We’ve all seen the social posts. Friends posing in their glamorous business class seats, holding a glass of champagne, with some caption like, “Our home for the next 12 hours.”
Sure, you want to slap them. But better yet, why not join them?
International business class tickets can be hideously expensive. But there are simple ways to accrue enough miles to book these seats for free. And while economy class has devolved into a pen for dirty animals, business class has risen to new heights, with pod-like seats, nonstop food and drink, and even doors on each seat in some airlines’ business class.
The fastest way to accrue large chunks of miles is to open new credit cards for the airline mile or travel point bonuses. These frequently range from 50,000-100,000 miles or points. FOR ONE CARD. Most people think that routinely opening and closing credit cards ruins your credit, but as long as you do the following, nothing could be further from the truth:
- Always pay your bills on time
- Pay off the entire credit card bill every month (if you’re paying credit card interest, you’re negating all the value you’d get from these miles, and you shouldn’t be playing this game)
- Keep a fairly high percentage of unused credit (in other words, if you have cards with a total of $100k of available credit, try not to have more than, say, $10k of charges on your cards at any given time.
- Keep some credit cards open for YEARS. Doesn’t matter what kind – department store ones,
VISA, whatever – but long-term accounts are important to your credit score.
In the past decade, I’ve earned millions of miles and points through this method. I’ve opened about 30 cards (and closed at least 20 of them after a year, thus collecting the miles/points and avoiding paying the annual fee for the next year), and have maintained an 800+ credit score throughout because I follow those rules.
Let’s get one other thing out of the way: if you’re not an organized person, this game is not for you. It takes a bit of management to ensure that you meet the minimum spend requirements and such. (Open a credit card that has a $3,000 total spend required in the first 3 months and only spend $2,995? No bonus miles for you!)
There are three basic types of travel rewards credit cards:
Airline credit cards
- Citi and Barclay cards for American miles (lots of opportunities to accrue miles with AA since both of these issuers are offering cards)
- American Express for Delta
- Chase for United and Southwest
These range from low-fee cards that get you basic perks (like a free checked bag on each flight) to high-fee cards that get you a variety of high-value perks, including lounge access to that airline’s clubs, priority boarding, and much more.
Hotel Chain credit cards
- Chase for IHG, Hyatt and Marriott
- American Express for Hilton
Most of these low-fee cards (generally $69-95/yr) get you a free night at select properties (any category 1-4 or 1-5 hotel in that chain’s portfolio), which make the card’s annual fee more than worth it. I have (and keep) all of these cards!
Transferable Points credit cards
- Chase for Ultimate Rewards
- American Express for Membership Rewards
These are great for their ability to transfer the points to a variety of airlines and hotel chains. Your best redemptions will be for airline seats, especially business and first-class tickets. Transferring the points to hotel chains is – with the exception of Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to Hyatt – a terrible use of the points, akin to cashing them in for gift cards, which is another ill-advised option.
Here are a few of the current best offers (please know that we have NO relationship with these card issuers and get nothing from these links. If you prefer, just Google the offers on your own):
Membership Rewards (transferable points):
Ultimate Rewards (transferable points):
Next month, we’ll have a list of tips for you, including:
- How to space out your card applications
- How to open business credit cards
- How often you can earn signup bonuses on the same card
And much more!