SRQ: How To Maximize Travel Credit Cards In Retirement?

by on February 24, 2013 · 14 comments

in Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • tassojunior

    Retired here and I have no trouble with cards. That said it is odd that credit bureaus do not check on savings, investment accounts, home equity, etc.

  • Holly

    I know you were speaking Brian, but honestly, the only thing I noticed was Miles. He’s adorable!

  • Grant Thomas

    Some do, i think the AMEX PRG card has a section for all assets (add up checking, savings, retirement accounts, and brokerage accounts). But I agree, most do not.

  • Peter

    For the spending minimums, I use the “manufactured spending” thread to be sure to get the bonus. I’m retired too and I’d also advise to carefully look at bonus categories when deciding which card to use. With the total spend being down, the bonuses are more important.

    The big plus is that you can travel when the deals rather than work allows.

  • Rlh1148

    I also thought that after I retired, I would no longer be able to get credit cards to earn bonus miles and points. I was advised otherwise by people on Flyertalk, and in the past year have had 100% success in getting 3 to 4 new cards every 3 months. Although the income that I show on the apps is nowhere near what I made when working, my credit score is consistently around 800, so you should have no problem if your score is good.

  • Wayne

    I have been retired for almost two years and have had no problem obtaining credit cards and using several available techniques to meet minimum spending requirements and accumulating miles. With a good credit score, you should have no problem.

  • Claire

    Does Miles have a brother?

  • Jerry

    Myself and my wife are retired, we have been doing miles , points for about the last 18 – 20 months. We have gotten about 15 cards between the 2 of us. We are overstocked on miles and are working to get more hotel cards.
    Since we started we have been to Calgary, Portland, Branson, NYC, Key West, with Santa Fe, DC, Cabo San Lucas, and Paris Already planned

    Being retired affords us much more free time to plan than most We have only occasionally been denied a card , but we wait 3 or 4 months and we do get approved

    I have made this a hobby and spend several hours a day reading blogs and applying several times a year

  • Jeff4jojo

    I have been retired 5 years now and use my good credit score, as well as my wife’s good credit to rack up tons of miles via credit cards. Plus, we do Vanilla Reloads, buy all the stuff we can on line, etc. Last year our “benefits” added up to around $45,000 in travel and “stuff”. I keep daily track of our “earnings” as we cash in (not sitting there unused). This year as of 2/22 we have “cashed in” on $3383 of travel and stuff. Easy as pie. Heading to the Frequent Flyer University in VA in April. Excited and the 1st time for me.

  • thepointsguy

    Thanks! He is indeed one good looking pup

  • thepointsguy

    Look forward to seeing you there- come say hi!

  • Jeff4jojo

    will do and love your blog and use your links as well.

  • Wes

    Good article, thanks Brian for targeting the retiree audience in our miles/points game. We have challenges to get our retiree friends/peers interested (many have taken to heart the Dave Ramsey coda (have zero debt) they take that to also mean no CC. In fact main stream financial writers advise most Americans to minimize credit card debt, therefore get only one at the most two credit cards. . Yet, TPG and the other wonderful bloggers consistently & articulate well why you benefit by getting many credit cards, IF you have the discipline to pay off CC debt monthly.

    We have been actively playing the miles/points game for four years now; in late 2008, we went from a less than 50K delta miles (earned from work travel) to now (we have 28 open credit card accounts, use award wallet & Transunion ($9.95 mo) to closely manage our credit) over three million miles/points via Blogger tips like TPG, Frugal Travel Guy, One Mile at a Time, View from the Wing et. al. Plus, attending multiple times miles/points seminars like Chicago Seminars every October–where simultaneous collaboration instantly increases your miles/points knowledge even more than the daily sequential miles/points collaboration via blogs, emails. Also, a tip we learned three years ago earned us over 750K AA miles, and we still earn 20K AA miles per month having checking accounts with Bank Direct.

    Retiree miles/points tip. Since we are retired, we get to travel more now. Consequently we take cruises 2-3 times per year (last year Middle east, and Indian–flying FC thanks to our miles hobby to and from Dubai, Delhi, Istanbul, Bali). If you’re a retiree and cruise, consider getting and churning the AMX Platinum (MB and Biz cards) to earn cruise benefits; $300 Ship Board credit, bottle of Dom, Tour of the Gally) We note out of the twelve or so travel bloggers we read, none highlight the AMX-P cruise benefit. AMX cruise bennies sweeten the incentive pot for us significantly. We now have four AMX-P cards, love the MR points (got 50K x3, 75K x1) with spend but since we cruise 2-3 times per year we also get $300 SBC for each paid cruise and a bottle of Dom. Thus, for us the airline fee, lounge access (incl Priorty pass) and global entry fee (used 3 yrs ago) are secondary to our most coveted bennie–the $300 SBC. Makes it worthwhile for us to have at least two active AMX-P cards per year. We each easily earn back more than double the $450 or $475 (Mercedes PLat card) annual fee.

  • Margit

    I am a retired traveler and like to fly to Europe especially london. I usually fly delta within the us. Any thoughts about benefitting from the new delta- virgin atlantic partnership?

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