How We Earned Nearly 1 Million Miles and Points in 2017 Without Flying

2017 was a good year for us in many ways, including earning nearly 1 million miles and points without flying. Neither my husband nor I are road warriors, so we book very little in the way of paid flights and don't earn frequent flyer miles this way. Instead, we leverage credit card signup bonuses, category spend bonuses, our organic spend, and referral bonuses to earn most of our frequent flyer miles and points each year.

Frequent flyer miles and points for us are a means to an end: flying international first class or business class to the destinations and luxury hotels we really want to visit. Thanks to our frequent flyer miles and points, we were able to fly JAL First ClassANA First ClassJAL Sky Suite Business ClassAustrian Business ClassSingapore Business ClassSwiss Business ClassBrussels Business Class, Air France Business Class, Fiji Business Class and Air New Zealand Business Premier this year.

As nice as some of the flights were, particularly ANA First Class and JAL First Class, the hotels were far more memorable, especially Laucala Private IslandAman TokyoAmanemu, the Four Seasons Kyoto, the Fullerton Bay SingaporeFour Seasons Geneva, Hotel Le Bristol Paris, and Le Meurice Paris. None of these luxury hotels 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:

  • 40%: Credit Card Signup Bonuses
  • 24%: Spend and Category Bonuses
  • 17%: Purchased Miles and Bonuses
  • 17%: Referral Bonuses
  • 3%: AMEX Offers
And here's a rough breakdown of the miles and points we earned:
  • 38% Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
  • 19% American AAdvantage Miles
  • 19% AMEX Membership Rewards Points
  • 10% Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
  • 8% SPG Starpoints
  • 6% Lufthansa Miles & More Miles
 
Credit Card Signup Bonuses
 
2017 was definitely harder for us in terms of earning credit card bonuses, since AMEX cards are once in a lifetime for personal and business cards and 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. Citi has also made it harder to earn AAdvantage bonuses, unless you're targeted for an offer that does not have the usual 24 month language, which makes you ineligible if you've opened or closed a similar card within the past 24 months.
We did both take advantage of Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select offers that didn't have the 24 month language, and were able to match the 50K offers to 60K offers; I also earned another 50K bonus for a CitiBusiness AAdvantage card.
On the AMEX front, I was excited to finally find a targeted 25K AMEX EveryDay card offer (this is the no annual fee card) and signed each of us up for the card. Earlier in the year, I also took advantage of a great AMEX Blue for Business card (no longer offered) which had only a 10K bonus, but provided 10K on up to $2000 of dining for the first 6 months, and 2X on all spend for the first year, which I've made great use of for the category spend bonuses.
Also earlier in the year, my husband got an Ink Plus before Chase discontinued the card, and we've made great use of the 5X on office supply store spend on gift cards, to earn 5X on all our Amazon and Whole Foods spend.
The 8th credit card was my husband's Lufthansa Miles & More card, which he was able to get again, after a couple years of not having the card.
  • 180K AAdvantage miles via 2 Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select cards, one for each of us, and a CitiBusiness AAdvantage card, plus the spend to earn the bonuses
  • 64K Membership Rewards points via 2 AMEX EveryDay cards, one for each of us, and an AMEX Blue for Business card for me, plus spend to earn the bonuses
  • 65K Ultimate Rewards points via an Ink Plus card and spend to earn the bonus
  • 55K Lufthansa Miles&More miles via a Miles&More card and spend to earn the bonus
Spend, Category Bonuses, Extended Payment, AMEX Offers
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 (we have 4 Chase Freedom cards between us) and 5X on Internet and cell phone, via the Ink Plus.
  • 196K Ultimate Rewards points, most of it at 5X, from the Ink Plus and Chase Freedom, with most of the remainder at 3X, thanks to our Chase Sapphire Reserve card spend on travel and dining
  • 25K AMEX Membership Rewards points from spend on the AMEX Blue for Business (20K of if from 10X on $2000 spend on dining)
  • 10K Extended Payment bonus for my AMEX Business Platinum
  • 25K AMEX Membership Rewards points for AMEX Offers
Purchased Miles
While overall I'm not much of a fan of Alaska Mileage Plan, since my husband received the buy miles with a 50% bonus offer, we bought miles which, with the bonus, equated to 90,000 miles. We also took advantage of the current offer to buy SPG Starpoints at 35% off, which is a great deal if you transfer Starpoints to airline frequent flyer programs in increments of 20K points, with a 25% transfer bonus.
Referrals and Other Bonuses
Thanks to readers, we earned 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points for referrals to Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom cards, and I earned 55,000 Membership Rewards points for referrals to the AMEX Business Platinum.
The Bottom Line
We earned a total of 934,000 miles and points in 2017. This isn't quite a million, but it's more than enough to cover our first class and business class travel for a year, so while less than in 2016, we're happy with this figure and looking forward to the trips that they'll make possible.
How many frequent flyer miles and points did you earn in 2017, and which awards do you plan to redeem for?
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