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If you’ve read this far you’re likely sold on the three main flexible points currencies, and for good reason. These programs are going to give you the most options for redeeming your miles, allow you to transfer to any of the major alliances, and help protect you against major changes to any one airline program.
So if you are only going to open one new credit card, I would recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It has the best all-around benefits, has great bonus categories, and you earn Ultimate Rewards Points, which are incredibly versatile.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers double points on dining and travel, plus has no foreign transaction fees, so is great to use when traveling abroad.
While you want to be careful not to over-diversify your miles and points (keep in mind you’ll generally need at least 100,000 miles per person for an international business class award), it does make sense to accumulate miles in a variety of programs.
On top of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I also typically recommend the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®, and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers triple points on airfare, and double points and gas and groceries.
Neither The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®, nor the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express have any bonus categories, but I tend to think these are the two best cards for “every day” spend that doesn’t otherwise earn a bonus.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® is essentially a cash-back card (like all fixed-value currencies), but you earn 2.1% back on travel, which you can redeem for a statement credit.
In addition to being incredibly useful for hotel stays, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earns points that can be transferred to dozens of different airlines. You receive a 20% bonus when transferring points in increments of 20,000 so this can be a great way to rack up bonus miles in any number of airline programs.
The W Sentosa Cove in Singapore can be a great use of SPG points.
I try to highlight the best current credit card offers each month, but if you are just starting out I would choose two or three of the above cards, and then build from there. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for “mega” offers (that can be as high as 100,000 miles), so stay tuned to the blog for updates!
Business Credit Cards
The other way to really bolster your mileage balances is by taking advantage of small business credit cards. These often have different bonus categories and benefits, and can pair nicely with the personal cards.
You don’t have to have a company with a tax ID to apply. Any business — even a sole proprietorship — would make you eligible. If you’re a sole proprietorship without a tax ID then you’d just put your social security number in that field.
I know many people that have been approved for small business cards with start-ups and limited business income. Just be honest about the type of business, income, and so forth.
Meeting Minimum Spends
Most of the great credit card offers award a certain number of miles or points after a certain spending requirement is met in a given period of time. We typically refer to these as “minimum spends” – the bare minimum amount you need to spend on a card to receive the reward being advertised.
This is a key part of earning points through credit card signups – you must keep track of how much you’ve spent, and when the deadline is. It makes no sense to sacrifice points on your credit score if you aren’t going to get the sign-up bonus!
I typically just set a calendar reminder for the date I need to complete the spend requirement, and a second for when I expect the points to post, so it doesn’t have to be a complicated system.
While it can be intimidating to meet minimum spending requirements, there are probably more opportunities than you realize to place every day charges on your credit card. Things I’ve done in the past include:
- Putting even small charges on your credit card, rather than using cash
- Paying auto, health, and home insurance online
- Some universities, apartment buildings, and other institutions accept credit card payments
- You can make federal tax payments via credit card for a small fee (I wouldn’t make a habit of this, but it can make sense if you wouldn’t otherwise meet the minimum spend)
- It may even make sense to buy a few gift cards (say, to the gas station) for shopping you plan to do next month if it helps you reach the spending threshold.
There are also more creative methods, but let’s stick to the basics for now 😉
It’s also worth mentioning that you and your significant other can sign up for cards separately. Bank applications ask for your household income, so this is a great way to double your potential rewards!
The signup bonuses on these cards will get you well on your way to improving both the quality and the quantity of your travel. The next step is to make sure you’re leveraging every opportunity to build those mileage balances!
Next: Earning Miles & Points
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