From new beginner to bonus master, this guide will help you get started in the world of credit card bonus hacking.
Understanding the world of credit card bonuses.
Credit card companies want more users to sign up, so they offer many different sign up bonuses for new users that meet certain requirements. For example, a bank might offer you $150 for opening a new credit card and spending $500 with that card within 90 days. Once you meet the spending requirement and 90 days has passed, they may give you $150 credit or offer to send you a check. Some cards offer other types of bonuses like rewards points, or airline miles that can be redeemed through a rewards program or airline respectively. So, depending on which cards you get, and what your spending habits are, you could find yourself with some nice extra bonuses for travel, toys, or just cash back.
Decide on your strategy.
Before choosing a card, it’s a good idea to think about what type of card would suit you best. Things to consider are:
- How much do you spend on credit cards each month, on average?
- What type of bonus do you prefer?
- Is your credit score good, average, or poor?
Knowing the first question will help you figure out which cards are a good match based on your spending habits. Ideally, you should choose a card that does not require you to spend more than you normally do. For example, I spend about $1,000 per month on credit cards, so I don’t usually apply for a card that would require $5,000 in 3 months unless I know I have a big purchase coming.
The second question takes a bit more consideration. Points, miles, and cash all have different benefits and restrictions, and their value is roughly equivalent to 10,000 points = 10,000 miles = $100. Miles are ideal for travel and may not expire, but you are limited to how they can be used. Points are a bit more flexible on what you use them for, but if you cancel a card, you will likely lose your points. Cash is the most flexible and does not expire, but cash back bonuses tend to be lower in value.
Finally, it’s always good to know what your credit score is when dealing with cards. Some cards are only available to people with high credit scores, so you may be denied if yours is not high enough. You can check your credit score at www.freecreditscore.com.
Choose a card…or a few.
Once you have an idea for the type of bonus you want and how much you spend, it’s time to choose a card. Head over to the browse.perxapp.com and look for the card that suits you best. There are some handy filters to help you find you card faster, and if your spend enough each month, you can apply for multiple cards.
One of the best choices is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. It offers a big signup bonus, and the points can be used for many things including travel or cash back. Plus, they can be transferred to other partner programs which makes them very flexible.
Redeem and Repeat.
Now comes the fun part; redeeming your rewards! Some programs will give you your bonus right away, but many will make you wait until the time frame has passed. For this reason, I like to set up a reminder to check once and make sure that I got my bonus.
If you are using airline miles credit cards, your miles should automatically transfer to the partner airline. After which you can log into the airline rewards program and use these miles to book flights, tours, or more depending on the program.
For reward points credit cards, you will have to log in to the portal where your points are managed. Once logged in, you should be able to redeem your points for things like travel, shopping, or as a statement credit to refund you for previous charges.
Cash bonus credit cards are a bit more simple to redeem. You will still have to log in to redeem your bonus, but it is usually managed from the same website as your credit card. Once logged in, your redemtion options could be a cash transfer to your bank account, a statement credit to refund some of your previous charges on the card, or a check mailed to your home.
Take it even further.
Once you get a taste of working with credit card bonuses, you might find it’s quite fun to get good bonuses every few months. You get to travel for cheap, or even free. You can shop for so nice new toys. You walk around with some extra jingle in your pocket. At some point you might decide that you want to take to the next level and see just how much you stand to gain.
To do so, you will need to apply to more cards, pay attention to where your spending happens, and keep track of all your bonuses. As you can imagine, it can get more and more complex. Luckily, there are some handy ways to keep everything nice and organized.
First off, you will want to keep track of dates. This is important so you know when your bonus time frame is up, or if you have an annual fee due for a card you want to cancel. I like to use Google Calendar to set up some reminders once I have opened a new card.
Next, you’ll want a way to track your rewards and bonuses. For cash bonuses, there isn’t much more than your credit card’s website, but for points and miles, you can use a tool like Award Wallet to track all your points in one place.
When opening and closing multiple credit lines, it’s important to keep a close eye on your credit score. Thankfully, you can use free tools like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to automatically monitor your score for you.
Finally, some credit card companies offer extra high bonuses for certain cards from time to time. It’s a good idea stay up to date with the latest credit card deals so you can cash in on bigger bonuses. A good way to do this is to sign up for email newsletters from sites like Nerdwallet so you get notified as soon as new deals come out.