February 2, 2012

Questions and Answers on Travel Hacking

A few weeks ago I mentioned I had created a page on the site that lists current airline mileage credit card bonuses. With just a couple of new cards, you can earn 100,000 miles or more—and then book round-trip plane tickets all over the world.

Much to my surprise, card bonuses have continued to get better and better over the past couple of years. It’s never been easier to earn a large stash of points or miles that you can quickly convert to plane tickets and hotel stays.

I’ve now created a whole minisite to serve as a free resource for those who are interested. We’ll keep this site updated with current offers and more detailed information on how you can take advantage of mileage earning for years to come.

—>Check out CardsforTravel.com here

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Questions and Attempted Answers

Since posting the link to the initial page, I’ve received a ton of questions about how airline credit card bonuses work. Here are the most frequently asked ones, along with the answers. If you ever need help with specific recommendations, you can email me as well.

Q. How do you manage multiple credit cards responsibly?

A. Credit cards are a great way to maximize mileage, but must be handled with care. Apply for the best offers, keep track of the cards you have and be sure to meet any required minimum spending so you get your miles or points. The best way to manage multiple cards is to be sure you can pay off the balance each month. If you’re trying to get out of credit card debt, this probably isn’t the best way for you to get miles.

Q. I can only get 1-2 cards. Which should I get?

A. Different cards work better for different people, but long story short, my new favorite is the Chase Sapphire card. It offers a mega-bonus of 50,000 points which can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners (including United/Continental and Hyatt), no foreign transaction fees, and the annual fee is waived for year one.

I also like the AA Citi cards and have been getting them for years on a 90-day cycle, reapplying after I’ve fulfilled the requirements for one card, getting the bonus, and then moving on to another.

Q. Do you cancel the cards after a year, when the annual fee comes due?

A. I usually keep them for a year, then see what happens. Sometimes I call up and say I want to cancel and they waive the fee. Other times, they shift the card into a no-fee version (which doesn’t earn as many points, but I don’t care since I’m not actively using it then).

On a couple of occasions, I’ve kept the card and paid the fee if I’m still using it frequently.

Q. Can I get a business card without a business?

A. Yes. One of the easiest ways to double your points bonus is to get both a personal and business card from the same issuer. For example, you can get the Chase Sapphire card mentioned above and receive a 50,000 point bonus—and you can also get the Chase Ink Bold card and receive an additional 50,000 points. The same strategy holds with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business card.

Similarly, you can get an AA card from Citi for a 30,000 mile bonus, and also add the AA Hilton version for an additional 40,000 Hilton hotel points. If you have a willing spouse or partner, they can do their own applications—so as you can imagine, the bonuses add up very quickly.

Q. I was declined. What should I do?

A. Sometimes a decline is not really a decline. All of the systems are automated, and the odds are at least 50% that you can get it approved if you call in to request a manual review. When you receive a letter stating that you’re declined, there is sometimes a number listed for questions.

For Chase cards, the reconsideration line is 888-245-0625. Call this number and say that you’re eager to get the new card(s) because of the great benefits. The representative will ask you a number of questions, then let you know if they can make it work. As mentioned, at least 50% of the time, this strategy will work as long as your credit score meets their minimum standard.

Q: What about cards for outside the U.S.?

A. There are some, but not many. In Canada we recommend the AmEx Business Gold card, which includes a 25,000 point bonus after completing an initial spend of $3,000, and the AmEx Starwood cards (two versions) which each offer 10,000 Welcome Bonus Starpoints after you charge $1,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. If we find more for Canada or other countries, we’ll add them to the list.

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I know that not everyone is able to do multiple card applications, and if you’re outside North America, your options are limited. But for those who are able, don’t ignore this possibility—you can get a lot of miles very quickly, and put the miles to good use in seeing the world for nearly free.

Here’s the link again:

–>Airline Credit Cards with Mileage Bonuses

Based on your input, I’ll be updating this minisite a bit over the next couple of weeks. If anyone has any other questions in the meantime, I’m happy to help.

Happy travels,

Chris

Disclosure: I receive referral bonuses on some of these cards. I only recommend cards I use myself, and you don’t need to use the links on that page if you don’t want to.

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Image: Ztephen