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Earning Points Part 1: Welcome Bonuses

The quickest and easiest way to earn points and miles is by opening credit cards that offer welcome bonuses, usually anywhere from 25,000-100,000 points.

Not all points are equal, so it is important to recognize the value of a point. For example, I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points more than American Airlines AAdvantage miles.  You can open about 2-3 credit cards every 6 or so months.

Choose cards that earn transferrable points first

If you use airline or hotel co-branded cards, you will only earn miles or points for that airline of hotel. Earning transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points gives you the option to transfer to several airlines. Airline and hotel co-branded cards are great for welcome bonuses and for the benefits you receive, but transferable points should be your first priority.

A few tips:

  • If you are married, both spouses should open cards. That way, you can each earn a welcome bonus
  • When you open a card, you will usually have to spend a certain amount (usually $1,000-$3,000) during the first three months. The points will be awarded after that.  Here are some ideas for meeting minimum spending requirements.
  • When are the points awarded? Depends but usually after your statement in which you meet the minimum spend closes.
  • There are many cards out there with no annual fee, but most of the cards that I keep and value the most do have a fee that I am able to justify by the benefits.
  • Some cards may waive the fee for the first year, but even if they do not, usually the welcome bonus alone is worth significantly more money than the annual fee if you learn how to redeem for max value
    • Most airline credit cards have the benefit of checking your first bag for free. If you frequent one airline, it might be worth it to keep their card even if you do not intend to use it for spending because a roundtrip flight can cost 60$ or more in checked bags.
    • This along with other benefits often offsets the cost of the annual fee.
    • For example, I have an American Airlines AAdvantage co-branded card that I rarely use, but I keep it open for the benefits since DFW is an AA hub and we fly AA often. The free checked bag benefit alone is worth way more than the annual fee for us.
  • After the first year, you may decide the annual fee is not worth paying. This is why it is important to keep a note or spreadsheet of all of your accounts, date opened, and annual fees.  As the anniversary approaches, you may choose to cancel a card, but before you cancel, make sure you do not lose your points!

“Which credit card should I get?”

The best advice I can give to anyone starting out is to get the card that gives you the most flexibility with points, and that would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  The welcome bonus I can find for CSP is currently 60,000 points.  That bonus is worth at least $750, but potentially much more.

Each month, we update the list off credit card offers. You can find that list here or in the main menu.

You can read a comprehensive beginner’s guide to award travel here.

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