INSIDER SECRET: The simplest way to dip your toes into the world of travel rewards is with one of the best cash back credit cards. That way you can earn cash back for your purchases without having to deal with award charts or points valuations.
When I proudly tell my friends about my credit card portfolio, they often reply along the lines of, “credit cards just aren’t for me,” or “I don’t trust myself enough to hold a credit card,” or “I just don’t understand them.” My experience — at the age of 20 — is this.
The use of credit cards can be intimidating. Understanding redemptions and learning to spend only what you have is a completely valid struggle. It’s important to consider one’s spending habits and knowledge of how credit cards work, but I find that people are surprised at how harmless credit cards can be if they’re used to the cardholder’s advantage.
Once prospective credit cardholders understand the value holding a credit card, they might regret missing all of those opportunities to earn easy rewards. With that in mind, here is some food for thought if you’re still not sure if credit cards are for you.
Loyalty programs, award redemptions and points valuations can all sound like a foreign language if you’re just starting out with credit cards. Getting bogged down with complicated jargon isn’t necessary if you’re just trying to establish a credit score and get a simple return on your spending. This is where the best cash back credit cards come into play.
With a cash back card, you’ll be earning cash back instead of points, so you won’t have to worry about finding the best redemption or getting the best value out of what you earn. All you have to decide is when you want to use your rewards. You can spend pretty much as you would with a debit card, but you’ll have extra cash in your pocket.
Once you get the hang of using your cash back card, you might be compelled to delve into the world of points — points that could get you across the world in first class just for spending money as you typically would. But I’ll revisit that shortly.
Credit cards can be intimidating considering that there’s the potential to overspend or to be victimized by high interest rates. However, the potential for earning rewards should not be discounted.
In order to make credit card benefits worthwhile, cardholders should only spend what they have and pay on time, in full every month. This is the cornerstone of using credit cards. Unless you stick to this key rule, the value of a card is compromised, regardless of its awesome perks. In short, there’s no point in having a high-earning credit card if you don’t follow this rule. At the same time, not using a credit card means you’ll be missing out on getting automatic points or cash back on your spending.
So, set a reminder for bill pay, manage your spending and you’ll be on your way to maximizing your rewards.
Even when it seems like a feat to find the right card and navigate the best way to use it, overcoming these obstacles is so worthwhile. Managing a credit card is a great way to build credit, and in order to be approved for a car or a house in the future, everyone needs a good credit score. Why not start now?
If you decide to venture into the realm of points and miles and apply for one of the best credit cards for travel, there are many opportunities to gain elite status with your favorite airline, get free upgraded seats and accumulate a ton of points and miles through sign-up bonuses. All of those benefits are highly valued and can make a big difference in getting you where you want to go without breaking the bank or always having to sit in economy. Soon enough you’ll be chilling in an international first class cabin thanks to a great sign-up bonus.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best all-around cards on the market, and there are so many ways to spend the 50,000 bonus points you’ll get with the card’s sign-up bonus (after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months). With all of the transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can get creative with how you make use of those points. Maybe you’ll use your Chase Ultimate Rewards to fly to Hawaii on United Airlines with Singapore Airlines miles.
There’s no disputing that credit cards can be pretty intimidating when you’re just starting out. Ultimately the decision to embark on your credit journey has short-term and long-term benefits that can outweigh any potential risks. Whether you want to start off with a cash back option or dive into the world of points and miles, there is ample earning to be had.
This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.