In 2017, I set out to accomplish a few goals. 1. Launch my new blog and Instagram page, @jetalbert and 2. Experience a few premium flights. I'm proud to share that jetalbert.com officially launched a few months ago and I had the opportunity to fly in Lufthansa First Class, SWISS Business Class, American Airlines Business Class, British Airways First Class, and Korean Airlines First Class. I'm tempted to squeeze in one more flight by year end, but we'll see if something good pops-up.
In the process of flying over 33,000 miles this year, I've also managed to blow through over 300,000 miles or loyalty points. It's fantastic to be able to fly in premium cabins without breaking the bank, and I intend on flying this way for many years to come. However, in 2017, I will likely dip below 500,000 miles for the first time in a while, which is too low for comfort. The process of replenishing is now my top priority and there's no better time to do so than over the holidays. Between property taxes, holiday shopping, and a few mileage runs, using the right cards and strategy for each purchase can yield a re-stash of miles.
Here's four quick tips to ensure you're maximizing your spend strategy.
The first tip is to use the right card for each purchase. Simple, right? Natural built-in card multipliers can provide you with almost 3-5X more miles per dollar than you would have earned otherwise with a debit card. Take for instance the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which automatically offers you 3X points per dollar spent on travel and dining. That's a fantastic return, simply by being vigilant on the type of transaction you're making and which card you're using.
Outside of travel and dining purchases, I tend to use the Chase Freedom Unlimited on most other purchases as it guarantees me 1.5X points per dollar return. Again, this is the card I use when there's no other option. I also have the SPG card, which I've been using quite frequently at SPG properties given it earns me 5X points per dollar spent at any SPG hotel.
Shopping Portal Accelerators
Likely one of the oldest tricks in the books: Shopping Portal Accelerators, a strategy which has boosted my points balance by 20% every year. As the name implies, a few credit card and loyalty programs offer Shopping Portals, which allows you to purchase items online and earn bonus points by using their link-offs.
At the moment, Chase Shopping Portal is offering 10X points per dollar spent at Macy's, which is fantastic!. Spending $100 will give you 1000 points, which is unheard of. JetBlue partners with Amazon and offers 3X points per dollar - another great deal. Other Shopping Portals are provided by most major airline mileage programs including United, American, Delta, Alaska, and JetBlue, although the major carriers offer the most compelling accelerator options.
Let's take for instance the Chase Shopping Portal and how you can find it:
1. Visit www.ultimaterewardspoints.chase.com and login with your credentials.
2. Scroll down towards the bottom of the homepage and look for the below.
3. Expand the store options by selecting See More Stores to see nearly 80 different options.
4. Select the retailer of your choice by hovering over the brand tile, which will flip and show you the details on the back.
5. Click Shop Now to open up the final page before linking off to the online retailer.
6. In this example, macys.com will open up and let you shop as you normally would. Once you've completed your order, the backend system will trigger and register your spend by populating the information in Chase. Once you've paid off your statement, your accelerated points will then populate under account activity. Please note: do not exit out of the browser screen at any point after you've linked off from the Shopping Portal.
Affordable Mileage Run
This may be a more advanced tip for some but for those who are looking for an even quicker method to replenishing miles is by flying and earning butt-in-seat miles. For the purposes of this post, a mileage run means booking a cheap roundtrip flight without ever setting foot outside of the airport or staying just a short amount of time. The end of the year presents good opportunities to fly to less desirable parts of the world, like Europe or Asia, given the busy domestic holiday travel.
For instance, my favorite go-to source for cheap airfare is The Flight Deal, which I follow religiously on Facebook. Every morning, you'll find a new set of cheap deals for you to pick from. The difference between The Flight Deal and say Expedia is all fares are published by the airline and will earn you a decent amount of miles depending on your status, if any. Please note, The Flight Deal is an information only website that aggregates cheap airfare, however, you will need to complete the flight booking directly with the airline.
Let's take this example:
On December 13, The Flight Deal posted a reasonable fare between Seattle - Beijing / Shanghai for $403 roundtrip. American Airlines follows a revenue based earning chart, which means you will earn award miles based on the total fare. In this case, this is an O-fare and will cost you $403 including taxes. Despite the distance of 15,000 flown miles, which is a fantastic mileage run for renewing status, non-AAdvantage status holders will earn just over 2,000 award miles while Executive Platinum members will earn over 4,000 award miles.
Remember to also purchase any airfare with a credit that maximizes on travel spend, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card or American Express Platinum card. This airfare will yield over 1,200 Ultimate Reward points (3X on travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card).
The last option is by purchasing miles, which most airlines will offer bonus miles depending on the number of miles you purchase. At the moment, American Airlines is offering a promotion for miles purchase until January 4. I would avoid purchasing miles without any specific trip in mind as airlines are notorious for devaluing their entire program overnight without notice. In that case, your once precious miles will have lost significant value.
There are many options to replenish miles and, in my case, I will likely follow a combination of all four tips to top off my balance. With just a little patience and vigilance, following this strategy will ensure a quick return of points.