TRAVEL HACKING 101: how to choose the best credit card

Are you ready to harness the power of your normal everyday spending? Are you afraid of getting new credit cards? Are you overwhelmed with where to begin with credit card rewards and points? Let me simplify the entire process for you on how to choose the best credit card for rewards, miles, and points. I’ll show you how to choose the best credit card for the highest payoff for YOU and your goals.

Not all credit cards are created equal!

Stop everything and read this if you are interested in opening a new credit card that comes with reward points and miles. There are a million credit cards out there and not all points, miles and rewards are created equal. Some credit cards are better than others due to their sign up bonus, which I have discussed at length on the Parallax Life blog. There are hotel credit cards, airline credit cards and general rewards credit cards out there. Let’s dive right into how to choose the best credit card for you?

How to choose the best credit card for points and miles

It all depends on your goal. Are you just interested in $$$ back that you can use towards your household budget or are you planning your honeymoon and want to go for free to some exotic location? Maybe you have a family of four and want to visit Grandparents but are finding it hard to save enough money?

Flights get expensive fast when you have a family and credit card rewards points are an excellent way to travel with your family for cheap or nearly free.

One huge reason to use credit cards for travel instead of a debit card is Trip Protection! What is trip protection? Well, insurance for your trip, basically. When you purchase a flight on your debit card and plans change, you are shit out of luck.

Last year, my brother and his family (as well as their friends) bought flights to visit my parent’s lake house in Upstate NY. Two weeks before the trip, my brother completely wrecked his back and was immobile. Guess what? Everyone had to cancel their flights! Yikes! Five flights down the drain. Why? Because they had put their non-refundable flights on their debit card. If only they had used a card like the Chase Sapphire, the tickets would have been refundable or worst case scenario, they would have had an equal credit for those flights. My brother’s flights were $1500 and they only received a travel credit of $600 from the airline that had to be used within one year.

Look, I get it. You want to save up and pay for things as you spend the money. It is the responsible thing to do, that’s for sure. However, you can still do that and be responsible and use your credit cards. More on those techniques in a later post…. be sure to subscribe to the newsletter for more.

Why I started with rewards cards:

When I chose my first credit card, it was a Bank of America card that was offered on campus at my university. That first card was with me for my trip around Europe when I graduated, I bought my first Apple Computer with that card, and it is still in my arsenal.

However, here’s the deal… That card never gave me anything other than debt. A debt I spent a loooooong time trying to pay off. 8 years to be exact.

These twenty years later, I now understand that my money needs to work for me and so do my credit cards! Credit cards are here to stay, whether you are responsible or not. Skip forward 20+ years and now I have two dozen credit cards from a variety of financial institutions and that Bank of America card is empty.

how to find the best credit card for rewards and cash back

These are the common comments I hear from my friends and family:

  1. “I have credit card debt, so I need to get OUT of debt FIRST”
  2. “Opening credit cards will ruin my credit score”
  3. “I’ll just add to my debt if I open another card”
  4. “I already have a rewards card”

All of these are MYTHS!

  1. Yeah, how long have you had debt? How long have you been trying to get out of debt? Exactly. You are still using your credit cards anyway. SO, start using one that will HELP you pay off debt. There are credit cards for that and I’m not talking about balance transfers.
  2. Nope. Do you know what makes up your credit score? Most of the time, opening more cards will actually HELP your credit score. Here’s the deal… part of your score is made up of your debt to credit ratio. What are your credit limits? Are you using all of your open credit?? Having 10 EMPTY credit cards that you don’t use actually improves that ratio. It is all about having credit available that you are not using. So, locking a card away in a safe (or cutting it up and ignoring it) is better than canceling that card.
  3. OK, I get it, you are a shopaholic or don’t plan for emergencies. I’ve been there. This is what I do: I have my cell phone bill on auto-pay to my credit card and then the day it is due I send that $ from my checking account to the credit card. The-same-day. If you are not living paycheck to paycheck, then pay off your credit card each week. Or each month if you can. The point is, have one amazing everyday card for everyday spending that you know you need, like gas and food.
  4. Last but not least…. you probably have and are using the WRONG rewards card. I know well-off people who are only using hotel rewards cards. Stop that right now. If you are of any means and financially secure, you are indeed the best person to take advantage of earning credit card rewards perks like big sign up bonuses. Do it.

OK, so what is the best travel card for frequent flier miles, cash back and rewards points?? 

Not all rewards Points are equal!

Some credit cards give you free checked bags, refunds for TSA recheck or Global Entry, a free PriorityPass for lounge access around the world, trip protection, rental car insurance, early boarding, lost luggage refunds, no foreign transaction fees and much more. Some credit cards even give you a companion pass, which is amazing if you travel with someone else.

Some airline credit cards, like Southwest Airlines, even give you a companion pass, which is amazing if you travel with someone else.


travel cheap to Africa with Delta Airline Miles

How to Choose the Best Credit Card for travel points and miles

What kind of credit card?

Your first step to finding the right credit card is to think about what you will use it for. If you don’t travel a lot but have a shopping addiction with Amazon, then get a card with points that can be easily redeemed for cash. Discover and Chase will let you link your rewards cards to Amazon and use those points for online shopping. I do this with my favorite business credit card, the Chase Ink Plus. Sign up here, even if you just have a side hustle business, for 80K points worth $800! For real! {using this affiliate link means I score a few points too, so thanks}

If you travel a lot for work, hotel and airline cards are a no-brainer. You can get free upgrades, free breakfast, free wi-fi and other perks with hotel cards. Airline cards usually give you priority boarding and a free checked bag. Airlines like Southwest will allow you a free companion flight if you spend enough on the card in a calendar year.

How do you normally spend?

The next consideration is how the points are earned. Look into categories that you normally spend frequently, like restaurants, and find a card that gives extra points per dollar in those categories. The Chase Sapphire is the best all-around card, however, it does come with a $95 annual fee. There are other cards out there like the Chase Freedom that have no annual fee and still pay you back for simple shopping. The Points Guy blog is an invaluable resource for choosing the best credit card for points and miles.

How will you redeem your points?

Finally, the biggest consideration is how can you redeem the points easily? The Chase line of cards give me bonus $$ when I redeem my points for travel and also the points can be transferred dollar to dollar to ANY airline.

Why have all your points tied up in one airline card when you can use a card that works with everybody??

Recently, my parents and I traveled around the UK and while I was trying to help them find the best value for their points, we realized that all of their 180,000 miles were with United Airlines. All we could do was get them a flight from Toronto to Manchester in economy class. IF ONLY those points were all in a Chase account, they could have flown the luxurious Singapore Airlines from Houston to Manchester in FIRST CLASS.


How to Choose the Best Credit Card for cheap airline tickets and flights

Are you ready to jump in with getting a good travel credit card? Check the perks vs. the annual fee. The absolute most important thing is the sign-up bonus! It should be 40,000-80,000 points. Track your spending to ensure that you receive this bonus. Sign up bonuses go so far with travel that you’ll be leaving hundreds of dollars on the table if you don’t earn one.

Leave a comment when you are ready for the next steps in how to choose the best credit card journey. My newsletter members receive hot-off-the-presses information about new offers, high sign up bonuses and other perk info. Join the club today!


Get the Travel Hacking Starter Kit

Download my Travel Hacking Starter Kit and join others who are learning to harness everyday spending for cheap or free travel!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

1 thought on “TRAVEL HACKING 101: how to choose the best credit card”

join the conversation...