Let’s chat about bonus miles today with an eye toward gaming the airline mileage programs:

1. Public links are floating around for no lifetime language (NLL), high offer American Express Delta credit cards. You can probably get one to appear yourself by logging into your SkyMiles account and going through the process of booking a paid ticket; you’ll see on offer the last page before paying. In case that’s a lot of work for you, a public landing page has surfaced to check eligibility and skip the dummy booking: Click here and enter your SkyMiles number and last name to check for your account(s). These offers include a statement credit for spending on Delta too. (Thanks to DoC for the link)

Don’t forget that American Express currently has a five credit card limit (not to be confused with the ten charge card limit for cards like the Green, Gold, Platinum, or Centurion cards, they don’t count for this). People have played games to get around the credit card limit in the past, but I’m not one of them.

2. Another round of shopping portal bonuses has surfaced, and Alaska, United, and Southwest are all playing. In case you want to the play the game and win, Visa or Mastercards from Giftcards.com are usually the easiest way to knock these out without really buying stuff; of course the virtual variants work too but come with slightly higher fees.

To save you time, I’ve calculated how much it’ll cost in card fees and shipping to get each shopping portal bonus so you can decide if it’s worth it to you.

UPDATE: Miles (awesome name, right?) pointed out that these fees were calculated for physical gift cards, not virtual gift cards. So, shipping needs to be factored in, also some of math on physical gift cards requires taking a penny off in order to hit the lower fee amount, despite the posted schedule; but that doesn’t affect portal thresholds since the fee is included in the portal payout. Shipping fees are $1.99 per card, so updating is easy enough, the tables are now correct, and the article has been corrected. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️


Bonus ThresholdGift Cards PurchasedFeesMilesCost Per Mile
$1001 x $100$5.94100 + 5000.990 cents per mile
$3501 x $100 + 1 x $250$12.88350 + 1,5000.696 cents per mile
$6001 x $100 + 2 x $250$19.82600 + 2,5000.639 cents per mile


Bonus ThresholdGift Cards PurchasedFeesMilesCost Per Mile
$1251 x $125$5.94125 + 2501.584 cents per mile
$3001 x $50 + 1 x $250$12.88300 + 9001.073 cents per mile
$5501 x $50 + 2 x $250$19.82550 + 2,0000.777 cents per mile


Bonus ThresholdGift Cards PurchasedFeesMilesCost Per Mile
$1501 x $150$5.94150 + 3001.237 cents per mile
$3001 x $50 + 1 x $250$10.88300 + 6001.208 cents per mile
$5002 x $250$13.88500 + 1,2000.816 cents per mile

There are two big caveats to remember: 1) I didn’t include any miles or cash back you’ll get from your credit card spend, and 2) I didn’t include potential liquidation fees that you may pay; hopefully that one is zero but YMMV.

At the highest threshold of each of those portal bonuses I’m a mileage buyer, even for United. But honestly, just barely for United.

Not the type of airline games I meant, but sure, why not?