How chasing credit card rewards with 5 new cards actually improved my credit
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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
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.
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.
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.
Chasing elite status and rewards
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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Citi Premier® Card
- World of Hyatt Credit Card
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.
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.
Improving my credit score
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.
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.
Featured image by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here
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