PART ONE of My List of Travel Hacking Credit Cards
If you’ve been following along with my on my Travel Hacking journey, you know that I have been in the hobby for a while. Perhaps you are wondering which credit cards I use. Read on as I tell you about my travel hacking credit cards. You’ll learn why I chose each one and what I plan to do with teach of them going forward.
The One That Started It All
It was January of 2017 and I was booking a flight on American Airlines. A little message popped up offering me the AAdvantage Platinum Select Credit Card. The sign up bonus was 40,000 AAdvantage Miles and the minimum spending requirement was $3,000 in 90 days. There was no annual fee for the first 12 months. The cherry on top was an instant $100 credit against the cost of the flight I booked to San Diego, CA that day!
I knew I was likely headed to San Diego again the following year. So, I figured the 40,000 AAdvantage Miles would be more than enough to get me a free ticket. I didn’t know yet exactly how to redeem the bonus miles. However, I felt that I could learn how easily enough.
Fast forward to a year plus a few months later. I took that second trip to San Diego for just the cost of the taxes and fees; $11.20! I also had plenty of AAdvantage miles to spare to put towards another trip.
One Year Later
The lack of an annual fee the first year allowed me to use the credit card for 12 months with no risk. I liked the free baggage allowance and saved at least $60 with that perk alone. By the end of the first year with the card, I had my sights on the business version of the credit card; The CitiBusiness Platinum Select.
The Business version of the credit card offered a 60,000 mile sign up bonus. Again, the minimum spend was $3,000 and there was no annual fee for the first year. Travel Hacking is such that one is always looking to earn large batches of points and miles. That 60,000 mile sign up bonus would come in handy for an upcoming trip to Oslo, Norway.
What About That First AAdvantage Credit Card?
Of course, I didn’t want to pay the annual fee on that first credit card. So, I opened the Business credit card shortly before the annual fee came due on that first personal AAdvantage credit card.
Rather than closing the first credit card, I downgraded it the Citi Double Cash Back Card. This preserved my credit line with CitiBank. This was important to me because I wanted to maintain my low credit utilization percentage. This CitiDouble Cash Back card sits in a drawer most of the year. I use it a couple times a year to keep the account active.
Which Card Next?
Business credit cards are a great option for me as a Travel Hacker. I next applied for the Chase Ink Business Preferred. It was important to me to start working on acquiring Chase credit cards moving forward to stay within the Chase 5/24 rule.
I discuss the Chase 5/24 rule in this post: Your Credit Report. The rule limits you to 5 credit cards applied for in a 24 month period. After 5 credit cards from any bank, Chase will no longer issue you new credit cards. Some, but not all, Business credit cards will not effect your Chase 5/24 status.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred came with a whopping 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points sign up bonus. There was a $5,000 minimum spending requirement and no annual fee the first year. When the $99 annual fee came due the next year, I decided to pay it and keep the card.
The main reason was that I had earned several 20,000 point referral bonuses in that first year. The referral bonus point value easily wiped out the cost of the annual fee. This card has some worthwhile multiple points earning opportunities which is another reason it stays in my lineup.
Another Business Credit Card
At the time, American Express offered the SPG Business Credit card. Turns out that I could get this non-Chase card and it wouldn’t impact my Chase 5/24 status.
It had no annual fee the first year and a $5,000 minimum spending requirement. The SPG program has since merged with Marriott. I got the card primarily because at the time, SPG points were a valuable currency. I the earned 25,000 SPGpoint sign up bonus.
When the programs merged, I converted to Marriott Points at a 1:3 ratio. This gave me 75,000 Marriott points. After converting to Marriott, I decided to close this credit card. As it was a business card, it did not adversely effect my credit score.
And So It Continued
Next came the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This is the credit card that I recommend to most people to apply for first. At the time, there was no annual fee the first year. It had a 50,000 point sign up bonus. Today, the current offer is 60,000 points and $95 annual fee not waived the first year.
Minimum spending requirement on this card was $4,000. I love this card because it offers up to five referral bonuses per year. These extra points justify paying the annual fee. I keep this card in my regular rotation of credit cards.
A Mistake I made
I momentarily disregarded the Chase 5/24 rule when I opened a Hilton Honors Surpass credit card. I was wowed by the 100,000 point sign up bonus. Unfortunately, those points can only get you two or possibly three nights in a Hilton property. If they were Hyatt points, you could stay for 4-5 nights on 100,000 points. Lesson learned. I paid the annual fee that first year, earned the bonus points and cancelled the card after one year. My Hilton points stayed with me in my Hilton Honors account.
The Capital One Venture credit card was next. Again, this went against the Chase 5/24 rule. However, I got this card so I would have points to use for non-airline and hotel points redemption.
The sign up points bonus was worth $500 in travel related spending. It had no annual fee the first year and a $3,000 spending requirement. I used the full $500 and then some, to cover the cost of a scenic train ride to Bergen, Norway and my Airbnb stay in Oslo. That trip to Norway really got me hooked into the Travel Hacking hobby!!
I used up all the points I had accumulated and decided I didn’t feel the annual fee was worth paying. So, I called Capital One and explained that I wasn’t prepared to pay the annual fee. Low and behold, they waved the annual fee for the next 12 months. I’ll likely downgrade to a no-fee card when the year is up.
Keep your eyes on this blog to read Part Two of My Travel Hacking Credit Cards to learn about the rest of the credit cards I have.
I’d really like to know what was/is your first Travel Hacking Credit Card. Please scroll down and leave a comment to tell me.
To read part two of this series go here: