As long as credit card sign up bonuses are the largest and easiest way to add miles and points to our account balances, I thought we’d add a weekly segment of challenges for readers and writers alike. Every week I’ll submit a hypothetical situation (until we get real reader requests) of someone’s current credit position and ask you, the reader, or writer to make a hypothetical trip happen with the least out of pocket expense based on your one batch of application card choices and corresponding sign-up bonuses. My first guinea pig was Jeremy from the home office of Internet Brands. Jeremy has never applied for a card before in his life so he was the perfect rookie to give the concept a go. His guidelines in the challenge were as follows:
- Jeremy has a credit score of 735 and has no credit cards. His good credit is the result of paying timely on student loans and a Banana Republic charge card. Jeremy owns a small eBay business so might try a business card or two. His average credit card spend is $3,000 per month.
- Jeremy’s challenge was to visit Machu Picchu and the city of Lima using coach travel, spending one night minimum in Lima, one night in Cusco, and two nights in Aguas Calientes at the base of MP. He could apply for any cards he wanted following our typical understanding of the rules of the game. (In Jeremy’s first try he applied for four Chase cards OOPS and revisions were necessary)
I’m pleased to announce that our rookie Jeremy got this trip to the mystical city of Machu Picchu with one batch of card applications on his second attempt for $179 out of pocket, plus application fees, food, and fun. If Jeremy can do it, you can to. Here is how he pulled it off:
APS: Five credit cards – Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature, Citi AAdvantage American Express, Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express, Chase Marriott Rewards Visa, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
ITINERARY OVERVIEW: I booked an American round trip ticket between Los Angeles and Lima, Peru for April 8, 2013. That night I’ll stay at the El Pardo Doubletree. On April 9, I’ll fly from Lima to Cusco on a round-trip LAN flight and stay at the JW Marriott Cusco. On April 10, I’ll take the train to Aguas Calientes and stay two nights at the Machu Picchu Grand Nature. On April 12, I’ll return to Cusco via train, return to Lima via plane, and fly out that night to Los Angeles.
TOTAL TRIP VALUE: $2,396.81
HERE’S HOW I DID IT:
April 8, 2013 – Round Trip: Los Angeles – Lima, Peru
Method: 50,000 AAdvantage Miles
- Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature– 53,000 miles total
- 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months, which I’ll payoff in the first month. Though our link advertises a 30,000 bonus offer through the links (not ours) above will take you to a 50k offer.
- Minimum of 3,000 miles after spending the minimum requirements with a base calculation of 1 mile per dollar
Explanation: My flight dates are off-peak times (which, for Peru are January 16 through June 14 and September 7 through November 14), which means I can get a round-trip MileSAAver Off-peak ticket for only 30,000 AAdvantage Miles. I’ll still need to pay the taxes and fees which are stated to be between $2.50 and $149.
Out of Pocket Cost: Taxes
April 8, 2013 – El Pardo Doubletree by Hilton
Method: 30,000 Hilton HHonors Points
- Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express– 40,000 points total
- 40,000 points on first purchase
Explanation: Opening the Hilton Surpass automatically buys me one night in Lima after an initial purchase, and gives me an additional 10,000 points to spare.
Out of Pocket Cost: $75 first year fee
April 9, 2013 – Round Trip LAN: Lima – Cusco
Method: 20,000 AAdvantage Miles
- Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature – 23,000 miles remaining
Explanation: I would fly LAN, a partner of American Airlines via the oneworld network. A one-way economy ticket between Lima and Cusco (oneworld’s South America Zone 1 to South American Zone 1) is 10,000 miles. As I have 20,000 miles remaining, I can snap up this ticket with 3,000 miles to spare. However, using the two-browser trick, I can also sign-up for the Citi AAdvantage American Express which will give me an additional 50,000 miles.
Out of Pocket Cost: $0
April 9, 2013 – JW Marriott Hotel Cusco
Method: Marriott Rewards
- Chase Marriott Rewards Visa– 50,000 points total
- 50,000 points on first purchase
Explanation: The Cusco Marriott is a Category 6 hotel, meaning it costs 30,000 points to get a free night. This leaves me with an extra 20,000 points.
Out of Pocket Cost: $0
April 10, 2013 – Round Trip Peru Rail to Aguas Caliente
Method: Pay out of pocket.
Out of Pocket Cost: $70
April 10-11, 2013 – Machu Picchu Green Nature Hotel
Method: Capital One No Hassle Miles
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – 20,000 miles total
- 10,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months, which I would fully spend.
- 2,000 miles after initial spend (2 miles per dollar)
- 8,000 miles after spending an additional $4,000.
Explanation: No Hassle Miles will reimburse hotel expenses at $0.01 per mile. In order to have this room covered I would need 20,000 miles. I already have 12,000 miles between the minimum spend and the bonus offer. In order to receive another 8,000 miles at 2 miles per dollar, I would have to spend $4,000, which I could achieve in two months.
Out of Pocket Costs: $0
April 11, 2013 – Visit Machu Picchu
Cost: 128 Peruvian Sol (roughly $50)
Method: Pay out of pocket
Out of Pocket Cost: $50
Next week’s challenge will be to Andy, our own corporate pilot writer, who will have to show up how to apply for credit cards with the goal of getting to Scandinavia!
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day we have TripAlertz who is donating $50 in Trip Cash for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (make sure to include your first name, last inital, and home airport) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.