I Admit – I Peek at What Card Folks in Line Are Using (and Cringe When It’s Not a Travel Credit Card)
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. 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.
Please, please, please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.
When I’m in line at the supermarket, gas station, or fast food joint, I can’t help but sneak a quick curious glance at the card the person ahead of me is using. Of course, busting out cash is the most cringe-worthy method of payment, but I see a lot of debit cards and hardly any of the best travel credit cards.
It makes me die even more inside when I see folks using a debit card or cash for a purchase that would earn a bonus. Why wouldn’t they choose to earn 2X miles on their groceries? Or 3X points on gas? Or 4% back on dining? As my kids would say … “Ugh, I don’t get it!“
Why Don’t More People Use the Best Travel Credit Cards?
When friends and family ask how the kids and I get to travel so much, I usually give them my elevator speech about earning miles and points mostly from credit card bonuses and spending. A few ask for more details (and I suspect some come to regret it because I talk their ear off). In any case, many times I’ll get reactions like:
- “This sounds so complicated”
- “Too much work, I don’t have time for this”
- “Haven’t you ruined your credit score?” <- NO!
In reality, using top travel credit cards to earn rewards doesn’t have to be complicated at all – and my friends’ jaws drop when I tell them I have 20 open credit cards and an 800+ credit score – the highest it’s ever been!
I realize that some people may not be able to open credit cards because of financial trouble or a low credit score, or might shy away because they’ve had issues with managing their credit properly in the past. However, even if there are blips on your credit report, it’s possible to get a secured credit card (like the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One) to help rebuild your credit – then, later, become eligible for top travel credit cards.
If you’re one of those folks who think earning and redeeming travel rewards from credit cards is super complicated, it really doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to learn about award charts, blackout dates, or airline partners if you don’t want to. Just start small – even with one credit card that earns rewards – and see how you like it.
Many of our favorite cards (and a few of these are in my own wallet) have the flexibility to be as simple or as complicated as you like.
For example, you can always redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point. That’s not the most value you can get from them, but it’s easy – and you can redeem cash back for anything, not just travel.
This is still the first card I recommend to friends and family, by the way. It’s got a 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening – worth $500 in cash back, $625 in travel booked through the Chase portal, and potentially more when transferred to airline and hotel partners. No hocus pocus, no big effort required.
And even if you have zero desire to travel and don’t want to hear anything about points or miles, there are a ton of great cash back credit cards which have categories to earn rewards on everyday spending. Many have no annual fee (or the fee waived for the first year) so you can try them out at no cost. I’m actually leaning towards picking up the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card later this year to earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back on groceries, and 1% on everything else. The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
My point is – not using rewards cards is like leaving money on the table. Just making a simple switch from cash/debit to a travel credit card (as long as you pay it in full and on time every month) can translate into significant savings whether you redeem rewards for travel or just take the cash back. And who doesn’t like saving money?
A couple of years ago I convinced one of my girlfriends – she’s a single mom like me – to take the leap into the hobby by opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred. And she still has it, continues to use it for all her spending, and now has enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points to travel with her teenager to Europe, round-trip, with plenty of points left over. Had she not made the switch to credit card rewards and put away her debit card, this trip wouldn’t be possible.
What about you? Were you reluctant to give up paying with cash and debit and use rewards credit cards instead? Do you have friends and family like this (I sure do)? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)