- German entrepreneur says he is 150,000 miles into a 1 million air mile target
- Scheme involves buying gift cards with air mile-linked credit cards, and immediately liquidating the cash
- Only researched for United States so far, but is good for first class flights on various airlines
A German entrepreneur claims to have found a way to buy 1 million air miles for as little as $6,500.
Those air miles could translate into two first or business class trips on Etihad Airways from the United States to the Maldives, or up to five return first class trips to Asia on Singapore Airlines.
Best part: he says anyone could do the same.
The scheme, hatched by Torsten Jacobi, principal owner of Bluusun Media which runs travel deals website mightytravels.com, involves applying for credit cards that offer generous sign-up and spending bonuses and then buying gift cards with the credit cards, which you immediately liquidate back into cash.
As long as you pay off your credit cards in full each month, that amounts to thousands of air miles for the price of the gift and credit card fees, which in his scheme amount to around $6,500 over the course of a year.
Cards for miles
"It requires just two credit cards that most people will be easily eligible for and a couple of minutes of your time every day for a 12-month period," he told CNN.
By using the Citibank Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard and the American Express Gold Card, which offer generous sign-up bonuses and redemption benefits, and using them to buy $1,500-worth of gift cards each day, Jacobi says he is already 150,000 miles toward his goal of 1 million air miles.
He has only researched the scheme in the United States so far, and you may need to register for an online payment system such as EvolveMoney.
But if you've got the time, this could be a cheap ticket to a first class flight across the world, he says.
"If you manage to buy an average of $1,500 of gift cards every day and use Citibank and Evolve Money to liquidate your gift cards, three gift cards per day [for a year] equals $6,186.75 in fees, plus a $250 partial credit card fee.
"Miles earned: 765,000 American Express Membership Rewards points and 182,500 AAdvantage miles. Since both credit cards have a sign-up bonus, you'll actually earn a total of 282,500 AAdvantage miles and 790,000 American Express points."
So what's the catch?
"It's 100% legal. However stores could stop selling gift cards with a credit card. That has happened, but it's very easy to find supermarkets/gas stations who are allowing that volume of sales per day; $1,500 is small -- I have done up to $5,000 per store several days in a row."
Jacobi even has preferred routes to get the most of his air miles once they're earned.
"[My] recommendation would be to use the AAdvantage miles for a trip for two to the Maldives or Sri Lanka with Etihad Airways or Cathay Pacific First Class. For both airlines the surcharges/fees are minimal.
"As for Membership Rewards, the most luxurious option is Singapore Airlines' [frequent flyer program] KrisFlyer to Hong Kong. This can be had for around 150,000 one-way when redeemed online.
"American Express Membership Rewards transfer instantly to KrisFlyer. Taxes and fees come to about $250 per round-trip ticket."