Wonderful Side Effects


1. Starting Notes
2. Points Vs. Miles (And Their Value)
3. Envisioning a Goal
4. Checking Your Credit
5. Choosing an Airline
6. How to Pick a Card (Or Two)
7. Real Life Examples
8. Score!
9. How to Keep It Going
10. Keeping Track of It All
11. Wonderful Side Effects
12. Final Words
13. Resources

One day, while I was down in New Orleans, I got a call from my friend Suzy in Chicago. “Wow!” she told me. “I checked Credit Karma just now and saw my credit score has gone up 70 points! It’s now well over 700.” That was awesome! Out of curiosity, I went back and checked my score, too. It also had gone up by 17 points. I was glad, of course, but wondered how both of our scores could go up so much, and so often. Then I realized: it’s because we are using our credit responsibly.

In my quest to collect points and miles, I’ve never paid for them. Nor will I ever. This is why I pay my credit cards in full every month. If I pay for points, their value intrinsically goes down. I treat my credit cards as if they’re debit cards. I run all my money through my cards and have them set up to be paid in full every month. This way I never pay interest and get all my points for free.

This is my maxim: never pay for points. By never paying a cent for points, there have been very welcome side effects:

Banks trust me with credit. Every time I apply for a new card, I’m instantly approved with a nice credit limit. It’s because I’ve proven myself trustworthy to creditors. But it’s really because I never pay for points.

My interest rates are low. Because of my good credit, I get the best rates on credit cards. But this also extends to car loans, personal loans, and ultimately to mortgages. Two years or so before I prepare to buy a home, I’ll make sure I have a nice batch of points and miles credit cards, then I’ll leave it alone for a while. This way I’ll save thousands of dollars on my mortgage by getting a low interest rate while guaranteeing a steady stream of free points – and free trips.

I get targeted for promotional offers. If the signup bonus for a card is 50,000 miles standard, I’ll sometimes get targeted for better offers. The biggest I’ve seen is 100,000 miles. That’s enough for a free trip to anywhere in the world, just by being responsible and never paying for points. I also get day passes to lounges, free drinks when I fly, priority boarding, and other perks. And I make sure to register for every miles promotion that comes my way. You never know when one will kick in and give you bonus miles, and registering takes just a few seconds.

I get VIP treatment. If anything ever goes wrong with my bank or preferred airline (which hardly ever happens, but still), they’re eager to make it up to me by offering bonus miles. Once, when American Express messed up an upgrade on a card, they gave me 20,000 miles in exchange for my trouble. That’s nearly a free round-trip domestic flight! Apology accepted. Any time something happens, I make sure companies know they can make it up to me in bonus points or miles. And so should you.

This is all in addition to free experiences and my lifelong memories, which are priceless. By playing the points game, and winning, I’ve made sure I can always secure new credit when I need it, and get the best rates in the banking industry. It bears repeating again: your credit is one of your most important assets. By being responsible and paying your cards in full each month, you never pay for points and get a wealth of wonderful side effects. And did I mention free trips?

Next up: Final Words

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