Using credit card sign up bonuses to pad your miles/points balance is one of the easiest and most lucrative ways to earn miles for travel hacking. However, what do you do once you’ve completed the sign up bonus?
First off, be sure to maximize your credit card’s Category Bonuses. Some of my favorite category bonuses to utilize out of the cards that I have are: Chase Ink’s 5x Office Supply Store/Internet/Cell Phone/Cable bonus, Citi TYP Premier’s 3x Travel bonus, and Chase Freedom’s 5x rotating quarterly bonus. These are some simple ways to continue to earn lots of points.
Another thing you can do is call the credit card company and see if there are any retention offers attached to your account. Retention offers are promotions that are typically targeted and attached to your account. These promotions can consist of a credit to cover the annual fee, spending bonuses (i.e. spend $3,000 get 10,000 points), or my favorite free points for being a loyal customer. Some credit card companies are stingier than others when it comes to retention offer, but it might be worth calling in and seeing if there are any attached to your account. It typically cost more money for a bank to get a new customer than it does to retain a current customer.
Cancelling credit cards is typically my last resort. I’d much rather downgrade the card and keep the credit card open to lengthen my average age of accounts. Not all cards have downgrade options though and sometimes it is not worth the annual fee to keep a credit card open. This is the conclusion that I came to with my Chase British Airways card. When you have lots of credit cards, cancelling does not have as much of an effect on your credit score as you may think. This is because closed credit cards stay on your credit report for 10 years. It will affect your utilization rate, but that doesn’t matter much when you have thousands of dollars of credit on other cards. For more details read my analysis of the real impact of closing a credit card.
Did you know you can also reapply for the same credit card? This is typically referred to as credit card churning. Every bank has different rules. Some banks allow you to get the sign up bonus every 24 months. Other banks only allow you to receive the sign up bonus once per life time. All this to say, you’ll have to do some research to see if you might be eligible for the signup bonus again.
As you get more and more into this hobby, organization is crucial! Missing payment or allowing your utilization to rise above 30% can be costly. I have several excel worksheets with tons of information that allows me to stay on top of everything. I use calendar notifications to remind me when payments are due. I also use auto-pay features to make sure I don’t miss a payment. Furthermore, I budget religiously. I am constantly reconciling my credit card statements with my budget and entering each transaction into the software that I use. This not only helps me make sure there’s no fraud on my account, but it also keeps me honest on a personal finance level. Here is a post about some tools that I use to stay organized.