Earning free travel may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. The premise is simple: many banks in the United States (and beyond, but especially in the US) want you to apply for their cards. In order to get you to do this, they offer enormous promotions if you apply. Here’s where you come in: you want to maximize the promotions to your best advantage.
To do this, you’ll want to apply for and then spend money using certain credit cards, which will earn you tons of points (or miles, depending on the card). You can convert points into a lot of things, but it’s most common to use your points or miles for free flights and hotel stays. Before you start applying for as many cards as you can get your hands on, think about your travel goals. Do you want to spend your wedding anniversary on a remote island? Visit every capital city in Europe? Adventure in sub-Saharan Africa? Once you’ve got some travel goals in place, it’ll be easier to plan a strategy–do you want to earn points towards flights, hotels, or other travel-related expenses?
Now, to the credit cards: my favorite one is the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Credit Card, which gives you 25,000 miles that you can redeem on any airline. The coolest part is that Starwood offers a 5,000 point bonus when you transfer 20,000 at a time—the only card that offers such a serious bonus.
I also really like the OneWorld cards, which are also great for mileage. Here’s why: for spending just $750 in 4 months, you get 30,000 miles. But, that’s not all–you also get $100 in free credit. That’s right–they are actually paying you $100 and giving you a free round-trip flight to Central America, for just a single credit card and spending money that you’d be spending anyway.
So, if one of your travel goals is to get to Machu Picchu with a round-trip flight, you only need to apply for a single Citi AAdvantage card. But if you’d like, you can apply for four or more at the same time, earning up to 120,000 miles. The United and Continental Award credit cards are great for racking up miles as well. Take a look at the credit cards we’ve reviewed and consider what would work best for your needs.
And don’t worry–your credit score won’t go down. In fact, if you’re diligent about paying your balance off in full each month, for each card (which you should be!), your credit score may even improve. There’s more info on this and other sticky issues in the FAQs section.
If you’re ready to start wandering the world for free, head to the step-by-step guide, which will break down the process into bite-size chunks. You’ll soon get the hang of applying for credit cards, spending money quickly, and redeeming the miles…and if you need more resources, we’ve got ’em!
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