2012 CREDIT CARD REWARDS RECAP

December 31, 2012

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you know by now that I am a big believer in goal-setting. Anyone who shares this passion is likely to spend a little time at the end of each year reflecting on what worked and what didn’t over the preceding twelve months.  One of the personal goals for 2012 was to accumulate at least 1,000,000 reward points.  Sounds crazy (I know), especially since I don’t travel much for business.  Credit card companies often promote generous introductory offers which would allow me to accomplish this goal.

 

In the end, it took a fair amount of time and organization, but I recently achieved my goal and am looking forward to some great (free) trips in the future.  In case you are thinking of setting a similar goal for yourself in 2013, here are some stats to consider:

 

Applications completed:  29
Applications accepted:  21
Applications denied:  8
Total points earned:  1,095,000
Total “minimum spend”:  $73,000
Free hotel nights:  2
Statement credits:  $300
Annual card fees:  $450

 

As a professional wealth manager, the first thing I need to say is that I would NEVER recommend this strategy to someone who can’t control spending (i.e., someone who doesn’t pay off their credit card balance every month).  Just so we’re clear, never, ever, ever pay interest to a credit card company!

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that achieving this goal is easier if you are married (twice the rewards) and own a business (more opportunity for expenses).  However, even if you are not a business owner, there are still ample opportunities to rack up significant miles while spending very little (see detailed information about minimum spending requirements below).

 

As you look at my numbers, you may be wondering why we were denied eight times.  The reason is that each time you apply for a card, your credit report is pulled by the card issuer.  If you have too many credit inquiries in a short period of time (“short” being defined differently by each company), you may be denied credit.  The general pattern that we experienced was (1) get approved for several cards, (2) get denied, (3) wait one month, (4) start applying again and get approved.

 

Yes, your credit score will fall, but only minimally (and only temporarily).  I discovered that each credit inquiry reduced my score by 3 points, on average.  Your experience may be different–you just have to experiment.  Generally, my credit score would rebound back to its previous level after about a month of inactivity.

 

It’s pretty cool to have 1,000,000 miles “in the bank”, but the funny thing is we probably won’t get to use them for a while–my wife is expecting!

 

P.S.  Here is some additional detail regarding my efforts (month-by-month).  After each card issuer, I have included the amount of the bonus award plus the minimum charge amount necessary to earn the bonus.  In some cases, there were additional freebies (we used the free two-night stay for a luxury hotel in Buenos Aires).  Have fun and good luck!

 

Card Issuer — Bonus Award — Minimum Charge Amount

March

Me
American Express Gold —  75,000 points — $10,000
Chase Sapphire Preferred — 50,000 points — $3,000
Capital One Venture — declined
Fidelity Brokerage — 50,000 miles (Delta) — transfer $100,000
Chase United Mileage Explorer — declined

My wife
American Express Gold — 75,000 points — $10,000
Chase Sapphire Preferred — 50,000 points — $3,000
Capital One Venture — declined
Fidelity Brokerage — 50,000 miles (Delta) — transfer $100,000
Chase United Mileage Explorer — 50,000 miles — $1

 

June

Me
Citi AAdvantage Visa — 50,000 miles* — $3,000
Citi AAdvantage American Express — 50,000 miles* — $3,000
Chase Hyatt — Two Free Nights — $1
American Express Gold Business — 75,000 points — $10,000

My wife
Citi AAdvantage Visa — 50,000 miles* — $3,000
Citi AAdvantage American Express — 50,000 miles* — $3,000
Chase Hyatt — declined

 

July

Me
American Express Platinum** — 100,000 points — $10,000
Southwest Business — 50,000 points — $1,000
Southwest Personal — declined
United Mileage Explorer — declined

My wife
Southwest Business — 50,000 points — $1,000
Southwest Personal — declined

 

November

Me
Barclays US Airways — 40,000 miles — $1
Chase Sapphire Preferred — 40,000 points — $3,000
Chase Ink Business — 50,000 points — $5,000

My wife
Barclays US Airways — 40,000 miles — $1
Chase Ink Business — 50,000 points — $5,000
Chase British Airways — declined

*$100 statement credit for American Airline purchase

**$450 annual card fee (includes benefits such as a $200 credit toward airline of choice and access to airport lounges)