airplane taking off in the sky

Over the years I’ve flown on points and miles several times. But it wasn’t until more recently that I realized the potential that there is to earn this currency in ways other than just flying. A bucket list trip to my former homeland of Norway was made possible in part thanks to this new hobby of collecting points for air mile travel.

There are a couple of requirements to succeeding in this hobby. First, you must have a good credit score. Second, you must not carry a balance. And it is helpful to have a fair amount of spending that you can move to charging on a credit card. That spending can be for a business that you own. Then you can start signing up for new credit cards that offer enticing points or miles for meeting a minimum within a set amount of time.

Contrary to popular belief, if you do this right it may even help your credit score. I began this hobby in the fall of last year and have seen my credit score increase by a few points. I also want to state that I am not an expert. Just happy to share my success in a fairly short time frame. At the end, I’ll refer you to a couple of sources who are much more knowledgeable than me.

travel to norway made possible with air miles travel
Our flights to Bergen, Norway were paid for with Chase Ultimate Rewards transferred to United Airlines.

There are several different currencies. Prior to last fall, I was really only familiar with airline points. I’ve held Southwest credit cards and received the Southwest Companion Pass a couple of times over the last four to five years. But there are a couple of other point currencies that have much more flexibility. These are Ultimate Rewards by Chase, American Express’ Membership Rewards Program, Thank You points by Citibank and Capital One Rewards Miles.

We paid for airfare for our family of four to Norway with Chase Ultimate Rewards. We earned 400,000 of these in about five to six month of simply moving planned spending to a strategic amount of new credit cards. Here’s what our path was.

Air Mile Travel with Chase Sapphire Preferred

I signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred when there was an offer of 100k Ultimate Reward points. I also referred my husband using this link, earning me an additional 20k points. He signed up for the card also with the 100k offer. So, we were at 220k with that. A couple of things to note here. The bonus offer dropped to 60,000. Even though the bonus has dropped, it is still a good idea to get this card now. Because you can reapply and receive a bonus again 48 month later. So, might as well start the clock ticking.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred does have an annual fee of $95. But for us that was easily offset by the $60 Peloton credit back and the $50 travel credit back. There are many other benefits to this card, including travel interruption insurance and rental car insurance. Those two credits were just the two that we were already committed to spending. So they directly paid for the annual fee.

A previous United Airlines flight to Hawaii booked with air miles.

Chase Ink for Air Mile Travel

I then proceeded to open two Chase Ink business cards for my business, each with a 75k Ultimate Reward offer. Neither of the Inks that I got have an annual fee. With a few categories of spend that earn 2 – 5 times the points per dollar, we earned an additional 30,000 Ultimate Rewards.

All of that got us to a grand total of 400,000 Ultimate Rewards that we could use either through the Chase travel portal, or transfer to partner airlines.

After many hours of searching award flights on several different partner airlines we found the flights that we wanted on United Airlines for 370,000 points. We combined our points and transferred them over booking our four tickets to Norway for the family for June of this year. I had to keep pinching myself after booking to know that I wasn’t dreaming. This bucket list trip had become a reality.

centurian lounge dia
Entrance to the Centurion Lounge at DIA, a comfortable place to spend a 4 hour layover, also providing both breakfast and lunch that day.

American Express Platinum

The Platinum American Express comes with a hefty annual fee and I held off for a long time. Only after reading how others were able to truly offset the annual fee did I bite. It is certainly one I was grateful to have on our first transatlantic travel as a family. The Centurion Lounge was an ideal place to wait out a four hour layover.

Note that in addition to being able to offset the annual fee, our referral link currently has an elevated offer for 150,000 Membership Rewards after spending $6000 in 6 months. That’s an estimated $2000 value if you use the points wisely.

I am about three months into having the card and have offset about two thirds of the annual fee. I have used the Centurian Lounge twice, which would have cost me at least $200 in airport dining otherwise. I have redeemed the Saks credit for $100 of product that I buy regularly. There’s an airline incidental credit that I was able to max out for $200. And, I’ve just more recently linked up some digital entertainment to receive that monthly credit.

I also used an offer from United Airlines to sign my husband and I both up for CLEAR for a discount that was 100% covered by the American Express Platinum credit. And, I also received 15,000 miles from United Airlines. At my home airport of DIA, CLEAR combined with TSA Pre-check got my kids and I through security in about five minutes.

Capital One Venture X for Travel Perks

We also signed up for the new Capital One Venture X. While it has a medium large annual fee, it also offers some travel perks that easily offset the annual fee. Currently there’s a 75,000 point offer for spending $4000 in the first three months. The card also comes with a $300 travel credit when booking through the Capital One travel portal. There’s a $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. And, complimentary access to the new Capital One lounges (which look truly amazing) as well as complimentary Priority Pass membership to 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges internationally. If you are a frequent traveler this card offers a lot of great value, in addition to the points that can be redeemed directly through the portal for travel or transferred to a selection of travel partners.

For traveling domestically the Southwest credit cards can help you earn a valuable Companion Pass.

Points and Miles Resources

True points and miles enthusiasts could have done better than I did. They would have booked much further out finding all saver awards. But I was pretty happy with this redemption. This gives us much more freedom to have some amazing experiences in Norway. We’ll be taking the Norway in a Nutshell scenic tour, go on a sauna boat or cruise the Nærøyfjord.

Of course, I enjoy reading articles from The Points Guy. But if you are really interested in exploring the hobby of air mile travel and using points to travel, I highly recommend 10xTravel and their free course. Once you go through this online course, you’ll have the tools you need to make your travel budget go much, much further.

I make it sound simple in sharing our story. But 10xTravel offers all kind of advice such as to how long to wait between credit card applications (generally 30 days), how many cards that you can apply for in 2 years (5) to still be considered for a Chase card and guidance to walk you through applying for business cards.

The credit card links above are our referral links and we would receive some points if you apply through those. There is no cost to you. And, it certainly helps us bring you more valuable content.

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Air Mile Travel: How to Earn and Travel Using Points and Miles

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