Preparing for Miles

18

Today I added a new permanent page to the Frequent Miler site: Preparing for Miles. Look for the link at the top of every Frequent Miler page. This page will grow and evolve over time, but for now I’ve saved you the trouble of clicking throug(Update: This offer has temporarily expired.)h to the page by posting its current contents here:

I regularly post schemes for earning points and miles. For example, you will find a series of posts about the search for the Perfect Perpetual Point Machine. A perpetual point machine (PPM) is a technique for earning miles and points over and over with minimal cost or effort. Another series you will find here is about Gift Card Churning. Gift card churning is the process of earning points and miles for buying, upgrading, and using or selling gift cards.

Often, these schemes require certain credit cards to make them work. It’s also the case that opportunities come and go quickly so you need to be prepared to take advantage of them when they appear. My recommendation is to arm yourself, in advance, with the credit cards that are most likely to be needed for these opportunities.

This page will be updated regularly. Please check back often!

Credit Cards Needed for PPMs and Churns:

At some point this may change, but for now the best opportunities seem to come from Chase. Not only does Chase offer some of the best sign-up bonuses, but they have some of the best opportunities for earning points and miles once you have the cards. Here are the cards that I most highly recommend:

Chase SapphireSM Preferred Card

 

This card is the star of the show. If you only get one credit card, this should be the one. This card does two important things for you: it makes it very easy to earn points AND it makes the points you earn more valuable.

Earning Points: You will get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points simply by signing up for this card and spending $3000 in 3 months. Just as importantly, though, you will gain access to the Ultimate Rewards Mall. Through the mall you will be able to earn extra points for purchases at merchants that you are likely to buy from anyway. It is true that there are many other online shopping malls that award points, but in my experience this one is the best. It is not unusual, through the mall, to earn 10 extra points per dollar on purchases! Outside of the Ultimate Rewards Mall, you will 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else. This is also the only card that gives you an extra 7% bonus on all points earned every calendar year.

Redeeming Points: You can redeem your points for cash or gift cards, but then the value of those points is limited to exactly 1 cent per point. What makes this card (and the Ink Bold) really shine is two new options you have that are not available with other cards: 1) You can redeem points for travel and get 1.25 cents per point value; or even better: 2) You can redeem points for hotel and/or airline miles. Points redeemed in this way transfer instantly and can be put in anyone’s account. This is really a big deal because it is very easy to get more than 2 cents per point value from United Airlines miles or Hyatt points, both of which are transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards. It is due to this capability that most experts value Ultimate Rewards points (when used with this card or the Ink Bold) at 2 cents per point or more.

Caution: do not confuse this card with the regular Chase Sapphire. Unless it is the “Chase Sapphire Preferred” you won’t be able to transfer points to other programs and therefore your points are limited in value to 1 cent each.

Chase Freedom® Visa – $200 Bonus Cash Back

 

By itself, this is a pretty good cash back card. It earns 5% cash back within rotating categories of purchases and 1% cash back on everything else. Note that the 5% bonus is limited to $1500 of spend per quarter. Here are the bonus categories for 2012:

Q1: Amazon.com and Gas Stations
Q2: Grocery Stores and Movie Theaters
Q3: Gas Stations and Restaurants
Q4: Airlines, Hotels, BestBuy and Kohls

What makes this card really shine is that when paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Ink Bold, the points accumulated can be turned into Ultimate Rewards points and redeemed for airline miles and hotel points. If you value Ultimate Reward points at 2 cents each, this means that you can earn the equivalent of 10% back from your in-category spend!

You can also sign up for something called “Chase Exclusives” and earn even more. See Dan’s Deals for more about Chase Exclusives.

The New Ink BoldSM with Ultimate Rewards

 

The Ink Bold is a business card, so you need to own a business to sign up for this one. That being said, you can own a business simply by saying so. If you sell things via yard sales or EBay, then you legitimately have a Sole Proprietorship business. If you are in that situation, then simply use your own SSN for the business Tax ID when filling out the application.

The Ink Bold has very similar benefits to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Like the Sapphire Preferred, you will earn 50,000 points as a signup bonus, but this one requires $5000 of spend in 3 months. Also, like the Sapphire Preferred, when you have this card, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth more because they can be transferred to hotel and airline programs.

In one area, this card is even better than the Sapphire Preferred. The Ink Bold will give you 5 points for every dollar spent on office supply stores, cable and wireless service, and landline communications! You will also get 2 points for every dollar spent on gas and hotels.

Credit Cards Needed for Airline Elite Status:

 

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

 

This card has some nice perks by itself that make it worth the $150 annual fee, but the real kicker here is that this card allows you to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles or MQMs. In order to reach elite status on Delta, you need 25,000 MQMs for Silver, 50,000 MQMs for Gold, 75,000 MQMs for Platinum, or 125,000 MQMs for Diamond. With this card, you will earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in one year and another 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000. So, with this one card, you can get very close to Silver status without flying. Here are some other perks:

  • Get 20,000 bonus miles upon your first purchase with the Card (5,000 of which are Medallion Qualification Miles)
  • Get 5,000 bonus miles when you sign up for two Additional Cards
  • Check your first bag for free on every Delta flight
  • Receive Zone 2 priority boarding on Delta flights
  • Receive 20% In-Flight Savings on food and entertainment
  • Complimentary companion coach ticket each year upon renewal

(Update: This offer has temporarily expired.)

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Update: This offer has expired and/or is not currently available at Frequent Miler.

This card is similar to the Platinum card, but it allows you to earn even more MQMs, but with a steep annual fee of $450. With this card, you will earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in one year and another 15,000 MQMs after spending $60,000. So, with this card you can reach Silver status and be on your way to Gold without flying. Here are some other perks that help pay for the high annual fee:

  • Get 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) upon your first purchase with the Card
  • Enjoy Delta Sky ClubTM access (for you and up to two guests!)
  • Check your first bag for free on every Delta flight
  • Complimentary First-Class companion certificate each year upon renewal
  • Access to Concierge services
  • Receive 20% In-Flight Savings on food and entertainment

Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Cards

For each of the Delta cards described above, there is a corresponding business version of the same card. The business versions usually have identical annual fees and benefits with the one addition of American Express Open which gives you 5% rebates for certain business purchases. The great thing about the business cards is that American Express will allow you to hold both a personal card and a business card and therefore you can earn signup bonuses and MQMs for each of them!

Other Credit Cards:

There are many other credit cards that can award you elite status and other perks. One of the best summaries I’ve seen is from Dan’s Deals: Credit Card Benefits, Categorized by Benefit. Browse the list and figure out which cards you need to meet your goals.

Disclosure: For most of the cards listed above, I will get a referral fee if you signup. I would never recommend a card, however, if I didn’t truly believe it was a great deal. With the exception of the Chase Freedom card, I personally own and use all of the cards listed above. And, you can bet that the Freedom is high on my list for my next credit card churn!

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