Last year, I blogged about how I redeemed a Singapore Airlines Suites ticket to Zurich. Since then, I’ve been getting requests to blog about more tips and tactics anyone could use to earn miles and redeem them for free flights.
Let’s start with this basic, open secret: You earn the most miles on the ground, not in the air.
A lot of people believe that to earn lots of miles, they need to be a sexy jetsetter, flying around twice a week in a suit and a TUMI bag, like George Clooney in Up In The Air.
Nooooope. Airline miles are not like one of those “Buy 10 bowls of ramen and get 1 free!” deals you see everywhere. If you’ve done some basic research, you’ll realise that most of your miles can be earned not from flying, but from things you already spend on.
Specifically, travel hackers often get most of their miles from (gasp!) credit cards.
If you’re new to the miles game, Imma talk to you today about the first card you could get. It’s the card that I started with, and it still remains one of my favourite mileage cards.
But first, let’s take a step back and talk about strategy:
How Do I Earn Miles If I’m Lazy?
Like investing, the mileage game depends entirely on how
obsessed hardworking you are.
An OCMF (Out of Control Miles Freak) will scour FlyerTalk, set up mistake fare alerts, use ITA to scour airline availabilities, and generally spend most of his waking life figuring out how to beat the system. It’s a fun game and incredibly rewarding, and some Americans have even made a career out of it. However, it’s also a lot of work.
Personally, I don’t want to spend 2 hours a day researching how to save $400 on flights. I have a life, so I prefer setting up a simple, basic system that helps me earn miles in the background without much effort.
Here it is:
- Use my credit cards for everything
- Pay my annual fees every year
If you’re curious about #2, I wrote a post last year on why paying your annual fee is one of the best ways to get a Business Class ticket as quickly as possible.
However, things get tricky when you start juggling multiple cards. The more cards you have, the more accounts you have to manage, the more bills you have to track, and the more complex the system becomes.
I don’t like complexity because I have a tendency to go too far down the rabbit hole. I often waste far too much time over-optimizing, at the expense of time spent with my family, career and this blog.
So if I could go back in time and pick just ONE card that would give me 80 percent of the results, which card would I get?
Your First Mileage Credit Card Should Be…
… The Citibank PremierMiles Visa (CPMV) Card
The CPMV is like your best buddy from secondary school: He’s always around, super flexible, super reliable, and totally chill. He’s not the best at any particular area, but he’s a Jack-of-All-Trades. Occasionally, he might even surprise you.
Why do I recommend this card as your first mileage card? Let me count the ways:
1.2 miles per dollar spent on anything
These days, 1.2 miles per dollar spent is the basic requirement for all mileage credit cards. Anything lower than that is a terrible deal.
On the surface, some cards like the DBS Visa Altitude or the UOB PRVI Miles might offer 1.2 or 1.4 miles per dollar spent respectively. However, these are often given out in blocks of $5 (say, 6 miles for every $5 spent). That means if you spend $6, you’re not earning miles on your last $1.
The CPMV, on the other hand, is straightforward: Spend on anything, get 1.2 miles for every dollar spent. Not the highest rate in town, but way more flexible than most other cards.
Miles don’t expire
Nothing infuriates me more than having reward points expire before I can use them. So the fact that CPMV’s miles don’t expire is schweeeeet, because you can take your time to build up enough miles for a free ticket (or even shoot for Business or First Class).
The CPMV gets you a complimentary Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to Priority Pass lounges worldwide twice a year.
Personally, I wasn’t super impressed with the Priority Pass lounge in Singapore. It’s a nice new lounge, but with limited F&B and I couldn’t find any free alcohol (which immediately made me sad).
Still, Priority Pass lounges overseas might have better offerings, and it’s always nice to be able to relax, chill out, use the wifi and eat free food before your flight. Sure beats hanging out at some greasy airport fast food restaurant.
I wouldn’t pick a card for its promotions, because these can change at any time. However, Citi has some pretty sweet deals going for it right now, including 6 miles per dollar spent on Agoda (until 31 Dec) and Expedia (until 31 Jan). And an unbeatable mileage deal of ten (10!!) miles per dollar spent at Kaligo.
The Jack-Of-All-Trades Philosophy
Personally, I use a whole spectrum of credit cards (including this one) to earn miles, because I have the systems in place to manage them. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
However, if I could only pick one, I’d probably pick the Citibank PremierMiles Visa card. It’s by far the most straightforward, flexible, and robust card out of the ones I’ve come across.
Yes, it’s not the “best” card in any given area, but it’s easily a 7/10 across the board.
Now, think about the wider applications of this principle. Our lives are already complicated as it is – we don’t need to stress ourselves even further by trying to optimize our bank accounts, investments, technologies, etc.
Sometimes, all we need is a good Jack-Of-All-Trades tool that performs decently well in multiple areas. For example:
- My bank account doesn’t have the best interest rate, but it rocks on convenience, technology, UX, and has a decent interest rate
- The iPhone doesn’t have as many features as Samsung, but it performs decently well on my most frequent activities (surfing, email, texting, not exploding)
- Index investing will never be the star performer in any given year, but over the long run it beats 80-90% of investment professionals
Sometimes, it’s not about optimizing each and every area, but about finding tools which ante up the overall level of awesomeness with the least effort.
Which parts of your life would benefit from the Jack-Of-All-Trades Philosophy, and what tools can you use to get there?
Again, this is not a sponsored post and I have no affiliation with Citibank. I always do my best to fact-check the content, but if you spot an error please email me and let me know.