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Terms and Restrictions Apply
Physician on FIRE has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Physician on FIRE and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. POF does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Credit Card Providers determine the underwriting criteria necessary for approval, you should review each Provider’s terms and conditions to determine which card works for you and your personal financial situation.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

Credit Cards for Free Travel & Cash Back

Credit cards

Before I was the doctor of credit card rewards, I used one Chase credit card for pretty much everything. With a typical credit card bill of $4,000 to $5,000 a month, I was rewarded with $40 or $50 worth of points every month and I thought that wasn’t bad.

When I shopped at Amazon, I got triple the usual points, and there used to be some other perks, like using $250 worth of points for a flight worth up to $400. I knew the ins and outs of the one card’s benefits pretty well, and I did my best to get the most value I could for my points.

When the redemption options changed and the points were essentially devalued, my eyes started wandering to these other shiny cards I was starting to hear about online. There are plenty of fish in the banking sea, and I was willing to cast a line to see if there were better options out there for me.

Boy, were there ever.

Since then, I’ve done much better. You should get at least 2 cents back in value on the dollars you spend on a credit card. You can do that with one no annual-fee card like the card_name, and there are ways to get even more value with travel rewards redemptions and categorical spending on other cards we’ll discuss below.


I’ll bet you could do better, too.

I might earn money if you apply for a card via links on this page, and I will donate a chunk of my profits if that happens. Not many sites make that pledge, so please, do your research wherever the world wide web takes you, but consider coming back to this site for your credit card needs and support our charitable mission. Cheers! 🍻


Additional Credit Card Posts:

Best Small Business Credit Cards

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Cards for Travel Insurance


In the span of a few years, I’ve booked at least 20 round-trip flights, about half of them to international destinations, using bonus points and miles earned mainly from introductory offers on various credit cards. The only out-of-pocket costs on those flights are the taxes and fees, which typically run $5.60 each way on domestic flights (and more for international flights).



I don’t keep a ledger of all the travel I’ve booked this way in the last couple years, but off the top of my head, I know I’ve booked all of these nearly-free flights:


In total, I would guesstimate I’ve saved over $10,000 in travel costs per year for the last 7 years, and I don’t spend a ton of time on this stuff.

That $70,000 I’ve saved is the equivalent of earning an extra $100,000 or so when you factor in the taxes I pay on earned income. Bonus miles and points are not taxed under ordinary circumstances.


Another way think about it is that, for a high-income earner, $10,000 in free travel is like getting an $18,000 raise. 


I have acquired a number of different credit cards, of course, but I can easily meet the minimum spending requirements in a month or two, and when you have a system to track your cards, it’s not difficult to manage.


And I’ve got just the thing you need.


Top Credit Cards & Limited Time Offers


card_name: bonus_miles_full


The “CSP” is a top travel card and for good reason. The perks are great for a card with a manageable annual_fees annual fee.

There’s a foreign_transaction_fee foreign transaction fee, and Chase has plenty of top-tier travel partners including airlines and hotel chains that can give you even more bang for your buck when redeeming points.

See CardRatings’ guide to redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for tips on how to use your points balance optimally.


card_name: bonus_miles_full

The “CSR” is the premium option for Chase Sapphire Cardholders. With $300 of annual travel reimbursement, the steep annual_fees annual fee becomes more palatable at an effective $250.

For that, you get unlimited Priority Pass lounge access at airports for you and two guests. Points rewarded for travel and dining are triple, and it’s more like 4.5x points because you can redeem Chase points for 1.5 cents per penny when you’re a Sapphire Reserve cardholder.

You also get a credit for up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ plus some DoorDash and Lyft benefits that were added in 2020.


card_name: bonus_miles_full


Our Verdict

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a premium rewards card with a $395 price tag. You earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars and 5x on flights. While these are tied to Capital One Travel, you can also earn 2x miles on everything else. But the card shines for its perks, such as annual travel credit, insurance, and global airport lounge access. They also throw in a 10,000 bonus miles anniversary gift.

Welcome Bonus
N/A (can't find this in QMP)
Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score


The card_name looks like a strong one-card solution that could potentially replace more expensive cards like the card_name, card_name (rates and fees), and other premium credit cards.

You get at least 2 miles per dollar spent, a value of 2% of each dollar spent.  The Venture X does carry a annual_fees annual fee. Capital One also gives you a $300 credit on travel booked via the Capital One Travel search engine, and they give you an annual point bonus of 10,000 points—a $100 value. That makes the effective fee -$5 ($5 in your favor) after your first year.

You bonus_miles_full ($7500 value) after spending $4,000 in the first three months with the Venture X. They also offer reimbursement of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.

The Venture X offers airport unlimited lounge access via the Priority Pass lounges and new Capital One lounges that are in the works (the first recently opened at DFW). All of this for an annual fee that can be more than offset with some easy-to-redeem perks for anyone who travels at least once a year.

I think Venture X could be an excellent, simple, one-card solution for excellent travel rewards, including valuable airport lounge access.


card_name: bonus_miles_full

Known for the “what’s in your wallet?” catchphrase, the card_name is a great alternative to the card_name for those who don’t want to play the points game. The annual fee is the same at annual_fees.

You essentially get double “miles” (points) for any purchase. You can use those points to directly offset any travel purchases you make with the card or transfer points to one of 15+ travel loyalty programs.

Like the card_name, you also get up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, and there’s a $0 foreign transaction fee.



card_name: bonus_miles_full


Our Verdict

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is excellent for businesses seeking robust rewards and a solid sign-up bonus. You can earn 3x points (up to $150,000 annually) in corporate categories. But after passing the threshold, your rewards drop to a subpar 1x points. Key features include 1:1 point transfers to travel partners, trip insurance, extended warranty, and cell phone insurance.

Welcome Bonus
N/A (can't find this in QMP)
Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score


I mentioned that the CSP gave you the largest welcome bonus of any Chase personal card, but the card_name gives you the best welcome bonus of any Chase card. It’s currently a gigantic 100,000 points after spending $8,000 in 3 months.

100,000 points can be used to book $1,250 (when paired with the card_name ) to $1,500 in travel (when paired with the card_name ) via the Chase portal or can be transferred to one of several popular travel partners.

Those partners include United, Southwest, and Jetblue airlines and Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, or Ritz Carlton hotels. A good redemption of 100,000 points could easily carry a value of $2,000 or more. The minimum spend is high at a total of $8,000 in the first three months.

You’ll get 3 points per dollar on travel and select business categories (on up to $150,000 in purchases per year). This card also comes with an annual fee of annual_fees and adds the benefit of a foreign_transaction_fee foreign transaction fee.


card_name: bonus_miles

A simple cash back card with a annual_fees annual fee and an outstanding bonus_miles_full.

You’ll get 5 points per dollar spent on the first $25,000 per year on office supplies, cable, and phone bills. One point per dollar on everything else, and, as with all Chase Ultimate Rewards points, those points can be worth 1.25x or 1.5x when paired with a Sapphire card and used to book travel


card_name: bonus_miles.


Our Verdict

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card is a no-frills card with a straightforward 1.5% cash back on every purchase. It’s a trade-off—you get simplicity, but there’s no room to maximize rewards on business purchases. For no annual fee, you also get extra perks like employee cards, extended warranty, and purchase protection. Just watch out for the 3% foreign transaction fee on your business travels.

Welcome Bonus
N/A (can't find this in QMP)
Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score


Another simple cash back card from Chase with a annual_fees annual fee and you bonus_miles_full.

The difference from the Ink Cash card is that you get 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases made for your business.


card_name (rates and fees): bonus_miles


Our Verdict

The American Express Platinum Credit Card is a luxury travel card with a steep $695 annual fee. Premium perks include $200 Uber Cash, $155 Walmart+ Credit, $240 Digital Entertainment Credit (enrollment is required), and access to airport lounges. You also get 5x Membership Rewards points on flights and hotels. Redemption options can be complex, but you get the best value by transferring points to Amex’s travel partners at a 1:1 ratio.

Welcome Bonus
N/A (can't find this in QMP)
Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score


card_name is a premium card on par with the card_name, and in some ways, it’s superior. These are two of the only cards that offer evacuation coverage for medical emergencies worldwide, and the Platinum Card’s coverage is better.

You’ll bonus_miles_full. Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

The card gets you access to the Global Lounge Collection at airports around the globe. Additional travel perks include $200 in reimbursement of airline fees like baggage fees.

Cardholders also receive Uber VIP status good for up to $200 in annual Uber savings and an annual credit of $100 at Saks Fifth Avenue in person or online (enrollment required). Annual fee for this card is annual_fees. Terms apply.


card_name (rates and fees): bonus_miles


Our Verdict

The American Express Gold Card offers premium benefits for food enthusiasts at a $250 annual fee. Earn 4x points on dining worldwide, 4x at US supermarkets, and 3x on flights. You get jetsetter perks like baggage insurance, a $100 hotel credit, a global assist hotline, and car rental insurance. Amex’s travel partners can also boost your points value up to 2 cents with 1:1 transfers.

Welcome Bonus
N/A (can't find this in QMP)
Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score


The Platinum Card’s little brother, the card_name is lighter on both perks and fees, but you do get some great benefits. You’ll bonus_miles_full

Benefits include a $10 monthly credit to specific restaurant chains or Grubhub (Enrollment Required), 4x points at restaurants and supermarkets in the U.S. (up to $25,000 anually, which is a lot of groceries). You also get 3x points when booking flights via the Amex portal. Terms apply. The annual fee for this card is annual_fees.


Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa: 1.5% back in Bitcoin on all purchases

If you’ve been wanting to dip a toe into the cryptocurrency waters, but haven’t been sure where to start, this is a credit card that will get you started with a Bitcoin balance!

The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa is a simple, no-annual-fee card that rewards each and every purchase with Bitcoin at a rate of 1.5% equivalent cash value. It works much like the card_name card except that it pays out in Bitcoin.

You can either hold your Bitcoin or redeem for cash with a 1.5% transaction fee. Most Americans are eligible, but if you live in DC, HI, IN, IA, NE, NV, NH,NC, WA, WV, or WI, you can’t get this card yet.


card_name (rates and fees)


Our Verdict

The Amex Hilton Honors Business Card is for business travelers and Hilton fans. You get Hilton Honors Gold Status, free night rewards, and ten complimentary visits to US Priority Pass lounges. You can earn 12x Hilton Honors Bonus Points at Hilton properties, You also Earn 12X Hilton Honors bonus points on eligible Hilton purchases; 5X on other purchases on the first $100,000 in purchases each calendar year; 3X points thereafter. However, this card is best for avid Hilton visitors, as many features are tied to Hilton properties.

Welcome Bonus
N/A (can't find this in QMP)
Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score


I like to think of this card as the Hilton Honors American Express Card equivalent for small business owners, although there are some differences.

As a cardholder, you’ll enjoy Gold status and 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton Hotels. Spend $15,000 any year for a free weekend night with a second complimentary night after another $45,000 spent. Terms Apply.


Credit Card Spreadsheet — Track the Details


I’ve been on a spreadsheet-building spree lately, and I made another one just for you. Well, it’s for me, too. I took the one I’ve been using and spruced it up, including some of the better offers available for those who love free travel and cash back.

There are columns for all of the pertinent information, and I’ve pre-filled the current info for some of the top cash back and travel reward cards available. I’ve blurred the data as it changes often, but I frequently update the actual spreadsheet available for download.


Personal credit cards




Business Credit Cards




I’ve also summarized the best perks for these cards in the sheet. Again, since these change frequently, I encourage you to download the spreadsheet to see current perks of these cards.




Finally, if you prefer to start with a blank slate, entering only cards you currently own, the third tab in the file gives you an empty canvas on which to paint your card rewards masterpiece.




If you’re already a subscriber, you shouldn’t be double-subscribed when you enter your info to download this template.

If you would like a copy of your own, please enter your e-mail below, and I’ll send you a link. You’ll be subscribed with the option to receive a weekly digest and can opt out completely with one click.



Credit Cards I Have Used


I plan to update this spreadsheet with new offers and updated information when it becomes available and subscribers will be alerted to new copies of the updated spreadsheet when it becomes available.

Note that I have not acquired all the cards listed on the spreadsheet, but I have used each of the following cards in recent years:



Tips to Simplify Managing Multiple Credit Cards


Always Autopay Your Credit Card!

The first thing I do when I acquire a new card is to set up autopay by connecting the online credit card with my bank account and ensuring the full statement balance will be paid on time automatically.

It’s a good idea to keep at least a few thousand dollars in a checking account and / or have an automated sweep from savings into checking at your bank.

If you can’t afford to pay credit cards in full every month, you should not be using a credit card, plain and simple.

If you have the option to set your monthly due date for the credit card, there is some advantage to having each of your cards due at the same time to keep things simple.

If you fail to do this, it’s not difficult to miss a payment — and, yes, I have. The late fee or finance fees may be forgivable if you call the credit card issuer and make an honest plea, but it’s best to set it, forget it, and not have to make that awkward phone call.


No Companion Credit Cards

You will often be enticed to pick up a second card for a spouse on the same account with a bonus of points or miles that might be worth a small fraction of the welcome bonus.

I advise against this.

The better option is to apply for a new card under your spouse’s name and social security number, using household income on the application.

By opening a new account rather than obtaining a companion card, you can get double the bonus for each card you choose to acquire. Would you rather have 105,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points or 200,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points?


Chase Credit Cards First

If you are new to travel rewards, start with Chase cards. The bank has a “5 / 24” rule. If you have applied for five new credit cards in the last 24 months, you can expect to be denied.

Companion cards count, unfortunately, even if you’re not the person who originally opened the account. We learned that lesson the hard way.

Chase Ultimate Rewards are among the most desirable and flexible reward points out there. They can be transferred to a number of travel partners including Southwest, United, Hyatt, Marriot, IHG, Ritz-Carlton, and a number of international airlines. Points can also be redeemed directly for travel at 1.5 cents per point with the card_name or 1.25 cents per point with the card_name.


Chase Personal Credit Cards

First Chase Card

If I were starting anew today, I would start with a Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card.


In addition to the difference in travel redemption, there is a drastic difference in annual fees. The Sapphire Reserve is annual_fees per year with the benefits of $300 of reimbursed travel and a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ credit. You’ll bonus_miles_full.

The Sapphire Preferred has a much smaller $95 annual fee. The welcome bonus is also higher.


Related: Which is Better? Chase Sapphire Preferred versus Sapphire Reserve



Second Chase Card

Grab the card_name (3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% back on all purchases). This will give you Ultimate Rewards points that are more valuable if transferred to one of the Sapphire cards you obtained first.


Third Chase Card

Consider a travel card co-branded with your favorite hotel or airline. The following are all Chase cards:

  • card_name
  • card_name
  • card_name
  • card_name


Chase Business Credit Cards

Fourth Chase Card

If you have any kind of business, the Chase Business Cards are outstanding options.


The Ink Business Preferred card gives you 100,000 Ultimate Reward points as a welcome bonus (equaling the best welcome bonus out there) when you meet the minimum spend of $8,000 in the first three months and comes with a annual_fees annual fee.

That’s good for a minimum of $1,000 in cash, can be paired with a card_name to book $1,250 in travel or $1,500 in travel when points are transferred to a card_name.

The card_name and card_name cards give you $900 in cash after meeting the minimum spend of $6,000 in three months (and have no annual fee, ever).


Don’t Carry a Dozen Cards

You don’t want the George Costanza wallet bursting at its leather seams. There’s probably little need to carry more than about three cards at any one time, and if you’re not a dedicated optimizer, one card will do.

You can always swap out the card(s) in your wallet, purse, or manbag before traveling overseas, flying a certain airline, or staying at a particular hotel chain.

In my  wallet, I tend to keep one cash back card and one card that I’m using to meet the minimum spending requirement in the first three months. Depending on our travels, I may also have a card that matches the airline on which I’m traveling. If traveling overseas, I make sure I have a card with no foreign transaction fees. Most of the cards on the spreadsheet qualify.


Don’t Stress

I don’t always use the most optimal card for the situation. As is true with most facets of personal finance, I’ve found there’s a point of diminishing returns when trying to use the ideal card in each and every transaction.

Applying the Pareto principle, 20% of the effort is likely to get you 80% of the results.

The same is true for redemptions. Don’t do anything foolish, like getting 0.8 cents per point when shopping on Amazon when you could have 1 cent per point in cash (there’s actually a card that does this). And use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points wisely. This often means transferring to a travel partner for a better redemption.

Don’t stress if you can’t remember which category gives you the most points this particular quarter. I can’t, either. If you’ve got a system that works, let me know in the comments. I can see where a label maker could come in handy, but I’m just not that into squeezing every last point out of my card collection.

Finally, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the effect of multiple cards on your credit score. My understanding from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen is that a new card can temporarily decrease your score by five to ten points. This is what mine has done over the last six months.

If you want to make things really easy, just get one great cash back card and receive 2% back on absolutely everything.


Finding the Best Travel Credit Cards


Many of the best credit cards can be found via my relationship with CardRatings. I implore you to consider using a link on this page, as I donate a large portion of my profits to charity. Any site that refers you to a credit card issuer receives a referral fee, and I’m not aware of anyone else being as generous with their affiliate income.

With that in mind, you can find all of the cards from the spreadsheet here. You’ll see a couple of my favorites, along with some limited time offers below.

If you’re a small business owner, see my post detailing some of your best options: The Best Business Credit Cards for Your Small Business


Free Money with Credit Cards: How One Card Saved Us $3,000


How valuable are these points? To give you one example, I booked our flights to Honduras (we left Friday, April 27th) on March 7th. Based on the AAdvantage award chart, we can get to Central America for 25,000 points round trip with MileSAAver Off Peak seats.

I was able to find flights to Tegucigalpa that fit our itinerary at that point level, allowing us to partake in an amazing medical mission with One World Surgery as a family, paying only the taxes and fees for international travel, which totaled $74.70 apiece for the round-trip flights. If we had purchased the flights ourselves, we would have paid about $3,300 for the four tickets.


a bedside peripheral nerve block in honduras



So for 100,000 points, we were able to fly round trip to Central America. Using the card_name to pay for the fees, we were credited 10% of the miles back, so it actually only set us back 90,000 miles.

Currently, obtaining two (one for you and one for your spouse) of any of several available Citi Aadvantage Mastercards will get you enough points to get you to any American Airlines Caribbean, Mexican, or Central American destination and back.

The welcome bonus on two cards get the four of you to South America and back (or you and a loved one to Asia or Europe and back).

Surprisingly, far more people prefer cash back to travel rewards by a nearly three to one margin, according to statistics from Finder.com. It’s unfortunate, as travel redemptions can be substantially more lucrative.

Compare this airline card to other top travel cards here. 


Links to Cards by Category

For specific categories or issuers, please use these links to support our charitable mission:

  • Premium Cards
  • Small Business Cards
  • No Annual Fee Cards
  • Cash Back Cards
  • Travel Rewards Cards
  • Airline Miles Cards
  • Hotel Points Cards
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee Cards
  • American Express Cards
  • 0% APR Cards
  • Balance Transfer Cards
  • Capital One Cards
  • USAA Cards
  • Other Issuers’ Cards


You can always find these links quickly from the menu bar at the top of the page. On a desktop, it looks like this:




Finally, please exercise caution with the language in the comments. The card issuers don’t like the terms that rhyme with “travel snacking” or “travel packing.” Also, please avoid the yearning to use any word that starts like “church” and ends like “burning.” Thank you for your discretion.

Download the spreadsheet and start earning that cash back, those flexible points, airline or hotel points today!



Have you scored some nearly-free trips using travel rewards? What has your strategy been?

If not, what’s stopping you?

To see rates and fees for featured cards from American Express: The Platinum Card® from American Express (rates and fees), American Express® Gold Card (rates and fees), and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (rates and fees).



Terms and Restrictions Apply
Physician on FIRE has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Physician on FIRE and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. POF does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Credit Card Providers determine the underwriting criteria necessary for approval, you should review each Provider's terms and conditions to determine which card works for you and your personal financial situation.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

User-Generated Content Disclosure: Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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30 thoughts on “Credit Cards for Free Travel & Cash Back”

  1. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
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  7. This is hard to figure out
    If I want a card that gives me travel rewards that are easy to enroll, which one would you recommend
    I am now 13 years in practice and have a family of 6
    We are looking for significant discounts on flights and hotels
    Any advice?

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  17. one easy way I keep track of all my credit cards and bonuses is evernote. I can quickly look up on evernote which rotating categories have the highest cash back while I’m buying an item or entering a store. You could probably use notes on the iphone as well.

    • I’m a fan of OneNote, which is very similar. Google’s Keep Notes work well for this kind of thing, also.


  18. I absolutely LOVE credit cards!! Great comprehensive list.

    Question, I know that longer credit histories have higher scores. Would you recommend someone amass a sizable number of credit cards so that if you ever want to request a new credit card in the future, it won’t hit your credit history as much?

    I have some so getting a new one won’t bring down my credit history as much but it’s still a lot compared to someone who has like 25 credit cards.

    Would like to get your perspective.

    • Hey dude, I would recommend amassing credit cards if they have great sign on bonuses and if you want to boost your credit score for something like a house mortgage 2 years or more in the future. This is what I did, and after 2 years from opening my last credit card I had so many credit cards with high limits that my debt to utilization ration was almost nil, the credit inquiries after 2 years all fell off, and my FICO score (actually the free FAKO score you get off credit Karma) was above 800! However, when they ran my credit score officially at the bank it was usually less than 800, so just be aware when the run a FICO based score at banks or other others companies it seems to be lower and my best guess is because the FICO score software they run is trying to compensate for people that gain the system like I did. Still it seemed to increase my score overall 🙂

  19. AMEX gold seems like a pretty good choice with 4X on dining…wow.

    It’s like Reserve card, except it’s cheaper and you get strictly more points. I guess the main thing is with the gold you won’t get lounge access and you won’t get global entry.

    But it seems like AMEX gold could be your mainstay card for travel/dining points, and then you can just use an AMEX plat or some other card with lounge access and you’re all good?

    • That is a good card, but by the time you get both the Gold and Platinum cards, you’re looking at nearly $1,000 in annual fees.

      The CSR may be the better option.


  20. Get Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard. For the $99.00 fee you get 60,000 points after first purchase.

    1. apply and get the card
    2. Buy a pack of gum
    3. get 60,000 AA points and Anniversary Companion Certificate

    Great deal if you know how to use AA miles

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