Credit cards are not one size fits all and there is no holy grail of credit cards. When someone asks me what credit card should I get? My answer is usually… it depends.
There are a few things you should ask yourself before applying for a specific credit card:
- What is my credit score?
- What cards do I already have?
- What are my travel goals?
I’ll go ahead and walk through why I feel each question is important to ask when choosing a credit card to apply for.
Your credit score is important when it comes to applying for cards. First off, if your credit score is below a 680, you may want to build some credit before jumping head first into travel hacking. However, if your score is above a 680, you should consider the fact that some credit cards are considered premium cards. Many banks will not issue premium cards to people with a thin credit file or with a score below 720. There is much more to the equation when it comes to getting approved for a credit card. However, what I’m trying to say is that your credit score matters and should be taken into consideration when choosing a credit card.
Credit Cards Already in Your Wallet
You need to consider what credit cards are in your wallet. You may have maxed out the amount of cards a bank will give you. You may be above the dreaded 5/24 rule (see details in this article by Doctor of Credit) for Chase. You may already have the card sitting in your wallet. It is also important to consider the benefits of each card. After all, what is the point of paying annual fees on multiple cards that have the exact same benefit.
Keep Your Goals in Mind
If you have no plans within the next year to use your Hilton Hotel Points, then it doesn’t make sense right now to sign up for the AMEX Hilton credit card. When it comes to this hobby, it is important to have goals in mind. Two of my goals when I first started were to visit Disney World and Europe. Within one year of setting these goals, I will be accomplishing both of them (WDW in May and Europe in December). This means that I was strategic with my credit card applications and what cards I chose to put my spending on. Of course with everything there are exceptions to the rule. One of these exceptions is increased sign up bonuses and targeted offers. For example, yesterday I received a credit card offer for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card. It normally comes with a 50k AA miles sign up bonus, but the targeted offer that I received was for 60k AA miles. Another example is that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering a sign up bonus of 50k UR instead of the normal 40k UR. Some of these offers might make it worth applying for these cards even if you don’t have specific travel plans for the points earned. I personally like to earn points that are transferable. These programs are: AMEX Membership Rewards, Citi Thank You Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (sort of). All of these programs allow you to transfer points to a variety of different travel partners (i.e. United, Hyatt, Hilton, JetBlue, Southwest, etc.). Earning these types of rewards gives me flexibility, which I value pretty highly.
The reason why it is important to have a goal in mind when earning points is because the worst type of points to have are the ones you don’t use. Also, airline miles and hotel points rarely go up in value so you want to earn and burn. Airlines and hotels seem to constantly be devalue their loyalty programs. All this to say, have a plan or a goal. Don’t just earn points for the sake of earning points.
I love answering questions about credit cards. It is one of the topics that I know far too much about. Having trouble deciding on your next card? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help!