Step 3: Pick a Credit Card

(You should not apply for or receive a credit card if you cannot pay it off every month)

It’s important to pick a credit card that will help you achieve your travel goals.  There two main credit card strategies to consider:

  1. The first, and most basic, strategy involves owning one credit card that provides miles or points that you can transfer to your preferred airline.  Most credit cards offer a sign-up bonus (25,000-75,000 miles or points) that you receive upon completing a minimum spend requirement (for example, you may have to spend $3,000 in the first three months).  The time to meet the minimum spend requirement runs from when you are approved for the card, not when you receive the card in the mail.
  2. The second and far riskier strategy involves churning credit cards.  This strategy involves applying for a new credit card every time you meet the minimum spend requirement of the new credit card.  This will affect your credit score because almost every credit card application will result in a hard credit inquiry and will reduce the average age of your open credit lines.

There’s four main travel point currencies that you will need to choose between: American Express points, Citi ThankYou points, Chase Rewards points, and airline/hotel specific miles/points.  Each point has a different value depending on how it can be redeemed.  Credit cards can provide other benefits as well: airline lounge access, free checked bags, priority boarding, and discounts for shopping at particular stores.  It’s important to weigh these benefits with potential costs: minimum spending requirements and annual fees.

Next: Shopping Portals and Dining Programs