Introducing Rookie Alli: Rookie Alli will be MileValue’s resident expert-rookie. She’ll write posts about getting started with miles and points from a beginner’s perspective. From the first cards and the first award booking to first class (hopefully), folks of all levels can learn from her triumphs and rookie mistakes.
Rookie Alli, scaring dogs since the ’80s
I just signed up for five cards and got 110,000 miles and points, two free hotel nights, $500 worth of statement credits, access to the best cash back mall, and a number of other perks.
Being new to the miles game, I currently only have two credit cards: the Citi AAdvantage Visa and American Express cards, which I applied for using the now-dead, two-browser trick in November. I met my minimum spends and collected my 105,000 American miles, and now I’m hooked.
Should I use the AA miles to go back to Hawaii?
Scott always says to wait 91 days between credit card applications, then apply for any cards you want the same day to maximize your approvals and rewards. After my 91 days passed, I was eager to see what my my next cards could be.
There were a couple of personal factors I kept in mind when deciding which cards I was going to include in my applications.
1. I wanted to keep my minimum spends relatively low, since I will be out of the country during part of the minimum spending period in countries where it is tough to use credit cards.
2. I have not hopped on the Bluebird/Vanilla train just yet, but I am comfortable using Amazon Payments to help meet minimum spends.
This goes along with my biggest piece of advice to fellow rookies: only dip your toes into the miles world to the extent you are comfortable. For instance, at first I was only comfortable getting two credit cards at a time. When I saw I could handle that, I decided I could handle more cards this time.
When I heard about Amazon Payments, I tested it out one month by sending $990 to a friend. I was comfortable with the results, so I continued using the service each month.
I signed up for a Bluebird card, but I have not activated it yet because I am still not comfortable with the idea.
3. I only wanted to apply for cards with an annual fee if I felt the card’s perks justified that fee.
I got into this game for free travel, so I don’t want to pay annual fees. But I am willing to pay an annual fee if I know I am getting way more in return than the fee costs.
4. I’m not ready for any business cards. I do probably have some small money-making activities that would qualify as businesses, but I’m not comfortable applying for business cards yet.
I know that most people can get business cards easily from reading How to be Approved for a Business Card, and that I am missing out on some of the best sign up bonuses, but business cards aren’t for me yet.
Using MileValue’s Best Offers and Best Practices, I ultimately decided to apply for five cards:
1. Frontier Airlines World MasterCard
- 25,000 bonus miles after first purchase
- 10,000 bonus miles after spending $750 in the first 90 days for a total of 35,000 bonus miles
- 10,000 mile one way awards within the USA
- 15,000 mile one way awards to Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica
- 5,000 mile discount on companion award tickets
- 2x miles on Frontier purchases
- $59 annual fee
This card was a no-brainer for me: miles after the first purchase, very low minimum spend to unlock the rest of the miles, and I’ve had really good experiences flying Frontier to and from Denver in college.
2. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa
- 30,000 United miles after $1,000 in spending in the first three months
- 5,000 extra United miles when you add another cardholder to the account
- One free checked bag
- Two United Club Passes
- no annual fee the first year, then $95 thereafter
I wanted to earn some United miles because I know how valuable they can be, especially to Europe.
I know the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a superior bonus of 40,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $3,000 in three months, but I wanted to keep my minimum spend low.
3. Discover it™
- 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent on categories that rotate each quarter
- Opportunity to use the Discover online portal for 5-20% cash back at many retailers
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- no annual fee
This might seem like a weird card to get because it has no sign up bonus. I got it because the card was an opportunity for me to earn a lot of cash back. I love the rotating 5% cash back categories.
The other big thing is this card will allow me to access the ShopDiscover portal, which is one of the best portals out there. The portal offers 5-20% cash back at a lot of places I shop and routinely offers better deals than miles-earning portals. For instance, no one comes close to offering 5% cash back at Apple.
4. Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum
- 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $1,000 in three months
- $100 credit for Global Entry signup
- $200 calendar-year airline-fee credit
- Free airport lounge access (American, US Airways, Delta, Priority Pass)
- $475 annual fee, not waived in the first year
This was the only card I was hesitant to apply for. When I first saw that $475 annual fee (!) I immediately disregarded it as an option to include in my applications. I thought no perks could justify that fee, especially since the fee would appear on my first statement–before I could enjoy anything I was paying for.
However, when I thought a little deeper about it, I realized that this card actually offers a lot of good bonuses. Bill covered how those airline-fee credits can be used to buy gift cards which can then be used to purchase flights, the Global Entry voucher will save me hours of waiting-in-customs time this year (my sanity must be worth $475, right?), and I know I can easily find a use for 50,000 Membership Awards.
Since the airline-fee credits are a calendar year bonus, I can get 2 x $200 gift cards plus $100 for Global Entry, meaning $500 in statement credits.
I guess I can give it a year-long trial run. I’ll get $400 worth of flights, $100 worth of Global Entry, free lounge access, and nearly a $1,000 worth of points for my $475 fee.
5. Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
• Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening*
• Earn 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton HHonors portfolio*
• Earn 5 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases*
• Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases*
• Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember*
• No foreign transaction fees on purchases*
• Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit card
• Earn an anniversary bonus of 1 weekend night certificate at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio each cardmembership year with qualifying purchases*
This one was tough because it had a large minimum spend and an annual fee. I went with it, though because I want two free nights at a super fancy hotel that I could otherwise never afford.
I’m channeling my inner Hepburn by picturing myself drinking champagne and eating macaroons in Paris
I chose five cards to apply for:
- Frontier Airlines World MasterCard for access to its incredible award chart
- Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa for United miles with a low minimum spend
- Discover it™ for access to its 5% cash back rotating categories and amazing cash back mall
- Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum for the points, lounge access, airline gift cards, and Global Entry despite the huge $475 annual fee
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card for two free nights at a Hilton I could normally only dream of
Concluded in Rookie Alli’s First Cards: Execution