Trying to plan a long term strategy, please help!

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by Mingo, Jun 25, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Mingo

    Mingo New Member

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    I'm new to the airline miles game and I'm trying to develop a solid plan for the future. I'm an incoming college freshman and don't plan on doing heavy travel until I graduate, so I have plenty of time!

    As I'm still young, I'm trying to avoid working with a ton of credit cards as I want to keep my credit steady. As the years progress I can get more, but I think I just want to get one for now, so you're suggestions would be great!

    I'm between AA and United right now. I live in Atlanta and the miles will most likely be used for international travel only - I'll just pay for any domestic flights I have to take so I can save up.

    Being in college, I wont be a heavy spender but when I do buy things I will try to use my card and shopping portals whenever necessary. However, I'm worried that miles will only trickle in, so I would love any advice you guys can give to help me to develop a plan of attack.

    Thanks in advance for your help. I really do appreciate it!
     
  2. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    I don't make even tentative travel plans more than 2 year in advance. Miles don't have a secure shelf life, and too many other things can and will change in the meantime.
     
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  3. MSYgirl

    MSYgirl Gold Member

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    Mileage earning plans can change or disappear, but you could start stockpiling miles. Using mile-earning credit cards, purchasing things through the airline's shopping portals, joining one of the dining programs, or even doing wacky things like taking surveys for e-Rewards gives you virtual money you can exchange for airline miles. You won't get elite status, but that won't matter much for 4 years anyway. If you use some of the above examples to earn miles, you could have a decent balance waiting for when you do start to travel (and hope the miles and airline is still there by then).

    If you have the money to spend, you can buy status (and get the miles that come with it) on US Airways instead of flying to get started. US is merging with AA, so they'll end up at AA in the long run.

    I travel 50% or more internationally, and I use AA. I'm not familiar enough with United to compare the two programs.
     
  4. particlemn

    particlemn Silver Member

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    My rule of thumb is you need at least 10k of spend on a card to offset the annual fee, many of the ua and aa cards come with an annual fee 75-100. I would go about it a whole different way, i would get the "fee free" chase freedom card. I would use it for all my purchases and would always use the chase UR portal for all online shopping. dont forget to sign up for the 5% quarterly bonus.
    I would not however take the cash back from the freedom card, i would instead keep the ur points and grow them over time. when you are ready to use them (hopefully in 4 years) you can apply for the chase sapphire prefered card and combine the points for transfer to united for international flights.

    all that being said if i was starting college right now i would not spend my time focusing on points but instead focusing on spending as little money on school as possible, and tryign to limit my student loans to zero. if you graduate from school with out being in the hole you will have plenty of time to collect miles and get out and see the world. many of us here whom churn these cards, do so because we have no debt.
     
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  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I think a student would have much better things to do than e-Rewards surveys.

    Bingo!
     
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  6. Mingo

    Mingo New Member

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    Thanks to everyone for your replies!

    Yeah I think I'm going to try and do all those things (albeit with only one card) and hopefully I'll start to built up enough that I can actually do something with them, thanks for the suggestions :)

    Luckily I am going to an in-state school and got good aid so I will likely finish off college debt free. I agree that a free card is probably best, so thanks for your suggestion, I'll definitely look into that one.

    Haha yeah you're probably right on that one, I'm going to avoid that method if possible. You never know though, I guess.
     
  7. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Enjoying your life as a student is important. Doing e-rewards for pennies an hour is not. Or otherwise obsessing about miles and points. Study or do whatever students do these days. Once you have a boring job with lots of conference calls, you can find time for mileage-earning activities. ;)
     
  8. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    I think the Chase Freedom idea is a good one. Fee free, low credit score requirements, and lets you score bonuses in different categories over the year if you register for them each quarter. And later, coupled with a Sapphire card, will allows transfers to United Miles.

    If you want to build up AA Miles, the only game in town is Citi. You could apply for the current AA VISA 50K offer that's about to be pulled, but I don't know how likely it is that you'll get it.

    You can of course apply for an Amex Bluebird and play those games, esp for paying bills you can't pay by credit card or for manufactured spend when the Bluebird happens to have the right categories (grocery stores sell gift cards, drugstores sell gift cards, office supply stores sell gift cards, etc).
     
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  9. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    Having been a student for a very long time, I tend to warn students away from diving too deeply into miles for a couple of reasons:

    Its hard to get approved for the good sign-up bonuses without a solid credit history
    I would guess that as a college freshman, you have a short credit history (or none at all). Add on top of that, many credit cards have minimum income requirements these days. Thus you're not likely to be approved for a card with an annual fee anyway.

    College students aren't likely to spend enough to make up for annual fees
    Also, keep in mind, that most college students' annual spending is going to be quite low (unless you can pay your tuition on a credit card without having to fork over extra fees). You would have to spend ~$6,250/year in college in order to have enough points for a domestic flight when you graduate. During that time you would have paid 4 annual fees, a total of $350-400 depending on the card. That's barely breaking even, in my mind. The equation may change slightly in your favor if you fly a couple times each year as well - but its going to be tough to get enough miles for a J or F ticket at graduation based on spending alone.

    Everything will change after you graduate
    Keep in mind, that if you relocate for a job, then AA or UA might not be the best carrier for you anymore - or worse, may not even serve your closest airport. It would be terrible to invest all of your college flying/spend in one carrier, only to find out it's useless once you move for a job. I recently moved for a new job, and even though I only relocated 150 miles, it made a lot of sense for me to switch from UA to AS, based on schedules, price, status earning, and my expected spending patterns.

    My advice: College is for Experimentation
    You could ask our opinions of AA vs UA (and its a good strategy to target the non-hub carriers in ATL), but the best way to decide is to form your own opinion. So, fly the cheapest fare each time and fly on a bunch of different carriers - see which one you like the best, or which one fits your schedule the best.

    Try to learn the basic rules of all of the different FF programs, to see which one might fit your projected spending profile, reward types, and whether your flight patterns will enable you to earn status or not, etc.

    Get a couple no-fee credit cards with different banks, and focus on building a solid credit history with each bank. To do that, you've got to use the card, but also pay it off on time every month. Chase pairs with UA, so the Freedom card mentioned above is a good one. Maybe also try to get a free card from Citi (AA), and possibly a no-fee Amex (DL). Even if you don't end up flying with UA, your relationship with Chase can help you get a hotel card with a nice bonus (Sapphire, or Marriott, etc) - same with Citi or Amex as well.

    This way you'll be able to hit the ground running in whatever program works the best for you, as soon as you graduate. Maybe during your senior year - once you have a good idea where your future is headed, and you've built a good credit history - you can pull an App-O-Rama, rake in the bonus miles, and take an awesome trip in J or F as a graduation present.

    Most important advice:
    -Study hard!
    -Pay your bills on time, and don't carry a balance!

    Hope that's helpful.
     
  10. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    Everyone has great advice, I mean, really, great, advice... I'll offer a little more (because, hey, its worth the price of admission).

    - On earning miles - If you think you can play the "manufactured spend" game - give it a shot, don't go crazy, but right now you probably have more free time than you will after college. That said, I think the consensus is: Ultimate Rewards Points. That will give you flexibility in airlines and hotels. Especially given some of the changes where seeing as recently as last week with United.

    - On travel - I think you're selling yourself short here. Remember, College has lots of breaks, lots of classes you can miss for uh... sickness (aka a long weekend overseas). I got out of undergrad with a few countries under my belt and four trips to Hawaii, and I didn't even really play the mileage game very strongly. If you can generate the miles through some of the means that others have identified, try to travel, take advantage of a semester abroad if you can. That was perhaps my greatest regret.

    - On College - The other side of it, that I think yaychemistry probably touched on the closest - College is indeed for experimentation. But don't just limit yourself to building relationships with credit card companies. There are a lot of members on here that have built a lot more out of their college time. I think Lucky is a great example. But, there are others. User your free time while you're in college to (1) enjoy yourself, but (2) try to find innovative ways to leverage your passions and skills (and if they happen to be involved in miles and points, so much the better). That'll give you the running start that you'll want when you approach graduation.

    just my 2 miles...
     
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  11. Mingo

    Mingo New Member

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    Thanks again everybody!

    Agreed, it seems like the best option; I think it is the one I am going to go with.

    Yeah, I understand. This definitely isn't going to be my main focus in college, I just wanted to get started with it a little bit now so that they can build up little by little over time.

    Thanks for taking all that time to outline everything, I really appreciate it. :) I do have some credit, but not much. That is another reason for doing this, I want to build up my credit a little more. And I plan on joining honors, so I'll definitely do my fair share of studying haha.


    Yes I plan on doing a little bit with this. I have to look into it further, but I believe that I can use a credit card to load up my student card up to $10,000 and they will give me a check with what I don't use. So that could be 10,000 miles right there.

    You're story really is motivational, I would love to travel like that whilst in college! And yes, study abroad is definitely something I will do at least once; I can't wait! I'm definitely going to try to find a balance in my school life - miles will only be a small part of what I'll be going after, but I'm going to try and get as many as I can!
     
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