As our regular readers already know, Shelley and I get many of our flights for free via airline points, and we accrue most of these points by appropriately taking advantage of the best credit card offers available. Airline tickets have always been a major cost of any trip, and that’s even truer now that prices have gone up so much due to rising fuel costs and fewer routes being flown by airlines. So now it’s even MORE important for budget-minded travelers to try to get their airline tickets via points if at all possible
However, you must use these credit card offers and programs properly and wisely in order toget the most out of them while also protecting your credit score – one of the most important things in your financial life. Below are some general guidelines to keep in mind and things to do as you apply for and use new credit cards that will help you travel for free just like we do.
1) It’s very important to always know what your credit score is. If you don’t already have access to this information then I highly recommend that you sign up with CreditSesame.com. It’s free, and you get an updated Experian credit score emailed to you about once per month. You can also get a free annual credit report once per year from all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) via AnnualCreditReport.com. Credit reports don’t give you an actual credit score, but they contain a ton of useful information that can help you protect and improve your credit score.
2) If your credit score isn’t above at least 700 or higher then you probably should spend some time improving your credit score before applying to any new credit card offers. If your score is too low then your application probably isn’t going to get accepted anyway, and your credit score will take a small, unnecessary hit (see #3 below). If you want or need to improve your credit score, here is some information on how to repair your credit.
3) Keep in mind that each credit card application will drop your credit score like 2-5 points.Those aren’t huge amounts and they go away after two years, but still you should choose your opportunities wisely. Generally speaking I’ve probably applied to like 6-8 credit cards per year in the last 2-3 years, and my credit score is still around 790.
That’s because I am admittedly anal about keeping my credit score strong. For some tips on keeping a good credit score check out this article on The Top 10 Credit Mistakes.
4) When you see a credit card offer make sure it is worth applying for. Personally, I will not apply to a card unless I know I can get AT LEAST 25k points from fulfilling the requirements, and of course the more points the better. I also consider whether or not the annual fee for the card is waived the first year. I have no problem paying an $89 (or whatever ballpark figure) annual fee for a card that is going to net me 50k or more points, but I’d be a lot more hesitant if I were only going to get 30k. Also, what are the spend requirements for getting the bonus points? Some cards require really high spend amounts like $25,000 in one year while others may require only a single purchase to get the bonus points. Likewise, keep in mind which airline alliance (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, Oneworld) you would like to fly on, because most of these credit cards are aimed at gaining points with specific airlines which of course belong to specific alliances.
5) Only use these cards for things you would have needed to purchase anyway. It makes NO financial sense at all to spend money on unneeded items just to hit your spend requirements for obtaining airline points bonuses. It would make way more sense just to buy the ticket from the airline than to do this. Remember, the idea is to save money, not waste it.
6) Keep in mind that oftentimes credit card companies offer similar bonus mile opportunities for companion credit cards for small businesses. And the definition of a business usually includes something as simple as a small, part-time business you run out of your home. This can be a great way to rack up some serious points really fast.
These are some of the basics for how to go about signing up for credit card offers that will maximize the amount of airline points that you can accumulate quite easily. This may be the easiest way to get free travel that I know of, and again Shelley and I take advantage of these great offers several times a year. If YOU want to travel for free, then you should too.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the The British Airways card are a couple of current credit card offers that we have that used in the past and highly recommend. The points from the Sapphire card helped get us to Southeast Asia for free, and the points we’ll get from the British Airways card will likely be taking us to Latin America for free in the future. Woohoo! After you have read through the general guidelines above and feel ready to get your own free airline points, then just click on the images of the cards to get to the offers. Good luck!
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. You can use these points within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, or you can transfer them to other participating frequent travel programs like we did. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees when you use this card abroad which is a nice bonus.
[This particular Chase credit card offer has ended.]
[This particular British Airways credit card offer has ended.]
Get 50,000 bonus Avios (points) after your very first purchase! Like the Chase Sapphire card above, there are no foreign transaction fees when you use this card abroad. The $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year, but this is more than worth if for 50,000 Avios points (could easily buy $1000+ worth of airfare) with only a sigle purchase required, i.e. you’re NOT required to spend thousands of dollars on the card before you get your points. FYI, it’t probably best to not actually use these miles with British Airways, but rather with one of their many oneworld alliance partners like American or Cathay Pacific. You can read more about this here.