A few years ago I got into a game. It was a game I had never played before but a friend who loves travel turned me onto it. It is the game of signing up for credit cards to get the miles or points they offer for using their particular credit card. This game was more lucrative than I ever anticipated it being. Have you gone into a department store and made a purchase and find that a friendly clerk is offering you a store credit card? This may come with something like $50 statement credit if you just sign up. That may seem like a nice gain but consider that a typical value of a travel credit card sign up is about $500 or more. Now imagine signing up for dozens of them. The value increases quickly.
My family and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on travel but we want to travel a lot so this was a very nice game to get into for us. We’ve accumulated a ton of miles and points and gone on numerous vacations for either free or a lot cheaper than it would have been without those miles/points. So I hope you find some great value here and travel to places you love to go without spending much money.
But before we dive in, a few words of caution:
- Credit cards can give you a lot of value in points and miles but you’ll pay a lot more if you carry a balance. There is a reason banks give such lucrative sign up bonuses, it’s that many people carry a balance at 20% interest. Don’t be a sucker, instead let suckers who are paying 20% interest to banks (thus allowing banks to give you a ton of points) pay for your travel!
- Typically travel credit cards come with an annual fee, usually about $100. Often times it is waived the first year. Don’t keep the card past 11 months or you’ll pay that $100 and if you sign up for 10 of them you’ll wind up paying $1,000/year. No good! Keep one or two of them if you see value but cancel the rest before the year is up. If you cancel early, it looks bad to the banks. I keep an excel spreadsheet with all the dates so I know when to cancel each card.
- When you sign up for a credit card that offers a sign up bonus you have to meet a minimum spending requirement. It’s usually $3,000 in 3 months. If you don’t spend that much on the card, you don’t get the sign up bonus. Make sure you can spend that much money in that amount of time. If not, there are credit cards that make you spend less for their sign up bonus. If you know you have a big expense coming up that can be a good time to pick up one of these credit cards.
- What will happen to your credit score? Every time you sign up for a credit card a bank will do a “hard” inquiry on your credit file. This will drop your credit score anywhere from 3-5 points. If you are going to buy a home, refinance a home or buy a car soon, it may be appropriate to wait until that happens. If your credit score is great (think close to 800) then you can afford a few minor hits.