A Year in Review – 2 Million Miles Earned

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A Year in Review – 2 Million Miles Earned

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Earlier this week I shared with you an updated fourth quarter of earning and burning. (You can view quarters 1, 2 and 3).

I write and share this information for the following reasons:

  1. Transparency. I’m a big believer in sharing my knowledge – after all, that’s why I started this blog! If I’m not open and transparent, how is this blog different?
  2. It’s not impossible. Earning millions of miles and points per year is time consuming and there is a learning curve. BUT, it’s not impossible, regardless of your academic or professional background.

Changes

Before diving head first into the nitty gritty, here are two changes I made to compiling and analyzing my data this year.

SPENDING REQUIREMENT

Previously, when listing miles earned per card, the only values provided were the sign-up bonus itself. This never included the spending requirements. However, considering the amount of cards my wife and I opened up this year, I thought it was important to add on. After all with 40 cards opened (!), $3,000 and $3,000 and $3,000 etc., adds up.

REALISTIC VALUATIONS

Last year I fell subject to the sticker shock valuation of writing that I saved thousands and thousands on travel. While that sounds lovely, and certainly would be, it is not realistic. The ‘value’ column is divided into “maximum” – what the value would be if I paid out of pocket; and “realistic” – what, in reality, I’d pay.

Realistic values were determined based on the cost of a economy ticket for that destination and time of year. Hotel nights were calculated based on what I’d look to pay (if I were to pay cash) at a 3 – 4 star hotel, per night.

Total Miles Earned 2016: 2 Million

Program Cards Amount Certificates
AAdvantage 5 237,000
Alaska MileagePlan 5 150,000
Arrival + 1 43,000
British Airways Avios 2 240,000
Citi ThankYou Points 1 53,000
Delta SkyMiles 3 164,000
Fairmont 1 2
Hilton HHonors 5 333,000 2
Hyatt Gold Passport 1 1,000 2
IHG 1 81,000
JetBlue TrueBlue 1 31,000
Lufthansa Miles & More 1 55,000
Marriott/Ritz 1 5,000  3
Merill-Lynch 1 53,000
Membership Rewards 9 438,000
Southwest 1 52,000
Starwood Preferred Guest 1 38,000
Refer-a-Friend 45,000
Totals  40 2,019,000 9

I was also able to earn (almost) a sign-up bonus with a refer-a-friend bonuses. (Thanks, guys!)

Compare this to:

Totals for 2015: 29 cards, 1.3 Million Miles Earned

Several of the cards – Hyatt, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and Hilton – provided certificates instead of points or miles.

TAKE-AWAYS

  • Between me and my wife, we opened up 40 credit cards.
  • Our highest and most lucrative bonuses came from AMEX Membership Rewards, which often include bonuses of 100,000 for spending anywhere between $3,000 – $10,000. (Transferable point currencies provide the most flexibility).
  • We’re both ineligible for earning the lucrative Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi ThankYou cards – for now – leaving me to overcompensate with Membership Rewards.
  • Due to Citi’s changes in August of 2016, we went ham for AAdvantage miles. Barclaycard’s recent release of the Aviator card has helped pad those balances, too.
  • Because of some of these changes, I’ve moved to earning cards which provide hotel night certificates. These are inherently less lucrative and more restrictive because of category caps and/or expiration dates.

Total Miles Burned in 2016: 892,500

Please note, this only includes redemptions and travel for 2016.

Redemption Points Used Taxes Estimated Cash Value: Maximum / Realistic
New York – London, Business Class35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards 35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards $5.60 $3,256 / $400
New York – London, Business Class35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards 35,000 Delta SkyMiles + 28,000 AMEX Membership Rewards $5.60 $3,256 / $400
Cash N/A $100 $100
100,00 AS 100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan $110 $3,500 / $800
Three nights at The Edition: London 3 Ritz-Carlton Certificates N/A $1,500 / $750
Two Nights at the Alexandra Doubletree Barcelona 150,00 HHonors Points $523 $500 / $400
One-way New York – Chicago, Companion Pass 6,000 Southwest points $11.20 $240 / $240
New York – Chicago 7,500 Britsh Airways $5.60 $120
New York – Miami 15,000 British AIrways $11.20 $240
Miami – New York 15,000 Delta SkyMiles $11.20 $300
New York – Chicago Cash $70
Tel Aviv – New York, Business 62,500 Membership Rewards $200 $2,500 / $750
New York – Kiev – Tel Aviv, Cash, Economy Cash $500
London Gatwick – Barcelona (two) Cash $100
New York – Pheonix – New York (two) 39,500 ThankYou Points N/A $650 / $500
New York – Chicago – New York, Multiple 44,000 ThankYou Points N/A $650
New York – Chicago 10,000 Delta SkyMiles $11.20 $300
New York – Chicago – New York, Multiple 51,000 Southwest $43.80
3 Nights Waldrof Astoria Jerusalem 240,00 HHonors Points $2,250 / $750
1 Night RItz-Carlton Herzilya [Cash + Points] 26,000 Marriott $170 $400 / $250
Total 892,500 $1,208.40 $20,402 / $7,530

A few things…

  • I didn’t burn as much as I had hoped, keeping in with my ‘earn and burn’ philosophy.
  • I spent cash on a lot of short-haul tickets like New York – Chicago which represented better values than using points.
  • A lot of my points were spent on hotels, like the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem.

Total Miles Traveled in 2016: Approximately 70,000

Last year I traveled a bit more (75,000 miles flown and 35 flight segments), but 70,000 and 31 flight segments isn’t too bad.

Here’s how it looks on the map:

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 5.38.01 PM

My Credit!

No, these screenshots aren’t to brag – they’re to show you that it’s possible to maintain a really solid credit score and earn lots of rewards. If you’re responsible, don’t let yourself get into debt, you too can reap the benefits of rewards earning credit cards. However, with this many cards open, we can’t not talk about my credit score.

Experian – Provided by American Express

Sure - I'd love for this to be higher, but in New York, Chase, Bank of America & AMEX all pull from Experian

Sure – I’d love for this to be higher, but in New York, Chase, Bank of America & AMEX all pull from Experian

Transunion – Provided by Barclaycard

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 4.38.51 PM

Equifax – Provided by Citi

While I was surprised by this, it is over a month old.

While I was surprised by this, it is over a month old.

Bottom line

While I only have a few itineraries booked (subject to change, of course), I’m looking forward to 2017 and the changing landscape. There were definitely a lot of points and miles pitfalls that hit the community this year. Personally, this made me more resilient and interested in finding more deals. Perhaps these deals weren’t as easy or straightforward, but they were definitely lucrative.

Cheers, to 2017!

-The Miner


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