The Only Miles You Can Use Before You Earn Them

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In a recent Free Credit Card Consultation, Matt wrote:

Goal: April 4 – 7 from Chicago (preferably ORD) to San Francisco Bay Area for 2 adults. Ideally, we’d like to fly both ways (economy or business) and stay at a hotel entirely on points earned from new and current cards. Thank you for your help! We love your website and plan on using your Award Booking Service in the future – especially for international adventures.

from Wikipedia
from Wikipedia

Here’s my response:

There’s a lag time when earning miles. You need to get the card, meet the spending requirement, then get the miles concomitant with the next statement closing, then redeem. So it is too late to get miles for a trip in April.

The exception is the Arrival Plus. You can use this card to charge flights and hotels and soon as the card arrives in the mail next week. Then after you meet its minimum spending requirement and your bonus miles post, you can redeem those miles to retroactively remove the flights/hotels charges. Each one of you who gets the card can take $500 of your flights/hotels bill. Any flight. Any hotel.

So basically as long as he can front the initial hotel and airfare expenses, Matt and his travel partner can eventually get $1,000 off those expenses. There’s no other card you could open right now that would definitely be useful for this trip because the lag time in getting other cards’ miles is too long.

Matt and his travel partner need to:

  1. Both open their own Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3k in the first 90 days.
  2. They each need to spend $3,000 on their new cards in the next 90 days. Part of this spending can be on their flights to San Francisco and hotels. (Here’s how to book the cheapest flights.)
  3. Since the card earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases, and the bonus is 40,000 miles, they’ll each have 46,000+ Arrival miles.
  4. The can redeem Arrival miles against their flights. If the flights were $400, they’d redeem 40,000 miles online and then get 4,000 miles (10%) rebated automatically. Now they’d each have 10,000 miles to redeem for $100 off hotels, Airbnb, and more. That’s $500 total saved by each person or $1,000 off the cost of the trip.

Here’s the full post on Three Steps to Get $500 in Free Flights, Hotels, and Car Rentals from the Arrival Plus Card.

If Matt didn’t follow this advice and instead opened, say, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, here’s what would happen:

  • Both cards arrive in a week, let’s say March 5. While he had 90 days to meet the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus because he could use the bonus miles retroactively, he needs to meet both these spending requirements in the first month because he needs the miles and points before using them. He spends $5,500 in the first month between the two cards.
  • His statement closes a month after he gets the card, say April 5. His points post about the same time.
  • He has 53,000 American Airlines miles and 97,500 Club Carlson points, but he missed his trip, which was set to start April 4.

Bottom Line

The right card depends on where you want to go and in what cabin; it also depends on when you want to go. The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® earns a big sign up bonus–40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days–that can be used retroactively to erase charges from your statement. That means you can get the card now, and then use the miles after you earn them for travel costs incurred before you earned the miles.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Get a SW card when they have a 50K offer or try for a companion pass . I sent my sister there took like 7 mins to book… a zillion flts a day out of MDW .

  2. “Only”? Marriott award redemptions can be made without sufficient points…one can earn those points later and there’s no issues as long as they post to the account ~1 week before the stay.

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