Q: I want to rebuild my credit score. My VantageScore is about 750, and my FICO is about 690. I want to use a credit card for monthly expenses, then pay it off each month to show that I'm reliable. I would like to earn air miles. Which card do you recommend?
A: You've got a great strategy, especially if you're focused enough to keep that monthly balance hovering at about 1 percent of your overall line of credit. That's a credit reporting hack we're hearing more about these days as a method that can push your score well into the "good" range from your current "fair" status.
Which credit card you'll want really depends on how and when you like to fly. Most of the traditional airlines have tied their frequent flier programs to a handful of credit card issuers. Chase, US Bank, and Barclaycard dominate the airline credit card market. Citibank and Bank of America have a few key relationships with old-school airlines, as well.
British Airways and Southwest offer fast travel
If you happen to live in a hub city for a major airline, or if there's a specific route you fly very often, tying your monthly purchasing to a single loyalty program can lead to routine redeeming rewards toward travel. Chase's British Airways Visa Signature Card, for example, offers perks for frequent European travelers.
However, you can also get value by signing up for Chase's Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. Whichever airline credit card you choose, you'll maximize your earnings by purchasing tickets using that card directly through the carrier's website.
Travel rewards cards that reduce restrictions
Yet, if you prefer a great bargain to a familiar flight crew, you're probably already doing most of your travel planning using discount airfare websites. A whole new generation of travel rewards cards has sprung up to support this phenomenon, freeing you from blackout dates and restrictive redemption procedures among mainstream carriers.
Whichever destination you choose, take advantage of your credit card issuer's text alerts, automatic payment reminders, and online banking services to help keep your credit score strategy on autopilot.