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I get almost all my miles from credit cards.

  • I rarely fly a paid flight on an airline that offers miles (and when I do, it’s usually not paid by me)
  • I don’t do much online shopping through airline portals
  • My dining program earnings are minimal

For me, it starts and ends with sign up bonuses and category bonuses on credit cards. I recently took a minute to look at the cards I have and whether I’ll keep them, the cards I want to get, and the cards that will see spending from me this year.

Cards I Plan to Get

AA Business Card for miles

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® is a business card that offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months. I’ve never had it, so this card is at the top of my list, especially since American Airlines miles are the most valuable right now, and I’ve been redeeming them for ultra-luxury awards.

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Read my full review of the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®

Citi Prestige for lounge access, benefits, and points

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Because I understand the benefits and will maximize them, I’ll get way more value than the annual fee. Right now I don’t have Priority Pass access, and I’ll lose AA lounge access soon when I cancel the AA Executive card, so I value those highly.

These ThankYou Points can be used for 1.33 cents each toward American Airlines flights or transferred to 12 types of airline miles with new airlines being added frequently.

Read my full review of the Citi Prestige® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred again

I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred over three years ago and cancelled it over two years ago. I can get it again with the bonus because Chase’s rule for personal cards is that you are considered a new applicant if it has been 2+ years since you last got the bonus on the card.

This will be an easy 45,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards (including the 5,000 for adding an authorized user) for $4,000 in spending, and it will be my go-to card for 2x on dining.

United card again

I got the United card over two years ago and cancelled it around a year ago. I can get it again with the bonus because Chase’s rule for personal cards is that you are considered a new applicant if it has been 2+ years since you last got the bonus on the card.

This will be an easy 55,000 bonus United miles (including the 5,000 for adding an authorized user) for $2,000 in spending, and I will like have access to extra Saver economy space on United flights.

United Business Card

I have never had the United Business Card. Following these steps (Hat Tip Flyertalk), I am offered the card with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000:

  1. Clear your cache/cookies or just open a new Chrome Incognito or Mozilla Private Browsing window.
  2. Log in to your account at united.com.
  3. Paste or click this link: https://www.theexplorercard.com/MPBusiness50kAFW.aspx
Alaska Personal and Business Cards

I’ve racked up 140,000 Alaska miles by having the personal card three times and business card twice. You can get them every 91 days. Hopefully the bonus increases, but even 25,000 miles for the $75 annual fee is a steal.

Alaska miles are the way to book Emirates First Class, and a great way to book Cathay Pacific and Qantas First Class.

Cards to Keep or Cancel

What cards I keep versus cancel won’t be particularly illuminating to you because whether you should keep or cancel a card is a math problem, and only you have your inputs.

The three-part test is:

  1. Is the annual fee zero? Keep it.
  2. Are you getting a retention bonus for keeping the card that is worth more than the annual fee? If so, keep the card. If not, go to step 3.
  3. Are the marginal benefits of holding the card larger than the annual fee. If so, keep it. If not, cancel it.

There is no substitute for doing the keep-cancel analysis yourself, but here are some trends I noted:

  • Cards you use a lot will come out well in the keep-cancel analysis, and cards with a retention bonus will too.
  • Airline cards do poorly because they don’t offer good category bonuses, and their 1x return on everyday spending is always worse than 1x SPG point (worth about 2.5 cents to me) or 2x Arrival miles on the Arrival Plus (worth about 2.28 cents to me.)
  • The more total money you spend on all your credit cards, the more annual fees you will be able to justify to maximize category bonuses. If you spend less money, the optimal number of cards to carry will be lower.

For me, the three definite keepers are the Freedom (no annual fee), Hyatt card (free Category 1-4 night annually), and Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card (40,000 bonus points annually and last night free on all Club Carlson awards.)

Which Cards I’ll Spend On

Much of my spending goes toward meeting minimum spending requirements. What’s leftover goes to category bonuses as much as possible. Where I’ll try to put extra spending in 2015:

  • 5x rotating category on my Freedom (grocery stores until March 31)
  • 5x at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year on my Ink Plus
  • 3x dining and entertainment on my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card (until April 18)
  • 3x travel and gas on my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card (starting April 19)
  • 3x airfare and hotels if I get the Citi Prestige® Card
  • 2x dining on the Sapphire Preferred (after the ThankYou Premier drops dining from 3x to 2x)

My go-to card for non-bonused spending will continue to be the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3k in the first 90 days, which earns 2x miles on all purchases.

Your Strategy?

What cards are you eyeing in 2015? What card will get your non-bonused spending?

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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