A great technique for dramatically reducing the cost of travel is learning to churn credit cards. If you don’t know how credit card churning works, here’s a summary:
- Find a credit card with a promotion or sign-up bonus that will give you lots of miles/points.
- Meet the minimum spending requirement.
- Collect your points.
- Repeat. Also, combining multiple applications on a single day (known as an app-o-rama) will multiply the benefits!
Over the last year, I have churned through a bunch of credit cards and accumulated well over a millions points and miles. This can be a very simple technique to implement, but a difficult one to maximize. As you get more involved in credit card churning, you will develop a greater ability to acquire miles and points.
If you think credit card churning might be for you, there are several things to remember:
- Maintaining good credit is your top priority. Good credit is essential to securing a mortgage, auto loans, and other financing that will be more valuable than points and miles. Furthermore, damaging your credit to acquire points and miles is akin to killing the goose that lays golden eggs. Take care of your credit and your credit will take care of you.
- You MUST be a disciplined user of credit cards. If you don’t pay off your balance every month, this is not for you. The interest rate on some of these cards can be very high and may quickly erase any gain you acquire if you carry a balance. Instead, look for a low rate card that provides other benefits. Click here for a decent resource to sort through card options.
- You should have very good or excellent credit. Every time you apply for a credit card, an “inquiry” is made in your credit history. This will drop your credit score by a couple points. Applying for offers and getting denied will hurt your score without giving you any benefit. If your score is less than stellar, do what you can to repair it before churning cards.
- Keep an eye on the spending requirements. Some of the best looking promotional offers come with spending limits that are difficult to meet.
- Avoid cards that have an annual fee. Other people disagree on this one and have good reasons for doing so. My personal policy is to try to avoid cards with fees unless the payoff will be several times higher than the fee. I don’t hesitate to apply for cards that waive the annual fee because I have a spreadsheet that I use to keep track of when the fees will become payable. If you pay a fee for a card, be sure you are getting good value for it.
Are you ready for some more advanced tips? Read about the churnability of cards on the Churnable Cards page. Where else?
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