I got a request for a Free Credit Card Consultation that I thought would be informative to share with everyone. I was able to show a man how he could take his family of five to Europe by opening four cards by himself, divvying up his spending among the four cards, and paying just taxes and fees on his tickets.

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Here are selected answers from his Free Credit Card Consultation form:

Airports: Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT)

Goal: My goal is to take my wife and kids to Spain. (2 adults, 2 toddlers under 4, 1 infant under 2). Destination airports are Pamplona (PNA) or Bilbao (BIO) and Madrid (MAD) if we can get to PNA or BIO.

Current Balances: I have the Barclaycard Arrival +, I earned the 49k points, passed the 91 days.

How many people will be applying for cards? one

Current cards: I have the Barclaycard Arrival +, I earned the 49k points, passed the 91 days. I also have AMEX blue card, basic with no points. I got the AMEX card in 2006

Interested in earning: Airline Miles

Monthly spending: I could spend 2-3k a month

Here is a slightly modified version of my response:

If you travel between October 15 and May 15 each year, you’ll need 120k United miles and 80k American Airlines miles for 4x roundtrips–using one type of miles for 4x one way tickets and the other for 4x the tickets the other way. The lap infant will cost 10% of what United and American calculate to be the equivalent cash fare. Plan on the infant ticket costing around $200 roundtrip. Roundtrip taxes for the other passengers will be under $100 each.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two program will be combined as American Airlines miles. The current American Airlines chart, which is the world’s best and far better than United’s or Delta’s, will be the award chart at that time. To take advantage, you should open the American Airlines and US Airways credit cards now, and watch those bonuses be combined soon. This will get you way more than the 80k American Airlines miles you need.

To get the 120k United miles, get the United card and Sapphire Preferred. That puts you at 106k United miles + Ultimate Rewards (which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.) The last 14k miles can come from further spending.

Cards

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • US Airways MasterCard with 50,000 bonus US Airways miles after first purchase and payment of $89 annual fee
  • Sapphire Preferred with 40,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months and 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user. (Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles.)
  • United card with 50,000 bonus United miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months and 5,000 bonus United miles for adding an authorized user

To get the United offer, sign into your United account and see whether a banner appears advertising this offer.

If not, try this:

  1. Apply for the standard offer: 30k United miles after $1k in spending in the first 3 months card
  2. Add an authorized user on the application. That gets you a free 5k miles. Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future in as the main user and getting the full sign up bonus.
  3. After the card shows up on your chase.com account, send Chase a Secure Message from inside your chase.com account saying you’d like to be matched to the 50k sign up bonus you’ve seen others offered. My friend wrote:
    “Hello,
    I opened the United MileagePlus account with the 30,000 bonus after $1,000 in spending in the first three months. However, I noticed that there was also an offer with a 50,000 bonus after spending $2k in the first three months. Can you please match me to that offer?
    Thank you,”
  4. Chase will say something like: “OK, when you meet the $2k minimum spend, let us know and we’ll give you 20k more miles.”
  5. Hit the minimum spend of $2k, then follow up with Chase.

Minimum Spend

If you add up the minimum spending requirements on your new cards, it is $9,001 over three months. That’s at the top end of the $2k – $3k you report spending each month. To meet the minimum spending requirement, you can either try to put more of your spending on credit cards or stagger the applications by waiting to meet the spending requirement on three of the mentioned cards before applying for the Sapphire Preferred.

In return for meeting the spending requirements, you’ll get 103k American Airlines/US Airways miles and 106k United miles/Ultimate Rewards.

That leaves you 14,000 United miles short of your goal. Keep spending on the Sapphire Preferred, and you’ll get there in five months, fewer if a lot of your spending is on dining and travel where the card has a 2x category bonus.

Do not transfer any Ultimate Rewards to United miles until you are ready to book the awards, since the transfer is instant and irrevocable.

When you have 120,000 United miles and 80,000 American Airlines miles, search for award space in both directions before booking anything. Put the American Airlines award space on hold for 5 days for free by phone or online, ticket the United space, and then ticket the American Airlines space to avoid any award space disappearing during the booking process.

You can search united.com (here’s how) for the United award space. For award space using the American Airlines miles, you’ll want to use ba.com (here’s how) because Iberia award space appears there. You’ll probably have to construct the direction using AA miles with segment-by-segment searching. If this sounds like too much, hire my Award Booking Service.

A quick look at wikipedia shows Bilbao airport with a ton more service than Pamplona, so you’ll probably have better luck there with Madrid as a back up plan.

At the time of booking, mention the lap infant.

Recap

He’s got to get four cards, meet minimum spending requirements, spend a little extra on one card, wait for his American Airlines and US Airways miles to be combined, and by about June 2015, he should have all the miles and be ready to book an award for 5 passengers for about $500 in taxes and fees.

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