Game Planning

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Once you’ve decided to play the miles game, all you really have to do to get started on your journey is to take that all important first step.


Dont freak out…I’ve got you covered…

But where to begin? The array of Credit card choices out there (fortunately) can be overwhelming.

Well I’d like to think there’s a method to my madness.  And it goes a little something like this….

  1. I focus on the most valuable currencies and the biggest bonuses first.
  2. To me value is determined by the flexibility of the points currency earned, the sheer number of bonus points being offered, the ability to eventually use the points without paying fuel surcharges, and the ability to avoid yearly fees.
  3. Off the top of my head, my ranking of points currencies listed in the descending order of value (with the most valuable Currencies listed first) is: AMEX Starpoints, Chase ultimate rewards points, AMEX membership rewards points, American airlines Aadvantage miles, US airways Dividend Miles, United Miles, Citi thank you points, Southwest miles
  4. For a more complete listing of loyalty currency values, at this point in time, see here.
  5. Because Chase has so many excellent cards, I do apply for one business and one personal Chase card each round of applications.
  6. I Avoid applying for more than one business and one personal card from a single bank per churn.

So those are my objectives each time I plan a churn.

But how to go about execution? How to decide which cards are the best available out there.

Let’s review the Miles Game flowsheet that lays out the process for building up your miles balance quickly.

photo (16)

Guess which part we’ll cover in this post…


If you want to do it yourself**, you really need only two tools, a link aggregator, and the latest information from the flyertalk chat rooms.

For my money the best link aggregator this one which belongs to frequent miler. He keeps it quite up-to-date, and consistently links to the best available offer whether or not it is his own affiliate link.

Once I have found the cards that I want to apply for, I then search for each card on the flyer talk credit card forums.

As an example if I wanted to apply for the Chase Sapphire preferred card, I would do a Google search for “flyer talk Chase Sapphire preferred.”

The reason that I tend to do this is that there is often a wiki at the start of each thread  that gives the latest information on the best bonuses for each card. I also usually peruse the last few posts in the thread to make sure that nothing has changed recently in terms of credit card approvals or available bonuses.

So with all that being said if I were to start playing the miles game today what would my first churn consist of?

It would probably look something like this:

  • Chase Sapphire preferred: 40,000 ultimate rewards points
  • Chase ink bold, 50,000 ultimate rewards points
  • Citi platinum select Aadvantage world MasterCard: 50,000 American airlines advantage miles.
  • Citi business Aadvantage world MasterCard: 50,000 American airlines Aadvantage miles.
  • Starwood preferred Guest credit card from American Express: 25,000 starpoints
  • Barclaycard US airways premier world MasterCard: 40,000 US airways dividend miles.

Next in the series we will talk about what to expect when you execute your first credit card churn…

** If you still want some help getting started, Brad from has an excellent free travel rewards coaching service that is highly recommended.

Please leave comments and questions below…

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15 Responses to “Game Planning”

  1. Nate October 23, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    I’m thinking of trying to get points together to go on a cruise. Do you have any card recommendations for this?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. October 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm #


      I have never booked a cruise (with or without points) so take what I say with a grain of salt.

      If I were looking to book a cruise I would focus on cash equivalent points like Barclays world arrival points, and capital one venture points. If you and your significant other each got both of these cards, that would be $1600 to spend towards a cruise right there.


      • Nate October 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        Thank you! I’ll let you know if I have any success with the cruise. I just started with credit card bonuses a few months ago and was able to get free airline tickets out of it through chase ultimate rewards.

    • 5280 Miles October 31, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      Looks like you can book with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Not sure of what the value would be. I have found that paying with points for a car rental has been a decent value (for me). I would rather earn some points with my Ink and pay with points then pay with cash even if it is a little cheaper. I can earn around 15k points per month on average for free with my Ink.

      I was looking today at All Inclusive resorts with Ulitmate Rewards in Cancun with points today for my sister. Not a great value but hey, free is free if you have the points!
      Also Vacations To Go seems to have pretty good deals. If you have the points as Alexi has mentioned with Barclay then that would work as well. Good luck!

      • Miles Dividend M.D. November 2, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

        Yeah, you can book with membership rewards as well, but this is just using each point as 1 cent in cash value. Never a good idea since the points are usually redeemed at at least 2 cents in value each…..


        • 5280 miles November 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

          I agree but there is a benefit here. If your choice is to spend cash or use points that you can earn for a really low cost then it might be worth it. I have also found for example booking a rental car via ur portal with points that the cost of the car rental was cheaper on the portal than other places. Using ur points at $180 vs using arrival points anywhere else at $250 was a better value for me. Depends on how easy points are to come by and where you want to travel and if you are willing to spend cash or just use points.

  2. hamster October 24, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Hey Alexi,

    Thanks for this series.

    I was just curious why you pick the SPG card at only 25,000 points, when there are others with 40k points. Is there something special about the Starwood points that makes them particularly valuable?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. October 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm #


      Although Starwood cards have uninspiring bonuses of only 25 to 30,000 points, starpoints are the most valuable currency of all.

      They can be transferred to almost any airline at a rate of 1:1.25.

      They can be very useful for booking hotels.

      They can be used for packaged airline and hotel stays called “nights and flights”

      I almost always use my SPG points to top up mileage accounts to reach necessary number of points to book a particular itinerary at a particular time. Their extreme flexibility is what ends up making them so valuable.


      • 5280 Miles October 31, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

        I don’t understand the great value of these points personally. Transfering points is ok I guess. It is just really hard to earn them. I look at Southwest with Chase transfers and the easy way to earn with American sign up bonus. SPG points are just hard to get.

        We have booked our first 5 nights for an upcoming trip with SPG points. I have found it is best to have banks of everything to make a trip work.

        Not discounting what Alexi has to offered I just haven’t found a great value as all have claimed with these.

        • Miles Dividend M.D. November 2, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

          The great value of starpoints is that you can transfer them to virtually airline at a 1:1.25 ratio, not to mention the hotel and nights and flights benefits. It is so valuable to be able to top up any award itinerary, regardless of the airline. No other currency is nearly as flexible.

          I agree that they are much harder to earn, but this is a seperate issue, in my view. If I could have a fixed amount of any loyalty currency, it would be starpoints and it’s not even close.


  3. ltralph October 26, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    I disagree. If I was to start all over, I would start with the southwest companion pass (one SW buisness and one personal at 50k miles +5k spend on each). 2 cards, 10k spend, for over $3200 in value.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. October 26, 2014 at 7:43 pm #


      I love the companion pass too. See here:

      The reasons for not including it in my introductory churn are 3 fold.

      1. SWA utility is limited to domestic and mexico/carribean travel.
      2. The SWA cards are not fee free. I like to collect fee free miles first as a mustachian first principle.
      3. I favor applying for the southwest cards in november/december so that you can get the 100K bonus the following January and get a full 2 years of companion pass eligibility.


  4. Chris B January 27, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    Miles! You have an amazing site here and I appreciate all the work you’ve put into it to help others with all the investing and miles advice! I’m a fellow Oregonian as well :)
    So, I’m a newb to it all. Just getting to investing and the same with miles. My wife just got approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and we’re gonna get the RedCard to pay bills. We were curious about a few things. I’ve seen with some cards that you can’t apply multiple plane tickets to the same miles bucket. Is that true with the Chase card as well?
    Tied to that question… would it be more advantageous for us to pay everything on the one card, or should we get separate Chase cards for her and me (and maybe even our 22 year old daughters in college??…if they would be approved…)? We are planning on taking a trip this summer after they graduate from college and this seems like a great way to make it… more affordable… :) I have investing questions as well but I’ll save those for the appropriate thread.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 28, 2015 at 12:28 am #


      Thanks for commenting.

      I am not sure that I understand your first question. You can certainly book multiple plane tickets with one stash of miles ( I routinely book tickets for my family and friends from my personal miles accounts.) This is true of all of the mileage programs I have used including Ultimate rewards.

      In terms of getting up to speed on optimizing your miles game skills, please stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, I have an exciting announcement that you should check out.

      In general though when it comes to credit card bonuses and collecting miles I am of the “more is more” school of thought. (As in that old expression; “one can never be to rich or too thin, or have too many miles!”)

      Stay tuned,


      • Chris B January 28, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

        I look forward to seeing your new post! Yes, a card I was directed to by a friend was the B of A Alaska Airlines card and I could have swore I saw that you can fly a guest for a little over a hundred dollars when using your own miles. Maybe I misread it… Got it. “More is more.” I like it!


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