Getting Started

So, time and time again, I’ve heard how daunting the idea of opening a bunch of credit card accounts is. I get it! We’ve been conditioned to think that credit cards = bad because they lead to overspending and paying interest. Well, duh! Part of being a responsible adult is managing your money–if you can’t do that, this game isn’t for you. But like most things in life, slow and steady wins the race. So let’s start with your first card!

So how do you pick a card? Well you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is my goal? If your goal is to earn cash back, look into cards that give a good return. If you want to take a few domestic flights, look into an airline that flies to your local airport.
  2. Do I want fixed points or convertible points? Fixed points are like Delta SkyMiles or Hilton HHonors:  they can’t be changed into other things. Convertible points, like American Express Membership Rewards points, can transfer into other programs, such as Delta or Hilton.
  3. How much can I comfortably spend a month? If it’s $500, don’t get a card that requires $1,000+ in monthly spending.
Going to Paris in April–that’s a goal!

To stress point one, you should always, always, ALWAYS have a goal! Even if that goal is as vague as earning cash back or taking a trip to Europe next summer.

Let’s pose a couple examples. First, let’s say you live in Washington, D.C., and want to fly domestically. You have two good options:  American Airlines out of National Airport-DCA or United Airlines out of Dulles Airport-IAD. If you prefer American, go with any one of the three Citi American AAdvantage cards (Gold, Platinum, or Executive); however, if you’re more of a United fan, choose the Chase United Explorer MileagePlus card. Note:  this is not the best deal on the United card; wait until the 50,000 miles for $2,000 spend to come back!

In our second example, let’s say you really just want cash back. If you buy a lot of groceries, maybe check out the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, with 6% back at grocery stores, 3% at gas stations and department stores, and 1% everywhere else. Or maybe you like rotating categories like Amazon, restaurants, or gas. In that case, The Chase Freedom or the Discover It with 5% in rotating categories and 1% on everything else is more your speed.

One thing I would note is that you’re always earning rewards with credit cards, whether that points, miles, or cash back. This isn’t the case with your debit card! Banish your debit card, and only use it when you need to. Plus, debit cards have far inferior protections when it comes to fraud.

So there you have it–it’s that easy 😉


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