Let me first get this out of the way – this is not a brag post, it is rather meant to show you what is possible even on low income. Also, this is not a high ceiling for someone in my income range. I’m sure someone with similar personal scenarios as me has earned 4x miles than I did in year one.
I’m a grad student so needless to say I’ve limited budget to play with. I can’t float a whole lot of money in giftcards, kiva, kickfurther, etc neither can I let thousands of $ sit idle on some bank. The best way for me to earn miles is basically to chew through signup bonuses. Since this is year 1…and because there were plenty of credit card opportunities, I did not feel the need to duplicate credit cards.
Churning without goal is pointless. As (hopefully) everybody the major goal is to pay as little as possible for vacations (it is almost never truly free) but because of my financial situation, there was a underlying minor goal as well – let churning itself cover cost of MS and AF. Ideally speaking, I did not want to pay a dime to earn points. That said, let’s now look annual fee I paid across several issuers.
|Bank||Net 1st Year AF||Estimated 2nd Year AF*|
* is based on cards I will keep from year one.
** has been refunded
Negating $1500 AF
Early on I made some poor decisions and signed up for cards with low cash signup bonus. Nevertheless, it did help me pay off a whooping $1.5k annual fee I paid over a course of a year. What helped even more is –
- bank account bonus
- 1st year AF waiver on two high AF cards namely Ritz-Carlton and Business Platinum
- cashing out airline credit on PRG, Ritz, and Platinums
- cashing out travel credit of Arrival+
- cashing out 180k UR points to pay student loan
This one is a bit difficult for me since
- I don’t want to change my DD
- most bank bonuses require decent chunk of deposit and
- I don’t want to bank with banks I churn cc of.
|Bank||Profit (before tax)|
34 Cards in a Year
In Nov of 2015, I applied for 60k Hilton Honors (ops should have waited for highest offer) and started the churning game. By the time I left for a vacation in mid May, I had received 17 more cards. I returned home early September and went on a credit card spree…and got 13 cards in 3 months. I left for vacation again in mid December and as of writing this article I’m still away from home.
|Delta Gold B||50k+$50||95||Cancel||LOLAmex|
|Citi Hilton||75k||0||Cancelled||Reset 1/24|
|Hilton Reserve||Bonus Denied||95||Cancelled||Reset 1/24|
|IHG||80k||49||Keep||Free Annual Night|
|Prestige||50k||350||Keep||Poor Man’s Premium Card|
|Ink+||70k||95*||Downgraded to Cash||Dead|
|Carlson B||85k||60*||Keep||My Top 3 Hotel Card|
|United||55k||95||Down||25% MPX bonus|
|Flexperk Gold||30k||85*||Cancel||Paid AF with 5k Points|
|SPG B||35k||95||Cancelled||Made Room For Delta|
|SPG P||35k||95||Cancelled||Made Room For Delta|
|Hyatt||2 night + 5k||75||Keep||Free Annual Night|
|Fairmont||2 Night||95||Cancel||Hope PC to Freedom|
|Ritz||2 night + 10k||395||Wait||See Retention|
|Access More||650 phone credit||95*||Keep||Plastiq|
|Flex Biz||34.8||55||Cancel||Get FP Personal Instead|
* 1st year AF was paid
** AF was refunded
Noteworthy Points and Miles
If you attempt to add my signup bonus from 34 cards, you’ll clearly see that it does not add up to 2 million points. I also said that I don’t float a lot of money on giftcards. In fact I’ve never gone the typical MS route, i.e.
CC – buy GC – buy MO – liquidate through bank
I’ve meet vast majority of my minimum spend through NW Buxx (rip 1/31/2017). Because Buxx did not accept Amex cards I ended up using Paypal cards (risky) to MS vast majority of my Amex minimum spend requirement. I also MSed a large portion of 100k leaked Plat via Venmo and I MSed almost entire minimum spend on Arrival+ with Venmo as well.
Nothing too amazing. Basically a lot of money saver trips. I spent very little $ on travel I otherwise would have to pay in. I also got to take my parents on mini vacations so that was great.
|50k TY + $150||RT ORD – KTM||Saved $|
|150 UR + $30||3 x RT MDW – NYC||took parents on a trip|
|80k Hilton||1 Night DT Times Square NY – Suite||I liked|
|Hyatt Cert||Andaz Wall Street||Meh|
|Hyatt Cert||Park Hyatt DC||Okay|
|15k UR + $30||3 x RT MDW – Washington||took parents on another trip|
|24k UR||3 x Suite Hyatt Regency KTM||loved everything here|
|15k Carlson||Radisson KTM||ehh|
|20k IHG||4x Crowne Plaza KTM||free breakfast for Platinums tho <3|