Earn One million miles and points in a year without flying


Most readers are very familiar with the cards and strategies in this post, but I thought it would be helpful to lay it out, along with the sequence in which I’d apply for these cards, for the sake of friends and family that are new to miles and points and trying to figure out how to accrue enough for international business and first class travel. So here we go!

Step 1: Make Sure You Have a High Credit Score and Won’t Need a Mortgage, Refinancing or Major Loan in the Next Year

You’ll want to have a credit score in the mid-high 700s, no credit card debt, and pay all of your credit cards off in full each month. If you anticipate taking out a mortgage or doing a refinancing or taking out another major loan within the next year, it’s best to refrain from credit card applications until you complete the process, to ensure you’re getting the absolute best rate with your lender.

Step 2: 1st Set of Credit Card Applications

1. United MileagePlus Visa: 55,000 United miles (Targeted) with $50 statement credit

I put this first, because I don’t know how much longer the targeted 55,000 offer will be available.  If you can’t get this offer, I would substitute the Sapphire Preferred, although it gives 40,000 points, not 55,000 points. In my table below, I count the United MileagePlus Explorer as a 55,000 offer, since most folks won’t find it worth it to spend $25,000 on the card for the additional 10,000 points.

2. Ink Bold or Ink Plus: 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points

Update: There are now updated offers for both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus with a lower spending requirement of $5000 to receive the 70,000 bonus points, . If you’ve been eyeing either of these cards, now is a good time to get them.

Step 3: Start Getting 5X for Much of Your Spend

Chase Ink Cards give you 5X Ultimate Rewards points when you use them to buy anything at office stores. You should use this card to purchase Amazon gift cards, Restaurant gift cards, gas station cards etc. as a way to get 5X. And don’t forget that the Chase Freedom card has no annual fee and gives 5X on rotating categories, up to $1500 per quarter. Maxing out these 5X categories would give you 30,000 points in a year, and if your spouse or partner has the card, that’s 60,000 points in a year.

Assumed miles and points: $3000 spend per month at 5X, total of 180,000 for the year

Step 4: 2nd Set of Credit Card Applications (3-4 months after Step 2)

1. Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 points

Note that if you already applied for the Sapphire Preferred in your 1st set of applications, because you weren’t targeted for the United MileagePlus 55,000 offer, then I’d substitute either of these cards:

  • The British Airways Visa if British Airways is again offering it with a signup bonus of 100,000 Avios
  • The Hyatt Visa if you will have a use in the next year for 2 free nights at any Hyatt, including Park Hyatts.

2. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Visa: 50,000 AA miles

3. AMEX Business Gold Rewards Card IF you can get it at with a signup bonus of 75,000 points

There were AMEX Business Gold Rewards 75,000 offers  earlier this year, so at some point there’s likely to be another offer. Note that you are NOT eligible if you’ve had an AMEX green, gold, or platinum card within the past 12 months, which is why I’d wait for this offer before applying for an AMEX Platinum card UNLESS you are fortunate enough to be targeted for a 100,000 bonus points AMEX Platinum offer. In that case, I’d forego the 75,000 AMEX Business Gold Rewards card and just take the current 50,000 points offer.

4. Mercedes-Benz Platinum AMEX or Platinum AMEX: 50,000 Membership Rewards points

I don’t yet have either of these cards. But while I value AMEX Membership Rewards points below Chase Ultimate Rewards points, they’re still handy in conjunction with the periodic transfer bonus to British Airways, and to transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer so that you can redeem for Singapore First Class. Do note that both cards carry steep annual fees ($475 for the Mercedes Benz Platinum AMEX, $450 for the regular Platinum AMEX) so you’ll want to make sure you can fully leverage the $200 reimburseable airline fees per calendar year so that you can get $400 back. Global Entry reimbursement is another good perk to take advantage of.

Step 5: 3rd Set of Credit Card Applications (3-4 months after Step 4)

1. Ink Bold (or Ink Plus, if you previously applied for the Ink Bold)

2. British Airways Visa if it’s during the 100,000 bonus offer, and you haven’t yet applied for it

3. (Optional) Mercedes-Benz Platinum AMEX or Platinum AMEX: 50,000 Membership Rewards points

You can in fact get both the regular Platinum AMEX for 50,000 Membership Rewards points and the Mercedes-Benz Platinum AMEX for another 50,000 points, since they are considered different products. That said, given the high annual fee, I’d only suggest doing this if you’re sure you can max out the $200 reimburseable airline spend per calendar year for both of them, for a total of $400 total reimburseable airline spend one year, and another $400 total reimburseable airline spend the next year. If you can, then you could apply for the card you don’t already have, assuming there’s still a 50,000 bonus offer available.

Total miles and points: 150,000-200,000 miles and points

1 Million Miles and Points

Credit Card, Account or Spend Miles or Points Type Cost / Minimum Spend
Citi AA Executive Card X 2 (Expired now)


AA miles $450 account fees, $200 statement credit
United MileagePlus Explorer


United miles $1000 spend in 3 months, annual fee waived 1st year
Citi AAdvantage Visa


AA miles $1000 spend in 4 months, annual fee waived 1st year
Citi AAdvantage AMEX


AA miles $1000 spend in 4 months, annual fee waived 1st year
CitiBusiness AAdvantage


AA miles $3000 spend in 4 months, annual fee waived 1st year
Ink Plus


UR points $10,000 spend in 3 months, annual fee waived 1st year
Ink Bold


UR points $10,000 spend in 3 months, annual fee waived 1st year
Sapphire Preferred


UR points $3000 spend in 3 months, annual fee waived 1st year
AMEX Platinum


MR points $450 annual fee is NOT waived
Mercedes-Benz Platinum


MR points $475 annual fee is NOT waived
AMEX Business Gold Rewards Card


MR points Watch for the next 75,000 bonus offer.  Or, see if you’re targeted for the 75K Premier Rewards Gold Card
British Airways Visa


BA Avios Watch for possible 100,000 offer terms in Spring 2014
Spend $2000 per month at 5X


UR points Leverage to earn 5X from office stores by purchasing gift cards  and using the Chase Freedom
Other spend or bonuses


Misc. This category is for other spend and credit card bonuses for cards not mentioned above



While it’s of course possible to earn many more than 1 million miles and points per year, the above is very easy for a couple or family to do, if they don’t want to apply for too many cards between the two of them. Of course, if you have a partner that’s willing to apply for all of these cards as well and have high spend (or lots of time to deal with gift cards, etc.) you could double this to earn 2 million or more miles per year. Or, you could decide that 500,000 miles and points in a year was plenty and just do that. It’s all up to you.


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