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This strategy really is a very simple series of steps. No more skills are required to get outsized value than the ability to do a little bit of internet research, a smattering of computer data entry, and a touch of organization.


That’s right, this lesson is all about execution. It is about taking the concepts we’ve described and turning them into cold hard miles (that will eventually place you in a nearly free airline seat, flying somewhere exciting.)

So let’s begin at the beginning.

1. Filling out applications:

There is nothing magical here — just fill out the credit card applications with all the standard information (name, address, social, etc.).  After filling out the application you will probably get instant approval, or possibly a “pending” message.

If pending, don’t despair. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get denied. In fact, it can take up to 30 days to get a decision.

TIP: Since it can take time to get approved, let’s talk about application timing: Sometimes you might have large expenses coming up in the near future — this is an ideal time to plan on applying for a credit card since you can reach the minimum spending requirement with ease. Ideally, you’d give yourself a full 4 weeks to apply for and receive a new card before you have to pay for this known upcoming expense. At minimum give yourself 2-3 weeks.

TIP: If you’re instantly approved, you can often get the card expedited to you (for free) by calling the card issuer.

2. Activating your cards:

Aside from just calling the number to activate the card, it is wise to talk to an agent and do all of the following when your card arrives.

  • Set up your online account for the new card (or add the new card to an existing online account.)
  • Set the cash advance limit to zero (or as close to $0 as the bank allows).
  • Set up automatic monthly payments to avoid ever paying late fees or forgetting a due date (this can easily be done through your online login as well)
  • Confirm the time frame and the amount of the signup bonus and the required spending to reach it.  Do this in writing whenever possible. American Express (chat function) and Chase (secure message) make this easy.
  • Add the bank’s app to your phone if you have one.

Remember: The minimum spend time period starts the day you are approved. Even if you wait six weeks to activate the card, the clock starts ticking when you are approved.

3. Getting Organized:

If you like pen and paper use that, if you like your phone use that, if Excel spreadsheets are your weapons of choice, by all means do what works best for you.

An alternative method would be using Travel Freely, as they send out reminders of when your annual fee is coming up plus your 5/24 status.

To do:

  • Record the date of your applications.
  • List all of the cards you have applied for
  • List the card bonus requirements and bonus amounts
  • List the yearly fees
  • File your account passwords in a cryptic manner or use a password manager (LastPass, etc.) to securely store your login info.
  • Once you receive the bonus, record that date

And that’s pretty much it. At that point it is time to go out and earn some miles…

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.