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Last week I wrote a post reflecting on my 2013 travels, and specifically the 400,000+ “butt-in-seat” miles I flew. I followed that up with a recap of my credit card strategy for 2013, which led to a lot of questions.
Many people asked for more details on how many miles I earned/burned, so I figured I’d provide a breakdown of that here. Let me start by saying that I’ll share general numbers, since I’m in Prague at the moment with a fairly slow internet connection, so for the sake of going out and seeing things I won’t break it down mile by mile, but hopefully you guys get the general idea.
I figured I’d clear up a few things first, since there seem to be quite a few misconceptions in the comments section.
First of all, airlines don’t give me miles so I can review their products, and I don’t get paid in miles for credit card referrals. At the same time, admittedly I do spend a higher percentage of my income on travel than the average person probably would, because, well, I’m ridiculously fortunate that this is actually my job. This blog is one of the ways I make a living, and something tells me it would be significantly less interesting if I didn’t travel at all.
Along the same lines, I’m not, and have never been, one of the people touting “everyone can travel the world for free,” because as much as we’d like to think that’s the case, the reality is that travel costs money.
At the absolute minimum you’re paying airline taxes, and in reality you’re probably sometimes paying annual fees on credit cards, airline fuel surcharges on award tickets, and airline ticketing fees. Beyond that, it’s often not practical to cover all aspects of a trip on miles, because it’s simply not an efficient redemption. So I’m not trying to lead people to believe they can consistently travel the world for free; it’s not something I believe to be the case, and I hope it’s not an impression people get.
I certainly do believe you can travel the world at a great discount compared to what other people pay, or my preferred method is paying less for a first class and five star vacation than most people pay for a “budget” trip. That’s what I’ve been helping myself and my family to do for nearly ten years now, and I truly believe it’s possible for everyone to experience luxury travel with a bit of commitment and creativity.
With that out of the way, I thought I’d give some further insight into my own mileage accrual. In my reflection of my 2013 travels I shared the major mileage trips I took, for which I redeemed a total of roughly 1.5 million miles.
That includes some really expensive awards, like flying Air France A380 first class, which can only be done at the “flex” award level, and taking trips with my parents. For the most part when I’m traveling with friends they’re using their own miles (I’d be a terrible friend if I wasn’t encouraging them to take advantage of the same promotions I do, after all), but I did supplement a few trips for others this year as well.
So how many miles did I accrue last year? In rough numbers, it looks something like this:
~400,000 American AAdvantage miles through flying/promotions
Between revenue flying on American (since I’m an Executive Platinum member I get a 100% mileage bonus), promotions they were running including the 2013 Elite Rewards, I racked up roughly 400,000 American AAdvantage miles.
~250,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles through flying/promotions
As an MVP Gold 75K I receive a 100% mileage bonus on all my flying, and just for qualifying for MVP Gold 75K I get 50,000 additional bonus miles, so I racked up roughly 250,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles through those means alone.
~400,000 US Airways Dividend Miles through “Share Miles” promotions
US Airways ran two “share miles” promotions in 2013 (in both October and December), which is the most lucrative opportunity they consistently offer to accrue miles. Through that promotion it’s basically possible to rack up US Airways miles for ~1.1 cents each, so at that rate I had no problem shelling out cash for miles given how many amazing trips I’ve taken thanks to US Airways miles, including in January, July, and October.
~250,000 American Express Membership Rewards points through spend and sign-up bonuses
I have quite a few reimbursable airfare expenses I put on my American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which accrues triple points on airfare, and when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year you earn 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards points. Beyond that, while perhaps not “my” points per se, I did sign-up several family members for the The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN back when it was offering a 75,000 Membership Rewards point sign-up bonus for just one day. They racked up an additional 250,000+ Membership Rewards points through that.
~200,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point through spend and sign-up bonuses
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is my primary card for everyday spend, since it offers double points on dining and travel, which is where much of my spend goes. Beyond that, I picked up the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Chase Freedom® Card cards in 2013, which complemented the Ink Bold® Business Charge Card I already had.
Between spend and sign-up bonuses I racked up roughly 200,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points in 2013.
~85,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles through credit card sign-up bonuses
In 2013 I picked up two Alaska Airlines Signature Visa Cards and one Alaska Airlines Business Visa Card. I love these cards not only for the sign-up bonuses, but also because they offer annual companion certificates, which I find extremely useful.
Assorted other miles through credit card sign-up bonuses
In addition to the above I picked up the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®, Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World Mastercard®, US Airways Barclays Mastercard, and more in 2013, which earned me even more miles.
And this doesn’t even cover hotel points, as I racked up a good number of Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Club Carlson points in 2013 as well.
In general, I earned more miles by flying this year than over the past few years, which given that I got in to this hobby because I enjoy flying has made for a fun year, though I don’t expect that to necessarily be the case this year. I’ve also purchased more miles than I would have been able to when I was in college, and am really looking forward to reviewing some new products with those points in 2014, so I think those were a reasonable purchase as well.
I’ll be sharing more details and my overall plan for 2014 a bit later on, but I do try to be as transparent as possible, so I hope this helps clear up any misconceptions, and maybe inspires some of you to accrue miles in different ways!
(In the interest of full disclosure, I earn a referral bonus for anyone approved through some of the above links. All are for the best available offers. Thanks for your support!)