How We Earned Nearly 1 Million Miles and Points in 2018 Without Flying

How We Earned 1 Million Miles Points Without Flying 2018


In 2018 We Earned Nearly 1 Million Miles and Points without flying. While I do travel some internationally for work, I (and my family) take very few paid flights, hence we earn next to no frequent flyer miles this way. Instead, we leverage credit card signup bonuses, category spend bonuses, our organic spend, and AMEX Offers to earn most of our frequent flyer miles and points each year. Naturally there are many miles and points fanatics who earn far more miles per year than we do, so this summary is more an example of what non-fanatics can do, without resorting to manufactured spend or applying for more than 5 new cards per spouse/partner per year.

Miles and points are very much a means to an end for us: flying international first class or business class to the destinations and luxury hotels I either need to visit on behalf of clients, for site inspections, or that we want to visit as a family. Thanks to our frequent flyer miles and points, we were able to fly ANA First Class, JAL First Class, Singapore A380 Business Class, Cathay Pacific First Class, Cathay Pacific Business Class, Garuda Business ClassLufthansa First Class, SAS Business Class, Aer Lingus Business Class, Qatar Qsuite Business Class, EVA Air Business Class and Korean Air First Class this year.

As pleasant as some of the flights were, particularly JAL First Class, ANA First Class and Cathay Pacific First Class, the hotels were far more memorable, particularly Amanpulo, a private island in the Philippines; Amanwana, in remote Moyo Island, Indonesia; Nimb Hotel in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen; Four Seasons St. Petersburg, Russia; Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland; Amanbagh in India; and Singita Sasakwa Lodge in the Serengeti, Tanzania. None of these luxury hotels, resorts, and lodges 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 2018:

  • 65%: Credit Card Signup Bonuses
  • 17.6%: Spend and Category Bonuses, and AMEX Offers
  • 12%: Purchased Miles and Bonuses
  • 5.4%: Referral and Relationship Bonuses
And here's a rough breakdown of the miles and points we earned:
  • 46% American AAdvantage Miles
  • 20% Delta SkyMiles
  • 18.5% Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
  • 6% Lufthansa Miles & More Miles
  • 5.5% British Airways Avios
  • 4% AMEX Membership Rewards Points
Credit Card Signup Bonuses
We signed up for a total of 10 credit cards between the two of us. My husband's new cards were the 60K Delta Gold, 70K Delta Platinum, 50K British Airways Visa, 70K Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, and another 65K Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select.
My new cards were a 60K Delta AMEX Gold Business card, 50K Lufthansa Miles & More card, and three Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select cards that earned 65,000-70,000 Advantage miles per card. We were able to sign up for the Citi AAdvantage cards thanks to snail mail offers that bypassed the usual 24 month language (see
Spend, Category Bonuses, Extended Payment, AMEX Offers
Quite a bit of our organic spend earns 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points, 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, although we only maxed out the Q1 and Q2 5X bonuses) and 5X on Internet and cell phone, via the Ink Plus. I also earned ~5000 AAdvantage miles during the year via a cell phone monthly mileage offer.
I occasionally utilized AMEX Offers for spend I'd make anyway, and significant contributors this year were the 15,000 points from the Four Seasons AMEX Offer and 10,000 points from the Peninsula Hotels AMEX Offer (see AMEX Offers: 25K Points Posted).
Referrals and AMEX Relationship Bonus
Overall we earned 50,000 points from referrals, and a 3600 AMEX Relationship bonus.
Purchased Miles
We redeemed hundreds of thousands of AAdvantage miles this year, exhausting our accounts, so we purchased 80,000 AAdvantage miles with a 40,000 miles bonus in order to complete award bookings for a trip for next year.
Which miles and points did you earn in 2018?
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5 years ago

Another awesome Article! Thanks for sharing!

5 years ago

I look forward to this post each year and think it’s amazing how you do the million year after year!!

5 years ago

Hilary, first I want to say that I appreciate that you don’t manufacture spend – something I consider to be a shady practice. It’s fantastic that you and your husband were able to get multiples of the Citi AA cards! These days we only get mail offers for cash back cards but there isn’t any card I want now anyway, after getting the Ink Business Preferred. I collect UA miles only, though flying and converting UR points, and with the UA shopping portal. Just earned silver status which earns extra miles on flown segments. I’m collecting Hilton points to earn… Read more »

vincent detora
vincent detora
4 years ago

I am 68 years old and I have been in points program for about 30 years .80% of my points come from signing bonus on new and repeated credit cards.20% is from spending with the credit cards.My spouse duplicates what I do.Never one cent has been paid in interest on credit card charges.Always pay your balance in full .If you cannot do that DO NOT PLAY this game.Thanks to TRAVEL SORT i have received valuable information to complement my Strategy.For that I thank you.Between myself and my spouse we presently have apx. two million points from airline and hotels programs.Once… Read more »