VIII. Join my Facebook group titled "Credit & Debit Card Points, Miles, Cashback Maximizer 4 Free Travel & More"
I. My History with Point/Miles/Cashback
Since I was a kid I have been reaping the benefits of credit card points/miles. My dad has accumulated and spent millions of miles on flights, including sending me on mission trips through miles to other countries like India.
II. Getting 4x the value from credit cards in 2017, getting a $40k return in 2017 instead of $10k return in 2016
In 2017, I decided that I was going to pay my dad back for the many times that he had paid for flights for me by greatly enhancing the value he was getting from his cards. He already had some excellent strategy going, giving him Delta Platinum status without having to fly all the normal miles required for it, but I was able to optimize his and my credit card portfolio to such a degree that we collectively generated 4x the value in points in 2017 (from around 600k points/miles generated in 2016 of a relatively low average value per point to over 2,000,000 points/miles generated in 2017 with a higher average value per point based on TPG valuations) over what we did in 2016, primarily through new cards and different spending strategies. The only new cards we acquired were based on my advice. That doesn't even include the cashback from cards not geared towards points. In 2017, That's the difference of $10,000 in value and $40,000 in value when effectively redeemed for travel & related expenses. I used points to pay for what would have been around $10,000 worth of travel expenses for my engagement and honeymoon through credit card points/miles, which only took a fraction of the points that my & my dad's credit cards acquired. In addition, we were able to spend points in ways that he didn't know were possible, and use points to get precious "MQM's" that help him to achieve his status with Delta which he previously hadn't been able to get with points. Through points, I was able to fund around 85% of expenses for my engagement in Disney, including most food, airport lounges, theme park tickets, flights, and lodging for my wife (I stayed with a friend). My biggest expense was gratuity.
As I share, keep in mind that despite the volume of points we get, it outdoes the demand, whether from business bookings from my dad's >100 employees, vacation, or otherwise, & that we still pay for travel in cash sometimes (at least a few thousand in the past few weeks alone at the time of this writing on business or ministry trips) because of it when points alternatives are not high value per point.
III. How you can use points
Through points & free credit card perks, I was also able to pay for the majority of my expenses for my 2 week honeymoon, including 3/4 plane tickets in first class, United Lounge access, around 90-95% of our hotel room at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort which would have been around $6,000 for the paid rate due to the length and timing right before Christmas as well as the room we were in, & car rental.
Credit card points are about a lot more than just going on planes, such as the examples I've already stated. In addition to using points for meals, hotels, rental cars, and flights, you can use points for cruises, trains, ground transportation, and a wide variety of other activities. Look for instance at these options I found through Chase points, where I narrowed down the many options in Miami to water sports as well as Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours. These points can be pretty easily acquired through a few credit cards even if you are a low spender. There are no fees involved with the examples pictured below. (ie 6k pts OR $90, not AND). Keep in mind however that fixed value redemptions like those below (1.5 cents per point with the chase Sapphire Reserve) are generally not ideal when more lucrative alternatives are available except in rare circumstances (i.e. the Centurion Card's 2 cents per point fixed value for flights on 1 airline, the Delta's recent promo for vacation packages at 2 cents per point, Amtrak's fixed value 2.9 cents per point (>3 cents when the 5% rebate from their credit card is factored in) on most business class travel and some economy, etc.). For instance, The 6,000 points option for $90 could easily be worth >$100 and in some cases >$500 when used well with transfer partners like Hyatt, especially when combined with status on peak dates. Because of that, while I used to use the fixed value of 1.5 cents per Chase Ultimate Rewards point more, now we are looking at acheiving value closer to the TPG valuation of 2 cents per point at minimum.
Here are some additional options I found through Chase points, where I narrowed down the many options in Honolulu to "Water Sports," "Cruises, Sailing, and Water Tours", as well as "Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours."
IV. What I get out of giving you FREE advice
You asking for credit card advice is actually fun for me to respond to, so don't worry about taking up my time to ask for advice. Gaming credit cards is probably my biggest hobby at the time of this writing. In addition, sometimes I get referral bonuses in points or cash if you sign up for some of the cards or other services that I can suggest. I will often send you links for other cards as well where I won't get a referral bonus, but because I have so many credit cards already, and because the ones I have are so valuable, I often can refer you to one that either I have or that my dad has in addition to ones that I don't have yet. At the time of this writing, points/cashback from referrals makes up around 1 or 2% of the total points we received last year, so don't think that you need to get referrals in order to gain a ton of value from credit card points/cashback. At the same time, if you are recommending cards anyways to others (as I was for years even before sending anyone referral links), some extra points are always nice.
V. When NOT to apply for credit cards
1. If you have any late payments or have paid any interest on credit cards in the past year
2. If you tend to spend more money on credit cards than you would on debit cards and are not able to curb this habit on your current credit cards by more regular payments in full than once a month (additional payments which I do myself, especially since Debitize is no longer an option) in addition to automatic payments in full & by automatic transfers to separate bank accounts right after your paycheck if you get a regular automatic paycheck (for instance, when I get paid twice a month, each time my money is automatically diverted from my main checking account to multiple additional accounts the next day, such as for my mortgage, tithe, and other regular fixed expenses
3. If you don't have a budget that you follow. The benefits of having a written budget that you follow usually outweigh any benefits from credit cards, without the pitfalls of credit cards, while also lowering the likelihood of pitfalls from credit cards
4. If buying a house in the next year, your credit scores are below 770, and you find out that acquiring a credit card will likely lower your score to below 760
5. If you have not checked the likelihood of getting approved for the card prior to applying, such as through creditkarma.com, nav.com, & checking your FICO scores (as opposed to your Vantage scores) for free through websites like Experian.com and other places.
6. If you haven't received a professional consultation (Creditkarma and similar website "recommendations" don't count as they are often bad & will never tell you it's a bad idea to apply for all credit cards right now) to make sure that you are making the best decision and relying solely on your own and other unprofessional opinions or the opinions of someone with 1 bank. When I was less familiar with credit cards than I am now, even I made some poor decisions on credit card choices. When considering applications, it's important to keep in mind that sometimes your best bet will be to convert a pre-existing card to another card that will give you better net value.
VI. Using credit cards effectively to beat the system
Some people are scared about getting too many credit cards. I have 19 at the time of this writing, with more in sight within the next 6 months, and when I recently purchased a house about a year ago, my credit score was above 760, the point at which interest rates are the lowest possible whether you have a 761 or an 850. I'm not unique in that; Lucky had an 837 with over 2 dozen credit cards, as you can read here . That said, if you are currently below 760 or 740 (depending on the lender & loan you're using), in many cases it's best to avoid getting any credit cards if you're planning on buying a house in the next year because of the temporary negative impact on credit despite the long term benefits on your credit score.
The good news is that I can not only direct you to ways to get points, cashback, and miles, but can also help you to effectively manage multiple cards and make credit cards work for you through programs like Mint.
In addition to Mint, I can introduce you to the cashback debit card that I use for higher spending when credit cards can't be used so that you're still getting something back even though it's not nearly as lucrative as many of the credit cards I can recommend since with that debit card it's only 1% cashback on up to $3k/month. For smaller purchases, especially under $1, the flat rate of 10 cents cash back of my other cashback debit card is helpful. If you are not in the Hampton Roads area, look for a local bank that offers 10 cents cashback per transaction. My most lucrative debit card is the Cash App debit card. It provides $1 off purchases of $1.50 or more at coffee shops, and 10% off at certain chains, when you activate the particular discount that you are planning on using, which can be used once every 30 minutes. If you don't yet have the cash app, and are interested, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could use my link to get it.
While often there are no fees for utility payments with credit cards, in some cases there are additional fees, such as for electric in the Hampton Roads area. To get around that while helping the environment, I use my local power company, but pay them through Arcadia Power with no fees for using credit cards. They also have a good referral program for those recruiting 5-10 people per year, and if you'd be interested, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could use my link here.
If you want minimal impact on your personal credit score by credit cards, consider business credit cards. The main impact on a number of cards (which cards is explained in this link) is exclusively a 1 year small ding from the hard credit inquiry involved. That could be only 3-5 points and a year later it's as if it was never there! Don't let not having a "business" stop you from getting points from business credit cards either! Apply these strategies to legitly get business cards:
1. Remember that you can apply with your social security number as a sole proprietor
2. There is no minimum income requirement for some business cards
3. If you don't profit from anything outside of your main job where you are not a business owner, consider a tiny amount of work with Lyft (like Uber but easier to apply for in my experience) or AirBnB. They're pretty easy to qualify for if you have a relatively clean record. If you happen to apply for Lyft or AirBnB , using my referral links for it would be greatly appreciated as I get a small kickback! If you would like that for yourself, just let me know.