Earning 60,000 miles with one purchase — reader success story

Jan 1, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Greg, whose airline credit card helped him visit his girlfriend on a student budget:

Until this fall, my girlfriend and I were in a long-distance relationship while we finished college. She lived in North Carolina and I lived in Vermont. The drive was 13 hours on a good day, which made weekend trips an impossibility without flying. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the regularly $450+ round-trip flights on a student budget.

Having read The Points Guy for over a year at that point, I decided to apply for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. For a student, it was an incredible deal — I didn’t have the ability to spend $3,000 or more in a few months to earn a sign-up bonus like you have to with most other cards, so earning 60,000 miles with just one purchase was amazing.

By being flexible with which airport I flew into and out of, I was also able to take advantage of Reduced Mileage Awards every time I flew, so each round-trip cost only 17,500 miles. Thanks to the card, I was able to cover 3.5 extra trips to see my girlfriend at essentially no out-of-pocket cost to me. I surprised her for her birthday and attended her graduation, and now I have even convinced her to join the points and miles world herself!

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Large travel rewards credit card sign-up bonuses usually come with high spending requirements, but there are exceptions. A variety of cards (like the AAdvantage Aviator card) allow you to earn a bonus after a single purchase, while others impose relatively low thresholds of $1,000 or less. Greg smartly recognized his own spending capacity, and his story is a reminder to factor spending requirements into your decision of whether to apply for a card. If you have to overspend in order to earn a sign-up bonus, then it’s not a good fit. You’re better off spending within your means to earn a small bonus than biting off more than you can chew to earn a big one.

That said, there are ways to meet minimum spending requirements by boosting the amount you charge to your card during the bonus period without actually spending more than you would overall. One strategy I use is to prepay utility, phone and insurance bills, and to buy gift cards to my local grocery store and gas station. That allows me to concentrate my spending in a tighter window, but it only works if you’re able to front those costs for a few months. You can also use a credit card to cover expenses like your rent or mortgage, tuition or even taxes; however, those transactions typically incur fees and may code as a cash advance, so do some research beforehand to make sure the payoff is worthwhile.

Related: Your guide to responsible credit card use for college students

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Greg a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Popartic/Getty Images.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.