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Dear Reader,

This week, I sent you two strategies for making more money from your articles and/or photos while working less… leaving time for you to have more fun (Mai Tais optional).

Today’s issue is a little different. It’s from reader Cameron Brick, who used a strategy he found online to fly himself and his girlfriend — first class — to Costa Rica. Then he flew himself and his brother to Alaska. The flights were free — all he paid was the tax.

Find out how Cameron gained 200,000 air miles without flying anywhere. And how you can do the same, below…

— Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

Credit Card Churning: How To Earn 200,000 Air Miles In Six Months

By Cameron Brick in Portland, OR

Sipping my complimentary pinot noir in the American Airlines’ Admirals Club, I was excited about my business-class flight to Costa Rica. Besides the $60 I paid in taxes to book the flight for both myself and my girlfriend, the flight was free. I “paid” for it with air miles… air miles I collected without stepping foot on a plane. (More on that in a minute.)

First, let me give credit where credit is due… I found this mile-earning technique on Chris Guillebeau’s website, The Art of Nonconformity.

I took Chris’ idea. And with a little organization and patience, I have now treated myself and two friends to two huge trips…

First, my girlfriend and I were excited about the beaches of Costa Rica, so I found front-of-the-plane tickets from Portland, OR for 60,000 miles each on American Airlines. We had never flown first- or business-class before, so we were quite pleased with our comfy seats and complimentary champagne.

And then the following week, I took my brother to Alaska, also using airline miles, on around 35,000 miles each.

In total, I “spent” 190,000 miles and about $75 in taxes for four flights. And these were all miles I earned without ever stepping foot on a plane.

How did I do it? I did it by carefully opening new credit cards.

Now wait, I know. I know. The economy’s in the dumps and here I am drinking champagne from my first-class seat on a free flight to Costa Rica with my girlfriend… paid for by opening up new credit cards I clearly plan to cancel after I benefit from their rewards.

But for me, it was now or never. And really, I just wanted to see if it would work. So I jumped on the opportunity. (If it’s not right for you, simply don’t read any further.)

Here’s how I did it…

I’m sure you’ve heard of “bonus mile” offers where you can get bonus miles by signing up for an airline’s credit card.

Well, the most lucrative offers are Citibank’s American Airlines cards. They come with 25,000 or 30,000 bonus miles per card, and you can open three different versions of the card (MasterCard, American Express, and Business Account if you have a business).

And here’s something else about these cards that makes them the best cards to start this adventure with — it’s called credit card churning. Credit card churning means you can close the card after you get the bonus miles, wait 60 days, and then apply again for the same card. It’s legal. And it works. (Note: Only the Citibank American Airline cards allowed me to do this. Not all airline credit cards will work the same.)

So I earned 120,000 miles in six months on American Airlines just by opening the MasterCard and American Express cards above, spending at least $750, paying them off, and closing them. And that 120,000 miles paid for my first-class flight to Costa Rica. (Another note: I took six months because I wasn’t in a hurry to spend $750 so I just waited until my everyday expenses like groceries and gas added up. I suspect you could complete the whole process yourself in as little as seven weeks.)

Where did my Alaska flight come from?

The other 80,000 miles came from cards I opened with Delta, Northwest, and Alaska Airlines. Delta and Northwest are merging, so my miles could be combined. They’re all part of the same Sky Team Alliance.  The trick is to find cards that waive their annual fee for the first year. As long as you close it before then, the bonus miles are yours to keep for free.

If you’d like to try credit card churning, here are a few things to be aware of:

** In most cases, you must be approved for a card and spend a minimum amount to activate the miles ($750 for the Citibank cards, only a single purchase for Delta or Alaska).

** Keep in mind that opening new credit will slightly reduce your credit score. My credit started high, and after opening six cards, fell eight points. Your results may vary.

** As soon as your free miles post to your account, and your card is paid off, cancel the card. Since “termination specialists” will no doubt try to convince you to stay, it’s easiest to manage your accounts online and also cancel online.

** If you open, use, and close one of the Citibank American Airlines cards, reapply 65 days after your most recent application.

** Fly to Costa Rica first-class by credit card churning. I recommend it. See you at the front of the plane!

Further Resources:

Credit card churning:

Strategy on Chris Guillbeau’s site, The Art of Nonconformity
Credit card churning

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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