2015: A Year In Review, Earning and Burning Over 1 Million Miles

2015: A Year In Review, Earning and Burning Over 1 Million Miles

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It was a tremendous year for loyalty program and credit card enthusiasts. There were some ups, but many downs. Manufactured spending opportunities withered (goodbye, Redbird) while many others went underground to keep their tactics hidden. Delta continued to butcher its award chart and signaled the possibility that they would go revenue-based (like Southwest and JetBlue).

The last of the great airline mergers between the legacy airlines occurred and, to American and US Airways’ credit, it went off smoothly. We knew that it was only a matter of time before American would devalue their award chart—and they did, but it was not as severe as we thought it would be.

As major banks upped the competitiveness and wallet-worthiness of their cards (hello Citi Premier and Prestige and American Express Gold Card), other banks began to clamp down on churners—Bank of America and Chase. We saw an increase of really solid sign-ups including the semi-public 100,000 AMEX Platinum offers and 50,000 Citi ThankYou Points on both the Prestige and Premier cards.

I’ve been involved in this hobby since July 2013, after graduating college. The first credit card I opened was the Chase Slate—not a points-earning card, but a no-fee card I knew I can keep forever. Six months later I applied for the British Airways and Chase Freedom cards. Approved for both, I took another six months before I applied for my next cards. And then six months later, another few cards.

In 2014 I applied for, and was approved for 9 credit cards.

Fast forward to 2015: I more than doubled that with 22 applications and 20 approvals.  It also helps to have a significant other who can open up cards as well. She applied for, and was approved for 9 out of 10. In January I made a resolution to crank up the number of applications from 2014. There was some risk involved, a lot of creative thinking on how to reach the required spends, but in the end, the numbers say everything.

So without further ado…

A year in numbers:

Delta Skymiles153,00035,000Airline
AAdvantage Miles176,000207,500AirlineRedemptions made in 2015 but earned 2014
Alaska MileagePlan117,50057,500Airline
United Mileage Plus115,00030,000Airline
Southwest RR110,000110,000AirlineCompanion pass
British Airways48,000AirlineRedemptions made in 2015 but earned 2014
AMEX MR200,000140,000Transferable
Citi ThankYou Points106,000104,000TransferableRedemptions made in 2015 but earned 2014
Chase Ultimate Rewards60,000TransferableTo be redeemed
Hilton HHonors49,000HotelTo be redeemed
Marriot Rewards166,000HotelTo be earned
IHG Rewards81,000Hotel
Hyatt Gold Passport12,000Hotel
Starwood Preferred4000Hotel
Arrival+46,00044,000Cash back
Number of flights36
Distance flown47,458

*Two Hyatt and two Hilton nights were also earned via credit card sign ups
So looking at the numbers, I still have a decent stash of points/miles—enough for any last minute trip to Chicago or wherever, that we would need to take. (Notice the lack of Ultimate Rewards earned this year—a post for another time.)

The most exciting thing for me to see that the approximate distance flown is enough to go around the world at least once!

GCMAP 2015

Looking Forward:

For 2016, I have our travels booked until September which clocks in at 35,000 miles.

With some well-timed applications and the proper card(s) for spending, you too can go to these places, and more. Future posts will include best uses of miles, how to earn and where to spend, trip reports and more.

Thanks for your support and I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

-The Miner

Tomorrow on Mining for Miles—“20 Cards?! But what about your credit score?!”


Morde Khaimov

December 29, 2015 at 7:37 pm

How were you able to meet the spending requirements for 20 cards within the year? most of them and $1,000-5,000 spending withing 3 months, and with the closing of the target red card in april, and a few others, what was your actual expense amount? like what was the total you had to actually spend to receive those points?


December 29, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Great question–It comes out to around $42,000 in required spend, for 28 cards.

After the downfall of Redbird I switched all my spending to my most recently opened card to make it a bit easier. You can still load your Serve with an AMEX card to go towards the sign $200/day, $1,000/month and AMEX personal cards typically have low spending requirements.

Eli L.

December 29, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Looks amazing, but seems way too difficult to balance it all.

How do you keep track of everything and how much are you paying in annual fees?


December 29, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Great question. I think it’s important to start out slow and be organized. I just use Excel for tracking.

In 2015, I paid annual fees on the Citi Hilton Reserve–for the Gold benefit, but now that I’m diamond I won’t next year ($95) and the Citi Prestige ($100 after citi gold and airline fee benefit). Keep an eye out for a post on whether or not annual fees are worth it.

Net Gain

December 30, 2015 at 11:05 pm

So pretty much you spent $42,000 to gain all these miles and points and stuff but did you actually even come out ahead? Or did you only come out ahead because you were able to use the points to take random trips with close departure dates?


December 30, 2015 at 11:21 pm

I would say $30,000 or so was manufactured. What do you mean when you say “coming out ahead”? I don’t sell my miles, I redeem them for travel I couldn’t otherwise take.

Some were close-in, like Paris and Antigua, but trips like Hawaii, Miami, Asia and lots of Chicago were planned out.

David B

January 14, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Neg Gain, it sounds like he spent money as per his normal expenses, manufactured some spending, and was able to get close to a million miles…which is pretty damn impressive.

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