Now that you’ve completed your financial check-up and decided on your travel goals, I bet you’re ready to sign-up for your first points & miles credit card. But how do you pick which card to start with?
Picking a Versatile Points & Miles Credit Card
With so many travel credit cards available, it can seem like a daunting task to choose you first card. I’ve already given you my opinion about Chase Sapphire Preferred and why it’s great for beginners here. But if Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Chase travel partners can’t get you where you want to go, don’t be afraid to start somewhere else.
One of my first points & miles cards was the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. While this is a specific hotel credit card with points you can redeem at SPG properties, you can also transfer points to airline partners with a 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer which makes it very versatile. SPG has some incredible properties like the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Villas in Maui where we’ve stayed in the past or the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas where we’re going to stay in Maui for an upcoming trip. You can find SPG hotels throughout the US so this is another credit card for beginners with a waived annual fee the first year, just like Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Picking a Specific Airline Points & Miles Credit Card
In addition to which airlines serve your dream destination, consider which airlines serve your closest airport. Many airlines offer advanced boarding or waived baggage fees for travelers who carry their credit cards. If you find yourself using a particular airline over and over again, you might want to sign-up for their credit card first. I have the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card Card which offers a free checked bag for you and up to 6 people on your reservation. Alaska also serves my nearest airport and I think they have the best service in the US. My husband has both Southwest Credit Cards because Southwest flies from a large number of airports in California. (And they had elevated sign-up bonuses when he applied.)
There are already a lot of sites that compile detailed information about different travel credit cards. NerdWallet lists their favorite travel credit cards here. The Points Guy gives his rankings here. Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card make both lists.
Get the Best Sign-Up Bonus for a Points & Miles Credit Card
Once you’ve chosen the card to start with, it’s a good idea to spend a month or two keeping an eye on the bonuses. Periodically, credit cards will offer elevated sign-up bonuses and you want to get the best bonus possible. Doctor of Credit keeps an updated list of the best sign-up bonuses here.
Consider Using a Referral Link for Your First Points & Miles Credit Card
When you find a card you want to sign-up for, consider asking a friend for their referral link. I’ve provided mine here. If you use my link, you get the sign-up bonus listed and I get the commission listed which helps me provide content for this site. You don’t have to use my links, but I certainly appreciate it when you do.
But beware of using referral links because they don’t always display the best available sign-up bonus so double check before you click apply. I will always remove my referral links if there is a better publicly available sign-up bonus.
Start Slow but Be Ready to Pounce
Don’t sign-up for too many new cards at once. Opening a lot of credit cards around the same time can make you look desperate for credit which companies may frown upon. Also, each credit card you open will impact your credit score. But in the long run, the way you use the card will have a far bigger impact. You also need to be able to meet the minimum spending requirements for each card so you don’t want to sign-up for more than you can handle.
That being said, if you spot an amazing sign-up bonus that can help you reach your travel goals, go for it! You never know when those bonuses will come around again.
After you’ve signed up for your first points & miles credit card, you’ll be well on your way to your first bucket list destination.