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How chasing credit card rewards with 5 new cards actually improved my credit

Sept. 07, 2021
7 min read
Leezel's five new cards
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There’s nothing I fear more than having debt. I particularly fear credit card debt since it’s easy to drown in high interest rates until you pay your statement in full.

It’s that fear that has turned me away from having more than a handful of credit cards in my wallet. And I've typically reserved the few cards I have for emergencies, not everyday use.

But in the last couple of months, I’ve added five new cards to my wallet. So what changed?

I decided to get serious about the points and miles game. In particular, I decided 2021 would be the year to go after hotel elite status and get my finances in shape. As a result, I paid off all my outstanding credit card debt, got a jump start on elite status in several hotel loyalty programs and greatly improved my credit score.

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Paying off outstanding debt

I paid off my outstanding debt. (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Before coming to work at TPG, I had about a handful of credit cards. Most of them were store cards or bank cards.

And I paid for almost everything with my debit card. By using my debit card, I didn’t have to worry about getting a bill later. And I could easily curb any temptation to spend more than what I have.

However, that resulted in years of missed opportunities to earn points and miles on everyday purchases.

Related: TPG beginner’s guide: Everything you need to know about points, miles, airlines and credit cards

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When things got a little rough in recent years, I used my credit cards to carry me over. Doing so resulted in thousands of dollars of credit card debt that I continued to carry on my accounts for years.

I eventually changed jobs but continued to pay my New York apartment rent and California home mortgage (long story, but you can read how I became an accidental homeowner here). But, the coronavirus pandemic finally set up a situation that allowed me some breathing room.

In March 2020, COVID-19 pushed my workplace at the time to move to remote work. So, with my immediate family all in Southern California and no clear indication of when I could return to the office, I decided to work remotely from Southern California until I could go back to the office.

Related: 6 tips for working remotely from paradise so you can extend your summer

Turns out, I wouldn't see New York again until this past summer. But, I kept paying rent on my New York apartment and paying my California mortgage until finally deciding to break the lease on my apartment in late 2020.

With no more New York rent to worry about, I was able to accelerate my savings and finally make a dent in the revolving credit card debt I had accumulated over the years. Determined not to be shackled to the high interest rates I was paying, I paid off all of my outstanding credit card debt within eight months.

Related: How to transition your spending from a debit card to a credit card

Chasing elite status and rewards

Centurion Lounge in San Francisco (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Working with such an expert crew of points and miles and credit card experts at The Points Guy, it’s hard not to have a little FOMO when it comes to fully maximizing credit cards, elite status and rewards.

In the last few months, I have added the following cards to my wallet:

Before signing up for these five cards, the last major new credit card I applied for was the Chase Sapphire Reserve in 2016. Back then, I didn’t really utilize and maximize its perks. But now, I’m much more aware of how to optimize spending and use card benefits.

Switching between my five new cards, I’ve been able to earn massive bonuses and take advantage of perks like lounge access and statement credits.

To date, the benefits offered by my Amex Platinum Card have already provided enough value to me to justify the card’s $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).

For example, I took advantage of Amex Centurion Lounge access during a recent trip to San Francisco. And thanks to the Amex Platinum's new Clear credit, I've used Clear to get through security faster multiple times this summer. Additionally, as a big streaming and news junkie, I've used the Amex Platinum's digital entertainment credit for several subscriptions, including the New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM and Audible.

Meanwhile, the welcome bonuses from all five cards have given me many options to plan a larger trip using points and miles. Plus, these cards have given me elite status in three hotel loyalty programs (Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt) -- something that would have taken me a while to earn if only going by hotel stays alone.

Related: Still traveling less? Here are 7 Amex Platinum benefits you can use from home

Improving my credit score

I'm looking forward to more stays like the one I had at Hyatt’s Mar Monte Hotel in Santa Barbara. (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)

Before paying off my credit card debt, I had a good credit score of 720. I was never late in payments, but I carried a large debt which impacted my overall credit score. I also didn’t have a long credit history. I didn’t get a credit card until 2007, well into my first job out of college.

As I continued to chip away at credit card debt on my existing cards, I saw my credit score improve as I paid each account in full.

Until recently, it had been years since I'd added a new card to my wallet. As such, I stayed well below Chase’s 5/24 rule. Plus, as I reduced usage of my credit limit, my credit score increased.

And as I applied for five new cards recently, I saw my credit score go from the 700s to 815. As such, now I have an excellent credit score.

Now that I'm armed with the tools and knowledge to maximize my spending and better strategize my points and miles game, I intend to keep moving forward. I don’t fear debt anymore -- what I fear now is missing out on potential points and miles I could be earning toward my next dream trip.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here

Featured image by (Photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023