Hi everybody, Rick Ingersoll, the Frugal Travel Guy! As you may already know, my blog is dedicated to teaching people how to best accumulate airline frequent flyer miles and hotel points, so that they may travel the world at prices they can afford just like my wife Katybug and I have for many, many years. We share Keith and Shelley’s passion for traveling for free or pretty damn near it, and they’ve asked me to give some tips on how to get started when it comes to getting the most airline and hotel points that you can.
First and foremost, speaking from my previous professional life as a mortgage banking president and credit counselor, always remember that your credit is one of your most important assets. Free travel is great and all, but only as long as you can control yourself and maintain your good credit. In fact, maintaining a strong credit score is imperative if you want to play this airline and hotel point game on an ongoing basis like Shelley, Keith and I do.
Second, the best way by far to quickly earn large amounts of frequent flyer miles and hotel points with minimal cost to you is by taking advantage of special promotional offers on credit and debit cards. Doing things like putting as many of your expenses as you can on your credit cards that earn you miles and trying to get bonus miles in various ways whenever you fly using paid-for tickets help, but signing up for the actual cards themselves can get you giant chunks of miles in short amounts of time. These card sign-ups are always coming and going, and I try hard to keep the best ones available listed on my site. So feel free to stop by on a regular basis or better yet sign up for my email newsletter to stay updated. We are in unprecedented times with the largest sign-up offers I have ever seen.
However, having said that, there are never any sign up bonuses that have a value greater than the interest you will pay on a credit card in a very short amount of time, if you can’t pay off your credit cards in full every month. If you can’t pay off your balance every month you really should not be opening new accounts. And paying late, well that really negates the benefit of the sign-ups due to the late fees, interest and negative impact on your credit score.
And before you start applying for any new cards with big sign up bonuses be sure check your credit score before applying. One great way to check it for free is to sign up for creditsesame.com. If your score isn’t at least 700-720 or above on an FICO type scale, then you should probably spend a little time building up your score. If your credit score isn’t up to at least this range chances are that you will be denied for many of these cards, because they tend to only accept those with really good credit.
Likewise, it should also be pointed out that applying for a credit card will affect your score every time that you apply for a card. The drop is usually 2-5 points. In due time that small hit will go away, but if you aren’t likely to be accepted then why take the hit? Build up your score first to increase your chances. It’s all part of the points game that we play.
Once you have applied for a card, gotten accepted and started doing whatever it takes to make sure you get the bonus miles, and then finally have them added to your account, do not automatically cancel it like so many people seem to want to do. By canceling your credit card right after obtaining your sign up bonus you are not allowing your credit to age which is so important for building a good credit score.
Put the card in the sock drawer until the renewal is due. If when the renewal is due you are faced with a renewal fee, call and ask for additional miles as a retention bonus and/or a waiver of the annual renewal fee. At worst, they will likely give you another year for free if you tell them you forgot the card or now need it as your flying plans have changed to where you’ll be using their airline. If they don’t budge then you can of course just cancel it then, or ask to be switched to a no fee version of the same card.
Also keep in mind that most credit card companies offer a companion credit card for small businesses that have similar sign up bonuses. It is a completely separate card with its own credit limit and bonus. And just about anyone can say they have a business. For example, home sales of items on eBay is a business. This is a fantastic way to accumulate miles even faster. Remember to always tell the truth on your applications in regards to income and other factors even if your business is new and has a limited income.
Make sure you know your credit score before applying for cards and remember that your good credit will help you see the world for years to come, if you take good care of it.
Best of luck!