This is the handbook to use credit cards and maximize your travels. In 2011, I began applying for 15+ credit cards a year in order to earn frequent flyer miles. Since then, I've earned over 3,000,000 points and miles and traveled to over 50 countries. Meanwhile, my credit score has risen.
Many websites dedicated to earning miles will lay out complex schemes to maximize every single dollar you spend. Often these sites will recommend having many cards in your wallet, at all times, for all types of spending – gas, groceries, restaurants, etc.
This is not one of those websites. My strategy – and what I recommend to you – is to keep it simple. While you may choose to apply for multiple cards a year or just keep one, trying to manipulate every dollar you spend is a dizzying feat and, in my opinion, not worth the effort.
My mission is to maximize the dollars you already spend and not add extra costs.
So what does this mean for you? Let us start with what you should not expect to do. You should never pay an annual fee, unless you choose to do so. You should not apply for spend thresholds (e.g. $10,000 in three months) if you are not able to meet it with regular spending. You also should not worry constantly over how to manage every dollar or flight redemption.
Most importantly, when done correctly, you should not see your credit score drop much, if at all. In many cases - like mine - your credit score will actually raise.
What you should expect to do is create - and stick to - long-term goals. Choose any corner of the world you want see. There is a number of miles – and thus, a certain card – that will get you there. But it requires time, patience, and an open mind for what I am going to teach you. It also means managing finances across multiple banks (and being okay with that). And, finally, it sometimes means having to cancel credit cards. Don’t worry, as you will see later this is a far smaller impact then you imagine.
Ultimately you are taking a leap of faith - in exchange for significantly cheaper & better travel.
But before delving further into the miles earning space you, the reader, need to consider what is appropriate for your current situation. For example, will switching from debit to rewards credit cards result in financial debt? Then the miles aren’t worth it. Do you not have time or energy to effectively manage multiple cards from multiple banks? Then apply for a card or two of the best available credit cards and keep those as your only cards.
Maybe most important: do you need absolute certainty before any financial decision? Then this hobby may not be for you. Deals come and go, and sometimes you are rejected for a card. This is okay though - and I'll show you why.
With all of that said, if you have an interest in unlocking significantly cheaper travel and can manage your finances, this blog is for you. This guide takes you, the reader, in five steps from present day - no miles, no knowledge - to routinely redeeming miles for multiple vacations a year.
Here is how you get started.