Right now there are a few credit card bonuses that looked really interesting to me. And then I got an idea for a post, and figured it can’t hurt trying. I’m going to take you from day of application to day of using the miles in one post. Actually, this is two weeks before the day I will apply for some new credit cards. Then I’ll show you what I plan to do with all the miles.
Maybe it’s not wise to spend miles you don’t have, so to speak. But in this case I’m both opportunistic with earning miles when a new bonus comes around, and I have big specific plans for great redemptions. Most of the time I’m just opportunistic about big bonuses and then figure out what to do with the miles later.
The reason I tend not to get cards based on specific plans is two-fold. 1) I honestly want to go everywhere, so I just use the best miles of my portfolio for the trips that make sense. And 2) why not got the card while it has a better than normal bonus? I’ll probably circle around to these great cards at some point anyways, so I get them now when they have a better bonus.
What cards am I getting?
Ink Plus – 60,000 points
United Explorer – 55,000 miles
Virgin – 75,000 miles
Amex SPG card – 25,000 points
Citi Hilton Gold visa – 40,000 points
The first two are Chase and are larger than normal bonuses, but I’ll explain why those are great cards, although they probably need no explaining. What I probably need to explain is all the other cards… which I’ll do in a minute. But I should say that while the first two cards are awesome/obvious, the other 3 aren’t necessarily what I’m endorsing, but just cards that fit my needs at the moment.
I’m waiting until May 23 because it will have been more than 90 days since I had a hard pull on my credit score. I try not to apply for credit too aggressively, and 90 days is usually a minimum. However, the United and Ink Plus cards have been something I’ve been intending to get for a while.
United & Ink Plus
The United card and the Ink Plus are both Chase cards, but one is a personal card and one is a business card.
One thing to note is that you might be able to get a business card using your personal information, see this post for details.
But generally a bank has two different departments for personal and business cards and treat the different apps similarly as they would an application with a different bank. For me, I can justify an application with both of these cards and will actually use them both. I love United miles, and I love Chase points because I love United miles. Both are great cards, and right now they are both great bonuses.
The United Explorer card is 50,000 miles bonus when spending $3,000 in 3 months, but you can get an additional 5,000 miles when you add an authorized user. I can add my wife, or my mom, or whoever as the authorized user. Therefore I consider this a 55,000 miles bonus.
The Ink Plus is currently 60,000 points as a bonus, which is up from its normal 50,000 points. Again, Chase points transfer 1:1 to United miles, which are my favorite miles to use.
The reason United miles are my favorite is because their routing rules are very loose, and their pricing system can be extremely generous, or funny things happen when you add a stopover. Read: United Stopover Secrets.
But if you’re not into learning the complicated United tricks, read the 40 Best Uses of Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.
I’ll talk about the $5,000 spend requirement more in a minute, because it shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Virgin Atlantic Card
The 75k Virgin Atlantic Card pick might seem ironic, because it wasn’t that long ago that I was saying this card was over hyped. Actually, I still stand by that. People were promoting this as a must get card, and calling it a 90,000 miles bonus, but it wasn’t a 90,000 mile bonus. It’s 75,000 miles from signing up, spending, and adding authorized users… then another 15,000 miles for keeping the card past its anniversary date.
There are three problems with this card. First, it doesn’t waive the annual fee for the first year, so you pay $90 off the bat. And if you keep the card for the extra 15,000 points, you pay another $90! Not worth it!
Another problem for some is the $12,000 spend requirement, but you have 6 months.
Third, Virgin Atlantic miles are nearly worthless for flights. Insanely over priced flights and they tack on huge fuel surcharges. Such a waste.
But then I discovered something, which half inspired this post: 15 Credit Cards to Earn Hilton HHonors points. That is, Virgin points transfer 1 to 1.5 from Virgin Miles to Hilton HHonors points. Meeting the spend requirement would give 18,000 extra points, plus the 75,000 sign up bonus, that’s an easy 93,000 Virgin Miles.
Transferred to Hilton, that’s 139,500 HHonors points!
A little bit of work, but a huge reward. But the almost 140,000 Hilton points was even more intriguing considering I am planning a trip to Egypt where there are a ton of hotels for only 5,000 points! There’s a Hilton in Cario, Alexandria, and Sharm El Sheik for 5,000 points. 140,000 points is 28 nights worth of points at these hotels, and all that for a $90 annual fee, and the spend requirement. Awesome.
But wait, there’s more. I recently wrote about the goal of going to Necker Island with 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic points. Frequent Miler took that seriously and decided to get 4 of these cards at once. What a crazy guy, no?
Finally, the SPG and Hilton Gold card
I’m hard on SPG because their redemptions are the most overpriced compared to the incredibly low earnings. But there are a number of category 2 hotels for 3,000 to 4,000 points that I wrote about in a post about unbelievably cheap hotel redemptions post. I hope to go to Zagreb and would dream of a Mauritius redemption.
The Hilton Gold card is only 40,000 points and something I already have, but it’s a nice no annual fee card to tack on.
Meeting the spend
Newbies get intimidated by the little things, like spend requirements. Much to my disappointment, people pass up the Ink Plus card because they don’t think they’ll spend $5,000 in 3 months.
First of all, even we barely spend $5,000 in 3 months, and we try to only spend $20,000 a year. So you might be closer than you think in your daily spend.
However, if you need some extra help you can always use some giftcards. There are 100 different ways to go about this but I’ll briefly mention the most common way. The basics for this example is that many stores sell “gift cards” on credit credit cards. The key though is to find a card that says “debit” and allows you to set a 4 digit pin. With a pin you can buy money orders.
Even easier than buying money orders which can be deposited into a bank account (never deposit MOs into a bank account you’d also get rewards cards with), is to pay off your credit card online. There are two main ways to do that. The first is BlueBird. BlueBird is a walmart gift card that you can load with “debit” cards at walmart’s money center, kiosks, or any register. Then you can simply go online to BlueBird’s website and pay off your credit card, with the balance on the BlueBird card. 1) Buy gift “debit” card, 2) Load the bluebird card at walmart with the debit card, 3) pay off the credit card with the bluebird card. Read the complete guide to BlueBird for more details.
That’s it, and you really just have to go try out places that sell gift cards with credit. Buy $2,000 at CVS, or check if you live near a Simon Mall that sells visa gift cards. Typically, you want a gift card that takes $500, so a $5 fee would be at most a 1% fee.
These are the basics, and there are many details, like the fact that REDbird takes Vanilla cards and BLUEbird doesn’t. And the million different stores that each have different policies on credit cards.
Redeeming the Miles
Ink Plus points will go straight to United, as well as the United Explorer’s 55,000 miles. After spend requirements and bonuses, that’s over 120,000 United miles! There are so many things I would love to do with that many United miles.
But truthfully, I’ve been dreaming of two very modified “hopper” trips. A kind of Pacific Hopper, and a Latin Hopper.
The Latin Hopper would be 20,000 miles: start in Belize, stopover in the Galapagos, destination in Venezuela, and then return to the Dominican Republic. Don’t plan on booking it now, but it would be a great trip to do this winter. So many options but it would be an epic use of 40,000 miles for two of us.
The number of things I’d like to do with United miles is endless. But I was thinking of doing Japan to a stopover in Yap, Destination in Palau, and return to Japan for 25,000 miles. Or something more complicated if I can get the availability to Bora Bora.
Here’s some reading on United Miles:
- United Stopover Secrets
- The 3 United Miles Hopper Flights
- Complete Guide to United Miles & Complete Guide to United Routing Rules
- How to book stopovers with miles online
The Virgin Atlantic miles & the Hilton card’s bonus will all end up as Hilton points. Hilton points aren’t my favorite by any means, but this is 180,000 Hilton points from cards that don’t exclude the bonus from people who have had the card before. 180,000 points is a lot if you’re using them at low category hotels.
See the Best Hilton Category 1 & 2 hotels.
There are ton of hotels that are only 5,000 or 10,000 points. Most aren’t great hotels and surpsingly there are few great hotels. We stayed at the DoubleTree in Beijing and have stayed at the DoubleTree in Kuala Lumpur, both for only 10,000 points. The KL hotel came with lounge access as a Gold member.
My plan is to burn the majority of these points in Egypt. But I lied that 140,000 points would give you 28 nights; it would actually give you much more than that.
Hilton HHonors does a 5th night free on award redemptions. A 5 night stay would cost 4 nights’ worth of points, and a 10 night stay would only cost 8 nights’ worth of points.
These aren’t my exact plans, but I could do something like this:
- 5 nights Alexandria = 20,000 points
- 5 nights Cairo = 20,000 points
- 10 nights in Sharm = 40,000 points
That so far is 20 nights for 80,000 points.
I’ve got other properties on this list. Like the ones mentioned above in Asia. But also there are others like the Hilton’s in Transylvania, which otherwise doesn’t have a lot of points options.
The SPG card will net 30,000 points after the spend. Not a big deal but there are a few cities where by far the best redemption is SPG. Much like Hilton, SPG redemptions at the top level are absolutely terrible redemptions in every way. But unlike Hilton the points are earned very slowly. There’s one credit card, and SPG rewards program has the slowest points earning on paid stays in terms of points earned to free nights.
SPG redemptions aren’t great but category 1 and 2 hotels are relatively cheap. Category 1 hotels are 3,000 points and 2,000 points on weekends. Category 2 hotels are 4,000 points and 3,000 points on weekends.
In Zagreb, Croatia there is a category 2, which I would use a few nights for. If I have the chance, I would burn all my points at the Le Méridien in Mauritius. It’s a great redemption, and it looks awesome, but it is so far away. If I plan some kind of Africa hopper trip, this will be in it.
Otherwise, I’d likely use points at Lombok next time we go to Bali. But there are many more on the Unbelievably Cheap Hotel Redemptions post.
120,00o United miles, 180,000 Hilton points, and 30,000 SPG points is nothing small for one day of apps. Also, the SPG points could be transferred to United or Alaska miles if I had a redemption in mind.
But if you know anything about United miles, you know that’s enough points to go around the world at least once. And hopefully that’s enough hotel points to fill in the entire trip.
This is enough for multiple trips, acquired in just in one day.