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In the last lesson, we discussed the top rewards cards and now it’s time to actually apply for them. It’s taken us six lessons to get to this point–applying for your first card as part of a travel rewards strategy.
Chances are, you’ve applied for credit cards before, but up until now, you’ve probably never really paid attention to the process. This time, it’s different. This time, we care, because we have places to go!
So, here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.
As you complete your application, bear in mind that you always need to be 100% honest and truthful.
Remember the guidelines that each card issuer has:
Do not add an authorized user at this time for personal cards, as that would add to that person’s 5/24 number.
This may create issues if you are going to be approaching this game in two-player mode. It may be possible to get an exception by speaking with an agent at the reconsideration line (see below), but you never want to count on that!
If you want to avoid making those calls in the first place, tread carefully with getting authorized users.
After filling out the applications you will probably get instant approval on some cards, and “pending” messages on the remaining ones. Don’t despair, these pending messages are perfectly normal.
Sometimes, you may not get approved right away. Instead, you get some version of “sorry, not right now.” If you get that, call the reconsideration department for that issuer.
Here’s a handy post that describes in detail what to do if your card is declined.
Ok, assuming everything has gone your way and you’re approved, you can expect to receive your new card in the mail in the next 5-10 business days.
You’re going to have a few things you need to do when you receive your card:
The key to winning at travel rewards is being organized.
There are few things more tragic than jumping through all the hoops to get approved for a card, then not getting the signup bonus because you either confused the amount of the minimum spend or, messed up on the deadline.
Or, forgetting to pay off your statement in full, and getting hit with either a late fee, or significant interest expense, or both.
The ounce of prevention here is the ability to get a little organized.
While we recommend using a Google Sheet or Microsoft Excel for keeping track of this info, if you use a pen-and-paper approach, that’s cool too. Just make sure you have all that information stored in a place you can locate easily.
As discussed previously, make sure you set up all your cards for auto-pay with a bank account that always has enough money to cover your spend.
Make a note in your calendar to check all your credit card accounts once every 2-4 weeks. You can use Todoist, or Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook, among others. You want to verify that your card is paid off, and that your cumulative spending is on track.
You’re going to want to avoid having the same password for all your credit card accounts.
In fact, when you set up your travel rewards accounts with the airlines and hotels, you should have different passwords as well.
If you are unable to keep track of all these passwords, you can:
There you have it, that’s the whole application and activation process. It takes a little time and organization, but it’ll be well worth it when you’re traveling for almost free with your family.
Just because you’ve applied for your first card, doesn’t mean you’re done. We’ve still got quite a bit to cover. The next lesson will be all about business credit cards–which are a vital piece to the travel rewards world.
If you found this course on travel rewards helpful, you may also enjoy this free illustrated guide, packed with many other ways to get more for your buck and win back your financial independence.
Course content originally produced by ChooseFI was edited/updated by CardRatings for this lesson.