This post is targeted to people who are new to miles and points and those who are still contemplating getting involved in this “hobby.” For miles and points veterans, maybe you have friends and family who are curious how you travel for “free” using miles and points, but they haven’t made the leap into your world yet. This is for them!
Why Miles and Points Credit Cards?
Thanks to miles and points credit cards, I haven’t paid for an airline ticket in over three years. THREE YEARS! I have 5 people in my family, and in the past three years we have flown to Colorado and Florida multiple times, New York, Hawaii, California, Minnesota and Mexico. (Disclaimer: Technically, the tickets haven’t been completely free since award tickets have a 9/11 fee of $5.60 per ticket for domestic flights and higher fees for international destinations…but the tickets were almost free).
On most of our trips, we’ve also stayed at hotels for free using hotel points.
How? A few times a year, my husband and I apply for a new credit card that earns miles or points. We put our normal monthly spending on the credit card (groceries, gas, kids’ activities, restaurants, etc.) and pay off in full every month. We only apply for credit cards with great miles/points bonuses that we know we can use for future trips. After accumulating enough miles and points to cover airline tickets and hotels for our family vacations, we book our trips. (See this Beginner’s Guide for more information).
I’ll cut to the chase. November is a great month to apply for a new credit card for three reasons.
It’s easier to meet credit card minimum spending during November and December.
People spend more during November and December due to elevated holiday and end-of-year expenses. According to Bank of America, consumers spend 40% more on their credit cards in December than an average month.
Where is all that extra spending going?
- Gifts for family, friends, teachers
- Holiday travel
- Big ticket electronics and appliances
- Property tax payments
Most credit cards require that you spend $1000 – $5000 in the first three months in order to get a lucrative sign-up bonus of 40,000 – 100,000 points/miles. Opening a new card in November ensures that you can meet that minimum spending to trigger the bonus with your organic spending.
If you’re going to be spending that money anyway (and hopefully you have the money in savings to pay off your bills in full each month), why not earn a bunch of miles and points at the same time?
Since I live in Texas and we don’t have state income taxes, our property tax bill is higher than many other states. We choose not to participate in escrow with our mortgage company, and instead we save our money each month to pay our property tax bill at the end of the year. We can usually meet one credit card’s minimum spending with this payment alone. Although we pay a small fee to put our property tax on a credit card (check with your county—our county’s fee is ~2%), the miles and points bonus far outweighs the small charge.
You can take advantage of double travel credits.
Some credit cards offer yearly travel credits as a benefit per calendar year. Getting a new card in November allows you to reap that benefit in 2016 and 2017 while only paying one year’s worth of the annual fee.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 yearly travel credit. The travel credit is reimbursed for every calendar year. If you apply for the card now, you can get reimbursed for a $300 travel expense in November and then again in January. You only have to pay the card’s annual fee once to get $600 in benefits. Similarly, the American Express Platinum card has a $200 yearly airline credit that you could receive twice for one annual fee.
There are some great new credit card bonuses available right now.
Right now, there are some unprecedented credit card promotions going on in the miles and points world. The best card for you depends on your travel goals and spending habits. Two of the best bonuses currently available are:
Chase Sapphire Reserve: This is a relatively new card offering. Right now, the bonus is 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4000 in the first three months. The card also comes with a $300 per calendar year travel credit. It does have a hefty $450 annual fee, but the travel credit you will get this year and again in January ($600 total) more than covers the annual fee. UPDATE: the 100k bonus ends on 1/11/17. Starting 1/12/17, the sign-up bonus is 50k.
If you are not traveling before the end of this year, you can buy airline gift cards directly through the airlines to trigger the travel credit. Or, consider putting a deposit on a cruise for a future date!
Ultimate Rewards points are very valuable and flexible. You can convert them into Hyatt points, United miles and Southwest miles, to name a few. You can also use them in the Ultimate Rewards portal for $1500 worth of travel. See this post on the top uses for 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
The card earns 3X points on travel and dining, which can add up fast depending on your monthly spending habits.
Applications for the Chase Sapphire Reserve have skyrocketed, and some experts believe that Chase will eventually reduce the sign-up bonus. Banks are very unpredictable, so there really is no way to know how long this bonus will be offered. Be aware that this card can be difficult to get if you have applied for over five new cards in the last two years (see 5/24 rule).
Barclaycard Arrival Plus: This card currently has a bonus of 50,000 points after spending $3000 within the first three months. That’s worth $500 in free travel for any charge that is coded as travel! This is a great flexible point currency to have to pay for hotels that don’t have traditional reward point charts.
The card earns 2X points on all spending, and the $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.
In the past, the bonus on this card has been 40,000 points, so this card is an even better deal with its current bonus of 50,000 points.
We do receive a commission on both cards if you apply through the site, but these offers are so good that we would recommend them regardless. In fact, I got them myself! If these cards don’t fit your travel goals, check out the Resources at the top of the blog for other suggestions, or feel free to ask Leana or me about which card is right for you.
If you’ve been waiting to start accumulating miles and points for travel, there is no better time than now to get started with a new credit card!
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.