2012 was an interesting year for me, both personally and miles-wise. Since I spent the first 8 months living in Japan, getting miles was more difficult than if I was Stateside, and many of the miles loopholes were unavailable to me.
Also, because I was traveling so often in countries where credit cards are not widely accepted, meeting minimum spends was more difficult. This meant that I wasn’t able to pull off as many App-o-Ramas as I had planned.
Even with all those “obstacles” (boohoo, poor Travis traveling around the world), I was still able to pull in an awesome amount of miles during the 2012 calendar year.
Here’s a chart of the miles I was able to get and my thoughts on the specifics:
Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
The original plan was to do 4 App-o-Ramas in 2012 year: one in the end of February, one in April/May, one in August, and one in December.
Because of the amount of traveling I was doing, coupled with transitioning back to America from Japan, I ended up only doing two AoR’s instead of the 4 that were planned. One was in April and one was in August.
(I also did an AoR on Dec. 31st, but I’m counting that towards 2013 since none of the points will have posted in 2012).
In each AoR this year, I applied for 5 cards. Both times, I was approved for 4 cards and denied 1. Interestingly enough, the card that I was denied in April, the Citi/AAdvantage business card, was instantly approved in August!
Credit card companies are funny, aren’t they?
In August, I was a guinea pig to see if you could get THREE Barclays USAirways cards. I already had two open with them, so I didn’t have high hopes for getting another.
Sure enough, no matter how hard I begged and pleaded, they wouldn’t approve me for a third.
Other than those two hiccups, everything else went off without a hitch. The best part of this year was earning the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows Heather to fly free with me anytime I fly Southwest until 2014….
Barclays USAirways Mastercard (my 2nd one)- 40,000
Chase United Explorer- 55,000
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Business- 50,000
Chase Ink Bold (new model)- 50,000
Citi/AAdvantage Visa- Denied.
Citi/AAdvantage Visa- 50,000 (denied previous AoR)
Starwood Preferred Guest personal- 30,000
Starwood Preferred Guest business- 30,000
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Business #2- 50,000
Barclays USAirways Mastercard #3- Denied.
Southwest points- 100,000 (and most importantly, the Companion Pass)
SPG points- 60,000 (I’ll most likely transfer these to AA miles)
United miles- 55,000
Chase UR points- 50,000 (I’ll most likely transfer these to United miles)
American Airlines miles- 50,000
USAirways miles- 40,000
Total through credit card sign up bonuses: 355,000
While the number 355,000 may seem (relatively) low for most miles-junkies (and certainly less than my haul for 2011), I’m really happy with the miles I earned through sign up bonuses for a few reasons:
- I consider all of these “high quality” miles since they are with airlines that I’ll use frequently and none of which charge a fuel surcharge.
- I have miles spread through both major alliances (Oneworld- American Airlines, Star Alliance- United, USAirways), which gives me a ton of flexibility in determining travel plans.
- I’ve got both international travel (United, AA, USAirways) and domestic (Southwest) covered.
- I earned the Southwest Companion Pass, which isn’t included in the “number of miles” but is probably the most important part of my 2012. It allows me and Heather to travel anywhere we want in the US for free!
One of the easiest way to earn miles and points is by putting all your spending on a credit card instead of paying cash.
This past year I focused on putting all my spending, when I wasn’t meeting minimum spends, on my Chase Ink Bold and Chase Sapphire cards to earn Ultimate Rewards points.
Even without being a huge spender, I was able to rack up a decent amount of points by paying with a credit card whenever I could instead of using cash.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points- 23,693
Starwood Preferred Guest- 10,000
American Airlines- 3,000
Total miles earned through regular spending: 38,0003
In 2013, I envision this number will be noticeably higher because I’ll living in the US again. In 2012 I was living in Japan and it is a cash based society, which meant there were many times a credit card wasn’t accepted.
Since I’ve been back in the States, I think I’ve used cash to pay for something twice in six months.
What a beautiful country!
Bonus Category Points
Many cards will offer bonus points for using them for specific spend categories. I focused on using my Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x points per $1 spent on travel and dining) and my Chase Ink Bold (5x points per $1 at office supply stores and cable and internet bills and 2x on gas) to earn me bonus points this year.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points- 25,911
Again, living in Japan didn’t allow me to exploit bonus categories to the degree I will now that I’m back in the States.
Most of the bonus points I was able to accrue this year came from buying a $6,000 plane ticket (reimbursed by my Japanese company) with my Sapphire Preferred, which gave me 2x for travel and netted me a cool 12,000 points!
The other points came from a few online shopping forays through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall and some random spending here and there on gas and such.
In 2013, this category will be MUCH higher since I’ll be taking advantage of buying gift cards at Office Depot with my Ink cards and getting 5x per $1 and then using them to pay all my big bills, such as mortgage and student loans, by linking them to my Bluebird card.
Total Miles Earned in 2012: 418,914
All things considered, 418k miles a nice little haul for one calendar year, especially one where I wasn’t able to take advantage of all the loopholes and spending tricks since I was living abroad.
Also, all of these miles are with great airlines so they are valued highly.
And of course, earning the Companion Pass with Southwest is nothing to sneeze at! Heather can now fly with me anywhere in the United States for FREE, which we’ve already used to go to San Fran!
So, what are my tentative plans for 2013?
Plans for 2013
One of my major plans for 2013 is to continue to get out, travel, and use those miles that I’ve accrued. Remember, earning miles doesn’t mean anything unless you get out and see the world with them.
While I haven’t mapped out my entire year yet, I do have some things already sent in stone and some other “bucket list” trips that I definitely want to get on in 2013.
Here’s how things are shaping up. If anyone is in any of these areas and wants to meet up while I’m there, that’d be awesome!
January 4-11: San Francisco (already completed). I used to the Companion Pass for me and Heather to fly here free.
February 1-16: Spain/Portugal (already booked). I’ll be visiting my twin sister in Santiago de Compostela for a few days, be lounging around in the Costa del Sol with a some Brit friends for a 5 days, and then driving up the coast of Portugal for a week.
June 1-June 4?: Toronto (planned, tickets not booked yet). The annual Travel Bloggers Exchange is a great excuse for me to visit an old college roommate in Toronto while also do some networking.
July 1-10?: Portland (planned, tickets not booked yet). I’ll be attending the World Domination Summit hosted by Chris Guillebeau. I’ve been wanting to go for the past 2 years but have been away…now I finally get the chance. Anyone else heading to it?
Beginning of August- Western Canada (planned…kindof). Super specific, huh? All I really know is that friends I met in Japan are flying in from all over the world to celebrate a wedding of one of the couples and the 5 year anniversary of another. Regardless of where it is (Banff, Vancouver, ???) or when, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Other Trips I Want to Take
Argentina/Uruguay- This has been a dream trip of mine for a few years, and it’s finally time to get to South America. I’ll either redeem AA miles off-peak (only 40k!) or use BA Avios points and fly LAN (50k and no fuel surcharges).
New Orleans/Denver/San Diego- I’m lumping these all together because I’ll be using the Southwest Companion Pass to get me and Heather around the US for free. These are 3 of the US cities I want to see most, although I’m open to any and all suggestions.
Slovenia/Slovakia/Croatia/Bosnia- My fascination with South America may only be topped by my fascination with Eastern Europe, especially Slovenia. I’d absolutely love to take a month and cruise around all these awesome countries, all while paying a fraction of what I would if I went to Western Europe.
Credit Card Sign Ups in 2013
I’ve already done my first AoR of the year, pulling in 6 cards, which I’ll be writing about next week. However, I’m not sure how many more AoR’s I’ll be doing this year.
While I’d ideally like to do 3-4 a year, there might not be enough good credit card deals out there. Since I’ve been at this for a few years now, I’ve already gotten all the good airline miles offers and most of the good hotel cards.
As of right now, it’s pretty slim pickings. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some new products are offered.
One credit card sign up I will definitely attempt to go for are the Citi/AAdvantage Visa and American Express. Many people report that they’ve been able to “churn” them after 18 months. I first got the Visa in August of 2011, so I’ll be attempting to get this sign up bonus again sometime in April or May.
My only other real plan is to finally get a Tax Identification Number for my business and apply for the Ink Bold and Ink Plus under that number (currently, I have both those cards under my social security number). If I can get 2 more Ink cards, and 100k more Chase points, I’ll be a happy camper.
Outside of trying for the Citi/AAdvantage cards and two more Ink cards, the sign up bonuses are pretty limited for me. Which means that I’ll be devoting a lot of my focus to…
Bonus Categories in 2013
My biggest plans for 2013 include really ramping up my bonus category spending now that I’m home in the US.
Most specifically, I’ll be using my Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus to buy gift cards at Office Depot. This gives you 5x per $1 spent. The plan is to buy $2,000 worth of gift cards on each card each month.
I’ll take the first $2,000 and use it to buy Vanilla Reload cards at CVS, which will allow me to pay my student loans and my mortgage through Bluebird.
I’ll then use the additional $2,000 to use for everyday spending instead of using a credit card.
All told, this will net me 20,000 Chase points a month, and assuming I stay on top of it and do it each month, I’ll be looking at 240,000 Chase points by the end of the year. This has the potential to be more lucrative for me in 2013 than credit card sign ups.
Not too shabby for a few trips to Office Depot and a few hours spent keeping everything tracked and organized!
Regular Spending in 2013
Since the plan is to buy gift cards at Office Depot and use them for the bulk of my everyday spending, I’ll be getting 5x per $1 spent on almost all my purchases.
I’m not a huge natural spender (Heather and I spend roughly $2,000 a month on things that aren’t “big bills” like my mortgage and student loans), so maximizing this amount by getting 5x is vitally important for us, especially with many of the sign up bonuses not available now.
2012 was an amazing year and 2013 is shaping up to be just as awesome! Remember that you are earning miles so that you can use them, so get out the door and start traveling!
If you’re like me and running out of decent credit card sign up bonuses, start looking toward other ways to rack up some major miles. There are plenty of options out there to keep your mileage balance afloat. Part of the fun is getting creative!
How many miles and points did you earn in 2012? What are your plans, travel and miles-earning, for 2013?