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PART 2: EARN FREE POINTS
Choose 1-3 Credit Cards
Now that you have a strategy, you're ready to choose which credit card(s) are right for your travel. If you've already picked out a specific destination, you'll want to earn points and miles that can be used to get there. If you don't know where exactly you want to visit yet, that's alright. In both instances, I find myself most often recommending newbie travelers to start out by applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. This card is very versatile with flexible points that transfer to a few airlines and hotels, it has a low $95 annual fee, and the introductory bonus of 60,000 points can go a long way. For instance, I regularly use this exact amount of points to book my wife and I both round trip flights from the West Coast to Hawaii.
For ideas, check out our "Credit Cards" page, where you'll find a list of what we believe are the current top 15 personal credit card offers as well as the top 10 small business credit cards available. Remember that there are three types of travel credit cards. Hotel credit cards, airline credit cards and flexible points credit cards. Choose whichever fits your travel goals the most adequately, and make sure that you'll be able to meet the minimum spends to receive your bonuses.
Apply For Your Cards
Now that you know which card(s) you want, you're ready to apply for them. I know it can be scary pressing that submit button, but think of all the adventures that will be on the other side! Fill out your applications truthfully, enter any rewards programs member numbers that you may already have that apply, and press submit. If you are applying for a small business credit card, remember that you will be asked to either enter your EIN number or your SSN if you operate as a sole proprietor.
One of two things will happen... You'll either be instantly approved (woohooo!!!) or your application will say they need to review it further and will notify you in a set amount of days. Don't worry if your application ends up being reviewed. It does not mean you won't be approved. Just sit tight and wait to hear back from them. Most banks have either a web-page or phone number that you can check up on your application to see if it has been approved yet. To find those, search Google for "(Chase/Barclays/Amex/etc) application status" and you should be able to find what you're looking for.
If you happen to get declined for a card that you have applied for, it's not the end of the line. You can still call the bank and ask for them to reconsider or review your application. They may ask you a few simple questions and then put you on hold... More often than not, the human review can get your card approved. One tip for making these calls is if they ask why you want this credit card, don't just tell them because the bonus offer... Be prepared to tell them how it fits your lifestyle/business and how you love the specific benefits that the card offers. I've had to do this numerous times. I'm always nervous, but more often than not it ends up working out.
Meet Your Minimum Spends
You're Approved! Now, it's time to get to work meeting the minimum spend that your credit card requires in order to get the introductory bonus. Make sure you put everything that you regularly purchase onto your new credit card so that you can get your points/miles as soon as possible. Food, utilities, phone bill, cable bill, rent, mortgage, gas, EVERYTHING! If you don't have a way to directly pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card, there are online services like Plastiq (code: 1051477 gets $500 fee free), that you can pay a small fee to be able to pay by credit card to have them send a check on your behalf. If you take this route make sure to do it ahead of time so that your payment is on time. Another resource could be family members that you trust. If they have a large purchase coming up, they may be willing to let you purchase it on your new credit card and have them pay you back in cash or on a service like Venmo. If you have someone you would trust, it doesn't hurt to ask.
If your regular spend is just not quite enough to get you to the minimum spending limit within your allotted time frame, you may need to think outside the box on what other purchases you can make. For example you could save up all your upcoming purchases, or pay your rent/mortgage with your credit card. You could also do your Christmas gift shopping early this year. A good resource on outside the box spending ideas, check out the Frequent Miler blog.
Get Your Miles!
After you've met your minimum spending requirements, all you have to do is wait until your credit card statement closes, and then you will have your points! 40k, 50k, 100k points... Whatever your introductory bonus was, you now have it! You're ready to spend those points for the vacation of your dreams. Can you feel the sand between your toes yet?!?