5 Things You Should Know After a Year of Using Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Feb 23, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Your first anniversary. Your child’s first birthday. Your first year on the job. Like it or not, people put a lot of stock in one-year markers. We love to reflect back on the first year and look at what went right and what went wrong.

After a year of earning points and miles with travel rewards credit cards, you’ve likely crossed off a few firsts from that not-so-old bucket list, like booking your first award ticket and getting hotel elite status for the first time.

One can learn a lot in 365 days. And if you’ve been following The Points Guy, our hope is that you’ve picked up on the following building blocks of this really cool hobby.

Lesson 1: Before All Else, Chase Chase Cards

Whoever said “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” must have been referring to points and miles. Trust us when we tell you that there are plenty of credit cards to pursue. Countless welcome bonuses to collect. But before you climb too far down the rabbit hole, make sure you carefully consider applying for a few Chase cards.

Why start with Chase? Well, because it has that 5/24 rule that you might have read about. For the uninitiated, Chase will deny you many of its finest cards if you’ve already been approved for five in the past rolling 24 months. That’s not five approvals with Chase, but five with any bank.

Considering that we value Chase Ultimate Rewards points higher than many other loyalty currencies, you don’t want to be shut out. The Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card tend to be great general travel cards. Get one — but not both — as there are restrictions on how many Sapphire cards you can have in a given period/at once.

Lesson 2: Know Each Credit Card Issuer’s Application Rules

Yeah, yeah, we know you have spent the past year excited to collect more of those oh-so-valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards and other points and miles available via Chase’s cobranded cards. But remember to pace yourself. Chase tends to allow people to get one personal card and one business card within a 90-day period. Is this a hard rule like 5/24? No, but remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Chase also does not appear to put a limit on how many of its cards you can have, but does seem to pay mind to the amount of credit borrowed.

One year into the hobby, you have likely looked into other cards, knowing there is life beyond Chase. Other banks and issuers also have rules on how many cards they will give you and how often.

American Express, for instance, is known to deny those looking to get more than three of its cards in a given 90-day window, although three could be doable if you were to bring charge cards into the mix. And, unlike Chase — which in many cases will allow you to get the same credit card bonus after a two-year wait — Amex has a once-per-lifetime rule on cards. What’s the take-away? With Amex, it pays to wait for a card’s bonus to approach its historical high point before applying.

Beyond Chase and Amex, there’s still a whole lot to be learned about Bank of America, Barclays, Citi and other banks and issuers. And with a year under your belt, you’ve probably got a good handle on some of those unique nuances.

Lesson 3: Know Your Bank Points and How to Use Them

Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards always rank among the most valuable points given the flexibility each affords the would-be traveler. Among the three programs, points and miles enthusiasts have an array of hotel and airline transfer options to take them virtually anywhere on the planet.

For example, Amex allows Membership Rewards points transfers to an array of five-star airlines, such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. Want to book a hotel with your Ultimate Rewards points? No problem, as Marriott and Hyatt sit pretty as strong options, especially when both have top-tier brands such as St. Regis (Marriott) and Park Hyatt (Hyatt) with rooms that can retail for more than $1,000 per night.

While one can get a great deal of value from using their points directly through the banks’ travel portals, transferring points often allows for outsized redemption value, as evidenced when one very savvy TPG reader flew around the world in first class for a mere $273.

park-hyatt-hadahaa-maldives-pool-villa-paradise
This pool villa was a free upgrade on TPG staffer Darren Murph’s award stay, thanks to his top-tier Hyatt status. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Lesson 4: Earn Elite Status Just By Opening Credit Cards

A year earning and using points and miles is long enough to notice something key: Frequent travelers get treated better than the rest. For those willing to pay a pretty penny, room upgrades and free breakfast are more the norm than the exception. And understandably so, as hotels and airlines vie for the most profitable customers.

But even if you fall short of road-warrior status, many elite perks remain well within reach by opening the right cards. Take the Hilton Honors program. Diamond status, Hilton’s top loyalty tier, can be achieved by 30 stays or 60 nights in a calendar year. Or you can achieve it by opening the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Lesson 5: Good Record-Keeping Matters

Now, for the last lesson you should have learned after a year in the points hobby. And if you just celebrated your one-year mark, this may be a fresh lesson. Many cards, particularly those with lucrative welcome bonuses and bonus categories, come with an annual fee. While the card perks often offset the fees and then some, it’s critical to know your card anniversary dates so you can assess whether you want to keep a card for another year, seek a retention offer or possibly downgrade or close the card.

Seasoned points and miles aficionados should have a handle on when their card payments are due each month. A missed payment and unnecessary interest charges can easily offset rewards and benefits.

Bottom Line

A year in the points and miles and travel rewards card hobby is nothing to sneeze at. It’s an accomplishment, and a reason to celebrate. Your second year will unlock even greater perks and, if you play your credit cards right, countless memories to remember forever.

Featured photo by Freestocks Org/Unsplash.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.