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Million Mile Rewards: How I've Been Flying Business Class for Free

I just realized that I've now earned over 1 million airline miles with my credit card reward points. The crazy thing is, I only use one credit card and don't waste half of my day researching the latest rewards cards, or applying for 10 different ones in 10 different tabs at once and try to game the system. There are people who hack reward points as their full time job even as a full time hobby, but I'm not one of them. I don't have time for that and neither should you.

In this post I'm going to show you how I've been flying business class around the world for free without wasting any time on travel hacking forums or juggling credit card offers. In this post I'm going to show you the easiest, most straight to the point cards you can get to hopefully get to one million travel points yourself. I'm going to show you which cards I personally use, what cards the travel hacking gurus use, and why my method is a million times easier.





Million Mile Point Gurus



I'm sure you've seen it around the net, guys like Sam Huang, Derek Low, and the guy and gal behind Million Mile Secrets all show off the around the world trips they've taken first class using nothing but free airline miles.

Their secret? Open a ton of credit cards, use creative ways to artificially hit spending limits, juggling spreadsheets so you don't accidentally get hit by a 24.9% interest charge and late fee then shuffle around miles to different airlines so you can get most bang for your buck.

If that sounds exciting to you, check them out, but for me, I'd rather spend my time building a real cash flowing business than juggling dozens of cards and spending tons of time researching creative ways to game the system.





But it does look fun!







My One Card Method



Instead of opening up dozens and dozens of cards, I pretty much just use one. If you really want to know, I actually have 4 credit cards total, one I use for non-expensible personal items such as groceries just to make it easy on my accountant at the end of the year, and the other two are backups just in case I lose my primary card.

All I do is use one card per year, get the bonus, then use my online business to both meet the spending requirement as well as earn 20,000+ more miles every month.

Does it work? Yes, and it's super simple, I've been doing it for years. In total I've gotten over $11,350 in free flights on this card alone in just a year and a half!

I've used it to fly from San Francisco to Thailand. Across Europe, and even to South Africa. And recently I've been using it to upgrade to business class whenever I fly internationally. Best of all, I don't have to go through any airline mile programs to book my flights. I just pay for it however I want, then log into the control panel of my credit card's website and redeem my miles for cash back on my statement.

Here are some of the reward miles I've claimed back in the past 18 months.





Business Class vs. Coach



Just a few years ago I would have happily flown cargo class if they allowed me. I never dreamt to be sitting up front with the rappers, athletes and CEOs. I couldn't even afford the cheapest ticket back home to visit my parents for the holidays.

Now I fly business class whenever I travel internationally or go on a flight that's more than a few hours long. They say that once you start doing it, you'll never want to go back to economy and it's 100% true, I couldn't agree more. You get used to sitting long lines at security check, having free wifi, drinks, food, and access to the business class lounges, and overall it has transformed flying from being an uncomfortable, tiring haul into a 5 star experience at 30,000 ft in the air.



My first ever Business Class flight. Norwegian Air to Berlin, Germany



Office of the Day from Europe to Thailand


Flying Business class to South Africa.


The food and service in business class is incredible!


Other Reasons to Fly Business Class



The biggest reason why I prefer to sit in business class is because I arrive at my destination well rested, with minimal jet lag and don't feel like my body was destroyed in a wreck for the past 12 hours.  

It's only been a few days since I got back from San Francisco and instead of feeling like I just destroyed my body sitting on a cramped plane in an unnatural position for 18 hours, I feel refreshed and was even able to go to my normal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, and catch up with friends these past two nights. 

Even before I was able to afford business class or really figured out the whole points stuff, I wrote a blog post called, "Why You Should Always Fly Business Class" here. Now that I've figured it out, and especially since I'm sharing it with you here, there's no excuses why you shouldn't make it a goal. 


Seats that fold completely flat when you sleep!



Amenities kits and even massaging seats all provided.


How to Start Getting Points




Most point gurus will tell you to apply for as many cards as possible by opening up multiple tabs, filling out all of the applications at once in different browsers and to click "apply" all at the same time so the credit card companies get fooled into thinking you're just applying for one and therefor it bypasses the credit check flag.

The reason why I don't recommend this is because it makes it extremely hard to keep track of all of your new cards, as well as hit the minimum spending requirements. 

Here's the dirty secret about points guys and gurus.

They all monetize their reward hacking blogs with affiliate offers from credit card companies, which is completely fine if they were recommending the best cards for you. By they often downtalk or not mention the best cards because those pay so much in rewards that they don't offer affiliate commission. I actually teach an affiliate marketing course myself, called Earnest Affiliate and actually encourage people to use affiliate programs to get paid for recommending products they genuinely believe in and if the following cards below had an affiliate program, I'd sign up for them in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately they don't, so I can't actually get paid for writing this post and referring you. But I want to share the truth with you so here is what I use, and what the best cards really are.






Barclay Arrival, vs. Capital One Venture 




Here's my secret. I only use ONE card per year. 

That's it. I don't waste time or risk hurting my credit score by forgetting to pay one off. I simply use either the Capital One Venture or the Barclay Arrival + card for everything and think you should too.

Capital One Venture: Gives you 40,000 One-time bonus miles—equal to $400 in travel—once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. With $0 annual fee for the first year and $59 afterwards. It has no foreign transaction fees, free credit tracking and 2x miles for every $1 spent.

Barclay Arrival+: Gives you pretty much exactly the same as the venture card, but also gives you a 5% bonus when you redeem. So instead of getting 2% back for all purchases, you are ultimately getting 2.05% back, which adds up if you spend a lot over the year.

So which card should you actually get? 

They are so similar that it doesn't really matter that much. But Capital One has an easier to use website, and far better customer service.  I personally used the Venture card for my first year, then canceled it and have been using the Arrival+ card ever since.

Update: I'm now on the waitlist for the Zero Financial card which has zero annual fee and pays 3% cash back which is insanely good. As soon as I get this card in the mail I'm going to have it become my go to. 




How to Redeem Points


Here's a video on how to redeem your points, it's super simple as you can just do it 30-60 days after you purchase your flight. Unlike other mile programs, both the Venture and Barclay Arrival+ cards just let you buy whatever flight you want then redeem points for cash later.



Other Cards to Use:

The card with the most bonus bang for your buck currently is the Chase Sapphire Prefered card that gives you $625 in total rewards for spending $4,000 your first 3 months of use. The only reason why I don't use them is because you have to go through their miles portal to book a flight which to me is a complete waste of time.
The other card I personally use as a backup is the Capital One Quicksilver card which is the easiest card in the world to figure out as it just gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on whatever you spend. That's it. This is a good card to use for personal items that can't be written off as business expenses such as groceries and non-business related lunches.
Bonus Tip: Instead of canceling your Capital One Venture card at the end of the year to avoid the annual fee, you can simply ask the rep to downgrade it to the Venture One card which has no annual fee. You'll only get 1.25% rewards so don't use it as your primary card, but it's nice to have as a backup or to use for personal, non-business expenses. 
 

Meeting the Minimum:
The reason why I recommend only getting one card at a time is because it's easy to hit the $3,000 or $4k spending requirement on one card. You don't have to waste countless hours trying to figure out how to churn your cards and create artificial spending. You can just put everything onto your new card and you'll hit it.
The truth is, if you spent the same amount of time building an online business as you did researching creative ways to  game credit card points, you could be making money from your actual business while having a reason to spend $20,000 a month in business expenses such as advertising and purchasing inventory for your drop shipping store which will give you up to $400 a month in extra money to travel and fly business class. 
Stop fucking around trying to become the next Million Mile Points Guy and making that your full time job. Go out and create a real business that makes you a quarter million dollars and gives you a  million miles as a bonus like I have. 
Make it your 2016 Goal to fly out to Thailand or back home for the holidays for free. Get one of the cards I mentioned above, start earning miles, then forget about it.

Spend your time building your business, and leave the point collecting and card juggling to the bloggers. If you really want to travel the world, become the point guru by learning affiliate marketing and starting your own blog instead of being of their followers who sign up for a bunch of time wasting card offers.
Hope to see all of you in Thailand or Europe this year! And really hope to get to sit next to some of you in business class!

Warm Regards,
Johnny
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  1. Honestly Johnny, I really think you are leaving miles on the table. While I agree with your one-card policy for simplicity's stake (and don't understand some of the obsession that goes into the award travel world), you can get a lot more value by switching to a simply airline card.

    Barclay points are only worth 1 cent plus 5% at most, so you're looking at only $10,000 of free travel. Earning points on a Citi AA for instance would allow you to fly from anywhere in SE Asia to the US in FIRST (not business) on an airline like Cathay for only 135,000 miles round trip and <$100 in fees. Therefore, 1 million miles would net you around 7.5 of those flights. At around $18k r/t flight, you're looking at getting $135,000 worth of flying instead of $10,000 without really adding much complexity.

    Just my two cents. Keep up the good work Johnny! Very inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you explain me how you would book a flight from SF to Bangkok or reverse.

      Chose SFO to Hong Kong: :140,000 miles each way for business class/first mixed. Which is $280,000 I need to spend on my card.

      For that same spending I could get $7,000 worth of flights which is pretty much the same but I don't have to book through AA.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous has his/her point, which I don't necessarily agree with that Airlines Award charts are constantly changing. And AA actually just changed their chart early this year. Other airlines such as Delta devalued their points. At the end of the day, you still have to go through the bullshit "looking for award seats" because there are only certain seats on AA flights that allow you to redeem with miles.
      The beauty of Johnny's scheme is to save time, purchase the ticket first and redeem later. Time is the most valuable commodity which cannot be replenished.

      Delete
  2. Hey thanks for the input! I'd be curious to explore the Citi AA card.

    Working backwards, I'm seeing what 135,000 miles can get me using: http://www.aa.com/reservation/awardFlightSearchAccess.do but it says nothing is found. Is that the wrong site?

    "There are currently no awards available on AA.com for your requested Origin and Destination. Please modify your request or contact AAdvantage Reservations for award opportunities on all AAdvantage participating airlines."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The AA award chart website is below if that's what you are looking for
      https://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/redeemMiles/all-partner-chart.jsp

      Delete
    2. Hey Aidan, thanks for the chart. Do you have a link to where I would actually redeem the miles? Do me a favor if you have a sec and test it with either SFO (San Francisco) to BKK (Bangkok) Round Trip Business Class.

      Or ideally from CNX (Chiang Mai) to SFO and see if it actually shows flights first. I tried it for 25 minutes and it kept showing no flights until I chose Hong Kong as the option instead of Thailand.

      Delete
    3. Johnny, you can check the box "Redeem Miles" which is next to the round trip or one way options. If you wanna modify search more specifically (more flexible dates), click "Advanced search" under the search button.
      I failed you. I couldn't find any flights neither and I feel bad for the time that you spent. As I said on another reply, there are only limited award seats on each flight that allow you can redeem. And some "bloggers" even suggested planning any international trip (outside of US) about a year ahead.

      Delete
  3. Hey Johnny, I'd like to chip in here and say that those in Australia have to be careful when choosing a CR card for travel. Most AU CR cards have an international transaction fee of about 3% attached to them and that can very quickly eat away any rewards you earn.

    Summary: when choosing a CR card for travel in Australia, make sure to find one that has ZERO international transaction fees. Currently BankWest, Coals, and 28Degrees are the only three entities that I know of which offer such cards.

    Cheers,
    Kirill

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Kirill thanks for sharing the insight! Really good suggestions and point.

      Delete
  4. So you're not paying for business class if I understand it? You get a dropshipping order, use the money from the buyer to order from the supplier, pocket the difference as dropship profit but also have air miles as a bonus?

    Very clever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I currently earn enough miles to fly business class internationally a few times a year, but lately I've been traveling way more often so sometimes I just pay for it out of pocket. But in general, yes, you're exactly right!

      If a customer pays $1,000 for an item, I use that money to order it from my supplier at my wholesale cost + shipping which might be $800, but since I use my rewards credit card to order it, I also earn 200 miles, which adds up quick as I usually get 1-3 orders per day through my dropshipping stores =)

      Delete
  5. Hey Johnny,

    Great post, i agree. Better to use your time on building your businesses instead of trying to hack the system.

    But I don't understand what the portal's are used for and you used 'mileage' as really general but does that mean I can use them on any airlines?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. About the mileage. That's a good question. Airlines and Banks try to deceive people with the term mileages or points. They are actually referring to the same thing. If you have one mileage, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can redeem it to fly one mile.
      Different bank points or mileages are like currency. They are of different values. And some bank points, such as chase's, can be transferred to different airlines as mileages.
      You know, Peter. If you actually treasure your time, I hope that you really just grow your business instead of spending all the time figuring out the system. By the time you realize all the rules, they probably already change to a new rule.

      Delete
    2. Peter, what Aidan said is super correct. Which is why instead of dealing with miles and points that can only be used on specific airlines. The cards I recommend in the post just let you redeem for travel cash so you don't have to waste time figuring this stuff out ever =)

      Delete
    3. Johnny, Aidan thank you very much. I'm really confused, sorry I'm new and haven't started but I'm getting my store ready as we speak and about to hit adwords soon for paid traffic.

      So not very clear yet, so instead of using a credit card that gives mileage I need to get a credit card that lets me redeem for travel cash and with the travel cash I can upgrade my flights for any airlines?

      What about the portals is that where I buy the travel cash?

      Delete
    4. Peter, I am glad that you are curious to ask about "buying travel cash". But like Johnny said, you can read those blogs all day to find the answer. Or you can grow your business and use the card(s) that he recommends, and never have to worry a day about that.

      I speak from a person who has done all this mile games before. I have been there, done that. And I decided to move on and focus on growing my business only

      Delete
  6. Johnny, your blog post is such a big wake up call for me.

    I used to be one of these point gurus. I started this hobby a couple months ago when I first moved out to Phoenix. I remembered I would spend my time reading their content written in the past two three years. And I have done things that you mentioned, such as opening up a lot of credit cards, and spending artificially, or better known as, manufactured spending. I would spend time to drive to grocery stores to buy gift cards......

    Fortunately, my credit score didn't drop but increased instead. I never missed a payment. But the risk cannot be ignored though. I earned about 340,000 bank/airline and hotel points over the course of 5 months. I am glad that I am a financial savvy person and didn't encounter any major mishap. However, this time I really want to sit down and reflect.

    Things don't always go as planned. The travel hacking rules are constantly changing. Lately, the main method (using credit cards to buy gift cards then liquidate to pay back the credit cards ) of manufactured spending doesn't work anymore. And I am tired of driving back and forth to grocery stores. Especially I have a successful ebay dropshipping store now. I knew for fact that I could have spent those times to upload products on my store to make more real income, real money, instead of points or miles, which seem like a virtual currency to me in video games.

    Other small mishaps are you need to spend time to find out all the rules of booking the flights, you have to talk to the banks sometimes if the cards doesn't work. And you will have to manage all the cards that you know you may only use a couple times and put it in your sock drawers. At the end of the time, I feel that the airlines and banks are the host, changing the rules constantly without notice. However, I am the host of my online store because I can just simply introduce more products and people will come to me.

    I was, at first, tempted to join travel hacking because of instant satisfaction. I felt that I was a smart person to just spend little fees and turn into a big travel profit. And it may be cool to tell people I am gaming the airline system. But all in all, the upsides don't necessarily offset the downsides.

    Maybe it's just a psychological thing. I feel that my online store is more surreal. I remembered the book "rich dad, poor dad" again, that we should build income-generating assets such as my online store. Some people like to get wages and earn points and miles, which will be used up one day and they need to put in the work to get them again. I respect them.

    I've been there done that. I want to embrace your method. Just to have ONE business credit card for business expense, and 1-2 personal cards for personal expense and back up.

    Thanks again Johnny for bringing up this topics. You are really a jack of all trades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Aidan, really glad to hear your story. It's awesome that you went from the employee mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset and have been having so much success with your ebay dropshipping stores!

      What's cool about David Vu's system is you can still earn miles using when fulfilling orders so it's good time spent uploading and selling profits for a profit instead of manufacturing spending driving to the grocery store!

      For anyone who wants to read more about Aidan's success with dropshipping on ebay, read this post: http://www.johnnyfd.com/2015/12/success-story-ebay-dropshipping-with.html

      Delete
  7. Makes a heap of sense. Every time I start reading one of those points hacking articles, it makes my head spin. Who has time for all that?

    Anyway, it's not for me. I had credit card issues when I was young and, even though I'm older and wiser now, I figure it's like an ex-alcoholic having an open bottle of whiskey sitting around. You might not give in to the temptation but why take the risk?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Kathry! Glad you are focusing on the right things in life now =)

      Delete
  8. Thanks for your post Johnny!

    In the past year and a half, you earned $11,350 in free flights. That's equal to $567,000 spent on your credit card. This is assuming you get 2 miles/$1 spent. Is this correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Through Barclay Arrival and Capital One Venture that Johnny recommends, which he doesn't earn a commission but still wants the best for us, we can earn 2 miles per dollar spent. And effectively, when we redeem miles wtih Barclay, we will get 5% of those miles back.

      Delete
    2. Exactly what Aidan said.

      It was a little less than $567,000 because of the 40,000 bonus miles when I signed up and the 5% rebate when redeeming (which used to be 10%)

      But yes, I spend a ton of money every month fulfilling orders on my dropshipping stores. So even if I never made a penny from running my stores I still would have earned $10,000 worth of travel credit just from fulfilling the orders and paying for advertising for the store.

      Another reason why I love dropshipping so much.

      Delete
  9. Hey Johnny,

    I'm in Anton's course and am working on getting everything together to begin building my online store; I really want to do this with the credit card to build credit and earn rewards, but there's one problem...
    I'm under 21. Is it possible to get the Barclay Arrival + card (or the Venture) if i'm under age?

    If so, How?

    Thank you for your blog and for sharing your experience with us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Might have just found good news!!!

      In the offer terms that I FINALLY found after all day... it states:

      "About This Offer: You must be at least 18 years of age. This offer is available only to applicants who are residents of the United States, with the exception of Iowa, Puerto Rico and the US territories, and may not be available if you already have or have had an account with us. If at the time of your application you do not meet the credit or income criteria previously established for this offer, or the income you report is insufficient based on your current obligations, we may be unable to open an account for you. Please review the materials provided with your card for details. "

      Delete
    2. Reading further...

      Why would they say this about purchases made by or for Business purposes if that's exactly what you have used it for?

      "• Balance Transfers, Cash Advances, Quasi-Cash Transactions (transactions in highly liquid assets, e.g. assets that are directly convertible to cash such as, but not limited to, money orders, travelers checks, foreign currency and lottery tickets), Purchases made by or for a business or for a business purpose, fees, interest charges, and unauthorized/fraudulent transactions do not earn miles."

      Delete
    3. Hey Connally, I wouldn't over think it too much. The reason for the terms is they don't want you artificially "churning" mileage out of buying things like government bonds just to resell so you can get your bonus miles. I've never had a problem using it for my online business expenses.

      As for the credit card, you just need to be 18 for most, but the high reward cards are often a bit more strict, so you might have to just get any credit card for now and work your way up as you build your credit.

      My first credit card ever was a scheduled credit card with a $300 limit when I was 17. Then when I was 18, I applied for a student credit card. A lot of people will just tick $100,000 a year annual salary to get a higher initial limit even if they don't have a job yet. Best of luck!

      Delete
    4. Awesome Johnny! Thank you for the info, i'll look into it more.. see you in the forums!

      Delete

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