EDIT: While I still really like the Club Carlson credit card I recommend in this post, I would not suggest signing up for it if you only plan to get one or two credit cards. The benefits of the card are valuable, but you’ll be better off with a more versatile card that collects airline miles.
In this post, I will start laying out the main potential strategies I would take if I were starting to apply for big bonus credit cards today.
In our last post, I described how to begin your own points/miles journey, laying out the first steps I recommend taking before you apply for any credit cards. I strongly urge you to read that post before you start here. (Edit: I also recommend reading my next post: Credit Card Basics – How to choose which cards to apply for and when)
I first became strongly interested in collecting more frequent flyer miles about two years ago when my future wife decided to use 70,000 American Airlines miles to fly the two of us down to Costa Rica for a month so that she could take a yoga teacher training class, and I could learn to surf! Tickets from San Francisco (SFO) to Liberia, Costa Rica were $750 each, so using the 70k miles was a solid deal, as you’ll learn more about later.
My wife ended up getting three great things out of the trip!
- An engagement ring (I proposed the last morning)
- A yoga teacher certification
- A husband who wanted to find out how to travel more places for free!
When we got back from Costa Rica, I knew that I wanted to collect more miles, but I didn’t really know where we would want to go with them, so in hindsight I ended up applying for a couple cards which didn’t really end up being as useful as I would have liked. Thus in the next few posts I’m going to lay out three different strategies which you can choose from, based on your near term travel goals. Depending on your tolerance for signing up for many cards, perhaps over times you’ll even use all three!
(Note: once I create these posts I will link to them from here)
- The Southwest Companion Pass Strategy
How to fly all around the US with your significant other for free until the end of 2014!
- Chase Ultimate Rewards/The United Airlines Strategy
Leveraging the amazing value and flexibility of Chase URs along with United to quickly and easily gain enough points for a round trip to Europe or South America in Business Class
- Trip Around the World using the American Airlines Explorer Award Strategy
My wife and I are planning to take advantage of this amazing award to take a trip around the world later this year, and I’m going to show you how you can too!
However, before choosing any of these strategies or creating your own, I highly recommend that you apply for the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Signature or Club Carlson Premier Business card first! (EDIT: Only if you plan to apply for other cards as well) Here’s why:
- $75 annual fee which is not waived the first year.
- The card gives 50,000 points after your first purchase and another 35,000 after you spend $2,500 within the first 3 months. This is worth almost 2 free nights at their nicest hotels, or up to 10 free nights at their lowest redemption levels!
- Free Gold Status for as long as you have the card.
- 40,000 bonus points for renewing the card each year (basically another free night)
- 10 points per dollar for spending at Club Carlson Hotels, and 5 for all other spending. Club Carlson owns the Radisson, Comfort Inn & Suites, and Park Inn hotels.
- Last but not least, having the card allows you to receive 1 free award night when you redeem 2 or more award nights.
This last perk is a huge one! It basically allows you to get twice as much value from your redemptions, if you staying at their hotels for 2 nights at a time. As an example, if you wanted to spend a couple nights in Paris, you could usually use 50,000 points for one night at the Radisson Blu Ambassador Hotel, Paris Opera, which recently had a rate of about $310/night. This in itself is already a nice deal, but if you have this card, then you would be able to get a 2nd night free!
The other reason that I highly recommend applying for this card first is that US Bank, the issuing bank for this card, is much more picky about accepting applications then Chase, Citibank, or American Express. I actually got denied when I applied for this card because I had signed up for too many other cards recently (I had done 4 others in the past 3-4 months). The other companies are mainly concerned about how many of their own cards you have, but US Bank has tighter practices. Thus if you apply for it first, you should have a much easier time being approved, and you’ll still be able to apply for the other cards.
In the next few days I’ll follow up with more posts about my strategies outlines above.