Making Miles

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The goal of every reward card holder and frequent flier is to make as many miles as they can, as quickly and as easily as possible.

The View From The Wing blog has a list of their top ten suggestions on ways to earn “Lots Of Miles”.    Their suggestions range from the easy and obvious to the risky and hidden loopholes.

My Take

Suggestion number one is credit cards. They touch on the fact that most companies will only give you the sign up bonus for each card only once, but they often offer multiple cards that you can get a bonus on.    Citibank is the exception as they allow churning American Airlines reward cards.   I am currently attempting this myself, but it is only what I would regard as an extremely advanced strategy that poses some risks for all but the most highly organized cardholders.    In this recent post, I laid out the risks.  I intend to share a complete update with you later this year to see how it has worked out for me.

Their second suggestion also involves CitiBank. The idea is that you can open a checking account and they will let you fund it with a credit card transaction that gets treated as a purchase, not as a cash withdrawal.     What they don’t tell you is that you may be able to take advantage of a promotion that will get you an additional 20,000 American Airlines miles.     Also, if you do this, I would do it a day after your statement closes, to maximize any interest you may accrue over the next 45-50 days until your payment is due.

Number three is obvious, look for elite status bonuses by consolidating your traveling on one airline.   I actually prefer to stay a mileage neutral when I fly, which allows me to choose my flights based on both price and service rather than the preferred “loyalty” program.    I am in good company in this regard. On the other hand, I don’t fly (with paid tickets)  often enough to make elite status even if I only flew one particular airline.

Number four, Presidential Dollar Coins, is a little known trick to rack up a few miles, but it is not without it’s effort and risk.   The US Mint offers these new dollar coins, as well as a Native American dollar coin, for sale through their web site.   You can pay for the coins on your credit card, and they are waiving the shipping charges too, so the amount you pay is the amount you receive.     The coins are both beautiful and practical, but most people end up just depositing them in the bank to pay the bill.     I did this the other day and I had to unwrap all of the coins so they could count them.    They came up with the wrong amount, they were off by $1.50!!     I was too flabbergasted to fight it.     So you must put in the effort of depositing the coins, but there is also a slight risk that the purchase will be lost in the mail or stolen from your doorstep.    Fortunately, they appear to be using UPS these days.    Even still, you must be able to take delivery at some place where there is a human, such as your office.

Number five is to take advantage of online shopping portals that offer mileage. I have actually never done this, because I find that the sites offering mileage are doing so because they can’t compete on price.   I always take the better price as the mileage is usually not worth the difference.

Recommendation number six is the dinning rewards sites. These are great, especially if you travel on business and eat out a lot.   When I am eating out on someone else’s dime, I always go to the affiliated dining sites.    The rewards add up and multiply as you dine more often.   Extra bonus if you can “treat” your colleges and expense that too!   It is also a great way to force yourself to eat at different places when you are in an unfamiliar city.

Number seven is to be on the lookout for promos. Sign up for the email list and remember to register immediately for each promo.    I would also record your registration with a screen capture, in case they company claims you didn’t.

Suggestions numbers eight and nine are to not forget rental car and hotel points. I would go further and look at every transaction you make from the moment you leave home, especially on a business trip.    That includes airport shuttles, parking,  telecommunications, office supplies, or anything on your expense report.    When the company picks up the bill, miles not price should be your top priority.   Done correctly, a three week project can equal a one week’s vacation worth of miles.

Number ten is banking. Yes, you should look for miles when starting a banking relationship.    On the other hand, a good bank is worth more than miles, and quality is my top priority.

They then offer the bonus of complaining for miles. I strongly recommend this, but only when the company has not met the letter of it’s agreements.   I have complained politely and successfully to many companies and received very generous rewards in return.    I like to think that I am doing them a favor by alerting them to service deficiencies that will cost them many customers that are too busy to complain.

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