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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Jake, who scored a massive return from a home construction project:

We just went through a large insurance claim for a kitchen remodel due to a leak. Our insurance was reimbursing us for construction costs, meals during the loss of our kitchen, and a hotel while we couldn’t be in the home. Our contractor also surprised us when he said he would accept credit cards! Based on this reimbursement deal, I started working out how I could maximize our spending.

I immediately got the Capital One Spark Cash for Business card, which I used for the construction costs. I was able to put $50,000 of spending on it to earn a total of $3,000 in cash back between the increased sign-up bonus [at the time] and regular earning rate. My wife and I then each got the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card for construction expenses above the $50,000 threshold, which earned us a combined 170,000 Ultimate Rewards points. I put restaurant expenses on our Chase Sapphire Reserve card for the 3x earnings on dining, which earned us 27,000 more Ultimate Rewards points.

Next, we got the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard and picked up 74,000 AAdvantage miles. Finally, we chose a Marriott Residence Inn to stay at during the construction, so we opened both personal and business versions of a Marriott Bonvoy card. Between the sign-up bonuses and points earned from spending at the hotel, we picked up 520,000 Bonvoy points, along with Bonvoy Platinum Status (39 hotel nights plus 15 from the Amex card).

In exchange for all those points, we paid two annual fees of $95 (on the Chase Ink cards) for a total of $190 out of pocket. These points will be put to good use, starting with a family trip to Hawaii next year!

An easy way to maximize a large expense is to take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses. Jake’s home repair is an extreme example because of the high dollar amount and the fact that he was being reimbursed, but it illustrates the return you can get from those bonuses even on a smaller scale. A card that earns 2% cash back (a good baseline for everyday spending) would have netted Jake and his wife well over $1,000. That sounds good until you compare it to their massive haul of rewards, which I would value at nearly $8,000 even without the bonuses and earnings from their extended Marriott stay. If you know you’ll be making a large purchase in the near future, start thinking about which credit card (or cards) you can get to put that spending to work.

Signing up for six cards in such a short span may seem like a lot, but it’s a viable approach so long as you can meet the spending requirements responsibly and you’re not up against any application restrictions. Getting several cards at once can drag down the average age of your accounts, and you can expect your credit score to drop a few points for each hard inquiry. But it will rebound with time, and the long-term effect isn’t much different if you spread those applications out over a longer period. Jake and his wife story also shows the benefits of approaching award travel as a team.

Related: Can You Have Too Many Credit Cards?

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 Jake a $200 airline 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; 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 krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images.

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