SRQ: How To Maximize Travel Credit Cards In Retirement?

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Update: The 50,000 point sign up offer for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is no longer available through the Card Match Tool.

TPG reader Ron has recently retired, but wants to keep racking up points and miles with credit cards. Here’s his question:

“Do you know of a strategy for retired persons to use when applying for credit cards that earn miles?  I would like to add to the credit cards I have and my FICO score is high, but since retirement am reluctant to try.  At first look, my financials may look weak on a credit card application.  In particular, the applications usually require your job info and salary.  Retirement seems like a golden opportunity to earn and spend miles. What can I do to make sure it is?”

Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you can’t get in on lucrative credit card offers like the current 50,000-point sign-up bonus on the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. If you’ve spent your professional life until now being financially responsible and building up your credit score, now is a better time than ever to apply for the best cards out there and maximize your credit score to the fullest.

A lot of people think that their income is the most important element to help them get the most lucrative travel credit cards out there, but in fact, the single most important factor in getting a credit card is your overall credit score, and as you can see in this post, there are a lot of other factors involved including the length of your credit history, whether you pay your bills off on time, and what kinds of credit you have since certain kinds like mortgages and car loans can actually help bolster your credit.

Credit card applications do ask you what your annual income is, but if you’ve just retired, then you can put your most recent annual income on your application, or if you anticipate a higher income this coming year, put that. Credit card applications do not require W2 proof of income, so you can present yourself in the most positive light possible – within reason. I would never advocate lying or even stretching the truth about your income, but use what you have earned in the past or reasonably expect to earn in the future to help yourself.

Even if your income is low, if your credit score is good, you can get in on great offers like this one.
Even if your income is low, if your credit score is good, you can get in on great offers like this one.

Since your income is probably more fixed than in the past, other key considerations include thinking about minimum spending requirements and not biting off more than you can chew, since many of the best offers out there involve some spending in order to earn the full bonus.

Even though you might not be making as much money as you were when fully employed, if your credit is in good shape, you can maintain it by paying off your bills and being responsible about minimum spending requirements, and you have specific goals in mind, you should have no trouble applying for and getting the travel credit cards you want.

Some of the top cards I’d recommend at the moment include:

50,000 Membership Rewards points for the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express thanks to a special offer through the Card Match Tool on

50,000 British Airways Avios for spending $1,000 within 3 months on the British Airways Visa, and up to 50,000 more for a total of 100,000 Avios when you spend $20,000 within a year of account opening.

50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for the Chase  Ink Bold for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months

 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points for the Chase Sapphire Preferred for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months

50,000 American AAdvantage miles for various cards.

25,000 Membership Rewards points for the Business Platinum card from American Express OPEN Savings for spending $5,000 in 3 months.

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

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  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Balance Transfer Credit Rating
N/A 15.49%-19.49% Variable $95 See Terms Excellent Credit