Million Mile Madness: How it was done

Background: Million Mile Madness was the mad quest to earn a million points in one month. Throughout March, I did everything I could to earn as many points as possible while keeping within my ethical boundaries. I didn’t expect to have a million points credited to my account by March 31st: points often take quite a while to get credited. Instead, I tracked all of the points that I expected, and I declared victory when the expected total topped one million.

Today I’ll present a breakdown of how I earned a million points and miles in a month.  Please keep in mind that none of this should be considered advice on what you should do.  This is simply a summary of what I did:

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Credit card sign-ups 51.6%

It’s no fluke that credit card sign-ups accounted for more than half of my points.  Sign-up bonuses continue to be the single best and easiest method for accumulating points quickly (for those who have good credit and always pay off their entire bill every month).  I signed up for 11 cards at once and was approved for 10 of them.  I do not recommend this as a good practice for others.  I did this giant churn to achieve my self imposed goal of a million points in one month, but under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t sign up for more than 3 or 4 cards at a time.  For details about my credit card sign-ups, please see “Million Mile Madness: The big churn story.”  You may also be interested in “Million Mile Madness: Credit scores and pulls.”  All of the cards I signed up for can be found here: Best credit card offers.

Buy/Sell 28.2%

Almost 300,000 points were earned by buying merchandise (to get points) and then reselling the merchandise.  I used double and triple dip techniques to earn 15X or more on my purchases.  I took advantage of coupons and sales to keep costs down.  I used Fulfillment by Amazon to resell items (Amazon does most of the work for me).  It will still be a month or so before I’ve sold everything, so I don’t know how the final finances will turn out, but right now it looks like I will earn a small profit in addition to points earned.  Amazingly, all of my purchases have been tracking correctly through the online portals so I feel confident about actually getting all of those points.

For more information see:

 

Reload Cards 6.9%

Over the coarse of the month, I bought 19 Vanilla Reload cards and 8 PayPal cards.  In most cases I took advantage of credit card bonus offers and category bonuses.  Here are details:

  • I took advantage of a 3X targeted offer for my Citi AA Amex card
  • I used my Chase Freedom card which offered 5X at drug stores (among other places) last quarter.
  • I used my Citi ThankYou Preferred card which offers 5X at drug stores for the first 12 months.
  • My Hilton Amex continues to earn 6X at drug stores until May.
  • The Club Carlson credit cards earn 5X everywhere, so this was a great way to meet minimum spend on those cards.

I was able to load all of the Vanilla Reload cards onto two Bluebird accounts (mine and my wife’s).  With PayPal, each person can load up to $4000 per month, so I was able to load all 8 cards. 

Purchases 5.1%

For everyday purchases that I would have made anyway, I did my best to earn as many points as possible.  I used my new ThankYou Preferred card at grocery stores for 5X.  I continued to use my Citi Forward card at restaurants, bookstores, and movie theaters for 5X.  I shopped through online portals.  I waited until March to make large purchases that would have been made earlier.  I accelerated some purchases that would have been made later.  In all, I spent a lot and averaged 3.67X across the board.

Credit Card Retention 3.5%

I earned 35,000 points by making two calls to cancel credit cards. Details are here: Million Mile Madness: Easy points.

Kiva 3.4%

I made over $17,000 in no-interest loans via Kiva.  In my tracking spreadsheet I estimated that I would eventually get back 99% of that money, but in my experience I’ll get back a much higher percentage.  I’ve always loved Kiva as a way to earn miles and do good.  And, I’m fortunate enough to have enough money socked away in my savings to cover loans this big.  For more information about Kiva, see “How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans,” and “Minimum spend requirements? Kivalens to the rescue.”

Miscellaneous Other 1.3%

I signed up for various frequent flyer programs, I took online surveys, I “liked” companies on Facebook.  I earned a few thousand points.

Note: This week I’m on vacation, so please forgive me in advance for not answering comments.

Learn about Million Mile Madness:

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Comments

  1. Thanks Greg for the breakdown. your experiment confirms that credit cards are by far the way to go. Most will not go through the buy then sell effort and all the others are way down the list as far as productivity.

    • This is entertaining! It sounds like there are quite a few grumpy readers today. If you’re one, I hope the rest of your day goes better. Andreas, Bacc, Valerie: thanks for sticking up for me!

      For the record, my name is Greg, not Daraius. Daraius writes the blog “Million Mile Secrets”. It’s understandable that there would be confusion since I’m writing about the similarly named “Million Mile Madness”.

      I should answer some specific questions about Kiva. I made some loans with my Club Carlson card (5X), some with my Delta Reserve and some with my Delta Platinum. The Delta Reserve card effectively earns 1.5X since I always end the year with exactly enough spend to get the 15K or 30K bonus. Similarly, the Platinum card effectively earns 1.4X for the same reason (10K bonus at $25K spend).

      My Kiva default rate to-date is .08%, so yes I think that is significantly better than a 1% default rate. To make the math easy, assume you get just 1 mile per dollar and no opportunity cost. In that case, a 1% default rate would mean that you are effectively buying miles for a penny each. With a .08% default rate, I am effectively buying miles for less than 1/12 of a cent each (and that would be if I was only earning 1X). Yes, I’ve looked at opportunity cost. I believe the value from the miles earned is quite a bit higher than likely lost investment income.

  2. you should have just had a 500k pt challenge, applied for the cc, and relaxed!

    seems like a lot of work for the other 500k~ pts!

  3. @Scottrick: Why are you asking the same question in all his posts about the “MMM”? Can’t you understand when FM replied that he will know the final value once he knows about his Amazon fulfillments?

    Great work FM!

  4. Darius.. I am confused about your Kiva statement. You said you made $17,000 in NO interest loans and estimated you would get 99% of your money back but based on your experience you’ll bet back a MUCH higher percentage. How can you get back much more than 99% back on a no interest loan?

  5. @Arlington Traveler: This is why he got fired from Corp America and has to peddle BS online. He also didn’t account for delinquency, duration or opportunity cost (float). Obviously if he could calculate his true return he wouldn’t be doing this for a living.

  6. Totally different topic
    The promo code for buying an Amex gift card for paying taxes ran out. Where does one find a new promo code. Need answer ASAP as April 15 th quickly approaching.

    Thanks in advance

  7. Sorry but this is all BS. Get this, buy that, lend ( and lose) money to Kiva…and Carlson points are not miles …they are barely points.

  8. Guys, FM openly admits that all this is absurd and he can justify this because he treats it as his hobby. If you value your time in $/hour, then this won’t make sense for you. But the stuff he does and explains, helps readers like me collect miles in SPARE time.. you don’t have to go to the same extent as him. We in turn reward him using his links.. this is his job as well as a hobby!

    If you are underemployed for whatever reason or are working towards round the world trip that needs a lot of miles, I think all this is quite valuable. Travel has taught me : to each his own.. those of you with high bank balances or low desire on travel or busy jobs won’t find this info useful. Smart people are an undesirable market segment.. but for the average joe, FM gives us a the info to cherry pick good opportunities that work for us

  9. Some of these comments remind me of Aesop’s “sour grapes” fable. Such bile to spew. MMM is a very interesting case study in ways to earn miles and points. Each person will take from it according to their perspective.

    For some it’s entertainment, others instruction, still others a cautionary tale on the difficulty of some acquisition methods.

    I, for one, thank Darius for the effort and congratulate him on his perserverance in reaching his target.

  10. Who cares about making money?! I could concentrate more on my investment portfolio and earn enough money to buy the business class tickets I want. But that’s definitely not as fun as going about and collecting miles. It sounds more impressive to my friends when I tell them I’m traveling for free than I bought my business tickets, which just sounds shallow to them. So great post FM! Btw, I think FM posted before that he has a credit card that gives 2 points for $1 spend on charity. That’s how he got 34k with $17k spend.

  11. While I think some of the criticisms are a bit catty, I would agree the Kiva loan cost is somewhat understated. Market cost = risk free rate (.25%) + expected default rate (1%) + credit and liquidity risk premium (3%+) – credit card processing offset (2.5%) = 1.75%+. To the extent anyone prices the cost of an unsecured interest free loan made with a credit card at 1% I’ll step up to the plate. Send me any amount of AMEX gift cards you want and I’ll guarantee (secured by property worth 5x) you 99% in 1 year. 🙂

  12. I think both Bacc & Arlington traveler are the one’s who write some BS daily in MMS blog. Today they have mistakenly came to FM blog and made the same rant. Nothing more than that, I guess!

  13. I just recently started reading miles and points blogs, after collecting points on my own for years. Boy, this community feels almost like a cult, with faithful followers and all!
    IMO this is the most original and entertaining blog, thinking outside the box at its finest. I like TPG for most up to date info, but this blog is a great companion.No need
    to bother reading others.
    I have enjoyed this points quest very much. My next churn, you will be getting my clicks, you earned it.

  14. i enjoyed the series, FM…. good work! im lookin forward to what else you have cooking up.

    speaking of credit card bonuses, it seems that nothing very noteworthy has come up in the past couple months, besides a couple 75k AMEX offers… anything in the rumor mill ?

    oh yeah, dont mind @scotttrick, he’s the “uncle ruckus” of point blogging

  15. Nicely done, Greg! I bet it was a nerve racking experience, was it not?

    I too am curious how you plan to ‘cash out’ your paypal balance. Do you plan to just use it for regular spend?

  16. Ray: I’m not aware of any new great offers coming up. I do like the new 40k offer from Barclays for the Arrival card. Other than that, I’d to with the usual suspects: Ink Plus / Bold; Amex Mercedes, SPG; Citi Hilton Reserve, ThankYou Preferred (the one with 5x categories for a year); US Airways 35k, …

    PJ: check the post Credit Scores and pulls

  17. Jonathan: Yes, it was extremely nerve racking! With PayPal, I simply transfer to my checking account. I always leave a balance with PayPal and I’ve never had a problem

  18. I think it does really show that right now credit card sign ups can’t be beat, particularly for those who are time constrained. Of course for the more hardcore among us who have gone through every single credit card as many times as we possibly can, the other tricks start to become more interesting. But they do take a whole order of more risk and complexity for diminishing returns

  19. Follow-up? Everything get sold? Did you meet your goal of total out of pocket? Did all the points come through??

  20. FliesALot: I’m still working on selling a few last things, plus I have to deal with a couple of returns. I should be able to do a very-close-to-final summary in a week or so.

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