Travel Credit Cards: A Beginner’s Tale

Travel Credit Cards: A Beginner’s Tale

My priorities in life have changed over the past few years.  No longer am I compelled to buy new outfits every week and spend hours basking in the designer glow of Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue.  Nor do I go out every night for dinner or drinks.  Lately my wallet has a one track mind – travel.  I spend more time that I’d like to admit checking airfare to anywhere on sites like kayak, airfare watchdog, and secret flying.  I read travel blogs like I used to pour over fashion magazines. And nothing I used to pine for in the pages of said magazines does it for me now like new destinations do.  It’s an interesting and not unwelcome change.

That all being said, I’m not allocating all the money I used to spend on fashion straight to travel funds.  I’ve become more frugal in my old age and look tirelessly for great deals and bargains for trips.  I know of travel hacking, of course I do, who doesn’t?  Nothing has made me want to look into it more than this article: “Meet the Homeless Man Who Flies the World First Class”.  If this guy has been racking up miles since he was 14 years old, why shouldn’t a savvy twenty-six year old lady like myself be able to figure it out?  Well, for starters, I have no patience for fine print, and I’m so damn cheap that the upfront costs aren’t justifying the benefits.  But! I’m determined to figure it out, and I will do the research.

What I want is a credit card with a big sign up bonus and not a huge annual fee.  I also would like to not be pigeonholed into only being able to fly with one airline or their partners unless it makes sense for me.  This leads me to believe that I should get a travel credit card through a bank or major credit card company like Discover It Miles Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Bank of America Travel Rewards Card.  But then I think of the sign-up bonuses with a lot of the airline loyalty credit cards.

Oh, so many miles up for grabs!  I am so tempted by them.  Realistically though, can I afford to spend $3,000+ in three months just to get 50,000 “free” miles?  No, I really can not.  $1,000 in three months for 30,000 miles is a definitely more doable, which is a deal available with United Mileage Plus Explorer Card or Bank Americard Travel Rewards Card (for 20,000 points instead of 30,000 miles).  There are a lot of choices out there, and luckily (or unluckily, depending on the amount of time you want to spend on this) a lot of reviews and opinions as well (check out The Points Guy or Nomadic Matt).  After some preliminary research, my front runners are the Discover It Miles Card and the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card.
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I’m working on making the decision, but what do you think?  What card has worked well for you?  Which one didn’t? I want to know all  about it!

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