How to Maximize Free Travel: Best Rewards Credit Cards-June, 2018

Using credit cards for sign up bonuses and every day spend is the best way to quickly get enough points for free nights!  When I talk to most people about this, they are immediately scared of credit cards and are skeptical of how many I have, especially because they know Elizabeth and I are both teachers and don’t make huge salaries. They never believe we are able to manage our finances and have the credit score that we have when we have so many credit cards.  However, I promise you it can be done, you just have to be disciplined! So, how do you get to travel for free on a teacher’s budget?  Credit cards play a significant role!

For other articles relating to traveling for cheap, please read the following:

Why You Should Get The Hyatt Credit Card And Keep It!

Flying For Free On Points: Southwest

Mexico Vacation to Hyatt Ziva Cancun For Free

3 Easy Ways To Save Money For Travel

Every Day Spend

Hotel and flight credit cards are great ways to earn points on money you would already be spending.  For example, if we spend $200 on a trip to the grocery, why not gain points on that money spent?  Writing a check or using a debit card means $200 was deducted from my checking account.  Using the Hilton AMEX credit cards means I could have received 1,000 or 1,200 Hilton points just by using the card when spending $200 I already would have spent anyway!!!! The question becomes do you want to get something back for your expenses or would you rather just get nothing?

Non-Bonused Category Spend

Sometimes you can’t get a credit card to pay you back a lot of points based on the category of your spend. These are called non-bonused category expenses.  An example might be a bill for internet or a community HOA monthly fee.  If you pay for these recurring bills with a credit card, you need to use a credit card where points are very valuable, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Sometimes AMEX rewards lets you sign up for a category bonus, and we actually just used one of these bonuses and received $10 off our cell phone bill for 3 months straight JUST FOR USING OUR CREDIT CARD. This is a win-win for us because it lowered our bill AND we still received points! You are going to pay these bills anyway, so why not get some rewards points to be used for travel?

Sign-Up Bonus

Most, if not all, rewards credit cards offer a sign up bonus. Some bonuses are better than others, but it is really nice to get a huge point bonus just for getting the card and putting some spend on the card.  The most common form of sign up bonus requirements are something like:

Get 50,000 points when spending $2,000 on your card in the first 3 months

Spending $2k or $3k in 3 months may sound like a lot, but if you put the following items on a credit card rather than a debit card or use a check, you probably will get close to meeting the spend without even trying:

Cell phone bill

Cable, internet and phone

HOA payment

Car insurance/home insurance

Restaurants, gas, and groceries

Check to see if you can pay your electric and/or gas bill without a surcharge

LOTS of people coincide getting a new card when they know they will be making a large payment, like a 6 month car insurance bill.  We also try to get a new card every year before Christmas and put the Christmas gift spend on the new card.  Everyone’s situation is a little bit different, but if you know you are about to get a new refrigerator or washing machine, why not get a new card and use that spend to reach the sign-up bonus easily? We did this exact thing when our dishwasher needed to be replaced in 2015.

Most people hurt their credit score by carrying a balance on their credit card. If you are serious about getting points using credit cards, you have to pay off your credit card every month!!!! That means you have to never spend more money than you have in your checking account!

If you are like me, you have heard horror stories about people ruining their credit because of credit cards.  This is because they don’t pay off their cards and dig in a hole.  Then they keep digging the hole deeper and deeper. This cannot happen if you pay off your bill every month!

Hard Inquiry

You will receive a hard inquiry on your credit report when applying for a credit card.  That means you should space out your credit card applications.  Some people recommend waiting 3 months to apply for another card, but if you are brand new to using cards to getting points, I suggest waiting at least 9-12 months before getting your second card. You need to become an expert in everything to do with the card as far as the sign up bonus, the bonus categories, and you have to get very familiar with your hotel or flight program set up through the card!

Monitoring Your Credit Report

You will get access to your credit score through most credit cards. However, you likely can’t get information about your credit report unless you go through other channels.  I know some prefer, but I prefer  These sites break down your credit score and what makes your credit score increase or decrease.  Because of these sites, I have been able to maximize my credit score for someone at my age.

Key things you need to do to maximize your credit report: Intentionally spend less than 10% of your total creditKeep credit cards longer and it will raise your score. Don’t cancel no fee credit cards, even if you don’t use them!Keep your credit inquiries below 5 on any given credit reporting company’s report

***This should go without saying, but you always have to pay your bills on time!!!!!!***

Below, I have listed some credit cards that are great for beginners and experts, mainly because they have systems that are easy to understand and will give you value.  Use these links to learn the fine details about the cards.

Note, the cards listed here are easier to master in my opinion, and there may be others that fit your needs. If you have questions or want to talk about which card might fit you, comment below or email me at


Hilton Honors Card from American Express

Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express

Hyatt Credit Card

Marriott Credit Card


Southwest Premier Credit Card

United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card

British Airways Visa Signature Card

Transferable Options

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

Citi ThankYou Premier Card

Let me know if you have questions about any of these cards by commenting below, or by emailing me at

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