And I thought I did well! Just curious were you not targeted for the Citibank 50,000 AA miles checking account offer? It seem to be widely available I was surprised that you did not list it.

5/24 Just kills so many of us. Would love to have the ink card but no way I’m going to get approved for it

Hilary Stockton
4 years ago
Reply to  Dublin

I believe we did receive a mailer for the Citi AAdvantage checking offer, but to be honest I don’t like applying for these because they’re taxable bonus miles (referral bonuses are as well, I realize, but there’s less work involved, and no checking account fees to avoid). It’s definitely become harder to earn new credit card bonuses than a few years ago, but to put it in perspective, the signup bonuses, if eligible for them, are still so much better in the U.S. than in the rest of the world. Hope your miles and points help create memorable travel experiences… Read more »

4 years ago

Great point and happy new year!