There has been a lot of talk lately about blogs which sell credit cards and the morality of that. We live in an economy driven by consumerism and it can be difficult to not only wade through marketing messages, but to resist to urge to buy buy BUY!
It is true that swiping a credit card feels mentally different than pulling out cash and paying. It takes discipline to both build a good credit history and to ensure you don’t overspend.
A Story That Is Constantly Repeated
I talk to a lot of people who are new to the points & miles hobby and they often get lost in the marketing messages. I’m not sure if I was lost in them as a newbie, but I certainly was influenced by them far more than I am today.
Getting that first big sign up bonus can be intoxicating. The feeling intensifies when you use that bonus to earn a trip. A free trip. Or a seemingly free one.
Then you read about 10 other credit card bonuses that sound great and you are suddenly doing an “app-o-rama” where you apply for 7 or 8 credit cards in one day.
Of course some of the banks don’t approve you immediately for the cards so you call up their reconsideration lines and sweet talk the banks. You are getting good at this whole thing. You are turning into an “expert”.
That feeling only lasts for a little while, because you have suddenly realized that you need to spend $30,000 in the next 3 months in order to get those “free” sign up bonuses.
Luckily there is a whole world of manufactured spend out there. You get a Bluebird, or Serve card, and mix in money orders at Walmart. Then you jump on board every new way to buy gift cards that emerges. You are once again an “expert”.
Suddenly you feel this overwhelming hunger to earn more & more points. Who cares if you can fly around the world twelve times with the miles you have, there are NEVER ENOUGH.
Thankfully the marketing machine is out once again promoting buy miles promotions. Oh what a great deal it is to buy miles at 1.7 cents each. You can get a business class ticket for $1,000 instead of $5,000. #Winning
Now you have invested thousands of dollars into your hobby of traveling for free. You brag to all of your friends about how many miles you have and where they can take you, but neglect to mention the money you have now spent.
Eventually you look at the credit card bills and realize that these “strategies” have cost you. You have spent thousands of dollars to buy miles/points and to manufacture spend to get those credit card bonuses. If you haven’t been careful, then your credit score may have dropped along the way.
Self Responsiblity and Knowing Your Limits
This post is not about condemning credit card affiliates. In fact, I believe they serve a purpose. They are more regulated in their sales methods then just about every other industry. The truth is we need to understand ourselves and learn when we are watching a commercial.
This hobby is complicated. It isn’t for everyone. It takes time to study and discipline to win. There is a reason that the banks have huge sign up bonuses. Most people don’t have the discipline. They fall into the trap.
The story above is not my own. I do take a great deal of time study and learn and have excercised a phenomenal amount of discipline. I offset my costs by using cash back credit cards to pay myself back. My travel isn’t quite free, but it is 95% free. With a little more effort I could probably get to free, but I am not sure if it is worth it.
If you are new, learn how your credit score is calculated. That is so important. Credit isn’t just about paying your bills on time. There is so much more that goes into the calculation and making a mistake can cost you when applying for a mortgage or car loan.
I wrote a guide to the basics awhile ago. My advice back then still applies today. SLOW DOWN and take time to learn what you are doing. If you aren’t ready to apply or it isn’t the right time, then let that bonus go away. It probably will come back.
It is also very important to have goals in mind for what you want to accomplish. I receive emails almost everyday from people with random miles in dozens of programs that are useless. Those points may have been free, but if they aren’t of any use then what is the point?
I keep a whole category of posts on this site for beginners. In these posts I break down loyalty programs, explain my actual redemptions and share information that I feel is important for someone who is new.
Miles to Memories is about helping others acheive their travel dreams. I currently have affiliate links and I promise to maintain editorial control. I have been in sales for a long time and have no problem turning down income in order to maintain my moral boundaries. Miles to Memories will always give our very own opinion that will never be dictated by and outside source.
To conlcude this long post, this is a fun & rewarding hobby. I love it. It always keeps me on my feet and I put a lot of time and effort into keeping up with everything. I also love to travel, having done so with and without miles & points for a decade.
With so many blogs and so much information out there it is important to be careful. Know your limits and don’t get caught up in the marketing messages. Those message are useful to teach you about strategies or new offers, but every offer & every program isn’t for you even if it feels like it.