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Mapping Out the First Three Years of Applications, Year 1
The other day I was dreaming about the good old days of no rules and millions of miles! I was daydreaming about how easy things used to be. Then I started thinking about what it would be like to enter the hobby today. I decided to give it a try!
This won’t be a 100% starter guide since I will be using the knowledge I already have to maximize my return. But I am not planning on going as hard with the applications as I normally would.
I think of this as a fun, thought provoking exercise that may help out new people in the hobby as well. Join in on the fun with me in the comments section and let me know how you would lay out your first year if you were starting from scratch.
I am making some assumptions here. There is the assumption that I have some kind of small business, reselling on eBay etc. I am also going to base my decisions somewhat on my personal situation. Another assumption is that I have a good credit score in the 700’s and I am able to properly manage my credit and pay off my statements in full. Lastly, I am going to assume that I have had 0 credit inquiries in the past 24 months.
This will not be a one size fits all answer, since everyone has different situations and needs. The decisions I make will be determined by the goals I set forth.
Every year you should lay out your goals for the next 18-24 months so you have an idea of what kind of miles and points you need to collect. There is no point in getting 75,000 Delta Skymiles because it is an all time high offer if you can not use them.
My goals for this exercise will be as follows:
- Earn a Companion Pass – this is the most valuable perk in the travel industry in my opinion.
- Focus on staying under Chase’s 5/24 rule for 2 years.
- Maintain the Companion Pass for 4 years.
- Get a mix of other airline miles for a trip to Europe since Southwest is limited with international travel.
- Stockpile points for Hyatt and SPG/Marriott hotel stays. These are two of the better hotel programs and with the addition of Marriott they cover almost anywhere you go.
First Year of Applications
Now that I have laid out the ground rules and goals let’s get to the good stuff! Here is a list of the cards I would get in the first year with their sign up bonus info. I will list the card name and the time of year I would apply for it:
- Southwest Plus – January 2018
- This card currently comes with a signup bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after $2000 in spend within the first 3 months. It has an annual fee of $69.
- Southwest Business Card – April 2018
- The card currently comes with a signup bonus of 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months. It comes with a $99 annual fee.
- SPG Personal Card – July 2018
- Earn 25,000 SPG points after $3,000 in spend within 3 months. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
- American Express Personal Platinum – October 2018
- I would only get this card if the 100,000 Membership Rewards point offer was available. I am slotting it here but it is a take it whenever you can get it type of offer. The annual fee is $550. For that annual fee I would get $400 in airline incidentals the first cardmember year and $200 in Uber credits.
This would put my 5/24 count at 3 for the year. It would be 3 instead of 4 because most business cards do not count towards 5/24 status, including Chase’s own business cards. With 3 personal cards and 1 business cards in 2018 I use up 3 valuable slots.
Why I Chose These Cards & In This Order
To get the Companion Pass (CP) from Southwest you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in the same calendar year. Once that is achieved you get the CP for the remainder of that calendar year and for the following calendar year. Sign up bonuses happen to count towards the 110,000 point threshold. This would net me 52,000 miles when the minimum spend is complete, or 47% of the way to my goal.
I started with the personal card instead of the business card because I wanted to get the clock started on the 5/24 countdown. This will allow me to get the card again in early 2020 when it drops off of the 5/24 count. This wouldn’t occur if I went with the business version first. And I chose the Plus version over the Premier version because they have the same bonus but the Plus comes with a lower annual fee.
Southwest Business Card
The Southwest Business card would get me the rest of the way to my companion pass. After completing the $3,000 in minimum spend I would earn a total of 63,000 Rapid Rewards miles. This would put my total at 115,000 Rapids Rewards points worth over $1700. The sign up bonus would also earn me a companion pass for the rest of 2018 and all of 2019!
I could combine this application with the personal Southwest card, in January, with the hope that Chase would combine the hard pull. I decided not to because Chase has been cracking down some on double applications, so it wasn’t worth it to me.
SPG Personal Card
I went with the personal version of the SPG card because the rumor is that it will be phased out sometime in 2018. The business version is rumored to be sticking around longer so I would put that off until 2019.
SPG points are valuable for hotel stays or airline transfers. Many believe that it is the most valuable Hotel Card offered.
Most importantly this would give me a break from Chase. Chase is starting to crack down on multiple applications over a short period of time.
Hopefully the offer would be increased to 30 or 35,000 SPG points by this time too.
American Express Personal Platinum
The 100,000 Membership Rewards American Express Platinum offer is a take it whenever you can get it type of offer. I slotted it here but if it became available earlier I would jump on it then. If I was unable to get the 100k offer during the first year I would slot one of the cards from year two here instead.
100,000 point sign up bonus offers are very rare these days. That amount of Membership Rewards points would be very valuable for international travel. These points would get me to places Southwest Airlines does not go.
The flexibility of MR points, along with the large bonus, make this a no brainer. The perks you get with the card are valuable and plentiful too.
After completing the minimum spend on these particular cards I would have earned the following:
- 115,000 Rapid Rewards points worth $1725
- The Companion Pass
- 30,000 SPG points worth $600
- 103,000 Membership Rewards points worth $1650
- $400 in airline incidentals
- $200 in Uber credits
- Priority Pass membership
- Centurion lounge access
- Delta lounge access
I would have paid the following annual fees:
- $69 Southwest Plus card
- $99 Southwest Business card
- $550 American Express Platinum Card
That is a pretty substantial discount on your travel for the first year.
After the first year I gathered a large amount of valuable points, kept my 5/24 count manageable, and gained a lot of the best perks in the travel industry. I am still on pace to accomplish all of my goals over the final 2 years of the exercise.
Let me know in the comments section what you would do differently. What would your first year look like? Would you burn up your Chase 5/24 spots right away or would you try to double down on the Companion Pass?
Hope you enjoyed the article and I hope to see you next week for Year 2!
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