My strategy to buy Platinum and a million miles

I recently reached Delta Platinum status thanks to a mileage run, a signup bonus (10K MQMs for signing up for the Delta Reserve credit card), and a large roll-over of miles from the previous year.  Prior to this, for the past several years, I’ve had Gold status on Delta.  The difference with Platinum is that upgrades have become much more likely and I can now cancel or change award reservations at no cost up to 72 hours prior to a flight.  Since reaching Platinum status, I’ve flown 6 legs on Delta and I’ve been upgraded on all of them.  I’ve also taken advantage of free changes to award tickets twice already!  I already know that I do not want to lose Platinum status next year!  But how?

Flying

An interesting outcome of this points and miles hobby is that now that I have a huge stash of airline miles, using them is less appealing than ever before.  The reason?  When I fly using miles, I do not earn miles and so I get no closer to keeping elite status for the following year.  There are several approaches I can take to solve this conundrum (which I’ll write about in the future), but mostly I’ll look to use miles for big international trips where I can fly business or first class on miles, and I’ll pay for regional flights.

A bigger difficulty I’ll have with keeping elite status is that my job has changed to where I no longer travel for work.  There is no doubt that work-related travel was the primary reason I even achieved Gold status in the past, so reaching Platinum status by flying will be harder than ever!

Mileage runs are always an option.  I’ll keep my eye out for really great ones (let me know if you see any!), but I don’t see this as my primary avenue for reaching Platinum

Spending

A great alternative to flying many miles on Delta to achieve elite status is to spend huge amounts of money on certain Delta credit cards.  The Delta Reserve card awards 15,000 MQMs after $30,000 in spend and another 15,000 after $60,000 in spend.  Similarly, the Delta Platinum card awards 10,000 MQMs after $25,000 in spend and another 10,000 MQMs after $50,000 in spend.  I have both of those cards (one personal and one business), so I can theoretically earn up to 50,000 MQMs by spending a lot.  I would need a total of 75,000 MQMs to reach Platinum, and I know from experience that I can easily earn the 25,000 extra from flying.

Can I really spend that much money?  Can I really spend $60,000 on one card and $50,000 on another for a total of $110,000 in one year?!  Unlike Lucky and Gary, I do not have reimbursable business expenses, so it won’t be easy.  I would need to spend $5000 per month on the Reserve card and just under $4200 per month on the Platinum card to reach this goal.

My strategy will be to concentrate first on the Reserve card since it has a higher rate of return (.5 MQMs per $ for the Reserve vs. .4 MQMs per $ for the Platinum).  I should be able to average $3000 in personal spend per month, and I can afford to make Kiva loans to make up the difference to get me to $5K.  So, meeting the challenge with this card will be fairly easy (except that I will continue to put travel and dining expenses on my Chase Sapphire Preferred for its extra points in those categories, so maybe this won’t be that easy).

With the Platinum card, I will look for opportunities to spend money and get most of it back (e.g. Perpetual Point Machines, Gift Card Churns, etc.).  In December, for example, I used gift card churning techniques to spend over $2000 in a single day and I earned a huge number of points, and I got most of my money back.  This is the type of opportunity I’ll continue to look for going forward.  Whenever possible, I’ll share the details in this blog.  Will I make it to $50K of spend on this card using these techniques?  I think so, but only time will tell.  In the December gift card churn I earned over 20 Ultimate Reward points per dollar spent.  I doubt I will do that well with all of the churns, but if I do, and if I spend $50K with similar gift card churns, I will end up with well over 1 Million points and miles as a result!

Credit Card Churns

The strategy I described above will make it difficult for me to churn credit cards aggressively.  Credit card signup bonuses that require large amounts of spend will be difficult to take on since I’m already committed to very high spend on my Delta cards.  So, at least for 2012, I will be less aggressive than in the past with credit card signups.  I’ll wait for the big, can’t pass them up, offers rather than trying to score big every 91 days.  I understand that many readers have an opposite approach: maximize credit card churns and focus spending on meeting signup minimums.  This is a great approach too, and it will get you huge numbers of miles and points.  For me, though, I enjoy the PPM / Gift Card Churning game and I highly value Delta elite status so I choose to put my focus there.


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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. “An interesting outcome of this points and miles hobby is that now that I have a huge stash of airline miles, using them is less appealing than ever before. The reason? When I fly using miles, I do not earn miles and so I get no closer to keeping elite status for the following year.”

    And this is how the airline scam works. Meanwhile that large bank of miles continuously devalues as does the worth of the elite status. Yet, you’re hooked (as are millions of others).

    • HikerT: Unfortunately, no. Under “restrictions” it says: “Tickets purchased with full or partial Pay with Miles redemptions are not eligible for mileage accrual, mileage upgrades, Platinum Systemwide Upgrade Certificates”.

      Mark P: Yep, I’m hooked, and I love this hobby! 🙂

  2. Thanks I glossed over that exclusion. I’d find ways to “spend” miles for family, friends, acquaintances, etc. particularly if you are platinum and not subject to redeposit or change fees. I mean, if I have the option of letting a friend with platinum book my award or book it myself I’d let them do it. Salivating for higher status myself. Missed out on a SEA-JFK upgrade by 1 seat today, doh, but surprised I almost got upgraded as silver. Will be traveling XC once a month so should get gold by fall and platinum by year end.

  3. i would argue that as soon as you made this website and started posting ads on it, this became a business and therefore travel becomes a deductible expense as it is for the others you mentioned. check with a tax adviser, but i would say deduct away.

  4. I have been up since 4am and have had 5 cups of coffee, but still can’t figure out how you are going to get 1 million miles for $50K in spend on the AX Delta cards. Could you explain? Thanks.

    • Trvlguru: With Sears, I was able to get 10 points per dollar by going through the Ultimate Rewards mall to buy gift cards, and then I got another 10 points per dollar by going through the Ultimate Rewards mall to buy products using those gift cards. That totaled 20 points per dollar. I then sold the products on EBay to get most of my money back. Sears doesn’t currently offer 10X in the Ultimate Rewards mall, but I’m constantly on the look out for similar deals. If I average 20 points per dollar through these schemes and if I spend $50K in a year on these schemes, then I’ll earn 50K X 20 = 1 Million Ultimate Rewards points! That doesn’t even count all of the SkyMiles I’ll earn. Will I really do that much? Doubtful, but we’ll see! Note that I don’t get these points for free. When selling items on EBay I’ll lose money, but I’ll earn more than enough points to make up for that cost. My goal is to average paying less than 1 cent per point.

  5. How are you doing on this? You still on track to meet these spends on top of the other spending you’ve also started?
    I’m up to 19k spending on my Delta Platinum card to date. Only 3k of it has been on “normal” stuff, the rest of it has been “free” spending.

    One more round of Staples FAR software, and I could switch cards by July! Maybe go over to SPG or HHonors AMEX to guarantee Gold for next year…

  6. I am trying to find someone who is willing to “gift” the medallion status- when you hit Diamond, you can give someone Gold status. I have started traveling for work and need it to avoid baggage fees if possible. Do you know any places to look for people who might be willing to sell this? Thank you so much!!!

  7. Lisa: If you participate a lot on FlyerTalk you’ll eventually get access to a forum for swapping things like that. You might be able to offer points or companion tickets or something like that in exchange for Gold

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