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How We Got Our Miles — and How You Can Help Us Get More

In my previous post about getting our family of five to Australia and back for free, I laid out our simple round-trip itinerary and explained that we already have 214,523 AAdvantage miles towards our 375,000-mile trip.

You May Ask Yourself: How did we get all these miles?

  • Before beginning this push, I had had an AAdvantage Gold Citi Master Card for more than a decade, linked to my AA account. I had already accrued more than 100,000 miles from spending on that card over the past few years. Although we could have already redeemed those miles for recent trips, I saved them instead because I didn’t have enough to buy all five of our tickets for last summer’s international trip, and because I didn’t want to “waste” them on domestic flights, which are not as good value for the mile as international.
  • Erik had less than 10,000 miles in his AA account when I started this, so he applied for and received an AAdvantage Citi Platinum Select Master Card, which promised a bonus of 50,000 miles when we spent $3,000 in the first three months. With Christmas shopping and holiday travel, we hit that limit quickly, and the bonus posted to his account lickety split.

    Best of all, for some reason his account was credited with 60,000 miles instead of 50,000. And, when we called to cancel the card, having achieved our goal, the retention specialist offered him a bonus 1,000 a month to keep the card for another nine months, as long as we spend $1,000 a month on it. We figured, why not? So for now we still have this card, although we still plan to cancel it before the first annual fee kicks in next year.

  • I applied for and was granted an American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, which paid me a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints after I spent $3,000. (Starwood is the rewards program for Sheraton hotels.

    But wait, you may exlaim. I thought we were collecting American AAdvantage miles, not hotel points. Here’s the thing: Starwood allows you to

    transfer their points to airline programs, and for every 20,000 points you transfer to airline programs, including American AAdvantage, you get a bonus 5,000 points!
    So as soon as I received my 25,000 Starpoints bonus, I moved  20,000 Starpoints to my AAdvantage account, which showed up as 25,000 AAdvantage miles. Thanks for this tip,
    Liz Gross!)

    How you can help us earn more miles

    I have a plan to get us all the miles we need for our Sydney trip, mostly by applying to more credit cards, which I will detail in a forthcoming post. However! Not all of those miles will come in as soon as I’d like them to, and time is of the essence as frequent flyer seats are disappearing every day.

    There is a way you could help us get there more quickly.

    The Starwood Amex card offers a 5,000 point bonus for recruiting new cardholders. For instance, I encouraged my mom to sign up for the card so she could get the 25,000 point (30,000 airline miles) bonus as well, and as soon as she was activated her card, another 5,000 Starpoints showed up in my account. You can transfer Starpoints to a lot of airlines, not just American: Virgin, United, Flying Blue, etc. What’s more, through the end of the month, Starwood is running a promo that gives you 35,000 points for signing up instead of 25,000.

    If you would like to apply for this card through me, email me at carrielynnkirby AT, or let m know through social media, and I’ll send you an invite. You can also try simply clicking this link. It doesn’t matter if you already have an American Express card — as long as you don’t already have this particular Starwood Amex, you can still get approved for this one. There’s no annual fee for the first year (after that it’s $95 a year). As far as I can see, you don’t even have to ever use the card in order for me to get the bonus. And signing up online takes less than five minutes.

    But won’t all these new credit accounts trash our credit?

    Maybe a little, in the short term. As FICO explains, a flurry of credit requests in a short time can look bad if you’re about to apply for a mortgage (we’re not), and it can lower the average age of your accounts. However, these factors account for a relatively small portion of your score, and if, like us, you have a number of longstanding accounts and an excellent payment history, it’s nothing that I’m going to worry about. More on this in a future post.