College Student Flying

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by barabuski, Dec 18, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Hello Milepoint community!

    I've been interested in the intricacies of FF programs for the last few years, but since I am young (19) and had absolutely no income back then, I didn't actually entertain the thought until recently. The good news? I'm in college and now have a small amount of income (scholarship general stipend) each quarter. I'm wondering how realistic it is for me to take advantage of any of the programs to "get ahead", so to speak, on my miles accruing or even garner a free flight or two. I spend only about $1500 every three months, which I realize is virtually nothing. I've looked at some of the credit cards with bonuses that don't involve spending limits -- are these a viable option, presuming I qualify for them? The few that I've looked at are the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and the Mastercard by Barclays. Both give miles bonuses without a spending limit to reach. Is it wise to try and use these rewards? What's my best option here? I'm most interested in flying during the summer or longer breaks, which I realize are peak times for a lot of places, but I also enjoy exploring on random weekends; college makes that difficult sometimes, however.

    Another question, one which sparks my interest as someone who enjoys this sort of thing, is that I was wondering if buying goods which have a very, very high resale value (~90%) and reselling them to essentially buy miles extremely cheap is viable. For example, one could buy an iPad at retail for $500, gaining the miles & points, and then selling it locally or on ebay for perhaps $460-480. Is that a misguided premise that's probably too time-extensive to work? I'm curious to hear your thoughts - I've heard this is a friendly place so hopefully these questions won't seem too dumb!

    This might help so I'll add this as well:

    1. What is your origination city/airport? - SEA
    2. Where do you tend to travel? - Places that aren't the continental US; I'm interested in Europe, Canada, Mexico and any of the Pacific Islands
    3. What is you goal for the frequent flyer program (status, upgrades, rewards, etc.?) - Free/cheaper flights
    4. How much do you travel in an average year? - Normally, maybe three or four flights per year, one international
    5. Do you fly for business, pleasure, or a mix? - Almost always for pleasure, I love traveling new places and improving my photography!
    6. How much of your travel is paid by someone else? - Not much, though I guess my parents have always funded my travel. That being said, if I want to travel by myself or with one of my fraternity brothers, I'll be the one funding it.
    7. How much control do you have of choosing flights, airlines, etc.? Right now I have total control, I'm not tied down to a specific airline or anything, though I generally use Alaska and I suppose I have a modest sum of miles currently from a few flights.
    8. What days of the week do you typically travel? Weekends or breaks, but I'd like to try for Summer or the breaks in between quarters (December 14-Jan 3; March 13-28; June 4-Sept 27)
    9. Can you book flexible fares? My dates during those times would be flexible, yeah
    10. If you are likely to qualify for elite status will it be miles or segments? - Not likely, I wish!
    11. Do you have a preference or imposed requirement of hotel/rental car/credit card partners? - Not at this time
    12. Can you get extra miles from credit cards, surveys, other partners? - I'd like to, I have time for managing these sort of things!
    13. How would you like to use your miles for awards? (Intl F & C trips, domestic flights, other non flight awards). International flights, preferably! Any other domestic flight is probably related to family, in which case my parents would pay for it.
    14. What benefits do you hope to receive for elite status? - None of these are entirely important, but these three are the most relevent, I suppose!
      1. upgrades: free, with instruments, paid
      2. lounge access: domestic vs international travel
      3. OPUPs (Upgrades without fees, miles, or upgrade documents)

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. I recently read of someone buying and reselling an item to earn points cheaply. The idea is intriguing but it also sounds like a lot of work. Buying, posting, re-selling. I guess in the college arena you could keep it all local where you don't have to mess with shipping.
     
  3. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    The only time it makes sense to buy stuff for resale is when there is a large bonus involved, or the cost is very low and you're guaranteed a minimum amount of miles.

    The recent Delta promo where you got 25k miles for a $500 purchase is one example. For the low end sometimes a 2-3k minimum can make a lot of sense.

    6k per year is a good amount to work with. If I were you, I'd check out the current 50k Radisson promo. These can be used for hotel stays, or converted into some airline miles. A great deal if you can find nights under $75 a night. Even a decent deal at $100.

    Many of my early years I spent under 5k to attain top status. Read a lot, and save up for the excellent deals. Make sure you have a passport too.
     
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  4. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Sounds like me eight years ago. Perhaps I can provide both travel and financial advice (and I live in SEA, so my travel advice is hopefully relevant).

    It isn't that crazy, but I wouldn't shoot for top-tier status. At best you could churn between two and four cards a year and focus what traveling you already do with one airline. I had Premier (now called Premier Silver) status with UA during my last couple years of college and a couple of credit cards, but I didn't know about churning. I hear the laws are tougher on getting credit cards when you're young these days. Now I have Premier 1K and can churn a few more cards with higher requirements.

    Personally I would sign up for any bonus that you think you would meet WITHOUT increasing your normal spending. I would also start with a couple cards that you actually plan to keep. College is your opportunity to start building credit in a safe, insulated environment where costs and income (especially with that scholarship) are controlled. Don't churn and burn until you have a credit history.

    Umm, that might work if you want to rack up miles through normal travel. Maybe you could add an extra connection to get more miles, but I don't think this is going to work well for mileage runs or redemptions. Redemptions are going to be in demand during peak times, so you should probably assume you will have to save them until later or wait for last-minute availability (which involves higher fees with some airlines).[/quote]

    As for making mileage runs, the random weekends might work out, but November/December and January/February seem to work best for me, during the middle of the academic quarter. Make sure you plan how to pay for them. I only make a couple thousand dollars a month as a graduate student. Of that, I live on half (my rent is $400 including utilities), save a quarter, and spend the other quarter on travel. Most people don't have the priorities that I do. At your stage in life, you might be better off working on the weekends and breaks and saving that money for travel in the future, such as a tour of Europe when you graduate. But that's what I did, and I already said I have different priorities.

    There are tricks to inflating your spending, such as buying and selling merchandise, but personally I don't think someone with limited income should be doing that. Do you really want to have six iPads in your room that you're waiting to sell? It is essentially a high risk investment, so consider the possibility you will buy all this stuff and then be unable to sell it. Or at least sell it first before you buy it. There are other tricks that involve transferring money between people or just making large purchases for friends and family then getting reimbursed that are much safer.
     
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  5. Jimgotkp
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    Jimgotkp Gold Member

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    Welcome barabuski!

    The biggest question is whether or not you established credit with any credit union/bank? If not, you should consider getting a student credit card to build your credit which will be essential in the future as well. Most if not all rewards cards require a good credit score and history (usually 2+ years) so it might take a while for you to get into the credit sign-up bonuses. I recommend you staying away from the Southwest card if you want to fly internationally specifically Europe, Asia, Pacific Islands. It's rumored that with the new aircraft orders, WN will start introducing real international flights.

    Personally, I value the miles too much to go on a trip with my fraternity brothers if I'm paying for their ticket. I'm a college student too but I was fortunate enough to have my dad make sure I had credit when I turned 18 so getting rewards cards haven't been difficult for me since I had a good score and 3+ year history. The way I reached the minimum spend is by having my parents pay their bills with my credit card and them giving my the same amount in cash to pay off the bill. If you can get your parents to agree to this it can help a lot since there are a lot of big expenses from car bills, rent, insurance, phone bills, etc.

    The AAdvantage card while doing the two-browser trick might be worth looking at since AS and AA established partnership with each other. The AS card is worth looking at as well since BoA tends to pull from Transunion (TU) which is good since not many credit unions/banks pull from TU compared to Experian and Equifax.

    Best of luck and feel free to ask any other questions.
     
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  6. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    Hi, Welcome to MilePoint!

    As a "recent" (6 years ago) college grad, and a current grad student (also with limited spending) I know where you're coming from!

    Here are some key questions to answer for yourself:
    Can I consolidate my point/mile earning into a single program?
    -AS (Alaska Airlines) is great for this, because they are mile earning partners with DL and AA. Since you're based in Seattle that should make AS a good candidate - however the AS Visa card (from BofA) doesn't have any bonus spending categories or good sign-up bonuses (though the companion fare is awesome). Also, when your parents pay for travel, do you get to pick the route/carrier? This can greatly help you!​
    Does this program offer rewards that I want (e.g. flights to Europe)?
    IMHO, if you want to fly to Europe or internationally this rules out Southwest (WN) right away.​
    Can I qualify for sign-up bonuses?
    I had to start small in college with my local credit union's c.c. with no rewards, but I eventually built up a credit history where I could earn the big bonuses by my senior year. If your credit was like mine in college (e.g. nonexistent) then you might be able to qualify for a no-fee cashback card as well. I would suggest getting a Chase card, too, in order to build a relationship with them (the no-fee Amazon card is good for this).​
    Does my c.c. spending (aside from sign-up bonuses) make the annual fees worth it?
    Supposing you can qualify, you would have to ask yourself with your level of spending, are the annual fees worth the points you can earn? If you pay a $95 annual fee, but you only earn 6,000 miles/points then you're better off getting a no-fee cashback card. Now, even with low(ish) spending you can earn significant points/miles if your card has bonus categories that line up with your spending. The Amex Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) Card offers double points on gas and groceries (the annual fee is waived the first year, but its $175 after that!). The Chase Sapphire gives double points on dining. If you can't justify a c.c. on spending alone, the sign-up bonus might still be worth it, but then you have to remember to cancel before the fee for the next year is due.​
    Can I meet certain spending thresholds for bonuses by planning ahead?
    Some of the best bonuses require spending thresholds. Some are pretty manageable (Lucky's blog has a nice listing of them here: http://boardingarea.com/blogs/onemileatatime/best-current-credit-card-offers/) with only $500, or $1k spend over several months. Or, you can plan ahead... postpone spending for any big items (can you purchase your text books with your c.c.?) or buy things that you would need anyway earlier (or buy gift cards for places you would shop anyway)? That way you can concentrate all of your spending to happen in a short period of time. These might be rare in college, but will you have any reimbursable expenses? e.g. if your frat is going to throw a party, buy all the kegs on your card and have your frat brothers pay you back in cash.​

    Here's my recommendations for you since you're based in Seattle:
    Option 1)
    AA Citi Platinum Select Visa Signature: 50k AAdvantage miles with $2500 spent in 4 months. Annual fee waived the first year ($95 the next year). Since you're flying out of SEA, stick to flying AS and AA but credit your flights to your AAdvantage account.​
    Option 2)
    Amex Gold Delta Skymiles: 30k SkyMiles after $500 spent in 3 months. Annual fee waived the first year ($95 the next year). Fly on AS and DL, but credit your flights to your DL Skymiles account. This card also gives you free checked bags on DL.​
    Option 3)
    United (UA) has a decent presence at SEA, and the Star Alliance (*A) is one of the best alliances for international redemptions. In this case, go for the Chase Sapphire Preferred for 50k points (transferrable to UA miles), but plan ahead for the $3k spent in 3 months (have your frat throw lots of parties!). The CSP also earns double miles on dining and "travel" (including parking, tolls, car rentals, hotels, etc). Try to fly on UA, US Airways, and Continental (until they complete the merger) and credit your flights to United Mileage Plus.​
     
  7. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Not if that's the annual CC spend, IMO. You're at a level there where it probably isn't worth the annual fee.
     
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  8. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Let's say you lose $40 in each sale. How many miles/points do you expect to earn on each iPad purchase? How much time would you spend on this venture, and what's the risk of getting ripped off in some form by a buyer? I think there are probably a lot of more effective ways to earn money (miles = $$) for travel the old-fashioned way... but maybe I am just too old-fashioned ;)
     
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  9. I suppose this is a silly response, but if you're making even a small profit I'd imagine it makes it worth it? For example, some of the really great amazon lightning deals are often 20% cheaper than the lowest price on eBay, meaning you can flip them easily (yes, I realize others have the same idea, but it would be a rare situation for them to drop below the amazon price+tax, meaning you cannot functionally lose money except for shipping)

    Any suggestions for a beginner card? I'm kind of scared about this, honestly. I've never applied for a card before, my parents don't really encourage me getting one since my credit union debit card works fine, and the media makes it out to be such a dangerous thing (I'm not worried about forgetting to pay it off or anything; I'm pretty up and up on my personal finance).

    I've read about the Amazon method, but does that involve a level of risk? With only have ~$1400 per quarter, losing such a high amount would be pretty deadly.

    I've had an account at a credit union for the last four years, but that's a checking/savings account with a debit card, so I'm guessing that doesn't work, right? Sorry, I'm not that knowledgeable about credit! Do you know of any good cards for beginning credit (preferably with bonuses!)?

    Haha sorry, I wasn't implying that I'd pay for them too! They're my brothers and I love them, but they're not getting a free ticket from me ;)

    I hate to keep asking for things, but Google seems to be failing me at the moment. Can you provide a link to such card(s)?

    Great idea! Didn't even think of that. Too bad I have to buy my books in about a week and a half, probably before any card could arrive here. I suppose I could always buy the books on my debit card, then return them and repurchase once my CC arrives? That works, right?

    As awesome as this would be for card purposes, I'm not sure buying alcohol underage is the best way to get ahead in the miles game. Plus, fraternities (at least up here) cannot have kegs at parties. That's an Animal House artifact from the past!

    Thanks all of you so much for your input! I really appreciate it, you've provided some great info so far!
     
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  10. cennas
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    cennas Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP barabuski!
     
  11. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    If you don't know what you're doing and this is your first card, I would recommend you start small.

    For example, the Frugal Travel Guy has a link to the Chase Priority Club Visa on his site with 60K points after the first purchase (no minimum spend) and an additional free night each year. That free night is worth the annual fee, so even if you keep the card the fee may be worth paying. Priority Club points are not my highest priority (bad pun) but they are probably more useful to you than two free Hyatt nights or some SPG points and easier to obtain. You can use them at any number of Holiday Inns, for example, if you wanted to go on road trips around Washington (like the one in Walla Walla I was at a few months ago for some wine tasting). And if you don't have an immediate use, there are many ways to keep points from expiring, so they'll just sit and wait for you.

    http://www.frugaltravelguy.com/p/credit-cards_22.html

    Since this first one has no minimum, you could also apply at the same time for something like the Citi TY Premier, for 50,000 points ($500 in gift cards) after $2,500 spend in three months. That isn't much higher than you already spend, so you can probably reach it by covering some other people's purchases, too.

    Get used to these two, and then in three to six months you can apply for two or three more.
     
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  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Good thinking. In addition to the availability of plenty of affordable (for $$) hotels, points in the Priority Club program are historically also relatively easy to earn with lots of promos, bonuses, online games, ... I think it's probably the best "starter" hotel program for someone who doesn't yet have a ton of money to spend on accommodations, and I wish I had done that while I was in college/grad school instead of staying at random hotels (chains or otherwise).

    If you are traveling with friends, you can offer to pay for their room and have the points credited to your account:

    http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/pc/1/en/c/2/content/dec/pc/0/en/ptc.html#general

    "At U.S. and Canadian hotels (except InterContinental), you can collect points or miles on all Eligible Charges for multiple hotel rooms (less than 10) provided those rooms are used in conjunction with the member's stay at the same hotel, and that their Priority Club Rewards member number is recorded on each reservation, or the charges from those multiple room reservations are referred to on the hotel room bill associated with the member's reservation."


     
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  13. JetsettingEric
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    JetsettingEric Silver Member

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    Read lucky's blog - one mile at a time - he was a big milerunner when he was in college. But keep in mind that the landscape has changed and it's much more difficult to mileage run.

    In terms of resale - items that you can buy with a steep student discount might be interesting. But otherwise, it's very difficult. Being Seattle based, a potential reselling opportunity would be to sell things into Canada that are highly taxed or priced differently based on the exchange rate, or a particular product where the seller doesn't ship into Canada.

    The dollar coin program would have been great while it lasted.
     
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  14. Jimgotkp
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    Jimgotkp Gold Member

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    The question is whether or not he will be approved for the PC Visa card as his first card.. I've recommended similar cards to my friends who are in the same situation and they got denied. One of my friends got denied from the Pen Fed cashback card as well so the likelihood of the OP getting an approval on the Visa card is very slim.

    I think the AMEX MTV card or a regular student card with no signup bonus will have to be the way to go for right now. Once he establishes credit and has a longer history then he will have a better chance for the better cards. One of my friends even had the Chase Freedom card as their first CC so that is the best way to go imho if the OP can get an approval. This will establish a relationship with Chase who had the best sign up bonuses for this year (Chase Sapphire Preferred 100K, BA 100K, etc.). The best offer right now seems to be for 30K UR points which is really good as a starting CC.

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/cred...-chase-freedom-300-cashback-not-targeted.html
     
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  15. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    As I mentioned earlier, rules have changed when it comes to credit cards for people who are young and/or have no credit histories. I had no problem being accepted for credit cards when I was in college and had a few $10K+ credit limits. But I wasn't really churning with any strategy, and I did have a job with income to report. Well, maybe not the first card. The first card was just a basic 1% rewards card from BofA, but I wouldn't recommend that bank to anyone.

    The best I can suggest is that you try and see if it works. If you have any income to report, do so. The $6K from your scholarship is still better than nothing.
     
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  16. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    If the OP can't get a credit card with one of the major banks issuing rewards cards, I'd recommend talking to the credit union that issued the debit card. My first credit card was given to me by the credit union affiliated with my school that I had my checking account with during college/grad school (actually, still have the checking account), and I had no credit history at the time.

    That card, most likely, won't earn any miles or points, but it's a good starting point to build up a credit history.
     
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  17. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    +1 for me
     
  18. Thanks for all of your continued input! I'm trying to learn as fast as I can.

    Question though. I notice that https://applynowdc1.chase.com/FlexAppWeb/renderApp.do?SPID=DN52 (chase freedom with $300 cash back) is also a relevant choice. So, provided I would qualify for both the 60k priority club and that card, does the "best" decision mostly come down to what I want, or is there a clear-cut winner? I'm the kind of person that *has* to make the best decision all of the time, which is both a gift and a burden. I am somewhat worried too, since if I don't qualify I know I'll take a credit hit haha

    EDIT: Also, I'm even confusing myself a little bit! Since my main goal is europe/exotic travel, should I instead only apply for a miles card? If I went to any of those places I'd probably be staying in hostels anyway, so I'm not sure how useful a hotel card is, I guess, unless it transfers to airlines well.
     
  19. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    You will have trouble getting accepted for two Chase cards. If your goal is Europe that doesnt mean hotel cards aren't an option. You can usually find a good deal on a flight but even a hostel will cost at least $30-50 a night. Saving money on the lodging is just as good as saving money on the flight regardless of which one you buy with points.

    And having stayed in everything from a fleabag hostel to a five star resort in Europe I can tell you their low end is really low end. I have only been satisfied with one of my hostel choices ever, so let me know if you are ever in Vienna.
     
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  20. Good point. It's easy for me to say I have no problems with hostels, but I've never actually stayed in one. Planning a minor(6 week) backpacking trip through Europe this Summer or next, so I guess staying in a hotel every now and then would be nice :). It does seem though that for such a trip, the ticket is the primary cost: you can always coach-surf but you can't plane-surf.

    I'm planning to apply for a card tomorrow. If I get denied, should I call them (I've read some tips online, etc) or just immediately turn to a more easily accessible card?
     
  21. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    I was reading it as he had 1.5k x 4 for travel. So, 6k is decent for air travel. If he was speaking of cc spend, then of course that will limit him a bit.
     
  22. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    It's always worth a call back, but with a limited credit history I would be prepared to hear a firm no. In that case, go for a more easily accessible card. Your goal here is to build credit history. Chase is known for having the best bonuses, and I was lucky that one of my first cards (before I knew about bonuses) was a Chase card. I definitely think that having a history with Chase helped me get approved for other cards with big bonuses even though my income is on the "low" side.

    In fact I started with the Chase Amazon Rewards card, and I would recommend it for anyone starting to build a credit history:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/cobrandcard/marketing.html
    I like it because it earns double points at gas stations, restaurants, drug stores, and office supply stores - places you would already be shopping at. Plus when I was in college, I bought a ton of stuff at Amazon.com (I think they still offer free Prime membership if you have a .edu email address as well so you can get free shipping).
    The travel rewards for this card kind of stink, but until you've got an established credit history you'll have a tough time finding great rewards.

    Another good alternative that I would suggest is a decent no-fee cash back card. The Chase Freedom is pretty good, I think (they have decent sign-up bonuses). However, if you're planning a trip to Europe, a CapitalOne card would also be a good idea because they don't charge any foreign exchange fees (most cards have a 3% fee).

    One last note: When shopping online, always be sure to use a miles shopping portal. You can earn miles without having the co-branded card this way. Sadly, Alaska Airlines doesn't have a shopping portal anymore, but most of the rest do.
     
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  23. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Ebates has pretty good cash-back discounts, too. I don't necessarily think one has to be limited to miles especially since even a small amount of cash is helpful and more flexible when on a more limited income.
     
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  24. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    having done a six week backpacking trip myself with lots of hostels or sleeping on overnight busses to save money, I can confirm that splurging every once in a while on a cheap yet clean hotel or motel is bliss.

    Airfares to Europe in the summer tend to be high (at least coach) and award tickets probably require some luck, compromises and searching (on the bright side you may have the flexibility many employed-with-10-vacation-days travelers don't).

    Were you planning to get a coach ticket with your to-be-earned miles? If so, a cash-back card might give you about the same return on what you earn with your miles. Of course, then it takes discipline to actually put the cash-back into a travel savings account. And those cards don't seem to have sign-up bonuses.
     
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