One of the first things I put up under the Beginner’s Guide tab was a 10-step guide to help readers begin churning miles and points. Over the next few days I’ll be doing a 10-post series, elaborating on each of the steps below.
The beginner’s guide to traveling for (almost) free on miles and points:
1. Set travel goals
2. Check your credit
3. Sign up for rewards programs
4. Manage your miles and credit cards
5. Sign up for a rewards earning credit card
6. Shift your everyday spend to credit cards
7. Meet the minimum spending requirements
8. Maximize bonuses and promotions
9. Earn points by dining and shopping
10. Redeem points and miles for free travel
Check your credit:
While signing up for credit cards is not the only way to obtain miles and points, it’s certainly the most lucrative. But if your credit is not great, or at least good, then credit card churning may not be for you, at least not yet. Big sign up bonuses have been around for years and are likely to stay around at least in some form for quite awhile, so there’s no need to risk your credit now. Work on raising your credit score to at least 700 before applying for any new cards!
Before you fill out any credit applications, figure out where you stand. Since each credit card application can drop your score in the short-term two to five points, I’d suggest having a credit score of at least five points over 700 for each card you intend to apply for. (If you’re applying for three cards, you’d want your score to be at least 715 before completing a round of credit card applications). Most experts suggest that you should stop churning within a year of applying for a major loan, such as a house loan. A score of at least 740 should get you the best interest rates.
Applying for offers and getting denied will hurt your score without giving you any benefit. Checking your credit before starting churning is also important so that you can monitor how credit card applications will affect your credit score over time. If done correctly, churning will lower your credit card score in the short-term and raise it in the long-term.
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus annually from annualcreditreport.com. This will not tell you your FICO score though, so I recommend getting an estimate by checking creditkarma.com or Credit Sesame. There are other services you can pay a fee to utilize, and many of them offer trial offers. I personally like creditreport.com, which has a trial offer that shows you all three credit scores plus a copy of your credit report for $1. But don’t forget to cancel before the end of your trial if you don’t intend to pay the monthly fee for the monitoring service!