Getting the most out of your credits cards should be a goal that we ALL have. As you know, there are a variety of credit cards out there. In this post on how to crack credit cards for money, we’ll go through which cards will give you the best bang for your spend (in terms of points accumulation). You’ll also learn how to apply awards to the purchases that matter most to you. Keep reading for more!
Credit Card Hacks for More Points
There are several things to consider when you are selecting which credit card to apply to, let’s walk through them.
Best Credit Cards for Point Value
Before you even sign up for a credit card, you need to make sure the card that you get has points that are valuable. Yes, believe it or not, not all credit card points are created equally. A great place to research point value is at thepointguy.com. Here is a quick table of popular rewards credit cards for your reference:
|Chase Ultimate Rewards
|1pt = 2cts
|American Express Membership Rewards
|1pt = 2cts
|Citi ThankYou Points
|1 pt = 1.7cts
|Capital One Rewards
|1 pt = 1.4cts
|1pt = 1ct
In this post, I’ll most commonly use Chase Ultimate Rewards as that is what I use most frequently. You’ll find many similarities with other rewards programs, however.
Sign Up Bonuses
The next thing you want to consider when choosing a card is how large is the signup bonus. Also, consider how much you need to spend in order to get the sign up bonus.
For example, in Feb 2021, new sign ups to the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card will net you 60,000 bonus points. But, in order to obtain these points you do have to spend $4000 in the first three months after you open your card.
On the other hand, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a lower sign up value of 20,000 points ($200), but you only have to spend $500 over three months in order to collect the money.
Always go for the highest bonus possible, but make sure that you do not have to blow your personal budget to get the points.
How to Qualify for Top Rewards Credit Cards
Most reward credit cards do require that you meet certain requirements to sign up. At the top of the list is having a high credit score. The credit cards with the highest rewards benefits typically require your score to be in the mid- upper 700s.
In addition, when opening cards in the same family, there may be restrictions for the amount of total credit you have open with them. Considerations also exist for how frequently you’ve opened cards with one bank over a period of time. For example, Chase has a 5/24 rule. This means that you cannot open more than 5 credit cards with them over a 24 month period.
Another thing to keep in mind is your income. If you have a higher income, you’ll likely qualify for a high credit limit. This will not be the case otherwise, and lower incomes may preclude you from being approved altogether.
Stacking Credit Card Points
Now, you might wonder why I’ve mentioned opening multiple cards with the same bank. The reason why you should do this is to earn as many points as possible to max out the rewards you have with the same rewards family.
Let’s take Chase Ultimate Rewards for example. There are several credit card offerings, and each has different benefits:
- Chase Freedom: Comes with 5% rotating categories every three months. Recently, Chase added the benefits of 5% cashback on travel, 3% cashback on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1% cashback on everything else
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Get 1.5% cashback on all purchases, and like the Freedom, you now get 5% on travel, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Get 2% cashback on restaurants, grocery store purchases, and travel. In addition, your points are worth 25% more when booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Get 3% cashback on restaurants, grocery store purchases, and travel. In addition, your points are worth 50% more when booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Both the Preferred and the Reserve come with amazing travel-specific benefits, include:
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- No blackout dates / travel restrictions
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
- Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance
- Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
- $0 Foreign Transaction Fees
There is something known as the Chase “trifecta”, and that involves having the first two cards listed above and either the Preferred or the Reserve.
If you’re looking for a credit card family with similar benefits, I think that only American Express comes close.
Credit Card Hacks for Travel
The best way to use your points is to redeem them for travel, in almost every case. Why? Because the major credit card companies typically give you the most point value for flights and airfare.
Redeeming Your Points
When redeeming points for travel, DO NOT redeem them for cash. Instead, you should plan to book your travel through the travel platform offered by your credit card. This will help you take advantage of any additional point values you would not receive otherwise.
For example, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, your points have 50% more value than they would if you purchased your travel outside the platform. This is money that you would not receive if you simply did cashback to your account.
Transferring Your Points to Outside Loyalty Programs
An additional benefit of some travel credit cards, like the Chase cards, is that you can transfer points from your rewards platform directly to other hotel or airline loyalty programs. Depending on how many points you’ve earned at the loyalty program in question, transferring points over to get that extra night stay or additional flight leg covered is within reach.
In the image above, you have a snapshot of the screen for transferring your chase points to the United Mileage Unlimited platform. Transferring points is as easy as putting in your member ID and determining the amount of points you want to transfer.
Is it better to use your points for airfare or hotel stays?
This is a matter of personal preference. To decide, you’ll need to consider what matters most to you. I personally prefer to book my airfare with points, as it is one of the biggest travel expenses you can have. Then I typically book my stay with Airbnb or another affordable option.
Now you may prefer to stay in luxury hotels instead; if that’s the case, then using your points to book your stay is the most important.
How Not to Use Your Points for Travel
The worst way to use your points for travel is to “pay yourself back” for flights or hotels you’ve purchased outside of the platform. Why? Simply because your points will not go as far. You will not reap the benefits of booking inside the travel platform and will essentially just be adding a credit to your statement.
Credit Card Hacks for Gift Cards
Not interested in travel? Another way to use your points is to redeem them for gift cards in your rewards platform.
The options available to you will vary by your credit card company, so you should review which offers are most attractive to you. The main benefit of buying your gift card through your reward platform is that you won’t have to spend additional money to get your card.
I’ll note that unless there is a sale on the gift card, it is still better to use your points for travel as you won’t get any additional money for purchasing your card through the rewards platform.
Above is an example of Gift Card deals on the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform.
Credit Card Hacks for Cashback
Similar to redeeming your points for gift cards, you may also simply choose cashback. I’ll admit, when I was fresh out of college this was the most attractive deal to me due to the money saved in the process. But as mentioned earlier, this will not get you the best bang for your buck. If paying down your credit card bill is something that you are working on, however, this may be a great option for you.
Credit Card Hacks for Other Purchases
Something else that is worth considering is that most rewards platforms often have rotating rewards for specific purchases. That may include getting special discounts on Apple products, for example.
On the alternate side, you may get additional points for purchasing specific items through the rewards platform. For example, getting 10X points when purchasing HR Block tax services.
Credit Card Travel Hack Examples
Now that you know all about how to hack credit cards for money, let’s walk through an example of using your new credit card to save money on travel.
Example 1: Chase Ultimate Rewards
In this example, you are using Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here is your credit card breakdown:
- You signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve 4 months ago and hit the spending requirement to earn 60,000 points
- You have had the Chase Sapphire Unlimited card for the past year, and have earned 27,000 points by spending about $1500 a month on a variety of expenses
Total Available Points: 87,000, which are valued at 130,500 or $1,305.00 if you use them for travel.
With this value, you decide to book a flight to Italy ($600), and use the remaining value ($705) to get 2 nights stay at a nice hotel in Rome.
Example 2: American Express
In this example, you are using the American Express travel platform. Your credit card breakdown is as follows:
- You signed up for the American Express Platinum Card 6 months ago and hit the spending requirement to earn 75,000 points
- You have had the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card for the past year, and have earned 24600 points by spending about $300/month on groceries $100/month on gas and $1000/month on other expenses
Total Available Points: 99,600 points ($996)
With this value, you decide to book the same $600 flight to Italy, and with the remaining $396, you get one night at a really nice hotel in Rome. Given the added hotel benefits, you take advantage of the room upgrade, free breakfast, late check-in, and spa credit.
Credit Card Hacking Courses
Now that you have a nice intro into travel hacking, perhaps you’d like to learn more? If so, here are a few options:
Our Rich Journey YouTube Video
Check out this video for a real life example of how a family used points to pay nearly nothing for a trip to Europe.
10X Travel Course
This free travel course gives a lot of tips and tricks for how to use points from a variety of travel credit cards to get the best bang for your buck.
Kara + Nate Course
Kare and Nate have traveled to 100+ countries and have been on the road full time for over 4 years! If you’d like to learn their money saving tips for travel, be sure to check out their course here: 30 Days to Become a Travel Hacker.
In Summary | How to Crack Credit Cards for Money
That wraps this post on how to crack credit cards for money! I hope you’ve found the tips and information found here very useful in terms of getting the most out of your credit cards. As a reminder, none of these hacks work if you keep a balance on your credit card. Think of your card as a tool to make you more money and not a tool to incur debt for things you cannot actually afford. If you keep this in mind as you work through these tips, you’ll have great success!