Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Using miles and points from the best travel credit cards has changed my life in so many positive ways. So I get upset when I hear people propagating falsehoods about our hobby, and when I read comments on forums and sites from people who don’t really understand what we do.
And there are also some plain old misconceptions I want to clear up.
Don’t Fall for These Travel Credit Card Lies
Opening a Lot of Credit Cards Will Damage Your Credit Score <– NOT TRUE
You’ve got to pay all your credit card bills on time and in full. If you’re good with that, this is a great hobby. And your credit score will actually improve. I have 20+ credit cards now including favorites like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card, and Citi Premier℠ Card and my score is excellent and higher than before I started.
TSA PreCheck Will Make Your Airport Experience Much Better <– 75% true
Look, I appreciate having TSA PreCheck. It’s much better than NOT having it. And I’m grateful I didn’t have to pay for it!
But here’s my gripe: sometimes the TSA PreCheck lane is slower than the regular lane because so many people are in the program now. Even still, I prefer not to unpack my electronics and take off my shoes, so I’ll deal with it.
But what steams me is when the airport decides not to staff the PreCheck lane. I paid for this service and I want it all the time! OK, ok, I didn’t pay for it, but my credit card perk did!
The Minimum Spending Clock Starts When You Activate Your Card <– Careful! This is not how it works!
You earn a credit card’s intro bonus after you spend the amount required in a certain timeframe. The clock starts on the date you’re approved, NOT when you get the card in the mail and activate it.
Example: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the top cards we recommend. You’ll earn the 50,000 bonus miles (worth $500 for travel) once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. And your account is opened on the date you get that sweet, sweet approval message — which could be immediately after you apply for it!
Carrying a Balance Will Improve Your Credit Score <– NOPE
It’s the opposite. Improve your score by paying your credit card bills early. Paying interest or late fees will wipe out the benefits of collecting miles and points. That’s why we say this hobby is for folks who feel comfortable handling credit.
Paying an Annual Fee Is Dumb <– NOPE
I admit it. I used to feel this way. I thought to myself, “No way freaking way am I going to PAY to use a credit card!” But finally I just did the math to look over the value I got for the fee. And, in some cases it’s totally worth it.
For example, year after year I pay the $95 for my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
Because with the points from the card I took a Business Class round-trip flight to Europe during peak summer season that would’ve cost $8,000. Of course I’d never pay that price but I’ll use points from a $95 card for it! (This annual fee actually only kicks in year two. There is no annual fee for the first year. So you can pretty much try out the card risk-free.)
Always Go for the Most Points When Making a Purchase <– Sometimes perks are worth more than points
It can tempting to only look at how many bonus points you can earn for each purchase. And usually I do operate that way. But I make exceptions. For instance, when buying a high-priced item I’ll often reach for my Citi Premier℠ Card.
Citi ThankYou points are useful to me but really I use the Citi Premier℠ Card because it has two awesome features that make sense for expensive purchases:
- Superior Extended Warranty Policy
- Easy Price Protection
Here are the details:
Extended Warranty: By paying for an eligible item with the Citi Premier card, you can extend the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional 24 months (total coverage between both the manufacturer’s warranty and extended warranty cannot exceed 84 months). Citi’s Guide to Benefits has the full rundown. But in short, I turn down the store’s extended warranty that they try to sell me because I know Citi has my back.
Price Protection: Registered items at certain online merchants with your Citi Premier and Citi will automatically check for a lower price at other stores. You can save up to $1,000 per calendar year with this.
Chase Sapphire Preferred trip delay reimbursement: Get up to $500 back per ticket when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay for expenses such as meals and lodging.
The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (this is the card with the huge bonus) has similar coverage.
You have to maximize the value of your miles by using them for international flights in First Class or Business Class <– Don’t tell me what to do!
What’s great about this hobby is there’s more than one way to have a great time. Some people want the luxury and that’s great. Other just want to get from place A to B as much as possible. Me, I usually just want to fly on non-stop flights to where I want to go. And then on special occasions I’ll totally splurge and empty my treasure chest of points for an unforgettable experience like an all-inclusive 5-star resort on the beach.
If you love to get the absolute highest value from your points, go for it! And if you care more about traveling to where you want to when you want to go regardless of “value,” that’s great too!
I unloaded 140,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to fly round-trip Business Class to Europe. And it was awesome. But for that number of points I could’ve taken two round-trip coach flights to Europe. Either way is just fine. Do what makes you happy. I splurged because I wanted to be extra-comfortable this time around.
Southwest will fly to Hawaii by October 2018 <– It didn’t happen!
Just thought I’d throw this one in here because, saying it nicely, Southwest over-promised on how soon they could make this happen. They now sound pretty confident that flights to Hawaii will begin by January 2019.
I’m very excited because this is going to bring joy to so many Million Mile Secret Agents! The Southwest Companion Pass (2-for-1 flights) is the best deal in travel for folks who travel with a partner. And routes to Hawaii make the pass even more valuable.
This also makes your Chase Ultimate Rewards points more valuable because you can transfer them to Southwest for award flights with no blackout dates. I haven’t been to Hawaii in years and I can’t wait to go back. When I go I’ll likely transfer points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to Southwest to get free flights.
Lots of you are jumping on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card offer in anticipation of flights to Hawaii. Because the bonus on that card is worth a whopping ~$900 for flights on Southwest. I can’t wait to see your travel photos and read your success stories!