Obsessed: 4 Reasons I Love Credit Card Rewards

armchair quarterbackAt any given time, my husband and I have anywhere between 20 and 40 credit cards and upwards of $200,000 in available credit.  Call me crazy if you want to.  Call me obsessed, preoccupied, or insane.  I’ll wear that shit like a badge of honor.  In fact, I’m not the least bit ashamed.

Why I Love Credit Card Rewards

The truth is, credit card rewards happen to be my hobby.  In a lot of ways, I’m similar to someone who watches sports incessantly, the only difference being that credit card rewards actually have a point.  Yeah, I went there.  Unlike rooting for your favorite team every Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night with a jersey on and hot wing sauce dripping down your chin, an obsession with credit card rewards can be lucrative, and even life-changing.  Want to know why I love credit card rewards so much?  Here’s why:

Earn Free Stuff

The first rewards card I ever signed up for was a Chase Freedom card.  I could hardly believe that they wanted to offer me a $100 statement credit simply for spending $500 within three months.  From that point on, I was hooked.  Various rewards programs offer all kinds of free stuff simply for abiding by their rules, including things like cash back, merchandise, and gift cards.  The possibilities are endless!

Stretch Your Travel Budget

If you enjoy travel like I do, credit card rewards are a must.  Over the past few years, I’ve earned free flights to places like Jamaica, Las Vegas, and even Europe, and free hotel stays in the U.S. and abroad.  I even booked a $6,200 European getaway for a total of $197 with the help of credit card rewards.  This is how it works: With a card like the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard (affiliate link) you can earn up to $460 in travel credit that can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, and more.  All you have to do is spend $3,000 within 90 days of becoming a member in order to qualify.

Other rewards cards like the U.S. Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard (affiliate link) offer 40,000 airline miles and a $99 companion certificate for up to two guests on any U.S. Airways flight after your first purchase with the card.  (An $89 annual fee does apply for the U.S. Airways card, but the airline miles alone make it well worth it).

Go Farther Than You’ve Ever Dreamed

One thing I love about travel rewards is that they allow me to dream big.  I no longer only fantasize about vacationing in Florida.  Instead, I plot and scheme to see places like Venice, The Fjords in Norway, and the Maldives.  The best thing is, credit card rewards can (and will) actually take me there.  In a way, they have actually helped many of my dreams come true already.

Learn About Other Cultures

One thing I love about travel is the many people you meet along the way.  And it’s not only the local people you come across, it’s the people from all over the world that you might encounter while enjoying new experiences, eating dinner, or just relaxing in your favorite vacation spot.  I love meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds and I believe that those experiences and relationships have helped me grow as a person.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still a work in progress and slightly immature for someone my age, but I’ve gained a broader world view and am becoming a better person because of it.

Pursuing credit card rewards is just like any other addictive hobby.  The only difference is, it can literally take you anywhere in the world you want to go.  All it takes is a little planning, know-how, and fortitude to make it happen.

Editor’s Note: There are affiliate links in this post and I do get compensated if you use them. As always, I appreciate your support!  XOXO

Do you pursue credit card rewards?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. I am so impressed with how well you guys use credit cards Holly! We’ve got the Barclaycard and we love the rewards, but we haven’t yet expanded to more than one. We are thinking of maybe the Starwood card next.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..Cost of the American Dream: Are Your Costs Rising? [Infographic]My Profile

  2. I wouldn’t go so far as I love them… they’re a giant pain in my ass, and I’m not really sure we’ll get as much value out of them to have made our entire experiment with credit card churning for miles worthwhile. But we’ve gotten a few “free” flights… nonetheless, we would have been earning cash back rewards on that spending anyhow, so we’ve also forgone about $400 in what we typically would have earned with that anyhow. Mixed bag, I guess.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..You Never Know What Something Is Worth Until You Sell ItMy Profile

  3. Going to the Maldives would be an absolutely amazing experience. We have only churned the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, but that alone will allow us to go on a vacation essentially for free. I’m definitely hooked!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Things Young Professionals Should be Doing (But Probably Aren’t)My Profile

    • I need to see the Maldives before they sink into the ocean. I saw a documentary that said they only have 40 more years at this rate.

  4. I love trading my AMEX points for gift cards and just started using a cash back rewards Visa. I am good about charging and then paying so I don’t carry a balance but am finding its hard to keep my budget in check. How do you track it all to make sure you aren’t overspending?

    • I use a zero sum budget that outlines what I can spend in different categories. I generally pay off the credit card I’m using once per week as well just to make sure I’m on track.

  5. I am very much like you, as in we have about 20 to 40 credit cards at any given time. This hobby is extremely addictive. Once you fly free to Hawaii or Europe, it’s hard to go back to normal ways. The problem is, some people tend to take it too far and get super greedy. I certainly have to keep myself in check, and not sign up for every bonus under the sun. IMO it’s crucial to have some sort of a plan for those miles and points.
    Milesforfamily recently posted..When in Doubt, Use Your Hotel PointsMy Profile

    • I don’t necessarily think it’s greedy to sign up for every bonus. I do think it’s greedy to manufacture spending on an extreme level for long periods of time, especially if you don’t have a plan for your points and miles.

  6. I’m quickly becoming the same way Holly. I’m pulling my wife along kicking and screaming too. :) It can get addictive and it’s a bit mind boggling the amount of available credit we have between us but it’s worth the free trips we can get out of it. We just got my wife a few more cards over the weekend actually and need to start thinking about how/where we’re going to use all our points. That’s a good problem to have in my opinion. :)
    John @ Wise Dollar recently posted..Three Reasons Why You Need an Emergency FundMy Profile

  7. Hol, I love your passion and witty-ness and writing style. But there is only one reason you love credit card points, for all the free stuff! The other 3 “reasons” simpy support the one reason.

  8. I don’t like using credit cards for the most part, but we always pay the bill in full when the statement comes. I like our cash back card since you can save up your cash back credits and use them to pay a particularly large purchase or get a check. Either way, it gives me some money back to put in the savings account.

  9. I regret not learning about churning before we had kids. Would have been a lot easier to travel back then! I’m still a big fan and hoping to get back into churning some cards. Maybe after buying a place as I don’t want any dings to my credit. Hopefully the big bonuses don’t go away.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Price of the American Dream: Are your costs escalating?My Profile

  10. I can’t believe hoe good the credit card reward schemes are in the US! It makes me a little jealous as over in the UK, the credit card rewards are just not very good.

    I have a cashback credit card that gives me 1% cashback on everything I spend on the card but that’s about it. I may have to investigate a bit more in case I’m missing something but I don’t think it’s possible to travel hack the way you do over here in the UK.
    MrsFinancialFreedom recently posted..What Is True Happiness?My Profile

  11. I’m probably only mildly obsessed. I’m still looking into the most effective way to keep track of everything, yearly fees, which ones offer the most points, etc. I need to be better organized on which ones to cancel too, but I do love the free travel I’ve gotten so far.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..Addicted to Busy?My Profile

    • I keep a simple spreadsheet that lists each card, when I signed up for it, when the annual fee kicks in, and when I cancel, etc.

  12. 20-40 cards! wow, that’s a lot to keep track of! I just got my first rewards card last summer, and the benefits have been so-so. I need to sign up for better offers and get those travel discounts.
    Lauren recently posted..4 Frugal Beauty Tips for SummerMy Profile

  13. I love flying first or business class and pay only a fraction of what it costs!
    krantcents recently posted..How to Start SavingMy Profile

    • Nice! I always fly coach, but that’s only so that I can stretch points further. Flying first or business class sounds nice!

  14. I honestly never thought about credit card churning until I started reading your blog and now it is definitely something I would like to do. My problem is keeping track of everything and making sure we are not overspending in the name of rewards. I am probably going to make it a 2015 financial goal for our house, though.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted..What if your family is the Joneses?My Profile

  15. Holy Cow, that’s a lot of cards and available credit! I thought I had a lot with 3 credit cards and about $30,000 in available credit :)
    Alicia @ Financial Diffraction recently posted..Adjusting My Budget After A Pay Raise.My Profile

  16. Wow 20 to 40 cards, crazy stuff but it seems like the rewards are definitely worth it. I recently signed up for a new card and got a great bonus for signing up, my first set of free flights. Definitely will be keeping my eye out for future bonus offers.
    Lauren @ Cheapstudents.ca recently posted..New York City Trip RecapMy Profile

  17. I’ve always earned membership rewards with my Amex but I had not been strategic with it until recently. I’m currently churning the SPG card and next will be the Chase Sapphire. I want to travel to Spain next year. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve been learning a lot from you’re travel posts and from other bloggers.
    Raquel@Practical Cents recently posted..Consuming Less in Moderation = Living LongerMy Profile

  18. I use my Amazon CC for Amazon points/credit, but that’s about it!
    You are the CC Rewards Master! Where is your book deal?!
    Kara recently posted..The Daily Whisk Yakezie ChallengeMy Profile

  19. I don’t think I could keep track of that much. It would seriously stress me out. Though I have to admit I really LOVED using my first travel hack.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted..Budget Travel: RidesharesMy Profile

  20. I absolutely pursue rewards…Who doesn’t want to travel for free. I’ve never been out of the country, but I’m planning to start using my credit card to help reduce the cost of that!
    Josh R @ CNAFinance.com recently posted..How To Earn More Rewards With Your Credit CardMy Profile

  21. I have a couple of cash back cards, and I use them to pay off the amount on my statement. They are a great way to get extra cash, just for spending. If you are going to spend anyway, you might as well get a bonus.

    Spend enough, and you can retire early!
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted..Targeting Your Market to Maximize IncomeMy Profile

  22. We also love credit card rewards! I know Dave Ramsey always says that “nobody has ever gotten rich off of credit card rewards and points programs” but I think he is talking about the typical undisciplined individual. Personally, I think that if you are disciplined and only spend your credit card on things you would normally buy anyways. Basically use it somewhat like it was a debit card and then pay it off entirely every month. To me, there is no harm is using credit card for the rewards. It’s free money!! :)
    A Frugal Family’s Journey recently posted..No impulse buys!My Profile

  23. Wow, you are a major player! 20 – 40?! I can only imagine the detailed spreadsheets to keep track. I felt like a high roller when I expanded from one to four in the span of six months!

    I’ve gotten a taste of the credit card reward game and I’m pretty hooked myself. Just landed 30,000 bonus miles from the Delta Amex and already can’t wait to book a trip with them.
    Broke Millennial recently posted..Frugal Find Friday: UberMy Profile

  24. Good luck on the Maldives. Seems like the rewards needed aren’t worth it. But let me know if you find any tricks, because I’ve given up!
    Jacob recently posted..Man Risks His Life Everyday Driving A Used CarMy Profile

    • I think the biggest problem with the Maldives is just how long it takes to get there. If I had 7 days off, I don’t want to spend 4 of them traveling back and forth!

  25. I thought you cancelled your cards before the annual fee. Are there really 40 cards in play right now?

    • I’m sure it sounds crazy but it really isn’t. I currently have 13 cards, my husband has 14, and our business has 7. If you count all of the authorized user cards we have for each other’s accounts, we have a lot more than that.

      I do generally cancel cards before the annual fee kicks in, although I have chosen to pay the fee on one or two for various reasons.

      • I’m just curious on how you time things. We’re planning a trip to Ireland in October 2015. When would you sign up for the credit card in order to use the travel rewards points but cancel before the annual fee?
        Which card is best for the air travel rewards?
        Thanks for your input.

  26. Wow, 20-40 cards – that’s a lot! I always think I’m going overboard with the 3 that I’ve churned, haha! We don’t have as good of rewards here in Canada, though. You guys have great rewards.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted..Cutting Down on the Transportation CostsMy Profile

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  1. […] Obsessed: 4 Reasons I Love Credit Card Rewards – This is an awesome post by Holly that explains why she loves credit card rewards so much. If you read this, I’d be willing to bet you’ll fall in love with credit card rewards too! […]

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