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2012 In Review: My Mileage Earning Exposed

I finally got around to counting up all of my point earnings for 2012. The year in general was relatively conservative as far as earning points and miles, mostly due to the fact that I was in the market for a possible mortgage and wanted to hold off on a couple of card offers. This meant that I wasn’t able to pull off as many App-o-Ramas as I had planned.

With that being said, I was still able to pull in a lucrative amount of miles during the 2012 calendar year.

Here’s a chart of the miles I was able to get in 2012 and my thoughts on the specifics:

Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

I only completed two App-o-Ramas in 2012, one in April and one in November. Each time, I applied for either three or four cards, and was only denied one card (US Bank Club Carlson Personal) during the second AoR. Other than the one card denial, everything else went off without a hitch.

Of the credit card bonuses I earned this year, the best was the Southwest Companion Pass. The offer allows a companion to fly free with me anytime I fly Southwest for all of 2013 and 2014. This really sweetened the Southwest sign-up bonuses.

April AOR
Chase United Explorer: 50,000
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Business: 50,000
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Personal: 50,000

December AOR
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business: 50,000
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business: 50,000
US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards Business: 85,000.
US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards Personal: Denied

Total Points Earned:
Southwest points: 200,000 (and most importantly the Companion Pass)
United miles: 55,000
Club Carlson Points: 85,000

Total through credit card sign-up bonuses:  335,000

While 335,000 points may seem relatively low for most miles-junkies (and certainly less than what I pulled in during 2011), I am satisfied with the miles I earned through sign up bonuses for a few reasons:

For one, I consider all of these “high quality” miles because they are with airlines that I’ll use frequently and none of which charge a fuel surcharge.

From my 2012 earnings and previously earned points, I have miles spread throughout both major alliances (American Airlines Oneworld, and United’s Star Alliance), which gives me plenty of flexibility in determining travel plans. Points that can be redeemed with OneWorld Alliance or Star Alliance partners virtually allow you to fly anywhere in the world.

I also have both international travel (United, AA) 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 earnings.  It virtually doubles the value of the Rapid Rewards miles earned.

Regular Spending

Sign-up bonuses accounted for most of my miles and points earned. Apart from that, the easiest way to earn miles and points is by putting all your spending on a credit card instead of by paying cash.

This past year I focused on putting all my spending on credit cards. When I was done meeting minimum spends for sign-up bonus cards, I put all of my purchases on my Discover It or Chase Freedom cards to earn Ultimate Rewards points.

Why? Because I earned 5X reward points for purchases in the rotating categories. This can make a huge difference if you are not a huge spender.

I was able to rack up a decent amount of points by paying with a credit card instead of using cash whenever possible.

Chase Ultimate Rewards/Discover It cashback points – 16,293
Southwest – 4,742
United – 120
Club Carlson – 2,613
Total miles earned through regular spending: 23,768

Total Miles Earned in 2012:  358,768

All things considered, the miles earned in the 2012 calendar year added up to be a good amount–considering I traveled abroad in South America for four months and could not use my cards most of the time or take advantage of all the loopholes to earn more points.

So, what are my tentative plans for 2013?

Travel

Of course one of my major plans for 2013 is to continue to get out and travel. Remember, earning miles doesn’t mean anything unless you get out and see the world with them.

Most of my planned trips are abroad, but I will also fly a few domestic flights here and there.

Things are still shaping up for my travels in 2013, stay posted for more on this ‘bucket list’ of places to visit in 2013:

  • Montenegro
  • Macedonia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Argentina
  • Portugal
  • UK
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Taiwan
  • Switzerland
  • Italy
  • Bosnia
  • Croatia

Credit Card Sign-Ups in 2013

This year I will most likely do two or three AoR. I’ve already applied for most of the major airline credit card offers since I’ve been doing this for a few years. However, there are still a couple cards I plan to double-dip on as well as applying for several hotel cards I have yet to sign up for.

For now the plan is to hold off for mega sign up bonuses that are offered once or twice a year for these cards.

One credit card sign up offer I will definitely attempt to go for are the Citi/AAdvantage World Mastercard and American Express.  Most people report that this card can be attained about every 18 months. I first got the Visa (75k points) and AMEX (75k points) in August 2011, so I’ll attempt to get this sign-up bonus again sometime in April or May of 2013.

My only other set plan is to apply for the Ink Bold and Ink Plus as well as several hotel cards. I would like to get two more Ink cards that give a total sign-up bonus of 100k Chase United Rewards points.

Applying for hotel reward cards such as the Hyatt and Hilton cards will also be a priority now that I have over 500k+ points sitting in my airline mileage accounts.

Bonus Categories in 2013

**Other than normal purchases that earn 5X points, I plan to use my Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus to purchase Vanilla Reload card at Office Depot/Walgreens/CVS. By doing this you earn 5 points per $1 spent.

The plan is to buy $2,000 worth of gift cards on each card per month. I’ll take the $2,000 and purchase Vanilla Reload cards at CVS, that can be used to pay back student loans, mortgage or other bills.

I will also use these cards for everyday spending instead of using a credit card, allowing me to earn 5X points on every purchase.

After following through with the simple step I will get 10,000 Chase points each month which will be looking at around 120,000 points at the end of the year. This bump in points has the potential to be more lucrative for me in 2013, than credit card sign-up offers.

Well worth a few trips to Office Depot or Walgreens/CVS and a few hours spent keeping everything tracked and organized!

**Caution: Lately, there’s been some difficulty in purchasing Vanilla Reload cards with some retailers denying customers from purchasing the Vanilla Reload cards using their credit cards. Time will tell how long this method lasts…

Update: I have not had any luck getting Vanilla Reload cards in the past few week, so this may be the end up Vanilla Reloads. Has anyone had any luck with them lately?

Regular Spending in 2013

Since the plan is to buy gift cards at Office Depot/CVS and use them for the bulk of my everyday spending, I’ll be getting 5x per $1 spent on almost all my purchases.

Considering the fact that I am not a huge spender, maximizing this amount by getting 5x per dollar is a powerful way to earn points.

Final Thoughts

Other than waiting for some credit card sign-up bonuses to pop up, start looking toward other ways to rack up some major miles. There are plenty of options out there to keep your mileage balance afloat.

With 2012 being a great year and 2013 shaping up to be just as amazing (or better), remember that you are earning miles so that you can travel well–so pack your bags and get out the door!

Follow us to stay up-to-date with the creative ways to keep earning!

What did you earn in 2012?  What are your travel and mile earning plans or 2013?

  • Shannon

    How do you use your Vanilla Reload card to pay your mortgage?

  • John

    Hey, some people are reporting problems with the Citi 2 browser Visa/Amex trick. It might not be working anymore.

    • The Well Traveled Mile

      John, very good point. Since I wrote this some people are reporting that they were not able to get approved for 2 Citi American Airlines cards or 2 Citi Hilton cards at the same time. See more about it on my post about how the Citi American Airlines two browser trick bay be dead.