Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from April 2015 can be found here.

This is the fourth post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Wow! You’re only a few weeks away from free first class travel! You’ve already opened your loyalty accounts and checked your credit, now today we figure out how many cards you can personally apply for, so tomorrow you can strike frequent flier miles gold.

How many cards you can apply for will be limited by three things:

  1. Have you applied for any cards in the last 90 days? Best practice is to wait 91+ days between applications, so if you applied for a card more recently than that, for now apply for zero cards and wait until day 91. If it’s already been 91+ days, see limits 2 and 3.
  2. You should only apply for a maximum of one personal card and one business card at a time per issuing bank. (One exception to this will be discussed tomorrow.) This roughly ensures that the credit pulls on your credit report are spread across the three agencies. It also ensures that no bank too quickly gets sick of your clearing the bonuses and opening new cards. We’ll talk about the big issuing banks tomorrow.
  3. Most, but not all, big bonus cards don’t give you the bonus miles upon receiving the card. Instead they have a minimum spending requirement in the first few months to unlock the bonus. Common examples: $3,000 in 3 months, $2,500 in 4 months. You should only apply for cards whose bonuses you can clear, so you need to make sure that the combined minimum spend requirements of all the cards in your app-o-rama are within your normal monthly spending plus a few tricks.

 

The first step then is to calculate the normal monthly spend you put on cards. Look at your old credit and debit card statements to get an idea of your average monthly spend. Now read this list compiled by Million Mile Secrets to make sure you are putting all your expenses on your cards.

When clearing credit card bonuses, I favor not only using the first 28 no-fee methods, but also the other methods that have a 2% fee like paying your mortgage, rent, or taxes online with a card. Why? A 2% fee is swamped by these sign up bonuses, which are often rebates of 50% or more.

So now calculate how much you could spend on cards without increasing your total budget by adding together what you currently spend monthly on cards and what you now plan on shifting to cards.

Example: Looking at your old credit and debit cards statements shows you spend $1,000 a month on cards normally. Looking at the Million Mile Secret list made you realize that you send in an $80 check each month to pay your cell phone bill instead of setting up autopay with a credit card. You send in a $1,000 check every month for your mortgage, when you could pay $1,024 (2.4% fee) with a card at chargesmart.com. Add it up, and you see that you could spend $2,104 ($1,000 + $80 + $1,024) a month on cards without affecting your total monthly spending by much.

Tomorrow, we’ll use this number to decide how many and which cards to apply for, so you can fly Free First Class Next Month!

Continue to Post 5.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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