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Travel hacking with credit card bonuses isn’t rocket science. However, most of us in this hobby have made mistakes from time to time. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:
Missing Minimum Spend Deadline
In order to get these attractive sign-up bonuses from credit cards, you must first spend a minimum amount of money by a certain date. For example, spend $3000 in the first three months. The clock starts ticking from the day you are approved for the card, not the day you get the physical card. Keep in mind that some charges show up days after the actual transaction. I recommend putting the date on your calendar and making sure to meet the spend at least five days prior.
Including Annual Fee in Minimum Spend Calculation
A new card’s annual fee is included on the card’s first statement. However, that amount does NOT count towards the required minimum spend on the card to get the bonus. Simply adding up statement balances to see if you’ve met the spend is misleading due to the annual fee. Make sure to subtract that from the total.
Missing/Late Credit Card Payments
With a new credit card, it’s easy to forget to set up automatic payments. If you miss a payment during the first few months, you may not receive the card’s bonus. Also, with continuing cards that you haven’t used for a while, it’s easy to forget about paying the card’s annual fee the following year if you’re not used to paying a balance on the card. I recommend using Travel Freely to keep track of annual fee payments.
Signing Up for Bonus You Aren’t Eligible For
Banks have a lot of rules these days on who is eligible for a card’s bonus. American Express, for example, only allows you to get the bonus on a particular card once (the “lifetime” rule). Always read the fine print, and check out this post before you apply.
Too Many Cards in Sock Drawer
Once you meet the minimum spend on a new card and get the bonus, we like to say “put the card in your sock drawer” and start on a new card. However, in the past several years, banks have become more observant of customers’ long-term spending habits. Whether you plan to keep a card or cancel it in a year, it’s best to put some spending on it every once in a while. I didn’t do this with my Amex cards, and now I’m on Amex’s naughty list and have been ineligible for new cards from Amex for the last few years.