I earn more than 1 million points and miles a year — here are the credit cards I use to rack up rewards

Choosing credit cards that align with your travel goals and spending habits is key to maximizing your points and miles earning. Lolostock/Shutterstock
  • I earn more than 1 million points and miles each year, which enables me to book travel and save on expenses.
  • I’m able to earn so many points and miles by maximizing all my spending with the right credit cards.
  • For eating out, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great pick thanks to 2x points on dining, and I use the Hilton Honours Aspire Card from American Express to rack up Hilton points and enjoy hotel benefits.
  • My strategy won’t necessarily be the same as yours – look for credit cards that offer the perks you need, and make sure it’s worth paying the annual fee.

When I tell people I earn over 1 million points every year from credit cards, I get shocked expressions and responses like, “How are you handling all of those cards?” It’s easier than you might think, and the payout in the form of miles, points, and cash back makes it well worth it.

Through a combination of credit card sign-up bonuses, strategic spending, and by leveraging category bonuses, I manage to earn over 1 million miles every year. These are the credit cards I use to get there.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

I’ve had the Chase Sapphire Preferred for over seven years – it was one of my earliest rewards credit cards. Nowadays, I mainly use this card for dining and travel bonuses, as it earns 2x points on these purchases. At some point I’ll upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, when I’m in compliance with the 5/24 rule.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back everywhere. If you have another Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card (i.e., the Chase Sapphire Preferred), you can convert your cash-back rewards to points. So essentially, this card allows me to earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. That’s incredibly valuable, considering I often use Chase Ultimate Rewards points for business-class flights and premium hotels that cost a fortune in cash.

Hilton Honours Aspire Card from American Express

I don’t think there’s a better hotel credit card out there than the Hilton Honours Aspire card. While the $US450 annual fee seems steep, I definitely get my money’s worth thanks to a variety of incredible benefits and category bonuses. For starters, the card comes with top-tier Hilton Diamond status, which entitles me to space-available room upgrades, free breakfast, club lounge access, and 100% bonus points on paid stays.

To sweeten the deal, cardholders receive up to a $US250 Hilton resort statement credit each anniversary year and up to a $US250 airline fee credit each calendar year. Priority Pass Select membership is included, along with up to a $US100 Hilton on-property credit on two-night bookings made at HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard. To me, these benefits far outweigh the $US450 annual fee, even if I only put them to use once a year.

Additionally, the Hilton Aspire card pays out 3 points per dollar spent on everyday, non-bonus category purchases, which goes quite a long way. As an additional incentive, cardholders earn an annual weekend night reward for spending $US60,000 in a calendar year.

Chase Ink Plus Business Card

The Chase Ink Plus card is no longer available to new applicants, but I’ve been using it for years to earn 5x points on cable, phone, and office supply store spending. The 5x point bonus is valid on the first $US50,000 spent in these categories, which I have yet to exceed.

If you’re looking for a similar credit card that is available to new applicants, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card offers 5% cash back on the first $US25,000 spent at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services every year (then 1% back). The card has no annual fee.

Discover it® Miles

The Discover it Miles card is a fantastic option for those who want to earn lots of rewards without thinking about category bonuses. The card pays out 1.5x miles on everything, which gets matched at the end of the first year. You earn 1.5% cash back now, while the remaining 1.5% is deposited into your rewards account at the end of the year. I earned over $US3,000 cash back during my first year and have kept the card since, mainly because it has no annual fee and a large credit limit.

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card

With airline and hotel rewards programs devaluing their points and miles regularly, incorporating cash back into your rewards strategy is key. After all, cash back can be used on anything. That can really come in handy during times when award availability is limited or travel is too cheap to justify redeeming points.

I treat my Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card like a piggy bank. While the 2% cash back I earn is primarily reserved for travel, I occasionally use it to pay for other expenses that come up throughout the year. It’s a great card and carries no annual fee.

Radisson Rewards Platinum Visa Card

The Radisson Rewards Platinum Visa Card isn’t publicly available at the moment. It was previously known as the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card, before the program rebranded to Radisson Rewards. The card earns 3 points per dollar spent and even though the annual fee is $US50, I get 25,000 bonus points every year I renew the card.

I get puzzled looks when I pull out my Radisson Rewards credit card. Radisson hotels aren’t just restricted to crumbling airport locations – the chain has over 1,100 hotels and resorts worldwide. Luxury resorts include the Radisson Blu Bali Uluwatu, Palazzo Montemartini Rome, and Hormuz Grand Muscat, to name a few.

SkyPass Visa Signature Card

This may sound random to some of you, but the U.S. Bank Korean SkyPass Card is incredibly valuable. While it only earns 1 mile per dollar spent (and 2 miles per dollar on Korean Air purchases and at gas stations and hotels), the rewards go a long way.

For starters, Korean Air’s SkyPass program only requires 80,000 miles for a round-trip business-class ticket to Europe. Considering that most airlines charge well over 115,000 miles for the same award, this is a bargain. The card may not offer much in the way of perks, but the cheap Korean SkyPass awards to Europe are reason enough for me to keep accruing these miles.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

The American Express Everyday Card has no annual fee and a few unique benefits that make it worth keeping. For starters, the card earns 2 points per dollar on the first $US6,000 spent at US supermarkets in a calendar year (then 1x).

Additionally, I earn 20% bonus points during every billing cycle when I use the card for 20 or more purchases. Not only is this a solid card for earning rewards on everyday spending, but it also generates additional cash and points through the Amex Offers program.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

The transition to Marriott Bonvoy hasn’t been smooth for a lot of people, but that’s not a reason to write off Marriott altogether. With over 7,000 Marriott hotels worldwide, Marriott points are bound to come in handy. That’s why I continue to use my Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express for regular purchases. Granted, it only earns 2 points per dollar spent, but it all adds up.

Spending $US35,000 on the card gets me Marriott Gold Elite status which, granted, is not worth the trouble but it’s still a nice bonus in addition to the points I earn. Throughout the year, the card has earned its keep thanks to some lucrative bonuses from Amex Offers. The free Boingo American Express plan is also useful during my travels.

This card is no longer open to new applicants, but the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase is.

Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Card offers some very lucrative sign-up bonuses year-round. I believe when I got the card, I was targeted for a 75,000-mile offer. The current public sign-up bonus is 50,000 miles after $US2,500 spent in 3 months. Throughout the year, I use this card primarily to earn the $US125 American Airlines Flight Discount, which requires $US20,000 worth of spending.

The real value of this card are the miles. While I do fly American Airlines enough to make the free checked bag benefit worth the annual fee, I use the miles primarily for international travel. American Airlines partners with some great international carriers like Qantas, Etihad and Cathay Pacific, to name a few.

Read more:
American vs. Delta vs. United – we compared the 3 most popular airline credit cards

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige card was my go-to for restaurant and airline spending, thanks to a 5x restaurant and air travel bonus and up to $US250 in annual airline fee credits. The 4th Night Free benefit was also very useful, though that has recently been limited to two uses per year.

Recently, Citi downgraded its purchase and travel protections. Even with 5 points per dollar spent on several bonus categories, I don’t want to lose out on travel protections so I will probably downgrade to the Citi Premier Card to avoid the increased $US495 fee. The Citi Premier Card has a lower annual fee ($US95) and earns 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants. Citi ThankYou points are incredibly valuable thanks to partners like Avianca LifeMiles and Air France-KLM Flying Blue, so at least I’ll continue to earn those rewards.

Why these cards are keepers

While my credit card rotation does change over the years, most of these cards are long-term keepers. That’s largely because they offer recurring benefits, category bonuses, or other incentives that makes paying the annual fees worthwhile. It’s important to take these factors into consideration when evaluating your own points-earning strategy in order to meet your travel goals.