The biggest problem with CCs...

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Credit Cards' started by jgodbey, Aug 13, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. jgodbey

    jgodbey New Member

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    Hi guys,

    I'm new to Miles and points collecting and preparing for my first 3 card app o rama later this month.

    My biggest question for myself and other newbies is:

    What are some of the biggest problems with travel/bonus credit cards in general?

    I mean problems/questions like:
    - Where to find the best deals?
    - How to stay on top of the most up to date information?
    - How to know which programs are transferrable?
    - How to know what cards are more valuable than others?
    - Where to get advice from?
    - How to plan and put together an entire trip and figure out what cards you need?

    What is the hardest part about this whole game?

    I'm trying to avoid any pitfalls for myself and am thinking about putting together some resources for myself and others as I learn the ropes.

    I would love to get some advice from some long time flyers and recent noobies as well.

    Thanks!

    Jordan
     
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  2. mommypoints

    mommypoints Gold Member

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    I'll take a stab:

    1. No one source that is accurate 100% of the time. Most of the major blogs try to keep a list of some top offers, but do your homework from more than one source. Check around this website and the MilesBuzz section on FT. Some of the best deals are also just targeted, so check your mailbox.
    2. Same as #1.
    3. Do research, basically same as #1. The most transferable are Ultimate Rewards from Chase and Membership Rewards from American Express. However, there are some others that are valuable with transferred as well.
    4. Again, just research from many sources. Also, it depends what your travel goals area. A goal of a family trip to Disney will result in different results and a first class trip overseas.
    5. See #1.
    6. Read and ask questions. Where do you want to go? You will find that if you are willing to do a little research yourself, others will often be happy to help fill in the gaps. Just ask some targeted questions. Such as, my partner and I want to go to Paris and London for a week. We will be flying from x airport. We are fine with coach or we want first/biz class. What cards would you start with to cover hotels and flight? Folks will then be happy to make recommendations with currently available offers.

    Starting with a goal in mind really is the best way to go about it. Good luck and feel free to ask more questions!
     
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  3. mommypoints

    mommypoints Gold Member

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    Oh, I missed your last question. The hardest part of the whole game is just being patient and not worrying about trying to get everything all at once. Just start small(ish), read, research, and then grow your miles and points balances from there. Within a few months you will be a pro. ;)
     
  4. jgodbey

    jgodbey New Member

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    Thanks for the advice mommypoints!

    I posted this on FT as well and I think it *might* have been misunderstood in both places :p which is totally my fault.

    I did want to know that information though, so thanks a lot :)

    My deeper question is: "of the 10 things you have to learn/do to be successful, which is the most difficult for newbies"?

    So is it hardest to find the best cards and know they're the best?

    Where do the people from FT and boarding area find those deals?

    Would it be helpful if there was one centralized location for all (or almost all) the CC deals?

    Or is the hardest thing planning the trip for the first time? Stuff like that :)
     
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  5. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Personally I think the hardest part is reedeeming the points/miles for things you need. I started this in March and am starting to plan a few trips (one to thailand & one to Eastern EU) however using those points/miles effectively and finding availability to use them to their fullest advantage while still keeping to a schedule/time frame that is good for traveling seems to be hardest part, at least for me

    Case in Point.

    • Thailand trip, found great availability for using SPG C&P for time period i want, except now finding flights in the saver category seems to be more difficult for 2 people. I found the exact flights I want for one person, but when I try to find it for 2 it gives me time frames that I do not want, or there is no availability at all under the saver category. Not sure if everything will hash out except possibly going in months i do not want to go either cuz it'll be hotter than crap or it is monsoon season.
    • EasterEU - finding flight again on saver is difficult, the dates are 3weeks apart or 1 week apart sometimes, while we only get 2 weeks vacation per year. Hotel doesn't seem to be an issue that bad, though some places we'd like to stay does not have C&P redemption we like, but we can get away with using Hilton/Club Carlson to help on that... just finding the right window to take the to/from flights while still keeping within a 2week window seems difficult
     
  6. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    I think the most difficult part for newbies is to understand that this game is for the long haul. Don't expect to apply to 3 different credit card and get your dream vacation all done in one shot. While it can happen, it rarely does so.

    My advice would be think long and hard on what are your goals - where you want to go (and more important - which airline can get you there), where you want to stay, are you planning on one big vacation, or several small ones, is it a "rainy day fund" or do you have a concrete goal in mind? All of those will change your strategy (e.g., concentrating on one airline vs. diversifying in multiple programs). Don't forget to take into account the minimum spend requirement and have a concrete plan to meet them. Think about expiration of the reward you get (stay certificate are good for one year, miles need to remain active). Details do matter a lot staying in category 1-4 hotel is not staying in category 6.

    But again, it all begins with what are your goals - and that is something only you can know.
     
  7. mommypoints

    mommypoints Gold Member

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    I think what is hard will vary from newbie to newbie. There already are some central locations for credit card offers - MMS has a great one. But, none will ever be 100% up to date and accurate. (If you are considering building a site like that, trust me it is harder to stay on top of all of it than it sounds) It just isn't possible to be 100% accurate at all times since deals and offers change all the time and without notice - especially the non-affiliate ones. However, I don't think it is hard to know if you have the best offer if you are looking to apply for a card. I would just do some cross checking between message boards and a few blogs and then should should know with a high degree of certainty if you have the best offer.

    I think availability can be the hardest part about planning a trip for newbies. It really is a change in mindset from I want to fly from point a to point b on this date, to I want to fly from point a (or close to it) to point b or point c if b doesn't work around x date. That transition in planning can be tough at first.
     
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  8. particlemn

    particlemn Silver Member

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    The best is very subjective. i started collecting miles in 2001 by signing up for the delata amex card, and then learning everyway to get delta miles. over the 9 years before i moved away from delta i collected and redeamed over 1 million miles mostly for Air France trips in Bussines Class. Then I discovered many new avenues to many other programs. i am now constantly evaluating what is best for me right now and changing with the wind. ther is no BEST for everyone, and best changes when you change wqhere you want to travel to and how many with.

    I have found this is not a game of bests but instead a game of good enough for nows. I have my next 3 chrrn planned out already it is just 3-4 cards every three months, and i will follow the plan, however if a new card or offer comes out. i reexamine my plan and see if the new offer should be placed into my schedule and a card i was planning on get dropped. nothing in this game is static, and the cahse is sometimes as much fun as the catch.
     
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  9. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    i think slickdeals has a google spreadsheet that freely editable that has offers on credit cards that are fairly up to date... but if someone was to create a central depository of best deals I believe it should be something like that. A freely editable platform so people can verify/change once they know. Maybe something hosted on a wiki ...
     
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  10. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    One of the biggest "problems" is that there are so many choices - in airlines, hotels, credit cards, alliances, status, etc. It takes time to learn what works best for you, and it is always important to stay flexible and keep learning.
    Some newbies (and oldies) get themselves in trouble because they want simple easy answers when we live in a world with a very complex travel industry.
    Because of this impatience will lead one to frustration.
    So, for me the hardest things to learn have been patience, perseverance, willingness to make "mistakes", and getting clear about what works for me personally, which is often quite different that what works for the "experts".
    I would say that my last point has been the most important/significant for me to learn since I got into the miles/points game.
     
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  11. servo

    servo Silver Member

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    One of the key items I found missing (although it has been said in roundabout ways on blogs and on here in certain posts) is that where you live/what airports are convenient for you certainly plays a significant role in your own goals. No blog can write the best method for every US airport, so a lot of the work is on you eventually. The blogs just give you the resources and knowledge to do the work yourself. As a sorta newbie to this also, I sat down and made a mental list of:

    1) What airlines are convenient for me (MCO/TPA/DAB, sometimes MIA if I have to, but a 4 hr drive/train ride if a really long layover from MCO) - I don't really plan to play the mileage running game, as I only fly 6-8 times a year at most. I am a casual traveler with an insatiable appetite. Time just doesn't permit it for me, so I'm not getting miles for status, just for otherwise expensive int'l flights and occasional domestic travel. I looked at all of the places I want to visit in the next 3 years and it pretty much was AA and US Air for the large majority of them, with the exception of Panama City, Panama, which has a direct flight via UA on Copa Airlines from my home base of MCO. I settled on AA and US Air.

    2) What hotel chains do I prefer? I'm not really into the high class places, and choose to use my hotel points for as many free nights as possible, with occasional luxury stays for special occasions. Looking at International and Domestic availability and balance of budget to luxury hotels, I chose Priority Club.

    So, once I did that, and compared to the credit card offers, I wanted to choose 4-5 cards that would maximize my efforts for those goals. My prioritized list ended up being:

    1) Citi AA Visa (50k miles)
    2) Citi AA AmEx (50k miles)
    3) Chase Priority Club Visa (80k points after 1st use)
    4) Barclays US Air Visa (40k miles in the first year - I think 30k at the beginning and 10k at anniversary)
    5) Chase Sapphire Preferred (40k points)

    I didn't end up getting the CSP this round because I already have the Capital One Venture (2x miles) card, and with a possible mortgage in the next 2 years or so, I don't want to get too crazy.

    I got my wife to agree to getting one card, so we're going to go after another Priority Club Visa. That should give us enough miles for 2 free RT flight to Europe in Economy class with AA, and with 180,000 or so PC points, gives us approx. 11 free hotel nights (if you include the annual individual 1 night free certificates that come with the card). That's pretty darn exciting, and why I'm sure many people do this...and I'm only talking economy class! If I was going at this thing with full steam ahead (i.e. no mortgage hanging over my head in the near future), I'd be shooting for BC/FC to Europe.

    I'm sure it's not perfect, but as someone else said, there doesn't seem to be a 100% foolproof way to know what the BEST card mix is, because our own individual goals and preferences change the variables.
     
  12. Slow_Mustang
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    Slow_Mustang Silver Member

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    When you are just starting out, collect, collect, collect. Everything, miles and points of any kind, come in handy somewhere along the line. Having said that, start with the ones you need in the short term, depending on your home/departure airport and the destination hotel availability. For redemption, we start planning a year in advance, as the F ticket availability has to be matched with our travel windows. My AA account dates back to 1995, and along the way, the earning opportunities have varied a lot. So, read all the blogs for the most up to date miles/points offers, apply for the ones that suit your plans and plan your trips early.
     
  13. PointHoarder
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    PointHoarder Silver Member

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    By no means, neither an expert or authority, but I'll take a quick stab:

    Patience, dedication, basic research skills would be at the top of my list.

    It takes quite a bit of time to learn the ropes of this hobby. You have to read a lot, and then read some more. That's when the pieces of knowing where to go for information, the lingo, the rules, the tricks and how to pool it all together to your advantage come together. It's a slog but that's the name of the game.

    A lot of of the newbies are enthusiastic because they realize the potential rewards, but some try to jump into the deep end of the pool, when they're clearly not ready and haven't done their basic homework. They then get frustrated when people blow them off just because they're not getting what they want served on a platter.

    I get annoyed with all the threads started by those who only want to be spoonfed what to do and don't put in the minimum effort/time (maybe it's me, but there seems to have been quite a few of those lately on FT).

    The lack of basic research skills is evident sometimes, especially on TOBB, when the use of the search function would answer the newbie's questions; to say nothing of even just reading the threads and posts made before them.

    Also, no need to apply for every CC under the sun, just because you can, especially if you're never going to redeem the points/miles. It pays to be selective, have goals and figure out how X or Y credit card can get you there. As has been said before, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

    Trial and error, word of mouth, communities like MP/FT, etc.

    There already is a site that does a pretty good job of keeping track of CC deals: http://www.freefrequentflyermiles.com/
    Not everything is there, but it's still quite comprehensive and well organized.

    Plus everything that's been said by the other posters above me! :)
     
  14. hopscotch1
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    hopscotch1 Silver Member

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    The first question is: what do I want out of this points and miles game?

    I always shoot for 1 nice two week vacation per year.
     
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  15. AAL

    AAL Silver Member

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    Speaking as a fellow newbie, I think you've asked some great questions. I love Internet research, but the amount of information involved in this hobby is staggering. And clearly a lot of patience is required. In just a few weeks, I've already tweaked my strategy slightly because i just learned of a certain annual promotion that might happen again next spring.

    Since I've been an amateur points-accumulator for a few years, I've found that a points tracker app is very handy. I had no idea that I was close to an award level at a couple different chains; now I've figured out how to add miles by shopping, etc., to keep the accounts active and get the extra points I need without an actual stay.

    One of the challenges in learning about this is that everyone's situation is different, depending on their nearby airports and airlines, travel style, intended destinations, spending patterns, etc. It takes a lot of time to sort through the information out there, but I'm very grateful to the folks who blog and who contribute to these forums.
     
  16. 2soonold
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    2soonold Gold Member

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    I'd agree with the words above.:) The single most important thing is to figure out what works for YOU. And what works at any given moment; because things change. I move slower than most, but have the lower point/miles accumulation to show for it. And mistakes will happen anyway(I'm paying a yearly fee on a AA credit card that has turned out to be a "dead man walking" card in my wallet.). I could not have forseen that my participation in Amtrak Guest Rewards would be as helpful to me as it has been; but,still, I'm learning even this relationship has its limits.
    I'm planning a trip soon, and the "experts" say do A+A+B. But after much sweating over the details I am coming to realize that what is really the best to do for my interests is B+B+A.
    As miles and smiles suggests ... learn what works best for you ... stay flexible ... and keep learning.:)
     
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  17. healinginfluence

    healinginfluence Silver Member

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    I too am new here. This post and the responses it generated have been helpful in clarifying why I am here. By way of introduction, what brought me here is trying to figure out how to get the most out of the airline frequent flyer miles I have accumulated over the years. I am not a frequent flyer and I am not sure I want to become one. I mainly travel for pleasure and to visit family (not that they are mutually exclusive types of trips but they are different in my experience).

    I tend to take one big trip a year and for me that means going someplace far away. Over the years, I have collected a modest number of miles (a small number for these parts but enough for more than one award) but never had the patience to figure out how to use them. I would try and see the seats I wanted were unavailable so I would buy a ticket. So the miles just sat. I learned how to keep the miles from expiring on the airlines I rarely fly (e.g., American). But I have only redeemed miles for one flight many years ago on Delta to LHR in coach. A few years ago I decided that I no longer wanted to fly to Europe, Asia or Africa in coach. So I started shopping for discounted business class tickets. And I have found advance purchase B-class fares with restrictions that are significantly cheaper than full fare B-class but a lot more than coach fares.

    My main credit card for years was the Schwab cash back card that paid 2% in cash every month. No hassle. When that ended, I switched to the Cap One Venture, which is 2% for travel. What Cap One doesn't say is that you need enough points to pay for the full ticket or hotel bill. I don't have enough points to buy a B-class ticket or to pay for a multi-day stay in a nice hotel. So I must redeem for short stays or short flights. And I still have to figure out what to do with my airline miles. From the people here and related blogs I believe if I use cards like Chase Sapphire I can supplement my airline miles and redeem for B-class tickets and at the right time get a B-class ticket at a redemption rate that would give me a bigger bang than the 2% cash back or cash for travel cards. Getting an award B-class ticket worth thousands of dollars would be better for me than 2% cash back or 2% applied to previous travel as defined by Cap One.

    So I applied and received the Chase Sapphire card and SPG Amex cards. Some time ago I got the United Explorer card to keep my United miles from expiring and for the sign up miles. To get anything of value from a hotel chain I think I need to concentrate on one or two chains. From what I can see the Starwood points aren’t hard to redeem. If a basic room is available to book for dollars it is also available for points. I like that. People here also seem to like Hyatt. The Marriott and Hilton programs seem to be viewed here as less generous. So my current thinking is to stop applying for cards and to stay whenever possible at a Starwood property because I already have the SPG Amex. It won’t get me much because I won’t consume a lot of nights but like with my air miles I will get something.

    So in the end I need to focus on getting an occasional B-class award ticket and occasional free nights at hotels. My one hesitation with Starwood is whether I will like the hotels. I like nice hotels when I am on vacation. To me that means FS or Ritz-Carlton. FS doesn’t have a program and the Ritz-Carlton program doesn’t look very generous. I don’t have much recent experience with Hyatt and Starwood. The Hyatts I have been to have been spotty and many Sheraton hotels leave me cold. Park Hyatt is nice as are some Westin hotels. Another option would be just to transfer the Starwood points to an airline program.

    What this thread made me see is that there are many ways to get and enjoy benefits and each person has to figure out over time what is best for them. Live and learn.

    This is a great forum and I would welcome comments and suggestions.
     
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  18. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Yes but you gotta keep in mind availability of seats. What the CapitalOne Venture has over these is you're basically paying for it so there are not real restrictions, except for the # of points you will be redeeming to cover the cost. Example getting a B/F to Australia around Xmas/NY is next to impossible for the most optimal dates. Howver you could buy it and then comp it using your Venture Points (granted you'd have to have a whole lot of them)

    ...

    & Look for the St. Regis locations.
     
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  19. dkelly1110
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    dkelly1110 Silver Member

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    Finding a wallet in which to keep all the cards :)
     
  20. RestlessLocationSyndrome
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    RestlessLocationSyndrome Silver Member

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    The hardest part about this game is thinking you have figured out how to get a great deal, and then realizing after booking that great deal that you could have maximized it even further. It's all about staying informed and learning as much as possible.
     
  21. tbemille3

    tbemille3 Active Member

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    I just started learning about miles and points in March of this year when I happened upon The Points Guy blog, and I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which way I look at it), I have been in the midst of purchasing a business for which I am applying for a loan, so I haven't been able to actually start playing this game yet; it has been frustrating at times watching deals and sign up bonuses go by the wayside. To make the most of my time, I have just been reading and learning as much as I can so that once the deal is done I can jump in with a well planned strategy. I set up Google Reader to consolidate blogs in place and that has made it much easier to follow them; I highly recommend using Reader or similar to centralize information. I also read milepoint and flyertalk regularly, which are both excellent sources of information. I recommend creating a strategy for your personal needs, and then working that strategy to achieve your goals, while keeping up with the current trends, etc. through blog and forum reading.
     
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  22. PanAm
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    PanAm Silver Member

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    As far as deals coming and going, I tend to take more of a longterm view than some of the hype you sometimes see online in forums or blogs. While the miles/points CC cards may not continue for eternity, they will probably be here for long enough that I don't sweat it if I "miss" the current 50K bonus for such-and-such card because I just applied for some others. Odds are that, say, a United Airlines card of some sort will still be there in a couple months or whatever.

    And if something isn't around later, well, I just take advantage of whatever is there - be it a CC bonus or something else. It's not about a particular deal but having the mindset to look for ways to maximize a program and whatever earning and redemption opportunities it happens to have.

    Good luck with the business you're purchasing!
     
  23. healinginfluence

    healinginfluence Silver Member

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  24. tbemille3

    tbemille3 Active Member

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    Good advice, thanks!
     
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  25. thefitworldtraveler
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    thefitworldtraveler Silver Member

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    Your credit pulls are like your ammo in this game, you don't want to waste them needless on points that aren't going to help you get where you want to go. I'm assuming if you're a newbie, you have no credit pulls and can get approved for the first couple of CC without any problems.

    With that in mind, I would highly recommend setting a goal of where you want to go in the world. A lot of times, the best credit card offers might not be the best positioned cards to acheiving your goal of getting to a particular desitination. I just recently helped a friend get to thailand, she had to sign up for two credit cards, that's it! One of the credit cards wasn't even on the radar screen on the blogs and forums as the best credit card offers.

    Just don't go signing up for a credit card because a credit card is offering a large bonus. Don't get me wrong, I love getting those big bonusus, but getting those miles have to make sense for you because if it doesn't your just wasting your ammo.
     
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