Updated: Jan 18, 2022
Hello everyone! Welcome back to Pack Your Points! Today's post will describe how I was introduced to travel credit cards. Which then led me to loyalty programs, frequent flyer programs, top third party booking sites and more travel hacks than I can write in one post.
Traveling comes with my job as a professional basketball player overseas, currently in Italy. But luckily, it is also one my favorite things to do! As an Expat living overseas 10 months out of the year, I've been presented with an opportunity to do two things I love at once!
Points and miles have become a hobby of mine because of all the perks and benefits they offer when used correctly. They make my favorite thing to do (TRAVEL) less stressful, more comfortable, more luxurious, cheaper if you do a little research and with all of that, more enjoyable!
On this website (and my YouTube channel eventually), I'll show you how credit cards have become an asset to my wife and I's travel adventures. I'll be showing you our traveling experiences around the world and give you insight on all the perks and miles used along the way!
My introduction to points and miles came with my introduction to travel credit cards. I did not know much about loyalty programs, frequent flyer programs or points and miles until I got into travel credit cards. Below, I'll show you how it all started one by one:
1. Bank of America Secured Cash Rewards Card
I got my first card with Bank of America (BofA) at the end of 2012. After walking into a local BofA and speaking with a branch manager about my bank accounts and one day getting a home locally. The topic took a hard turn to mortgage and loans, then ended on credit.
Long story short, my credit score was mid 600’s because I had two doctor bills from my first year out of college. I thought it was taken care of by my college, but that was a mistake. I had no idea they went into collections and at that point, I didn’t know anything about credit apps or even credit in general so I really wasn’t aware.
The manager suggested that I should get a secured card for now and eventually be graduated to an unsecured card, I agreed, and my credit journey began.
There were a couple reasons I knew I needed a credit card after speaking with her:
I needed a card to build credit and BofA was my only bank at the time.
She said I would get cash back for everyday purchases. Sounds good to me!
2. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card
My next card, that I got early 2014, was more of a necessity. I didn’t understand what Foreign Transactions Fees were yet. To me a plastic card can be swiped anywhere and everywhere the same way. Until I finally checked my account! Only took four months in Europe for me to look into to detail at what these little charges were. I was so confused and worried about the little extra charges, I really thought I was being scammed!
I called BofA to inquire about the charges and potentially lock my card. They explained what the charges were and even offered to waive them.
After this, they started to talk to me about some of their other cards and even said, they are willing to 2-Day mail whichever one I chose to Italy. I decided on the BofA Travel Rewards card and they express shipped it.
3. Kay Jewelers Credit Card
4. Best Buy Citi Credit Card
My third and fourth cards were both store cards. I got them both, literally, for the discount at the cash register. Again, I did not understand credit cards or credit yet. 2014
The third card was a Kay Jewelers store credit card. I got it to save 40% off a gift for my mom, for Mothers Day! Sadly, I closed it a few years after when I saw it on my credit report. Should have just kept it but in my mind, it was hurting my credit. I was mistaken.
The fourth card was the Best Buy Citi Card. I got when buying a ton of Apple items that cost a little much and they said not only will I save 25% but I can get 12 months financing with 0% interest…umm, YES! It’s still open today and I actually still use it when I want the 0% financing or money or a percentage off a purchase.
5. United Explorer Card
6. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
So my first introduction to the “Real Credit Card Game” came in 2015. It’s sad to say but the exact same thing happened on 2 separate flights going to and coming from the US in the span of 10 days! Yes, they got me with the inflight promos because I was bored actually payed attention to the announcements for once.
Let’s start in November, I was lucky enough to be able to fly home during the season for 10 days, which never happens. I flew United on the route home. They announced it over the intercom talking about the card benefits, miles, etc. I didn’t pay any mind to this. But, when they came out and asked if I waned to take a look at the paper offer, I said ok why not. I glanced over it, saw some cool deals and benefits but said no thank you (only because I didn’t really understand it and didn’t want to ask). The flight attendant asked if I’m sure and said with the Welcome Offer I would get a free flight, free 1st checked bags for me and others on my flight, shopping portal that gives miles for things id buy anyway, etc. and obviously I was sold! Ok, sign me up!
In December, 10 days later, the exact same scenario happened on my American Airlines flight back to Europe but this time, when the flight attendants came around after the announcement, no explanation necessary I want the card!
With the United and American Airlines cards, my wife and I have gotten great use out of them, even without me realizing it. We’ve been on multiple trips and redeemed them in a lot different ways. With AA, we even earned many points through the AAShooping portal (Similar to Rakuten but earning AA miles).
Ways we have redeemed have been:
Free flights throughout the US
Upgraded seats on flights in the US and Internationally
Free 1st checked bags obviously on all UA and AA flights
AA miles to book a 7 day stay in Santorini, Greece (saved $1,300 cpp n/a)
UA miles to book the flight to Santorini and Rental Car there ($ n/a)
UA miles to book a rental car for 10 days in Las Vegas (saved $1,100 cpp n/a)
Still, after all these perks used and all the discounted and upgraded trips, I still never thought that there is something out there better. In my mind, this was the best I was going to get. I didn’t realize, that with my lifestyle (job) and hobbies that this was the tip of the iceberg! I really didn’t know there were a lot more types of cards out there, that we could easily benefit from. Yes, these Airline cards are great but they’re locked into one type of “good” redemption. Travel cards were not on my radar…yet!
Fast forward to 2019, my wife casually started talking about these two “travel” credit cards that are great for travelers that she read about on a blog post. The thing that really drew me in was that they were especially great cards for people that traveled a lot internationally! Yes, you guessed it, the cards were the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card by American Express. BOOM!!! Grenade dropped, two straight hours of watching YouTube videos about them, mind blown! Here’s my wife post about our trip when she actually mentioned the Chase Sapphire Reserve:
I was so blown away with the cards, I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred that night, yes, the Chase Sapphire Preferred! It honestly was an accident because I didn’t know there was more than one. I went on Credit Karma and it said ‘Excellent Odds” so I went for it! At the end of the day, I was happy about my mistake because all the Credit Card vloggers said to get the CSP first because of the Sign Up Bonus (SUB), whew!
I chose the CSP for a few reasons:
My wife and I travel a lot within Italy. That type of travel comes with paying tolls, train tickets, parking meters and rental cars. With the 2x back on the broad travel with Chase, I knew this would be a perfect card to pile up points with.
The travel protections with the Sapphire cards are amazing.
After seven more days of non stop YouTube videos (3/4 hours a day that week) about travel credit cards, I couldn’t contain myself from getting The Platinum Card! I literally couldn’t sleep a few nights leading up to me applying for it because all the stuff I watched and read about. I realized how much we already missed out on from spending on my BofA Travel Rewards card and not spending on one of these travel cards to get all the free trips and benefits from them.
I chose the Platinum for a few reasons:
My wife flies a ton. She alone makes the Platinum card double its worth with the 5x directly with flights
The lounge network is a huge factor for us. We like to be comfortable because we're on the move so often and trying to find a seat in a packed airport is a no go for us.
The benefits, perks, insurances and protections can be its own blog. I'll do something separate talking about its worth and why its my favorite card to hold.
We had a vowel renewal coming up a couple months later that summer at a hotel in Las Vegas. So I knew we were going to spend a lot on travel plus the full hotel expense for the Vowel Renewal ($30k+). I couldn’t wait any longer, not another night of anxiety and heart break from missing out. Went through the same process as the CSP. Applied through Credit Karma, “Very Good Approval Odds”, instant approval! Now I was fully invested in the points and miles game!
This is how my journey of hacking travel got started. Like with anything, the more you do it, the better you become. That holds true with understanding the best ways to hack travel as well. From simply getting into travel credit cards, I've learned the in’s and out’s of points and miles, loyalty programs and more. As you join me on our traveling adventures, I'll continue to share how we get the best deals and take advantage of all the perks, points and miles we have at our exposal!
Until next time, before you pack your bags, don’t forget to PACK YOUR POINTS!
I am not a financial advisor and highly recommend doing your own homework about the credit card you want to apply for! All of the content on my website, page and channel are for entertainment purposes only.
If you’d like my opinion or help in forming an idea of what works, I’m here to help. BUT, if you want me to make a decision for you, I cannot do that for you.
Here are REFERRAL LINKS to the credit cards mentioned in today’s post. By using them to apply, you’ll be supporting the website and channel because when approved, I’ll receive bonus points and miles as well!
Schwab Platinum Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHImXb?xl=cp105f
Platinum Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/NATASHkCtJ?XLINK=MYCP
Amex Green Card
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHga7A?xl=cp105f
Hilton Honors Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHyfW4?xl=cp105f
Hilton Surpass Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEH60vq?xl=cp105f
Hilton Aspire Card by Amex
Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/KENNEHMKdm?xl=cp105f
Bonvoy Bold & Boundless Card by Chase
Earn 3 Free Night Awards with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card or 1 Free Night Award with the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for a card. Learn More.