Credit card success stories

My biggest credit card success story (which could be yours, too)

I’m always on the lookout for great credit card offers. In fact, that’s my job. I’ve earned big miles from credit cards — my family and I almost always fly business or first class and we never pay for the privilege.

So allow me to share one of the most attractive offers in recent years, and how my family leveraged it for tens of thousands of dollars worth of rewards. Then, I’ll let you know how you can do it, too.

BA 100K

BA 100K isn’t a secret code word, it’s just shorthand for the British Airways (BA) credit card offered by Chase. What’s special about it: a sign-up bonus of 100,000 miles.

The standard airline credit card offer has always been 25,000 miles — enough for one domestic, round-trip award ticket in coach. In recent years, some airlines have offered as many as 50,000 miles, which could be worth as much as $1,000 in airfare.

So when BA and Chase offered 100,000 miles, I jumped on this deal.

Even better, I learned the quirky Brits have set up their frequent-flier program differently that their competitors in the States. Our domestic airlines limit mileage awards to a particular region — say, 25,000 miles for flights in North America, or flights between North America and Europe for a fixed price. On the other hand, BA uses a chart that offers different award prices based on the distance you fly.

This chart doesn’t save you any miles when flying to London, but it can be extremely valuable when you use miles for shorter flights on BA’s partners, such as American, US Airways, and Alaska. For example, flights under 650 miles can be ticketed by redeeming just 4,500 award miles.

Another benefit of this credit card is that travelers receive a “Travel Together” companion certificate when they spend $30,000 on their card within a calendar year.

Finally, the BA program allows you to book an infant lap child award for 10 percent the number of miles as an adult award ticket, whereas most other airlines will charge 10 percent of the adult fare. This doesn’t sound like much, until you realize that business and first class airfares can be $1,000 to $2,000, so parents could pay as much as a coach ticket just to carry their baby on their laps.

How I leveraged this

First, my wife and I decided to both sign up for this card and double our rewards. By the time we had met the minimum spending requirements for both cards, and I had earned one of the Travel Together companion certificates, we had almost a quarter of a million miles. Yet our cost was only the $95 annual fee for each card. That’s $190 total.

One of the ways we used these miles was for a family trip to Argentina on BA’s partner carrier LAN. We flew in business class and brought our baby along for just a few extra miles.

On another occasion, I flew from Atlanta to London on BA’s international first class with my mother, using the Travel Together certificate to save half the miles. Our first-class seats were spacious and we enjoyed a seven-course meal.

Finally, I was able to use the leftover points for several short flights — Atlanta to Miami, Denver to Phoenix, and Chicago to Washington, D.C.

Actually, if you were to use this offer just for flights under 650 miles, by the time you had earned the sign-up bonus, you would have earned enough miles for over a dozen free flights!

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How you can do this, too

The BA 100K offer is no longer active. But you didn’t read this far for nothing.

That same offer has come and gone at least three times in the last five years, so stay tuned. I’ll tell you when it comes back. And then you need to pounce before it goes away again.


American Airlines is offering its Citi AAdvantage Executive card with a 100,000 mile sign-up bonus, but only after new cardholders spend $10,000 on their card within 90 days of the account opening. This deal is nearly as good as the BA offer, especially since those 100,000 miles are good for a round-trip business-class ticket from anywhere in North America to any part of Europe. In fact, my wife and I both signed up for that card as well — another credit card success story in the making!

Great credit cards aren’t just for industry experts like myself. Anyone with great credit can sign up these generous offers and start seeing the world on award tickets. Stay tuned here every Wednesday for more details on using credit cards not just to buy stuff, but to get free stuff.

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