Having enough miles to book amazing award travel doesn’t just happen – you’ve got to work for it.
Perhaps the best and most efficient way to do this is through credit cards with great mileage-earning programs (I’ll have more on the best strategies to approach credit cards in future posts). However, there are other ways to maximize your mileage-earning potential, and one is through dining programs, such as United’s MileagePlus Dining and American’s AAdvantage Dining.
The way it works is that you register your credit/debit cards with the program, and when you use that card at a participating restaurant, you will earn either 1, 3, or 5 miles per dollar spent, depending on the type of membership you have. To get 5 miles per dollar spent, you need to dine out using a registered credit card at a participating restaurant at least 12 times per year. While other airlines have programs similar to United’s, my understanding is that you can only register your card for one of these programs (though you can have multiple cards on each program).
A few weeks ago, I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which gets me 2 miles per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. I am a big fan of Chase’s point system and have found flights priced cheaper through their travel site than elsewhere online. The Preserve card has a $95 annual fee, though it’s waived for the first year.
I registered my Chase Sapphire Preferred card with MileagePlus dining so that I could receive 2 miles per dollar spent, which I’d get as points on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards (which can be converted to United or other miles), and 5 miles per dollar spent on United.
The only problem? As of December 30th, I had only 11 qualifying dines in 2016, and I needed one more before the end of the month to get VIP status for 2017. I already had plans that night to see the University of Arizona Wildcats crush the Cal Bears in college basketball. But afterwards, I knew I had one mission – to secure VIP status for 2017.
There are a lot of great restaurants and bars in San Francisco which are featured on United’s MileagePlus Dining, and one is Blush! Wine Bar in the Castro. Blush! was a MileagePlus Dining member a few months back, but terminated their relationship until recently. While it seems a huge percentage (maybe 90-95%) of MileagePlus Dining establishments are restaurants, what I liked about Blush! is that it’s a bar you can eat it (instead of the other way around). Blush! also has an amazing Belgian beer collection, which is a favorite of mine.
So, with many friends out of town for New Years and a plot formulated without any time to get others on board, I went to Blush! and sat alone at the bar, drinking my pain away, until the glorious moment came when I could whip out my credit card and secure my VIP status.
It already says on my United MileagePlus Dining account that I’m a VIP member for 2017, which puts a spring in my step as I enter the new year.