3 trips every year guaranteed, without needing to overspend.
If you are spending like an average American, a smart credit card setup can grant you around 6 FREE flights to different cities in the US and Canada.
Previously, I have written about my credit card set up to earn points and travel the world for free.. If you are interested to do the same, I would recommend checking it out.
However, what works for me, might not work for you. Everyone has a different lifestyle, with different spending levels.
In this blog post, I want to walk through the everyday spending of an average American and recommend a simple 3-card credit card setup that they can use to earn free flights every year.
If you are looking for “the most optimal” setup, you won’t find it here.
Here, I will try to keep the setup simple, so that your average person can adopt it without too much fuss.
The 3-Card Setup
Let’s get started with the most important part of the setup — the cards.
Two of these are AMEX and one is a Mastercard.
Even though the coverage for AMEX in the US and Canada is very wide, if you are unfortunate enough to run into some place that doesn’t accept AMEX, you can use the Bilt Mastercard.
The Average American Spending
First, let’s look at the monthly budget.
- Rent → $1,702
- Groceries → $438
- Dining Out → $300
- Gas → $200
- Utilities → $200
- Uncategorized spending → $500
That’s a total of $3,340 monthly.
Now, let’s look at the yearly budget.
- Rent → $20,424
- Groceries → $5,256
- Dining Out → $3,600
- Gas → $2,400
- Utilities → $2,400
- Uncategorized spending → $6,000
That’s a total of 40,080 yearly.
As I mentioned before, everyone’s spending is different. It’s impossible to come up with a budget that everyone can relate to.
However, I hope, looking at the budget of an average American is a good middle ground for folks living in North America.
Different Card Multipliers
We won’t go crazy looking at card multipliers.
I will only mention some of the key categories that each of these cards excels in. As long as you utilize 3–4 multipliers correctly, you should be set with this setup.
The idea is simple: For any given expense, you want to use the credit card that gives you the highest multiplier for that category.
So, what are the multipliers? Let’s dive in.
American Express Gold
- 4X on Groceries
- 4X on Dining (including takeout)
American Express Blue Business Plus
- 2X on Everything
- 1X on Rent
So, the setup is simple. You shouldn’t need to waste hours deciding which card to swipe.
- For everything related to eating, use AMEX Gold
- For rent, use Bilt Mastercard
- For everything else, use AMEX Blue Business Plus
Transferring Points to Airlines
As you swipe your credit cards, for every purchase, you will earn “points”.
These can be Membership Reward (MR) points for your American Express cards and Bilt Rewards for your Bilt Mastercard.
You can transfer both of these points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The process is simple. Both Bilt and AMEX have user-friendly portals that explain very well how to do the transfer.
Once all your points are in the Virgin Atlantic portal, you can book your domestic flights from United Airlines, Delta, etc.
Note: Just because you are transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic, doesn’t mean you have to book Virgin Atlantic flights. You can book United, Delta, and many other US airlines.
How Many Points Annually?
Now, let’s put the pieces together.
I have shown you an average American’s yearly budget, broken down into different categories.
I have also shown you the different multipliers on each of the cards.
- Rent → $20,424 → $20,424 * 1 → 20K Points
- Groceries → $5,256 → $5,256 * 4 → 21K Points
- Dining Out → $3,600 → $3,600 * 4 → 15K Points
- Gas → $2,400 → $2,400 * 2 → 5K Points
- Utilities → $2,400 → $2,400 * 2 → 5K Points
- Uncategorized spending → $6,000 → $6,000 * 2 → 12K Points.
If you understand better visually, here’s a comparable spreadsheet.
That’s around 80K points on $40K annual spending.
What Does 80K Points Get You?
As I mentioned before, the plan is to transfer all the points to Virgin Atlantic, and then book Economy class US domestic flights on United Airlines, Delta, and other US airlines.
Let’s look at a few example flights.
- New York to Seattle for 15K Points
- New York to Atlanta for 9K Points
- San Francisco to Dallas for 17K points
- San Francisco to Chicago for 20K points
- Denver to Las Vegas for 15K points
- Phoenix to Denver for 12K points
- Atlanta to Boston for 8K points
- Miami to Atlanta for 8K points
As you can see, there’s a great spread of points depending on your origin and destination airports.
If you are flying transcontinental — New York to San Francisco — that’s about 20K points. On the other hand, shorter flights, such as Atlanta to Boston, can be as little as 8K points.
On average, if each flight is 12.5K points, that’s a total of 6 flights for 80K points every year.
That’s how you get 6 FREE flights every year, just by spending money that you would have spent anyway.
There you go, folks!
I hope this demystified at least some of the credit card travel mysteries that are out there.
The more intricate your setup, the more points you can earn, leading to even more FREE flights.
However, I hope this simple 3-card setup is a good balance between simplicity and good rewards.
I would love to know about your credit card setup. Go ahead and comment below :)
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