How I Earned Just Under $14,000 In The First Quarter Using Miles & Points

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Turning Points Into Cash

I have burned my points stash completely to the ground a few different occasions now. The first time was early in the pandemic when cancellations were piling up and my points balance was ballooning past where I needed it to be. I decided to reset the game so to speak and use the chance to squirrel away some money. Turning points into cash didn’t feel as dirty as I thought it would either, it is something everyone seems to be warming up to as well. With the constant devaluation of award charts, and the increase of cash out values for points, the difference in value between the two isn’t the Grand Canyon sized gap it once was.

Taking all of this into account I decided to cash out all of my points again at the end of last year. I had enough airline miles and hotel points to last a year or two and could use the money for large medical bills that just started rolling in. I also made earning a part of my 2022 miles and points resolutions and goals. My plan was to make $15,000 in extra income by using the tips and tricks we share here at Miles to Memories. That is what I am going to focus on today.

Turning Points Into Cash: First Quarter Update

With the first quarter just wrapped up I figured I would give an update on my progress. The results have been pretty fantastic so far and exceeded my expectations for sure. We discussed it on this week’s podcast recording (releases Thursday) and figured I would give more detail in writing.

Everything that is discussed in this article was earned in the 2022 calendar year. These are figures that include both my wife and myself. Some of the offers were accepted towards the end of December 2021 but if it posted this year then I counted it towards the goal.  I used a mix of bank bonuses, welcome offers, referral bonuses, authorized user offers, shopping portals and retention offers. I did not include the cost of the annual fees from the credit cards since most offer perks to offset them and everyone will value that differently. Every single card I grabbed has no annual fee or is actually a net positive in year one for me anyway. An example is the Business Platinum cards that will net me $600 in Dell credits, $400 in airline incidental credits and $120 in cell phone credits for $695, or a net positive of $425 in year one. How you value those credits will adjust the figures some though.

There are no taxes deducted from these figures either. Most of it is not taxable but some of it, like bank bonuses, will be so you can account some for that too.

A part of my goal was to replenish my Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards balance throughout the year as well. I was shooting for around 150,000 – 200,000 points in each account. I’ll update my balances there as well.

The Numbers

I will go through this section by section and give a breakdown of where everything came from.

Bank Bonuses

Here are the bank bonus offers I completed so far this year:

Total $1600

End of Year Checklist: Temporary Credit Card Perks to Use or Lose

Welcome Offers / Upgrade Offers

This is where a large chunk of the damage was done. A lot of it was focused on American Express just because of the offers they have been throwing around right now. I cashed out the Membership Rewards points at 1.1 cents each with our Charles Schwab Platinum cards.

Total $8065

Authorized User Offers

American Express has been very liberal with their valuable authorized user offers. These are offers where you add a authorized user on your account, usually for no extra cost, and they earn you a bonus when they spend a required amount. The Business Gold cards have offered some cardholders 20,000 points per authorized user for up to 99 of them. I didn’t have that offer but we had quite a few.

  • EveryDay Preferred – 5,000 MR x $0.011 = $55
  • American Express Gold – 10,000 MR x $0.011 = $110
  • Amex Business Gold – 20,000 MR x $0.011 = $220
  • Amex Platinum – 20,000 MR x $0.011 = $220

Total $605

Source: Cardless.com.

Regular Spend

This is a conglomerate of earnings from regular spend or spend towards the welcome offers.

  • Cardless (x2 accounts) – $150
  • Citi Premier – $250
  • Amex Business Platinum min spend – 25,000 MR x $0.011 = $275
  • Amex Business Gold Gas Station Spend – 40,000 MR x $0.011 = $440
  • Discover 5% back (x2) = $150
  • US Bank Triple Cash = $60
  • US Bank Altitude Connect = $65
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards = $45

Total $1435

Retention Offers

This is a quick one. I had a profitable retention offer on our Hilton Business card. They gave us $130 more than the annual fee on the card. This will come into play more in next quarter.

Total $130

American Express Business Platinum Benefits Guide - Over 30 Perks

Refer A Friend Bonuses

Having a two player system opens up some refer a friend opportunities.  We were able to take advantage of a few of these this quarter. The Cardless referral program is pretty good as well and I was able to get one from when Benjy signed up and then a few from the site as well.

  • Independent Bank (bank bonus referral) = $100
  • Amex Blue Cash – 30,000 MR x $0.011 = $330
  • Cardless – 6 x $100 = $600
  • Discover = $100

Total $1130

Shopping Portals / Swagbucks

This area is a mish mash of different programs but the main focus was Swagbucks this quarter. There were a lot of lucrative offers we took advantage of.

  • Varo Swagbucks Offer – $120
  • Top Cash Back Cash Out – $33
  • Rakuten 1st Quarter – 13000 MR x $0.011 = $143
  • Uber Eats First Delivery Offer (x2) = $450
  • Raid Shadows Offer = $55
  • Dosh Cashback = $35.48
  • Stash Offer (x2) = $98

Total $934.48

Turn Points Into Cash: Grand Total

If you add all of those areas up you come to a grand total of $13,899.48. That is 92.6% of the way towards my yearly goal. I guess my goal wasn’t so good after all!

Things will likely slow down in the second and third quarter a bit with the kids off school a majority of the time. That always makes hopping around to stores etc. more difficult. Plus, I am pretty exhausted from the rat race so I am looking forward to slowing down for the summer.  The grind has worn on me for sure.

This isn’t to say that there are not people out there that did a ton more in the first quarter, because there are, quite a few in the MtM Diamond Lounge. Hopefully this does show you what can be possible if you take advantage of things coming your way.

What About Liquidation / Acquisition Costs?

Acquisition and liquidation costs should also be discussed.  There were some fees associated with all of this (outside of credit card fees) and that total is in the $750 range. That drops down the net profit to just above $13,000. There was a profitable play, that we discussed in the Diamond group, which helped me offset quite a bit of my fees. Otherwise this number would have been quite a bit higher.

Current Point Balances

Part of this goal was having a nice little chunk of points in my accounts at the end of it all too. The rebuild must happen since my airline and hotel points won’t last forever. You may have noticed that nothing from Chase was discussed above, which was by design. I have been focusing on rebuilding my Ultimate Rewards balance right from the jump. They are much more difficult to rack up in bunches because of application rules etc. so I haven’t cashed in any UR points. I have a little over 100,000 in my account now. Those were acquired from our 3 Freedom cards and the first quarter 5% back category (22,500 points). The 6,000 point big spend bonus on our Flex card also posted this year so that was added in as well. The rest came from spend at pharmacies with the Flex and from my Ink Plus card.

Our Membership Rewards balance is pretty bare since we have cashed most everything out. We have a little over 30,000 in there now, most of which came from the latest Pay Over Time offer. This should be pretty healthy at the end of next quarter with the current retention and welcome offers we have in the works. Once that account is padded we will go back to cashing anything new out.

Cashing Out Points: Final Thoughts

If this type of thing interests you then we talk about all of it on our twice a month spending podcast in the Diamond group. We go into detail which cards we are using, how we are using them and how to keep our costs down while earning.

I also discuss the topic a bit on this week’s MtM Podcast so be sure to check that out as well if you listen to podcasts at all.

Pretty much everything listed in this article was covered on Miles to Memories / discussed on the podcast and a majority of it was available to everyone. All you have to do is stay on top of it and you can have a nice little side hustle. The extra money can help with unexpected costs, boost your retirement or savings accounts or save it to go all out on that next trip.

I already have some good things lined up for the second quarter so stay tuned!

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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16 COMMENTS

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Annual fees are omitted
    A business Platinum140k offer after the annual fee (and used rebates) will not be 1540
    Subtract 695 – add 200 airfare on UA travel bank and 120 wireless = 1200
    Still a good chunk bit not the full haul you advertise above

    • Business Platinum – $695 annual fee.
      $600 in Dell credits ($200 now, $200 after June, $200 after Jan 1st).
      $120 in Wireless credits
      $400 in Airline costs ($200 now, $200 Jan 1st)

      $425 positive X 2 cards for $850 positive. So I am not sure where you see that I am not coming out ahead?

      • Mark,

        I get where you’re coming from with all of the credits, but expiring credits aren’t cash and haven’t factored in opportunity costs of making the same spend with a card that could earn more points on that spend. Also, an article about all of the cash you made without factoring in the AFs seems misleading at best.

        I have 3 biz platinums, 3 personal platinums and 2 personal gold between myself and my P2 so I understand what expiring credits look like. Though I’m generally pretty good about using them, I’ve occasionally forgotten and the value of those credits is ZERO when that happens. I’ve also remembered to use them, but I never used the $200 southwest credit before it expired so I basically got 5x points from booking the flight. I can certainly get value from many of these credits but there is no way they are even close to worth their full face value.

        • Sally as I put in the article all of these cards were in year one where it is easy to come out as an extreme net positive and I did that myself. I said you would need to adjust for your situation. I book Delta flights with my airfare credits so they never go to waste, I buy Microsoft gift cards with the Biz Platinum credits that I use for Xbox Live and to buy Microsoft products like a Surface pro for my son.

          On the two Business Platinum’s $1400 in annual fees I will get $1200 in Dell credit (over $1300 in microsoft credit since the gift cards are 10% off) since I can get it 3 times for each card in year one. $800 in airline credits between the two cards (twice each in year one). $240 in wireless credits and all of the other perks. I could have put an extra $1000 to my figures right there because that is all good as cash to ME. Why I said you have to do your own figures there. The annual fees were overwhelmingly positive to me because they were in year 1. Most of the cards listed had a waived fee or none at all too. Bank of America Premium card $95 annual fee and I will get $200 in American Airlines gift cards that I could sell for $160 or more…even more profit. That would just complicate everything and then I would get comments saying I pumped up those numbers instead of comments saying I was being deceptive leaving them out. So I couldn’t win and I tried to make it as easy to follow as possible instead.

          As for opportunity cost it is greatly misunderstood in this space. It is used as a decision making tool, it isn’t a real cost. Almost all of the spend was towards a bonus, retention offer, or authorized user bonus. It was also done in categories of bonus earning on top of that (Biz Gold at gas station for 4X earning PLUS welcome offer etc.) so that doesn’t play a role here. I got the best return possible so no opportunity cost was lost.

          • Mark,

            I’m not saying the credits have no value but taking them at face value is certainly not correct either. Would you be buying the surface pro for your kid if you didn’t have the credits? If so, would you be buying it from Dell? If so, would you have a 6 month window in which you could make the purchase and would you want to use your biz platinum or a card that earns at least 2x?

          • Sally,

            It all depends on the person, like I said above. The airline credits are 100% to me. I earn 5X on them and get full value buying a Delta flight I would have paid for every time. Wireless saves me money and I don’t have to put the full bill on the card. There is $520 at 100% value the first year. Then I have $600 in Dell credits. Even if you discount them 25% that is still overwhelmingly positive for the first year and would actually add to my “profit”. I decided to leave it out to keep it clean.

            As I said I use the Dell credits to buy Microsoft gift cards at 10% off and then load them to my Microsoft accounts so I am not really losing much there when I buy the items I want anyway (or pay for Xbox live).

            That is how I value them, everyone has to do their own calculations but there is no doubt that I made money on these cards in year one as explained in the article and why I also explained why I left them out of the article.

            To call that misleading is downright wrong.

  2. As horrendous as Biden Inflation is killing us (and it appears he’s just going to double down and keep spending us all into oblivion) I’m not sure trading points for cash is all that great of a trade. Even considering the recent devaluation of all the rewards programs, I’m thinking Biden’s devaluing of the dollar is and could be worse.

    • It all depends on your situation. I know I can replace them before I really need them. But others that can’t earn as much will want to hold onto them etc. Both ways work depending on your personal situation and your balances etc.

    • Instead of crying about inflation, do something about it. Inflation is just about always happening. Your points are always subject to inflation. Invest it into something that makes inflation work for you.

    • There will be a 1099 for the bank / investment bonuses and for some of the referral bonuses. But for credit card points cashed out there isn’t anything tax wise since it is a rebate on spending.

  3. Wow super impressive, congrats! I was only in the $1k range from +4 Amex referral and some AA bonuses, which are not quite equivalent to cash in the ways yours was. Probably another $1k earned but won’t pay out until Q2 so I wouldn’t count that, on Amex 140k offer to upgrade back to Amex biz and US Bank Reserve bonus when we hit it.

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