How to make one million airline miles with just 2 credit cards and $6436.75

Posted on June 17, 2014 by in Best use American Express Membership Rewards, best use of Citibank ThankYou points, Manufactured Spend

Wouldn’t we all like to have a million miles?

We will show you below how to earn a million miles with just 2 credit card applications and just 30 minutes (or less) of your time every day.

You can use those miles, for example, for two luxurious trips by first or business class to the Middle East or the Maldives on Etihad Airways.

Plus you would get 5 (!) more return first class tickets from the US to Asia with Singapore Airlines – arguably one of the leading first class products in the world.

Preparations:

We will need two credit cards for our project:

Citibank AA Executive MasterCard – This card comes with a $450 fee but you get a $200 statement credit just for using the card. Compare this excellent card with other rewards credit cards.

American Express Gold Card – This card comes with a $175 fee that is waived in the first year. Find out more about this card here.

Now let’s get started

Find a supermarket that sells Visa and/or MasterCard gift cards (Safeway, Kroger, Lucky) and lets you pay for them with a credit card. The gift cards need to be the variable type with a maximum purchase amount of $500 per card. American Express gift cards will not help.

Most supermarkets will let you buy up to $3,000 (6 cards) per day when paying with a credit card. Each store (and sometimes even each clerk) have a different policy. In our example we recommended limiting the spending to about $1,500/day.

Make sure you keep the receipt since sometimes (albeit rarely) gift cards do not activate properly. If this happens, call the number on the back of the card and request a refund to be processed back to your credit card.

Why supermarkets? The American Express Gold card gives you 2 miles per dollar spend. Gas stations also work for the bonus but there are fewer gas stations giving you gift cards in the middle of the night worth $1,500.

The ‘art of liquidation’ – or how do I get my money back?

A) Walmart

Walmart allows you to buy money orders (70 cents per money order with a maximum of $1,000 each and $3,000/day) with a debit card. The gift cards you buy are debit cards and can be processed by the Walmart system. Buying Walmart money orders is by far the best and easiest way to get your money back.

In our experience the MetaBank gift cards work best at Walmart. The last 4 digits of the card are the PIN. There is no need to call in and set a PIN (or register online).

You can then use the money order and deposit it into your bank account. Note that deposits of more than $10,000 per day may raise questions with your bank (but usually do not).

Use this bank account to pay your American Express/Citibank bills.

B) Citibank $500 a day (one gift card)

Citibank allows you to pay down your credit card bill with a debit card (you can in fact pay up to 7% more than your due balance). This includes the MasterCard gift cards from US Bank! Only one card payment is allowed per day.

In order to make the payment work, register online with your name and address so Citibank can run the payment. Then call Citibank and ask for a payment by debit card and provide the details of your US Bank gift card.

C) Evolve Money

Using Evolve Money requires a bit more planning.

First, get store accounts with a number of US retailers. You can see which stores are supported by registering with Evolve Money and browse through the list. Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s and Staples worked for us. Evolve Money allows you to make payments against these store accounts.

Evolve Money allows a maximum payment of $1,000 a day, so this will be 2 gift cards. Payments can be done in seconds through the simple user interface.

Once the payments have accumulated, request a refund from the store via check. It’s a good idea to spread this to several accounts so as to not raise red flags with retailers.

The Math

If you manage to buy an average of $1,500 of gift cards every day and use Citibank and Evolve Money to liquidate your gift cards, this is the math:

3x gift cards per day – each cost $5.95 = $6,186.75 in fees +$250 partial credit card fee.

Miles earned – 765,000 American Express Membership Rewards points & 182,500 AAdvantage miles.

Since both credit cards have a sign-up bonus, you will actually earn a total of 282,500 AAdvantage miles and 790,000 American Express points.

If you liquidate through Walmart, you need to add $511 in additional fees (though you should be able to liquidate easier).

What to do with the bonanza?

1,072,500 miles will give you a lot of options…

Our recommendation would be to use the AAdvantage miles for a trip for two to the Maldives/Sri Lanka with Etihad Airways or Cathay Pacific First Class. For both airlines the surcharges/fees are minimal.

As for Membership Rewards, the most luxurious option is Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to Hong Kong. This can be had for just about ~150,000 per one-way when redeemed online. American Express Membership Rewards transfer instantly to KrisFlyer. Taxes and fees come to about $250 per round-trip ticket.

Other good options include transfers to Alitalia MilleMiglia (using Delta planes) to Tel Aviv or Aeroplan mini-RTW tickets using United and Singapore Airlines.

In essence, you are paying just about $1,000 for a round-trip ticket on one of the most luxurious airlines to an exotic destination. I consider this fantastic value!

Epilogue

This is just a guideline. Of course you can use different cards, depending on what kind of redemption you are craving. Yes, the Park Hyatt Tokyo will only cost about $220 (incl. all fees) when using a Chase Sapphire card (or Hyatt card).

Starpoints can be great value for hotels.

You may spend less or more depending on how much time you can attribute to this (and how much you are traveling). In any way, make sure you pay your credit card bills on time (or even in-between to free up your credit line).

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