Beginner credit card plan: over 500K points in 12 to 15 months

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Beginner credit card plan

The quickest and easiest way to amass points and miles is through credit card welcome bonuses.  In this post I’ll demonstrate a credit card plan for a beginner starting from scratch to amass over 500,000 points in about a year.

This post was first published a year ago.  Since then some new credit cards and new credit card benefits have hit the scenes, and many welcome offers have changed.  So, I’ve rewritten this post to reflect current conditions.  Please note that this is a constantly shifting landscape so recommendations for even 3 months from now may no longer be valid at that time.  If you subscribe to our newsletter, though, you’ll be kept up to date with these changes as they happen.

Caution!  There’s a reason that credit card companies are willing to give away points & miles. They make a lot of money from interest and fees. Interest and fee payments can quickly wipe out the benefits gained from signup bonuses. The only way to come out ahead is to pay your credit card bills in full, every month. If you can’t do that, then I highly recommend against signing up for new credit cards. Further, every year when annual fees come due you should evaluate whether the card is worth the fee. If not, cancel it or call to downgrade it to a fee free card. To avoid losing points, see our checklist for cancelling credit cards.

Assumptions

It’s impossible to make a general plan that applies to everyone.  Readers differ drastically in terms of their financial situation, credit worthiness, ability/willingness to apply for business cards, travel goals, travel preferences, and interest in learning the tough stuff (such as how to eek out the most value from your airline miles).

All of those complicating factors just scratch the surface.  For this post I’ll make the following assumptions about the reader:

  • Good credit score
  • Hasn’t applied for any new credit cards in the past few years.
  • Typically spends about $1,500 per month via credit cards
  • Additionally spends $1500 per month in rent
  • Does not have a business
  • Relationship status: single
  • Travels mostly domestically, but would like to do more.  Would also like to travel internationally a couple of times per year.
  • Not interested in learning rewards programs in-depth.  Prefers a simple approach to earning and spending rewards.

Given the above, I can look at current credit card welcome offers to suggest a simple beginner credit card plan…

Beginner credit card plan overview

Contrary to conventional wisdom, opening a bunch of new credit card accounts won’t hurt your credit score long term as long as you pay your credit card bills in full each month and avoid charging near your limit (e.g. it’s better to keep your credit utilization low relative to the amount of credit you have available).  In fact, many people see their credit score increase a few months after starting to apply for multiple cards.  The general process for earning points this way is described in our Start Here page.

When you get started, if all goes well you’ll earn lots of rewards and your credit score will go up a bit (or remain relatively stable).  On the other hand, once you’ve opened a bunch of cards, it will be harder to get approved for new cards from certain banks.  Chase, in particular, has the dreaded 5/24 Rule.  If you have opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months, from any bank, Chase won’t approve you for any more cards. For that reason, anyone considering applying for a bunch of credit cards should think seriously about starting with Chase. Chase has quite a few outstanding cards and it would be a shame to lose your ability to get those cards due to opening cards first from other banks.  See: “Must have” Chase cards for more details.

Capital One is also extremely hard on approvals for those who have opened many new accounts.  I’m not aware of any hard and fast 5/24 rule, but anecdotally they seem to weigh recent card openings very heavily against the applicant.  Personally, I haven’t been approved for any Capital One cards despite having an excellent credit score.

In my opinion, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is particularly good for those starting out with credit card rewards.  This card earns 2X everywhere, and points (they call them “miles”) are very easy to redeem.  Simply charge travel to your card and then you can use points “miles” to “erase” those statement charges at a value of 1 cent each.  As you get more advanced, you can alternatively transfer points to airline partners.  If you know what you’re doing, this can lead to far more value from your points.

For the above reasons, the plan I’ve put together focuses first on obtaining the Capital One Venture Rewards card and a number of “must-have” Chase cards:

  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Great beginner card overall for solid rewards for all spend, plus the ability to transfer rewards to airline miles.
  • Sapphire Preferred: Earn 2X Ultimate Rewards points for travel & dining. Points worth 1.25 cents each towards travel.  Points are transferable to a number of airline and hotel programs. If you decide later that you prefer the Sapphire Reserve card, it still makes sense to start with the Sapphire Preferred card (since it has a higher intro bonus) and then upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve a year later.
  • Chase Freedom Flex: Earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points for travel booked through Chase, 5X in changing categories each quarter, 3X dining, and 3X drugstores.  This card is advertised as a cash back card but it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points.  Use this card to earn huge point bonuses for spend (3X to 5X) then freely move those points to your Sapphire Preferred card to make them more valuable.  This card does charge foreign transaction fees so leave it at home when traveling internationally.  See our Chase Ultimate Rewards Guide for more information.  Note that if you opt not to go for the Capital One Venture Rewards card, then I’d recommend you get the Chase Freedom Unlimited instead of the Freedom Flex since it is better for “everywhere else” spend.
  • World of Hyatt:  Keep for the annual free night certificate.  Consider spending $15K per year for a second certificate, especially if you pursue Hyatt status since you’ll earn 2 elite qualifying nights with each $5K spend.
  • United Explorer: When the annual fee comes due after a year, consider downgrading to the no-fee United card which preserves this card’s best features: Improved economy saver award availability, and last seat standard economy award availability.

Note that Chase offers cards from three hotel chains: Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott.  Depending upon the reader’s hotel chain preference, it can make sense to go for the Marriott card or IHG card instead of the Hyatt card.  For those considering Marriott, keep in mind that Amex also offers a Marriott card, so once you are over 5/24 it’s still possible to pickup a new Marriott card (the Amex version).

A no-business-card plan

The scenario here is that the reader doesn’t have a business and therefore can’t or won’t apply for business cards.  It’s important to consider this decision carefully before proceeding.  By ignoring business cards, you’ll soon lose the option to open Chase business cards (due to the 5/24 rule), and in my opinion these are some of the best rewards cards on the market.

That said, I realize that many readers are hesitant to open business cards because it seems scary or unethical.  For that reason, the plan detailed below focuses only on personal cards.  I’ll follow up in a later post with a plan that includes business cards.

Applying for Business Credit Cards

Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.

When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.

Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.

How much spend?

Most credit card offers require meeting spend requirements in order to earn an early spend bonus.  And, in most cases, 3 months is the magical amount of time you have to meet those requirements.  So, let’s look at how much spend our fictional person can achieve in three months:

Since our fictional person spends $1500 per month on credit cards, he/she already spends $4500 every 3 months.  Additionally, he/she could spend another $1500 per month via credit card by using a bill payment service like Plastiq to pay rent (please see this post for details).  Plastiq would charge $42.75 in fees (2.85%) for each $1500 bill payment.  That fee can be well worth it in order to qualify for welcome bonuses.  Altogether, it’s possible for our fictional newbie to spend $9000 in 3 months.  I’d prefer a plan that limits Plastiq fees though, so I’ll assume a total of $6,000 to $8,000 spend every 3 months.

Preparation

Before applying for any new cards, I recommend signing up for Travel Freely.  This is a free web-based tool that walks you through the process of applying for cards to earn big bonuses.  The tool keeps track of your cards including your 5/24 status, alerts you when time is running out to complete minimum spend, alerts you when annual fees are nearly due, and much more.  I consider it essential for anyone starting out.

Here’s the link to sign up (for free) with Travel Freely.  Full disclosure: Frequent Miler and Travel Freely have a business relationship, but only because I believe that this tool is truly useful for anyone into opening cards for their bonuses.  I use it to manage my strategy and those of several family members as well.  You can read more of my thoughts about Travel Freely here: Take the stress out of credit card bonus hunting: Travel Freely.

First set of cards in the beginner credit card plan:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

At the time of this writing, Capital One is offering a limited time 100K offer.  To get the full 100K bonus points, you would have to spend $20K in 12 months on the card.  However, if you only spend $3K in 3 months, you’ll still earn the standard 50K bonus. For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume that the reader will go for only the $3K spend.  However, if there’s a sudden need for a lot of spend in the next 12 months, or if you can handle more spend than is assumed here, it will be great to have the option to fulfill the full $20K spend to get the full 100K bonus.

Note that the Venture Rewards card offers Global Entry / TSA Pre Check credit.  That means that you can use it to pay the signup fee for Global Entry (currently $100) or TSA Pre Check ($85) and you’ll get fully reimbursed.  Global Entry includes TSA Pre Check, so you might as well get Global Entry if you have access to an interview center.

Since welcome bonuses change over time, the following display shows the current offer at the time you read this on the web:

Card Offer and Details
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
75K Miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles after $4K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 100K: 50K after $3K in the first 3 months + 20K after $20K in the first 6 months [Expired 7/19/21]

FM Mini Review: This card earns 2 "miles" per dollar, which are worth exactly 1 cent each toward travel. This makes the return on spend similar to a 2% cash back card (though in this case you must redeem your miles to offset travel in order to get 1 cent per mile). One big advantage over cash back: Capital One allows transfering their "miles" to airline miles & hotel points.


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Other

Earning rate: 2X everywhere ⚬ 5X on hotels and rental cars booked via Capital One Travel

Noteworthy perks: Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® ⚬ Redeem miles for travel at value of 1 cent per mile ⚬ Convert "miles" to airline miles & hotel points ⚬ No foreign transaction fees ⚬ 2 complimentary visits per year to Capital One or Plaza Premium Lounges

Chase Sapphire Preferred

At the time of this writing, the Sapphire Preferred has an outstanding welcome bonus (80K points after $4K spend).  The following display shows the current Sapphire Preferred offer at the time you read this on the web:

Card Offer and Details
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60K points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

A similar offer with the first year annual fee waived may be found in-branch. YMMV.

Recent better offer: 100K after $4K in purchases in the first 3 months

FM Mini Review: Great signup bonus. Unlocks ability to transfer points to hotel & airline partners. Solid option to pair with fee-free Ultimate Rewards cards such as the Freedom cards, Ink Business Cash, and Ink Business Unlimited.


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Other

Earning rate: 5X Travel booked through Chase (2X all other travel) ⚬ 3X Dining ⚬ 3X Select streaming services ⚬ 3X Online grocery ⚬ 5X Lyft (through March 2025)

Noteworthy perks: Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Free DashPass through 2025 ⚬ Transfer points to airline & hotel partners ⚬ 10% annual point bonus ⚬ $50 annual credit for hotel stays booked through Chase (Those who opened card before 8/15/21 will have to wait until next account anniversary for this perk)

See also: Sapphire Preferred 100K Q&A: Everything you need to know

Second set of cards in the beginner credit card plan:

91 days after your first set of applications, the small hit to your credit report caused by those inquiries should have largely dissipated.  In fact, it is common to find that your credit score is higher by this point than it was when you began.

Chase Freedom Flex

At the time of this writing, the Freedom Flex has a great signup offer: 20,000 points after $500 spend plus earn 5X points at grocery stores for the first 12 months, up to $12K in spend.  If you spend $1,000 at grocery stores for each of these 12 months, you’ll max out the bonus and end up with 80,000 points!  For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume that the reader will spend $1,000 per month at grocery stores (if you don’t usually spend that much at grocery stores, you can always buy a gift cards for stores that you really do shop at more often).

The following display shows the current Freedom Flex offer at the time you read this on the web:

Card Offer and Details
Chase Freedom Flex
20K points + 5X gas + 15 months 0% APR
Earn 20,000 points (worth $200 cash back) after spending $500 in the first 3 months + 5x Ultimate Rewards points (worth 5% cash back) on gas purchases for 1st year (on up to $6K in purchases). 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.74% - 24.49%.

No Annual Fee

Be sure to select the card you want after clicking through. This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details). Even though this card is marketed as a cash back card, it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points which are redeemable for 1 cent each, or can be combined with other Ultimate Rewards-earning cards to get even more value. This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: 20K points + 5x grocery stores for the first year on up to $12K in qualifying purchases

FM Mini Review: Great for 5X and 3x categories and World Mastercard benefits. Excellent companion card to Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred.


Card Type: Mastercard World

Base
Dine
Shop
Other

Earning rate: 5x travel booked through Chase ⚬ 5X Lyft through March 2025 ⚬ 3x dining ⚬ 3x drugstores ⚬ 5X in rotating categories on up to $1,500 spend per quarter. 2022 Q2: 5x Amazon and select streaming services

Noteworthy perks: Free DashPass for up to 3 months upon activation ⚬ Cell phone protection ⚬ Lyft credits

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card

The Hyatt card has a different welcome bonus structure than the others: Earn 25K after $3K spend in 3 months and then earn another 25K after a total of $6K spend in 6 months.

The following display shows the current Hyatt offer at the time you read this on the web:

Card Offer and Details
Chase World of Hyatt Credit Card
45K points
Up to 45K: 30K after $3K spend plus 1 extra point per dollar for non-bonused spend, up to $15K spend in 6 months.

$95 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Great card for signup bonus and annual free night. Might be worth using regularly for additional free night and as a path to status.


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X restaurants / cafes / coffee shops, airlines, local transit, fitness clubs and gym memberships ⚬ 4X Hyatt

Big spend bonus: One free Cat 1-4 night certificate after $15K spend in a calendar year. ⚬ Get 2 elite qualifying night credits every time you spend $5K in purchases

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Free category 1-4 night every year upon renewal ⚬ Additional free category 1-4 night after $15K spend in cardmember year ⚬ Discoverist elite status ⚬ 5 elite qualifying nights

Third set of cards in the beginner credit card plan:

Apply for this one 91 days after the last set of cards.  I’ve only included one card this round because you may still be spending big at grocery stores with the Freedom card and you may still be completing the full spend required for the Hyatt card.

Chase United Explorer Card

At the time of this writing, the United card offer is for 60,000 miles after $3K spend.  This offer is expected to expire on 9/30/20 though, so it’s likely that the offer will be different by the time you’re ready for this card.

Before you apply for the United card, I highly recommend logging into your United account and going through the steps of buying airfare (you can stop before actually filling out your credit card info if you don’t really have a purchase you want to make).  Somewhere in that process, you may get an offer for this card that is better than the public offer.

The following display shows the current public United Explorer card offer at the time you read this on the web:

Card Offer and Details
Chase United℠ Explorer Card
Up to 70K Miles
Up to 70K miles: 60K after $3K spend in 3 months + 10K more after $6K total purchases in the first 6 months.

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $95

FM Mini Review: Decent perks such as enhanced access to United saver level economy awards makes this a keeper for some.


Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: 2X United ⚬ 2X restaurants ⚬ 2X on hotel stays

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Improved economy saver award availability ⚬ Free first checked bag for primary cardholder and one travel companion when you pay with the card ⚬ Unlocks complimentary elite upgrades on award tickets ⚬ Priority boarding ⚬ No foreign exchange fees ⚬ 2 United Club passes per year ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre-check credit ⚬ 25% back on United in-flight purchases

Chase United Quest Card

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand
Other

Earning rate: 3X United ⚬ 2X restaurants ⚬ 2X on all other travel ⚬ 2X select streaming

Noteworthy perks: Up to $125 in statement credits for United purchases each cardmember year ⚬ First and second checked bag free for cardholder and one companion when you purchase your tickets with the card and include your Mileage Plus number ⚬ Two 5K award flight rebates per cardmember year (5K miles back when you book first 2 award tickets each anniversary year) ⚬ $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement ⚬ 25% back on United inflight purchases

Fourth set of cards in the beginner credit card plan:

At this point, you should have an excellent set of “must have” Chase cards and so you’re free now to seek the best available bonus from any issuer.  At the time of this writing, my recommendation is to go for the Hilton Aspire 150K offer and the Amex Gold 60K offer (you’ll have to space these two Amex applications about a week apart).

In general, I recommend looking at our Best Credit Card Offers page for an up to date list of cards with the best welcome bonuses.

Hilton Aspire

Card Offer and Details
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
150K Points + free weekend night
150K after $4K spend in 3 months. Free weekend night every year - first certificate is awarded 8-12 weeks after approval. Terms apply.

$450 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: This card is loaded with valuable perks that are more than worth the card's annual fee if you stay in Hilton resorts at least once per year, and other Hilton properties a few times a year..


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 14X Hilton spend ⚬ 7X US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, select car rental companies ⚬ 3X on all other eligible purchases ⚬ Terms & Limitations Apply.

Big spend bonus: Second free weekend night after $60K spend in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬Annual Weekend Night Reward upon approval and every year upon renewal ⚬ Free Diamond Status ⚬ Priority Pass w/ 2 free guests ⚬ $250 Hilton Resort Credit per membership year ⚬ $250 Airline Incidental Fee Credit per calendar year ⚬ $100 on-property credit w/ Aspire Card package ⚬ Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Amex Hilton Aspire In-Depth Review

Amex Gold Card

Card Offer and Details
American Express® Gold Card
90K points
90K after $4K spend in first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

$250 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: This card offers an awesome return on US supermarket and worldwide dining spend, putting it at or near the top-of-class in both categories. Dining credits and Uber / Uber Eats credits go a long way towards reducing the sting of this card's annual fee.


Card Type: Amex Pay Over Time Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Grocery

Earning rate: 3X points for flights booked with airlines or on amextravel.com ⚬ 4x points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1x) ⚬ 4x at restaurants worldwide ⚬ 1X points on other purchases. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

Noteworthy perks: Up to $10 in statement credits monthly with participating dining partners (Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar, Shake Shack, Seamless/Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory) ⚬ $10 monthly Uber or Uber Eats credit (use it or lose it each month) ⚬ $100 hotel credit on qualifying charges on stays of 2 nights or longer, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc ⚬ Enrollment required for select benefits.

Add it all up

Assuming success at getting approved for all of the above cards and in meeting the spend requirements, and assuming that the welcome offers remain the same as the time of this writing, we should have earned the following numbers of points:

Card Spend Points from Spend Points from Welcome Bonus Total Points Earned
Venture Rewards* $3K 6K 50K 56K
Sapphire Preferred $4K 4K 80K 84K
Freedom Flex $12K 60K 20K 80K
World of Hyatt $6K 6K 50K 56K
United Explorer $3K 3K 60K 63K
Hilton Aspire $4K 12K 150K 162K
Amex Gold $4K 4K 60K 64K

* The totals shown above for the Capital One card assume one stops spend after $3,000.  If you qualify for the limited time 100K offer, then you could optionally spend $17K more to get a total of 100K points from the welcome bonus and a total of 40K points from spend.

In total, we’re looking at 565,000 points & miles in 12 to 15 months.  It’s actually possible to do even better than this, but this plan offers a solid start and ensures that you have some of the key cards in your portfolio for ongoing success in earning points and traveling for free.

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CaveDweller

Greg
Great post I don’t remember this post from a year ago .
But I like the CAUTION !! sign get the house BEFORE u play this Game,,
Unreal 1/3/2021 MDW>HNL SW $420rt one stop not bad .
#stayincave

Last edited 1 year ago by CaveDweller

[…] recent Frequent Miler on the Air episode seems to have struck a nerve. Nick took exception to my Beginner Credit Card Plan where I asserted that someone who’s about to sign up for lots of credit cards should get […]

rich

Interesting. Maybe I’ll try the cap one card. Never had one before.

Personally I don’t see much need for the Hyatt card. The annual free night was a struggle for me to use so I canceled the card when the virus hit.

EricF

Thanks Greg for the useful intro article; I’ll send it to some family members as a “points and miles 101” course.

Probably as an into article, the obvious needs to be stated (as Kim’s comment says), not to start this endeavor unless able to never carry a balance, and to be organized enough to never have late payments. Also perhaps include something about starting with no-fee cards (or cards able to be downgraded to no fee) for account age on credit score.

I hesitate a bit with Venture Rewards as the first recommendation as an all-around card. I see why you made it, but there are better cash-back cards for cash-back and better points cards for points. It’s almost like someone needs to make that decision before even starting. Or start with a no-fee 2% card for cash-back until ready to make the leap to learning transferable point systems.

Kim

Ugh, where is the part of the article that adds up all the annual fees, which apart from the United Explorer card, you are apparently recommending that these newbies pay for the rest of their lives? Where is the ethical warning (or link to such a warning) that this is not recommended for persons who will ever carry a balance or incur fees through late payments.

In my opinion, the best credit card for those starting out in credit cards is a no fee 2% cash back card from Citi or Fidelity to lay down what should be a baseline understanding that you are giving up a minimum of 2% cash back for all spend, and in effect, purchasing those points and miles.

When you boil down your advice in this article for a “beginner,” it is for the next 12-15 months, sign up for 7 or more credit cards, pay $600+ in fees, and make the minimum spend in thousands of dollars, with very few caveats or warnings. It is not the kind of advice that should be touted as a “beginner plan” and verges on the irresponsible in my view.

Kim

Thanks for acknowledging the feedback and taking action!

trackback

[…] Beginner credit card plan — 325,000 points in 12 months (no business cards) […]

beginner

Hey Greg, not a savvy computer guy here, but do you have a recommendation for 0/24 with business cards considered? I’m starting from scratch

Tim

I have a question about this statement: “After a year, it should be possible to upgrade to the Reserve card with no new credit inquiry. Note too that you can’t get the bonus on both the Preferred and the Reserve so you wouldn’t be giving up anything to get the Preferred.” Why would one want to upgrade to the Reserve if you can’t get the bonus and it has a higher annual fee? I’m a newbie and am wondering what I might be missing.

[…] Beginner credit card plan: 325,000 points in 12 months […]

[…] Beginner credit card plan — 325,000 points in 12 months (no business cards) […]

[…] credit card plan for a single person with no ability or willingness to sign up for business cards: Beginner credit card plan — 325,000 points in 12 months.  In this post, I’ve done the same thing, but with one huge difference: this plan assumes […]

SounderTID

I think I’d consider skipping the Venture in favor of the longer-term earning potential of the Freedom Unlimited with no annual fee.

1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent transferred to a Chase Sapphire Reserve puts the floor of redemption value at 2.25¢ for every dollar of credit card spend.

Agnes

Tips for spouse: start on no fee credit card with only his name to start building his credit after years of AU. Strip him from all my AU to limit his 5/24 and Chase Card count. Put household income as his income. Been doing 2 players plus businesses for 3 years and travel everywhere as a family of 5 on 2 Southwest CP.

Vaibhav Shetge

Greg,
In the earlier sections you mention Sapphire Reserve, but the subsequent tally is for Sapphire Preferred. I assume Preferred is what you meant in the earlier section, as the steep AF of reserve will intimidate a beginner.

Vaibhav Shetge

Nevermind. I should learn to read correctly.

CaveDweller

Try paying off ur cards 3 days BEFORE they post was good for a 20 point hike in my FICO score @ 810 now .
Play the long game I’m booked and paid for till 9/10/2020 which I will book 1/1/2020 . ONE INK card in 2 years will get me TWO trips to Paris for 2 card fees $190 + airline fees $150 =$340 for TWO non-stops there..
Have fun with ” The Game ” works great for me .
CHEERs

Abey

Don’t see why you would recommend UA explorer with such a small bonus, better wait for a good offer or go after different brands like Amex

Jack Miller

And on another note, is it even worth going for a UA card if you don’t live near an airport with a lot of United flights, at least comparatively? I live near a Delta hub (DTW), and while there are United flights from there, they aren’t an airline I’d ordinarily consider.

YoniPDX

UA is most valuable IMHO used for Business Saver seats Intl 80K + $5.60-$19.00 one way when flying more than 9+ hours,

YoniPDX

I agree even moreso with the pending UA change to dynamic pricing in November, (while this post has been more about sidestepping the Biz cards).

I do wish that I had app’d it earlier this year when Biz SUB was 75K-80K for $5K MSR. If a person is building a war chest of points I also agree, that going CSP – then PC’ng to CSR is a smarter move – esp if you have a P#2 because you get a referral bonus ( esp if your not starting at 0/24 or they will have a 5/24 slot open up in 12 months.)

But – if your FICOs are strong enough I would get the INK Trifecta and then refer P#2 to each card for bonus – before I got the UA card biz or personal, – as UR are more flexible and you can always transfer UR to UA FF acct.

I can see that if your home airport is a UA Hub, i.e. SFO, DEN, ORD, etc I would be on the fence if I did more domestic travel.

SounderTID

The combination of the Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus and the United bonus covers an economy ticket to Europe from the West Coast on Lufthansa with low taxes and fees.

United is one of the only programs that has good availability for flights to Europe with low fees on a wide variety of Star Alliance airlines.

Jonathan S

Great post and I think you could keep this as a working document as bonuses and CC application rules change.

I imagine that this won’t be personally helpful to the regular readers of your blog, but this would sort of be a gateway for people new to the game. With all of the ins-and-outs and the changing rules it can be quite overwhelming for someone who doesn’t already have a strategy or doesn’t have the time research their options.

I think your top 5 personal cards are solid recommendations and going after Capital One and Chase right away makes the most sense. Perhaps I don’t see the value in the hotel cards as much as others (outside of premium status), but I would encourage more non-hotel cards for the beginners.

For someone who is just getting into credit card points, I would do everything I could to get them to hit up all of the business sign up bonuses first to avoid hitting 5/24. However, most of the people that have sought my advice about this are wary to open a business credit card as they feel weird if it isn’t a full-time 40+ hour a week business.

Paul

This is a great breakdown for cards to go after. I’m just under 5/24 with my CC roster mostly set. But I’ve been trying to build my wife’s CC profile. She’s building credit and started out with authorized user cards. Earlier this year she was approved for the Amex (Rose) Gold as her first card in her name.

She now gets multiple mail offers from Citi and others, but repeated attempts to get her into the Chase CC ecosystem have failed with reasons like ‘not enough established credit’ and/or ‘no accounts with us (savings/checking)’. And this is despite her being an authorized user on a few of my Chase CC accounts.

Since she had an Amex High Yield Savings account (in both our names) at the time of her application for the gold card, and a Citi checking (thus the Citi offers) it make me wonder if having a Chase savings/checking is almost a ‘necessity’ for someone trying to get approved for Chase cards?

Paul

Haven’t tried for the Chase no-fee cards for her as yet. Been trying after the lower-end annual fee cards (IHG, United Explorer, Hyatt, etc) to try and double up the perks for our family. But perhaps going after a no-fee card might be a better a better approach (though 5/24 does make me a bit reluctant about that ha ha). Thanks! 🙂

Cameron

Anyone have an issue with gift cards not meeting the minimum spend or earning rewards for the Ink Business Unlimited? I see the wording about cash-like transactions in the signup language:

“Buying products and services with your card, in most cases, will count as a purchase; however, the following types of transactions won’t count and won’t earn points: balance transfers, cash advances and other cash-like transactions, lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers or similar betting transactions”

ktc

My wife in the same situation. Started last year, got AMEX Gold, Chase SWA Priority, but 2 failed attempts with CSP in 12 months for same reason (history & funds). I was thinking maybe Freedom might be easier, or even SWA Performance for that amazing 80K & CP.

Beechy

Thank you for the great tips to get my son started !! I wanted to mention that the IHG credit card also has the Global Entry/TSA credit as a benefit.