You’ve seen the travel blogs that advertise various credit cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses and how to leverage those points and miles into first class flights and luxury hotels. It’s pretty enticing and inspiring. Unfortunately, acquiring those credit card bonuses often require spending a minimum of $3,000 (per card) within three months. When you’re on a budget, that can be a challenge. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the fun. It just means you have to re-adjust your expectations and develop a credit card strategy that can benefit your family.
Points & Miles Archive
Before my wife and I tied the knot, I was just a shell of the man I am today. At the time I proposed, my net worth in hotel points and airline miles was only the equivalent of one free night at a Courtyard Marriott. She said yes anyway. With wedding planning in full force, one day she said to me, “We should get a Hilton American Express credit card. My parents have it and it helped us get free hotel rooms and free breakfast in Hawaii. That could save us money on future vacations.” It sounded like a good idea so I agreed and applied for the card. After we received the cards is when I really began researching how to earn more points and maximize the benefits. The can of worms was opened. Almost 10 years later (!?!?!), the roles are reversed.
Me: “So…there’s a new credit…”
Her: “We don’t need anymore credit cards.”
Me: “At least let me tell you about the benefits and how this will help us.”
Her: “Ugh….if you must. Is there an annual fee?”
Me: “Yeah, but it’s worth it. <Explains the benefits>
Her: “<Sigh>…..Okay, I guess that sounds good. But what about other cards?”
Me: “Yay!” <runs off>
Ironic, isn’t it?
Still using a debit card or non-rewards bank credit card as your main payment method? Now might be the time to retire it and enter the wonderful world of rewards credit cards. Switch to a credit card that offers hotel points, airline miles or cash back. It’s one of the easiest ways to help stretch your dollars further. The money is being spent one way or the other, so why not get a return on your investment? There are a lot of things to consider when making this decision, like sign-up bonuses, earning power, and benefits. These just make things even more complex though. Don’t let this deter you. In the long run, you’ll be able to open the door to experiences you never thought were possible.
There are two reasons why it’s been over a decade since I last used a debit or non-rewards credit card to make a purchase:
- Most debit cards don’t offer any type of return on the money I’m spending. The ones that do have a rewards program have a lower rate of return than a credit card.
- If my debit card information ever gets stolen, the thieves have direct access to my money. If they have my credit card information, the transactions get wiped immediately and my money is sitting safe and sound in the bank.
To be completely transparent, I used a little green piece of paper to buy lunch the other day. Why? Like they say for Snickers, you’re not you when you’re hungry.
Annual fees are the devil! Is something you might have heard when you first started applying for credit cards. I kept up with that for a few years until I started getting into the hotel points and airline miles game. Now 80% of my cards are made up of travel credit cards with annual fees. What changed my mind? One word: value.
After a lot of research, I started weighing the overall value I would receive relative to the cost of the annual fees. This includes the rewards/earning program and the perks of the card. The card that opened my eyes to annual fees was the Hyatt VISA card by Chase, which is now my favorite card that I never use. That’s a story for a different blog post though. It worked out great before I had a kid, and as a parent, it works out even better.
Who Doesn’t Love Free Hotel Nights?
After you’re approved for the card, you can get two free nights to use at any Hyatt property around the world. The only catch is that you have to spend $1,000 in the first three months of having the card. This kind of diminishes the value of the free nights but Hyatt has some really nice properties that can allow you to come close to matching, or even exceeding, the $1,000 you had to fork over.