Beginner’s Guide to Credit Cards

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. For more information check out our Advertising Disclosure.


Welcome to the points game! Many people feel like they can’t benefit from points and miles loyalty programs because they travel infrequently, but nothing could be further from the truth. Almost anyone can leverage the insane value of miles and points to travel the world. Travel can be expensive, but there are ways to significantly reduce the cost.

The key to being a Thrifty Traveler is to accumulate loyalty points/miles, primarily through credit card sign-up bonuses. Even signing up for as few as 1-2 cards will allow you to travel almost anywhere in the world for next to nothing. By signing up for credit cards I have earned over 5 million points and miles in the last seven years. You can too. Simply follow the steps below.


Step 1: Sign up for airline/hotel loyalty programs

Airlines: Signing up for loyalty programs is free.  Use Awardhacker to determine which airline program will require the least points to fly you to your next destination. 

Hotels: For hotels almost any hotel loyalty program will work in most major cities. Utilize Tripadvisor to find the top hotels in an area. Then find out how many points those hotels require by using Award-o-matic. When signing up for loyalty programs, I recommend utilizing a spreadsheet to track all your usernames and passwords. The key to the points game is organization!


Top airline programs

American Airlines 

Delta Airlines 

Southwest Airlines 

United Airlines 


Top hotel programs

Starwood (Starwood Preferred Guest)


IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group)

Marriott Rewards

Club Carlson

Hilton (HHonors)


Step 2: Sign-up for AwardWallet

AwardWallet aggregates all your loyalty program information in one place so you can login to view all your program balances at once, including if and when they are set to expire. It’s a great tool which also includes a phone app.


Step 3: Sign-up for Travel Rewards Credit Cards 

Now let’s find the best credit card to allow you to travel. I generally sign up for several cards a year and maintain a 780 or better credit score. In fact, if you properly manage your credit cards it should improve your overall score. I recommend monitoring your credit score for free through Credit Karma.

The key to the points game is to have strong organizational skills and pay your cards on time and in full every month.

Our Top Card offers:


Step 4: Meet Spend requirements

The hard work is done and now you should keep track of the date you were approved for the card and strategize how to meet the spending requirements. Do not fall into the common pitfall of buying stuff you don’t need to hit the spending requirements. If you have large spending requirements I would recommend the follow strategies:

  1. Everyday spending (Ensure all autopay bills are changed to your new cards)
  2. Pay for friend’s and family’s share of meals, trips, etc.
  3. Purchase items on SlickDeals to resell on Craigslist
  4. Pay Rent with a Credit Card 


Read more on our Top 5 Strategies to Hit Spend Requirements


Step 5: Travel

Now it’s time to book your trip. Utilize the individual loyalty program websites to book your travel with the points and miles you have earned. Curious how many points it takes to redeem a flight or book a hotel room? Use the following resources:

  • Use Award-o-matic to find hotels you can book with points in any city.
  • Use Awardhacker to determine which airline program will require the least points to fly you to your next destination. 


Subscribe to our Newsletter, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram