Credit Cards and Earning Frequent Flyer Miles

Cloudy view from the airplane's window

I got a call from a bank back in 2013. It's about an approved credit card for which I never applied for. Hesitant — thinking that it might be a scam because of the whopping credit limit amount that's ten times my salary back then, plus the fear of getting buried to debt — I took the card. Because it's TEN TIMES MY SALARY! I won't ever get approved if I'm to apply for it. And with that amount, "I could buy you, your friends, and this club" all at once! Haha!

Kidding aside, that card became the first of six that had been under my name. It was when I'm about to cancel it out did I only notice that I earned so much reward points from years of going cashless. About 15,000 reward credits would put into waste upon account closure, so I googled for a way to make those points work for me; then came the option of converting them into airline points (miles). That's when I realized: you don't really have to fly frequently to earn frequent flyer miles, "frequent spending" will do.

Of Airlines and Credit Cards

I have membership accounts in some major airlines' loyalty programs — Philippines AirAsia's BIG Loyalty (though I rarely use this for now), Cebu Pacific Air's GetGo, and Philippine Airlines' Mabuhay Miles. Since I travel mostly to Philippine provinces, Cebu Pacific, which currently flies from Manila to 36 airports across the country, is an airline of choice for me. AirAsia, though flies to numerous international destinations, operates in only nine Philippine provinces as of writing. Philippine Airlines has a bunch of domestic flights too, but unlike Cebu Pacific, they fly to Basco (if I would earn enough Mabuhay Miles, I might get that notoriously expensive Batanes flight for free!).

The best-fitting card I found, having Cebu Pacific as my preferred airline, was Unionbank's Cebu Pacific GetGo Credit Card. It's an affiliate card that, instead of credit card reward points, directly earns GetGo points — points are credited straight to the GetGo account every month — thus, no need to call the bank for point conversion. Another card I use to shop with is Citibank's Citi PremierMiles Platinum Card though unlike the former, PremierMiles' reward points need conversion to miles and it comes with a way higher annual fee. PremierMiles points are convertible both into GetGo and Mabuhay Miles.

Of all the cards I had, I found these two the cheapest miles earner. Here's a quick comparison:

Credit card list showing how much is needed to earn a mile from each

That's why I already cancelled my cards out, leaving just these two.

Of Spending and Earning

So how do I collect miles with my credit cards?

I charge every expenses to the card

Some of my monthly bills — mobile plan, life insurance, and cable TV subscription — are automatically debited from my card. I also use it for necessities like groceries and gas. But aside from these periodic payments, I also charge every other expenses such as urgently needed medicines, dinner dates, Grab or Uber rides, online purchases, etc.; practically everything capable of getting paid on cashless basis.

BUT — there's a big but (I meant, single "t") — this sort of miles-earning hack, if done incorrectly, is also a portal into a dark alley called "credit card debt". The keys to avoid that are to keep every swipe in track, have a know-how of the card's billing cycle, and possess a self-imposed "military-like" discipline.

For tracking, a simple spreadsheet document does the trick. I use Google Sheets (perfect for people on-the-go) to plot every purchase against the month when that purchase needs to be paid off. Then the cash that's supposedly spent for that purchase is kept on a savings account until before the card's payment due date comes. I also make it a point to ALWAYS pay the debt in full; I never settled for the minimum amount due (and you should not do, too; it's disastrous in the long run).

And hey, be disciplined enough to not use your card if you do not have the corresponding cash on hand or unsure of having the cash in the future! Trust me, I learned it the hard way. If you think you can never resist the card's inherent temptation, better stick to just using it for your necessities. At least in that way, you still get some points.

Unionbank Cebu Pacific GetGo and Citi PremierMiles credit cards

I take advantage of the bank's spending promos and sign up bonuses

My application for GetGo Credit Card coincided with a spending promotion — newly approved cards were entitled to earn 8,000 points when cardholders spend at least PHP 20,000 within the specified period. Required spending is so huge that I could not afford such amount before the promo ends but I got the points, anyway. How? I let my friends to "ride-on"!

I let my friends to "ride-on"

Last year, a friend purchased a sophisticated refrigerator — the one with a touch-sensitive control panel embedded on its door — and just months ago, another buddy bought a mid-range smart phone. Apart from them being two of my closest and most trusted confidante, I let them swipe my card to reap huge reward points in return. (They know though that I'm just being their good guy. Haha!)

Those Night Outs

I volunteer to use my cards in those beer nights with friends and just split the bill afterwards. As GetGo's hash tag says, "Points din yan!".

I watch out for airline's conversion promos

I don't convert credit card reward points right away. I let it sit and accumulate until such time that those frequent flyer programs run a point conversion promo, that is, earning additional miles when credit card points conversion (or points conversion from other non-bank partners) is done within the promo period.

Screeenshot from GetGo account showing points conversion

There's a stigma about credit cards. But in reality, credit cards can either make or break its owner. It takes self-discipline and knowledge of the infamous debt card's ins and outs to make sure that cardholders are taking the brighter side of the road. I had proven it useful when a dreaded, unexpected event arise; and as an avid traveler, well, talk about FREE FLIGHTS!

Disclosure: I'm not in any way connected with business entities mentioned in this blog post. All views and opinions expressed are inspired by my own experience.

What's your credit card? How do you collect flyer miles from it? Share your thoughts!


DJ Rivera is an I.T. professional, entrepreneur, travel blogger, writer and the online publisher of based in Rizal province, Philippines. Click here to know more.

Let's connect:     

Powered by Blogger.