The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Credit Cards And Points In 2023: Where To Start And What You Need To Know About The Best Cards For You!

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This post starts on a beginner level before moving to a more advanced level of explanation on credit cards.

You may want to bookmark this as it can be a lot to process in one reading.

I’ve included a cheat sheet to start with, to know which cards you cannot go wrong with if you’re looking to apply for credit cards now.

For beginners, as you develop your card portfolio you can refer back to this post, to better understand what your next steps should be and how to utilize the cards you have.

If you have questions leave them below!

Cheat Sheet by bank:

AMEX, Capital One, Chase, and Citi all have valuable points with point ecosystems that become more valuable as you obtain more credit cards.

Chase Personal:

If you’re looking for one of the best consumer card combos in the mileage world, start with a no-annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited®® that is offering 3 points per dollar on up to $20,000 in purchases during your first year and add a $95/year Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card with a 60K point signup bonus after spending $4,000 in 3 months. After you max out the Freedom Unlimited bonus, you’ll still earn 1.5 points per dollar everywhere with Freedom Unlimited, 3.1 points per dollar on dining, streaming, and online groceries, 3 points per dollar at drug stores, 2.1 points per dollar on travel, $15/quarter Instacart credit and 6 months free membership, the ability to transfer your points into airline miles and hotel points, or use your points at a value of 1.25 cents each towards paid airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, or activities with Sapphire Preferred.

An advanced user may want to get the $550/year Chase Sapphire Reserve®® with a 60K signup bonus instead of the Sapphire Preferred for benefits like a $300 annual travel credit, $15/month Instacart credit and 12 months free membership, $5/month DoorDash credit, DoorDash Dashpass membership, Lyft Pink membership, triple points on travel, 10 points per dollar on Lyft, Priority Pass lounge membership with 2 free guests and credits to use at non-lounge airport experiences, Global Entry/Pre-Check/NEXUS membership, and the ability to use your points at a value of 1.5 cents each towards paid airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, or activities.

Chase Business:

On the business side, start with a no-annual fee Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card earns 1.5 point per dollar earnings everywhere and the no-annual fee Ink Business Cash® Credit Card can earn you 5 points per dollar on internet, phone, office supplies, and gift cards at hundreds of stores, such as Amazon.

An advanced user may want to also get the $95/year Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card with an excellent 100K signup bonus for spending $15,000 in 3 months. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar on travel, internet, phone, shipping, and advertising, get cell phone insurance, transfer your points into airline miles and hotel points, or use your points at a value of 1.25 cents each towards paid airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, or activities with Ink Preferred.

These Chase Ink Cards have had incredible approval odds the past 4 months and are worth an application even for beginners, you don’t even need to own a registered business to get one! Read a FAQ on this here.

American Express:

Another great combo is the $695/year AMEX Business Platinum Card which offers a 120,000 point signup bonus for spending $15K in 3 months and the no annual fee AMEX Blue Business Plus Card, which offers 15K points for spending $3K in 3 months. That’s a pricier combo, but you can earn 2 points per dollar everywhere on up to $50K in annual spending on the Blue Business Plus, plus get a 35% rebate on paid airfare with all airlines in business or first class and on the airline of your choice in coach with the AMEX Business Platinum. Plus you’ll get $200 in annual airline fee credits, $189 CLEAR credit, $400 in annual Dell credit, $120 annual wireless bill credit, $360 Indeed credit, $150 annual Adobe credit, Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status, Global Entry/Pre-Check, and AMEX Global Lounge Collection membership with the AMEX Business Platinum.

The Consumer AMEX Platinum Card is also $695/year but has a massive list of benefits such as $200 Airline fee credit, $189 CLEAR Credit, $12.95/month Walmart+ Credit, $200 annual Prepaid Hotel Credit, $240 annual digital entertainment credit, $300 annual Equinox credit, $100 annual Saks Credit, $200 annual Uber Credit, Uber VIP status, Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status, Global Entry/Pre-Check, and AMEX Global Lounge Collection membership with the AMEX Platinum.

Citi:

A great combo from Citibank is the no annual fee Citi® Double Cash Card and the $95/year Citi Premier card, which offers 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in 3 months. The Double Cash card offers 2% cash back or 2 points per dollar everywhere and the Premier card offers triple points on airfare, hotels, travel agents, groceries, gas, and dining and the ability to transfer points into miles.

An advanced user may want to also get the Citi Rewards+ Card which automatically rounds up rewards earned on every purchase to the nearest 10 points, meaning you will earn 10 points on a $0.50 Amazon balance reload, which is equal to earning 20 points per dollar spent! Having a Citi Rewards+ Card also gets you a 10% points rebate when you redeem points, up to a 10K points rebate per year. While the Rewards+ card doesn’t transfer points into most airline miles, if you have a Citi Premier card and a Rewards+ card you’ll even get a 10% rebate on mileage transfers!

Finally if you just want 2% cash back and no annual fee and no combo needed, you can get the Citi® Double Cash Card or the AMEX Blue Business Cash Card. 

Capital One:

Choose between the $95/year Capital One Venture Card and the $395/year Capital One Venture X Card offer 75,000 points for spending $4,000 in 3 months. Both these cards offer 2 miles per dollar everywhere and the ability to transfer points into airline miles and hotel points. The Venture X adds a $300 annual travel credit, a 10K mile annual anniversary bonus, lounge access, elite status, Global Entry/PreCheck, and more.

Add the no annual fee SavorOne card and earn an effective 10 transferrable miles per dollar on Uber/Uber Eats and free Uber One through 11/2024. You’ll also earn 3 miles per dollar on groceries, dining, entertainment and streaming!

But let’s rewind and start from beginning.

How I got started:

I was 12 years old in 1997 when I realized I could make a killing buying beanie babies from Nordstrom and flipping them on eBay after Ty Warner retired them, making them 6,000% more valuable overnight.

If only I had my own credit card I’d have started racking up the miles back then 😀

My first big mileage payday came at 18 when I got a credit card and negotiated with Delta to book a flight for 80 fellow yeshiva students to fly from LAX to JFK. Everyone was happy to give me a check to get a flight at 45% off and I racked up the miles and even got several free tickets out of the deal for arranging the group.

My first million points earned came soon afterward thanks to a lucrative program from eBay called Anything Points that transferred into airline miles at favorable ratios.

I can write a book about the stuff I’ve done for miles over years, but I’ve racked up tens of millions of miles and flown my family around the world many times over in first class thanks to opening hundreds upon hundreds of credit cards and taking advantage of promotions.

The credit card landscape looks a lot different than it did back when I started. Signup bonuses today are far richer, but rules about how many cards you can get are stricter than they used to be.

 

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A word of warning:

It’s important to note that the credit card points system is subsidized by the millions of Americans who fall into the trap of debt, buying things they can’t afford, and paying huge amounts of interest to the banks.

If you’re susceptible to that behavior, then don’t start in the first place. Pay for things in cash and be happy not being in debt. Any gain from the points system will be obliterated by interest payments.

Benefits of using credit cards:

If you can stay on top of your spending, you should be maximizing your rewards earnings on every purchase. Aside from rewards, purchasing on a credit means you can take advantage of benefits like online dispute resolution, return protection, extended warranty, car rental insurance, trip insurance, etc.

When fraud happens on a credit card you are not responsible for it while it’s being investigated. On a debit card those funds are immediately taken out of your checking account and you have to fight to get them back.

Starting out:

If you’re just starting and don’t have any credit, you can get started by asking a relative to add you as an additional user on one of their cards. Be sure that the card is utilized properly and not being maxed out.

After a couple months you should get a nice credit boost from that. You can then start off with cards that are easier to obtain, such as store cards like Old Navy/Gap, Kohl’s, Macys, Target, etc. Alternatively you can start with a secured card like the Capital One Quicksilver Secured card, which has excellent approval odds for people without credit or with poor credit. A secured card requires a deposit and gives a credit line equal to the deposit, but unlike a debit card, it helps build your credit history.

Don’t forget that you should include all household income when you apply for a credit card.

Once you have built up your credit, you can start with building up your Chase card portfolio.

Chase has a 5/24 rule, meaning that they will typically only approve you for their cards if you have been approved for fewer than 5 consumer cards in the past 24 months. That means you’ll want to start getting Chase cards before moving on to other card opportunities!

You can typically apply for multiple cards on the same day from the same bank with just one credit pull.

You can see how many cards you have been approved for within the past 24 months by checking your credit at annualcreditreport.com, the federally authorized site for annual free credit reports. If there are any mistakes on your credit report you should dispute them immediately by contacting the 3 credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

Other application rules to keep in mind:

  • AMEX will typically only award a bonus once per lifetime, though you can actually get another bonus after about 5-6 years. A popup will come up after you submit an application asking if you want to proceed without earning the welcome bonus.
  • AMEX allows you to have a maximum of 5 credit cards, but charge cards (Platinum , Gold, and Green) don’t count towards that limit. If you apply for a 6th card you will typically be asked to close another credit card to get the new one approved.
  • Bank of America will typically only approve 2 of their cards every 2 months, 3 of their cards every 12 months, and 4 of their cards every 24 months. Another possible version of this rule is that they will only approve someone who has less than 7 cards opened in the past 12 months or less than 3 cards opened in the past 12 months if they don’t have a Bank of America checking or savings account.
  • Barclays has a 6/24 rule that works similarly to Chase’ 5/24 rule, but it’s not applied as strictly and can be overturned by reconsideration.
  • Capital One typically only approves one card per 6 months, but there are exceptions to this rule.
  • Citi allows applications for 1 card every 8 days and 2 cards every 2 months. Business cards are limited to once every 3 months. Add a few extra days in between applications to be safe.

What’s in your credit score:

Here is the makeup of your 850 point FICO score. (Many websites give away free credit scores, called FAKOs, but these are not typically used by banks to determine if you are credit worthy. Discover gives free FICO scores here. Other banks, like Barclays give free FICO scores to cardholders, otherwise you can buy it from MyFICO.)

  • Payment History: 35%.
    • Pay your bills on time and you should ace this category. The more accounts you have that you pay on time, the higher your score will be. Set your bills to autopay to ensure you never miss a payment, but make sure that a payment doesn’t bounce back due to insufficient funds or else your card may be closed.
  • Amounts owed: 30%
    • This measures your credit utilization ratio. The more money you spend, the higher your utilization ratio will be, which lowers your score. The more total credit you have available, the lower your utilization ratio will be, which raises your score. So the more accounts and credit that you have, the better your score will be here. Credit utilization ratio applies for each card you have individually (don’t use too much of your credit on any card) and across all of your cards collectively.
    • Pay your account balance off, besides for a buck or 2, the day before your statement closes. This will greatly increase your credit score. Once your statement closes and your bill prints with a balance owed, your score will go down even if you pay the balance off on time
  • Length of credit history: 15%
    • This takes into account your oldest account, the older the better. It also factors in the average age of your accounts.
    • It’s important to note that even if you close an account, it stays on your record for about 10 years after you cancel the card. So even if you close an account, you won’t hurt yourself in this category until 10 years down the line when the account falls off of your credit report. By that point you should have other older cards that will keep your average account age high enough not to adversely affect your score.
  • New credit: 10%
    • This takes into account credit inquiries and new accounts, which can lower your score temporarily. These fall off your report after about 2 years and most banks only look at the number inquiries you have within the past 6 months.
    • In the short term you may see your score drop when you apply for a card due to this category and the average age of your accounts, but in the long run having more cards will raise your score, as they improve your payment history (35%) and credit utilization (30%) and eventually the age of your account, which continue to grow older even after you cancel the card.
  • Types of credit used: 10%
    • This has little to do with the opening and closing of accounts but factors whether you have other accounts like retail accounts, auto loans, a mortgage, etc. The more varied your portfolio the higher your score.

Closing a card:

In general, you should avoid closing or downgrading a card within 12 months of getting it as those actions can trigger a negative action by the bank.

When you close a credit card the main effect on your score is losing the credit line, which decreases your total available credit and increases your credit utilization ratio. To mitigate that effect you can transfer the credit line to another card from that bank before closing a card.

As mentioned above, a closed card remains on your credit report for 10 years, so the effect of closing it will be negligible, but you you should try to avoid closing your first credit card, as that establishes the length of your credit history. It too will remain on your report for 10 years, but that may hurt you after 10 years if you have a significant gap in time between your first card and your next oldest card.

Alternatively, you can downgrade a card with no affect on your credit at all!

Notably, all of this is only for consumer cards. Closing a business card won’t have an effect on your personal credit score or report.

Getting a mortgage:

It’s a good idea not to apply for a bunch of new cards if you’re in the market for a new home.

It’s not hard to explain the reason for having a lot of credit cards for the perks and miles they provide, but you also don’t want to look like someone who is going to spend a lot of money and not pay the bill.

Consumer Vs. Business Cards:

Only consumer credit cards are reported on your personal credit report.

Business cards from most banks (excluding Discover and some Capital One cards) are not on your personal credit report. A benefit of this is that they do not get added to your 5/24 count of recently opened cards. That means that applying for business cards won’t “hurt” your 5/24 count as Chase only looks for cards that are reported on your personal credit report as being opened in the past 24 months.

Another benefit of business cards not reporting on your personal credit report is that when you spend money on personal cards your credit score will be hurt even if you pay your bill on time. A whopping 30% of your credit score is based on credit utilization. You can pay off your card bill before your statement is generated to avoid that, but that takes effort and laying out money well before you have to. Additionally it’s good to have the statement close with a couple dollars to show the card is active and being paid every month. On business cards it’s just not reported, so you can wait until the money is due without it having a negative effect on your score. That also means if you close the card, it won’t have any effect on your credit score.

You may already have a business that needs a card to keep track of expenses. For example if your name is Joe Smith and you sell items online, or if you have any other side business and want a credit card to better keep track of business expenditures you can open a business credit card for “Joe Smith” as the business. You don’t need to file any messy government paperwork to be allowed to do that. Just be sure to select “Sole Proprietorship” as the business type and just use your social security number in the Tax Identification Number field.

If you have business paperwork you can apply under your business name. Otherwise, it’s critical to just write your own name as the business name if you are just applying for your own small business as a Sole Proprietorship that doesn’t have any business paperwork. You can then send in bills in your own name for verification.

If you’re like me and you run more than one business, you can signup for multiple of the same card for each business to manage each businesses expenses separately.

Turning a rejection into an approval:

When you apply for a card you may be told that you need to wait for a decision. At that point you can wait and see if you’ll be approved or you can call the bank for reconsideration. Typically I’ll wait and see and then call if I’m rejected, but sometimes I’ll call right away.

If the bank offers a checking account, like Bank of America and Chase, it can help if you have a checking account with that bank in good standing.

If a rejection is due to Chase’s 5/24 rule, you can make sure that the agent doesn’t count authorized user cards and store cards that their system might count, but a manager can exclude in order to grant a card approval.

Things you can do include:

  • Proactively offering to shift credit lines around from other cards to get the new application approved.
  • Proactively offering to close an older card you don’t use anymore and move over the credit line to get the new application approved.
  • Explaining how you want the benefits the card provides. Items like free baggage and primary car rental insurance are good reasons to want a card, so learn about the unique benefits that each card has to offer besides for a killer signup bonus.
  • The banks are afraid of people just applying for credit to rack up debts that they won’t pay. Your job is to explain why you are NOT one of those people and why you want the card.
  • Explaining how you’ve never had a late payment or that you’re a loyal customer for x amount of years.
  • Explaining your loyalty to the bank, especially if you have a checking account with the bank.
  • Be friendly! Ask the person how their day is going and they’ll be more likely to want to help you out. Reconsideration reps have all the power, so it’s up to you to become their friend. A DDF user who homebrews beer found out that the agent also makes his own beer. After talking beer strategies the card application was approved!

Categories of different types of credit cards:

  • Cash back cards are a good way of getting 2% cash back on all of your purchases with no annual fee. It’s simple and straightforward, but you can probably do better.
  • Airline and hotel co-brand credit cards offer lots of benefits with the airline or hotel brand, but earning on these cards means the points are locked to just one brand, which leaves you vulnerable to a devaluation. These points are not forfeited if you close the co-brand card.
  • Transferable point currencies (American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, etc.) allow you to earn points that can be used for a variety of uses, including cash back, transfers to airline and hotel mileage programs, redeeming for travel, Amazon purchases, and more. The advantage of these currencies is the added flexibility to always maximize your redemption values. You’ll want to transfer points from these cards to another card or to an airline or hotel partner before closing these cards.

Having a well rounded portfolio of cards that earn transferable points and co-brand cards for the perks that they offer will make traveling with your miles far more affordable and enjoyable!

Credit Card Mileage Transferability:

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners include:

ProgramAllianceTransfer ratioTransfer timeMost recent bonus offer
Aer LingusNone
1:1
Instant30%, September 2023
Air CanadaStar Alliance1:1Instant20%, January 2024
30%, November 2022
Air France/KLMSkyteam1:1Instant25%, November 2023
British AirwaysOneWorld1:1Instant30%, September 2023
EmiratesNone
1:1InstantNone
HiltonHotel program1:1.5
via Virgin Atlantic
2-4 weeks30%, June 2023
HyattHotel program1:1InstantNone
IHGHotel program1:1Instant60%, current through 3/1/24
70%, July 2023
IberiaOneWorld1:1Instant30%, September 2023
JetBlueNone
1:1Instant25%, January 2024
MarriottHotel program1:11 day50%, September 2023
QatarOneWorld1:1
via British Airways
Instant30%, September 2023
SingaporeStar Alliance1:1Less than 1 day15%, January 2021
SouthwestNone
1:1Instant20%, October 2020
UnitedStar Alliance1:1InstantNone
Virgin AtlanticSkyteam1:1Instant30%, November 2023

Some of my favorite Chase transfer partners include United, which never charges fuel surcharges for any awards and has free award changes and redeposits, Air Canada, which has very low rates for travel on United and many other Star Alliance and non-alliance partners with no fuel surcharges, Singapore, which is the only way to redeem for travel on their incredible business and first class suites products, British Airways, which charges low rates for short-haul flights such as on their US partner American, Flying Blue, which has great rates for travel to Europe, Southwest, which allows you to cancel awards without penalty, Virgin Atlantic, which has incredible rates for business and first class travel to Asia on partner ANA and great rates on partner Delta, including travel to Israel, and Hyatt, which has by far and away the most valuable hotel points.


AMEX transfer partners include:

ProgramAllianceTransfer ratioTransfer timeMost recent bonus offer
ANAStar Alliance1:1
1-2 daysNone
Aer LingusNone
1:1
Instant30%, August 2023

40%, May 2022
AeroMexicoSkyteam1:1.6
1-5 days20%, September 2022
Air CanadaStar Alliance1:1Instant15%, September 2022
Air France/KLMSkyteam1:1Instant25%, September 2023
Avianca LifemilesStar Alliance1:1Instant15%, December 2023
British AirwaysOneWorld1:1Instant30%, August 2023

40%, May 2022
Cathay PacificOneWorld1:1Instant10%, current through 3/31
Targeted 20%, June 2023
Choice HotelsHotel program1:1Instant25%, October 2022
DeltaSkyteam1:1Instant80%, February 2011
EmiratesNone
1:1Instant25%, November 2018
EtihadNone
1:1Instant20%, July 2022
HawaiianNone
1:1Instant20%, January 2023
HiltonHotel program1:2InstantTargeted 30%, December 2023
25%, August 2023
30%, April 2023
40%, June 2021
IberiaOneWorld1:11 day30%, August 2023

40%, May 2022
JetBlueNone
1:0.8Instant25%, November 2023
MarriottHotel program1:1Instant20%, November 2023
40%, June 2021
QantasOneWorld1:1Instant20%, September 2022
QatarOneWorld1:1Instant30%, August 2023

40%, May 2022
SingaporeStar Alliance1:1InstantTargeted 20%, December 2023
20%, December 2021
Virgin AtlanticSkyteam1:1Instant30%, December 2023

Some of my favorite AMEX transfer partners include Lifemiles, which has domestic awards starting at just 6.5K miles on their partner United, Delta, which has flash sales for discounted, Air Canada, which has very low rates for travel on United and many other Star Alliance and non-alliance partners with no fuel surcharges, Qantas, which has the lowest priced award travel on their partner El Al, Singapore, which is the only way to redeem for travel on their incredible business and first class suites products, British Airways, which charges low rates for short-haul flights such as on their US partner American, Flying Blue, which has great rates for travel to Europe, ANA, which has a unique round-the-world award chart and inexpensive business class awards with no surcharges on their partner United, and Virgin Atlantic, which has incredible rates for business and first class travel to Asia on partner ANA and great rates on partner Delta, including travel to Israel.

Unfortunately AMEX charges a fee to transfer points to US airlines. That adds 60 cents for every 1,000 points transferred with a maximum fee of $99 per transaction.


Capital One transfer partners include:

ProgramAllianceTransfer ratioTransfer timeMost recent bonus offer
AccorHotel program2:11-2 days20%, November 2022
Aer LingusNone
1:1
via British Airways
Instant20%, November 2022
AeroMexicoSkyteam1:1
Instant20%, March 2022
Air CanadaStar Alliance1:1InstantNone
Air France/KLMSkyteam1:1Instant20%, July 2023
Avianca LifemilesStar Alliance1:1Instant15%, September 2023
20%, March 2022
25%, December 2021
British AirwaysOneWorld1:1Instant20%, November 2022
Cathay PacificOneWorld1:1Instant10%, current through 3/31
Choice HotelsHotel program1:1InstantNone
EmiratesNone
1:1Instant100%, March 2019
EtihadNone
1:1Instant30%, April 2023
EVAStar Alliance2:1.5InstantNone
FinnairOneWorld1:1InstantNone
HiltonHotel program1:1.5
via Virgin Atlantic
2-4 weeks30%, March 2023
IberiaOneWorld1:1
via British Airways
1 day20%, November 2022
QantasOneWorld1:1Instant33.3%, October 2019
QatarOneWorld1:1
via British Airways
Instant20%, November 2022
SingaporeStar Alliance1:1Instant15%, January 2021
TAPStar Alliance1:1Instant15%, June 2023
25%, July 2022
TurkishStar Alliance1:1InstantNone
Virgin AtlanticSkyteam1:1Instant30%, March 2023
WyndhamHotel program1:1Instant20%, March 2022

Some of my favorite Capital One transfer partners include Turkish, which charges a mere 7.5K miles in coach or 12.5K miles in business for a United domestic flight (including Hawaii!) and 32K miles in coach of 47K miles in business for a United flight to Israel, Lifemiles, which has domestic awards starting at just 6.5K miles on their partner UnitedAir Canada, which has very low rates for travel on United and many other Star Alliance and non-alliance partners with no fuel surcharges, Flying Blue, which has great rates for travel to Europe, Qantas, which has the lowest priced award travel on their partner El Al, Virgin Atlantic, which has incredible rates for business and first class travel to Asia on partner ANA and great rates on partner Delta, including travel to Israel, and Wyndham, which can book villas for just 15K points per bedroom per night.


Citi ThankYou transfer partners include:

ProgramAllianceTransfer ratioTransfer timeMost recent bonus offer
AccorHotel program2:1Instant50%, November 2023
Aer LingusNone
1:1
via Qatar
1-2 days30%, November 2023
40% June 2022
AeroMexicoSkyteam1:1
InstantNone
Air France/KLMSkyteam1:1Instant25%, June 2023
Avianca LifemilesStar Alliance1:1Instant25%, November 2023
British AirwaysOneWorld1:1
via Qatar
1-2 days30%, November 2023
40% June 2022
Cathay PacificOneWorld1:1Instant10%, current through 3/31
15%, July 2023
Choice HotelsHotel program1:2InstantNone
EmiratesNone
1:1InstantNone
EtihadNone
1:1Instant25%, July 2016
EVAStar Alliance1:12-3 daysNone
HiltonHotel program1:1.5
via Virgin Atlantic
2-4 weeks30%, March 2023
IberiaOneWorld1:1
via Qatar
1-2 days30%, November 2023
40% June 2022
JetPrivilegeNone
1:1InstantNone
JetBlueNone
1:1Instant25%, October 2019
Leaders ClubHotel program5:1InstantNone
Malaysia OneWorld1:11-2 daysNone
QantasOneWorld1:1Instant25%, February 2020
QatarOneWorld1:11-2 days30%, November 2023
40% June 2022
SingaporeStar Alliance1:11 day15%, January 2021
ThaiStar Alliance1:13-7 daysNone
TurkishStar Alliance1:1Instant25%, February 2019
Virgin AtlanticSkyteam1:1Instant30%, current through 3/16
WyndhamHotel program1:1Instant20%, September 2023

Some of my favorite Citi transfer partners include include Turkish, which charges a mere 7.5K miles in coach or 12.5K miles in business for a United domestic flight (including Hawaii!) and 32K miles in coach of 47K miles in business for a United flight to Israel, Lifemiles, which has domestic awards starting at just 6.5K miles on their partner United, Qantas, which has the lowest priced award travel on their partner El Al, Singapore, which is the only way to redeem for travel on their incredible business and first class suites products, Flying Blue, which has great rates for travel to Israel (including nonstop flights on partner Delta) as they consider it to be part of Europe, Virgin Atlantic, which has incredible rates for business and first class travel to Asia on partner ANA and great rates on partner Delta, including travel to Israel, and Wyndham, which can book villas for just 15K points per bedroom per night.

Creating a Killer Combo with Hybrid Points:

Often times, having 2 cards are worth far more than either card on their own. Having cards that compliment each other can help you rack up the miles and spend them more efficiently. You can combine the points between all of the cards you hold from the same bank.

While airline miles and hotel points can allow you to get some truly insane values for your points, they can also be devalued at any time. That’s why I keep transferable points and send them over to airlines and hotels as needed.

Some premium cards have flexible points that I call hybrid points as you can get an increased value for your points when they are used towards paid airfare or you can transfer the points into airline miles or hotel points.

The increased value of points sets a minimum value you can get from your points and it protects you from points being devalued. You can get a higher value for your points by transferring them into airline miles and hotel points, but having the ability to use your points at an increased value for paid travel makes them into “hybrid points.” You can choose to redeem them for either paid travel or award travel, depending on which provides a better value.

All banks allow you to combine points between your consumer and business cards.

AMEX Killer Combo:

The AMEX Business Platinum card gives a 35% rebate when you redeem points for a business/first class ticket on any airline or for coach on the airline of your choice. That means you can choose between transferring points into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.54 cents each towards travel. However that card only earns 1 point per dollar for everyday spending or 1.5 points per dollar on eligible $5K+ purchases.

Similarly, the AMEX Business Gold card gives a 25% rebate when you redeem points for a business/first class ticket on any airline or for coach on the airline of your choice. That means you can choose between transferring points into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.33 cents each towards travel. That earn earns up to 4 points per dollar on select categories where you spend the most, but only earns 1 point per dollar for other everyday spending.

But if you have the AMEX Blue Business Plus you’ll earn 2 points per dollar everywhere ($50K annual cap), which you can combine with the AMEX Business Platinum in order to earn the 35% points rebate, meaning you’ll get at least 3.08% back everywhere.

Chase Killer Combo:

If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, you can earn 3 points per dollar on dining and travel and choose between transferring points into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.5 cents each towards travel. However that card only earns 1 point per dollar for everyday spending.

Similarly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Preferred earn 2-3 points in select categories and allow you to choose between transferring points into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.25 cents each towards travel. However those cards only earn 1 point per dollar for everyday spending.

However if you have a no-annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® you’ll earn 1.5 points per dollar everywhere. Same goes for the no-annual fee Chase Ink Unlimited earns 1.5 points per dollar everywhere. The no-annual fee Chase Freedom Flex and Ink Business Cash® Credit Card cards earn up to 5 points per dollar. Those points can then be combined with a Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Preferred to transfer into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.25-1.5 cents each towards travel.

Citi Killer Combo:

If you have a Citi Premier® Card you can earn 2-3 points in select categories and allow you to choose between transferring points into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.25 cents each towards travel. However you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar for everyday spending.

However if you have a no-annual fee Citi Double Cash card you can earns 2 points per dollar everywhere and you can choose between using that for 2% cash back or you can transfer the points to Citi Premier and from there into airline miles or hotel points.

If you also have the Citi Rewards+ Card you will earn a minimum of 10 points even on a 1 cent transaction, making it a great way to rack up points on small purchases, such as reloading your Amazon balance! You’ll also get double points at supermarkets and gas stations. Plus you’ll get a 10% points rebate when you use points, up to a 10K points rebate per year. You’ll even get the rebate if you transfer the points to Citi Premier and from there into airline/hotel miles or use points at a value of 1.25 cents each towards travel!

Capital One Killer Combo:

The $95/year Capital One Venture Card and the $395/year Capital One Venture X Card offer 75,000 points for spending $4,000 in 3 months. Both these cards offer 2 miles per dollar everywhere and the ability to transfer points into airline miles and hotel points. The Venture X adds a $300 annual travel credit, a 10K mile annual anniversary bonus, lounge access, elite status, Global Entry/PreCheck, and more.

Add the no annual fee SavorOne card and earn an effective 10 transferrable miles per dollar on Uber/Uber Eats and free Uber One through 11/2024. You’ll also earn 3 miles per dollar on groceries, dining, entertainment and streaming!

Which Hybrid Points are best?

This is a very difficult question, but here are pros and cons.

  • Chase:
    • Very well rounded portfolio of airline and hotel transfer partners.
    • Points can be easily shared with a spouse or business partner or transferred to an additional user.
    • Increased value of points can be used for any travel.
    • Increased value of points can be used for any airline in any class.
    • Excellent variety of cards without high annual fees to quickly rack up points in many categories or on everyday spending.
  • AMEX:
    • Very well rounded portfolio of airline transfer partners, but hotel partners are weak.
    • AMEX has access to exclusively discounted insider fares, that can drop the cost of select tickets.
    • AMEX is alone in charging a fee to transfer points to US airlines. That adds 60 cents for every 1,000 points transferred with a maximum fee of $99 per transaction.
    • Points can’t be shared and can only be transferred to additional users after a 90 day waiting period.
    • The annual fee for hybrid cards are high.
    • The increased value for using points for paid travel is only valid for paid airfare, not for other travel.
    • You can’t book travel in basic economy on any airline.
    • You can only get a rebate for travel in economy on the domestic airline of your choice. You do get the rebate in business and first class on all airlines.
    • As you get a rebate rather than an increased value of points, you’ll need more points upfront.
  • Citi:
    • A more eclectic group of transfer partners with no high value domestic airlines or hotel transfer options.
    • Points can be shared with other members, though there is a 100K annual cap and they expire 90 days after they are shared.
    • No increased value of points for paid travel, whereas AMEX and Chase offer an increased value for paid travel.
  • Capital One:
    • This is the newest of the Hybrid point programs. They have been adding a great list of travel partners and it keeps growing.
    • Being able to earn 2 miles per dollar that are transferable to airlines makes them one of the best options for racking up airline miles everywhere while just needing 1 card.
    • There partners are still limited so you need to make sure you want to earn miles for the partners they do have.

Overall I value Chase points the highest as they have lots of pros and few cons, making it the easiest to rack up points with the lowest annual fees while having excellent hybrid options, but it’s good to also have other points as they each have unique partners and values. It’s worth noting that AMEX, Citi, and Capital One all have options to earn 2 points per dollar everywhere, while Chase is capped at 1.5 points per dollar everywhere. However Chase can overcome that deficit with more valuable and versatile points and other bonus categories.

When to use bank points and when to transfer to miles:

If you have a hybrid card like AMEX Business Platinum, AMEX Business Gold, Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Preferred, or Citi Premier you can choose between using points for paid airfare or transferring points into miles.

You’ll always want to compare the options.

For example if I need a last-minute one-way ticket from Cleveland to Newark on United this week will cost some $434:

 

Even if you get a value of 1.5 cents per point, you’d still be looking at some 29K points. That’s where the beauty of miles comes in.

You can transfer 15K points to United for the same flight:

 

 

Or you can transfer 6.5K points to Lifemiles for the same flight:

 

Or you can transfer 6K points to Air Canada for the same flight:

A one-way flight from Cleveland to LaGuardia on AA next week would cost $404.

 

Even if you get a value of 1.5 cents per point, you’d still be looking at some 27K points.

Or you can transfer 7.5K points to British Airways for the same flight:

 

A one-way flight from Cleveland to JFK on Delta next month would cost $224.

 

Even if you get a value of 1.5 cents per point, you’d still be looking at some 15K points. That’s where the beauty of miles comes in.

You can transfer 19K points to Delta for the same flight:

 

Or you can transfer 7.5K points to Virgin Atlantic for the same flight:

 

On the other hand, say you want to book a $119 ticket in advance from Newark to Los Angeles:

 

If you transferred points to United you would need 15K United miles:

 

If you have a Chase United Explorer card or Chase United Explorer Business Card then you would need just 12.5K United miles:

 

But if you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve® you’ll need just 7,886 points in basic economy:

 

Or if you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve® you’ll need just 10,220 points in regular economy:

 

AMEX doesn’t sell basic economy tickets. They charge 15,330 points, but if you’re register for United you’ll get a 5,366 point rebate with an AMEX Business Platinum card or a 3,833 point rebate with an AMEX Business Gold card. That means you’ll pay an effective 9,964 points with an AMEX Business Platinum card or a 11,497 points with an AMEX Business Gold card.


Looking for a new credit card? Here’s a quick look at some of the best credit cards out there:

Chase No-Annual Fee Ultimate Rewards cards:

These cards are marketed as cash-back cards, but instead of cash back you are awarded Ultimate Rewards points that can be cashed out at 1 cent each. However they can also be transferred to premium Ultimate Rewards cards, where they become far more valuable than cash back! These cards have very strong earning power and include the:


  • Chase Ink Business Cash Card
    • Read the full card review here.
    • DD take: An incredible no-annual fee business card that quickly earns a ton of points on telecom, and at hundreds of stores-as long as you buy gift cards for each store from office supply stores. With the current highest ever signup offer, this is the perfect time to apply for this card.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card
    • Welcome bonus: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back, or even better as 30,000 Ultimate Reward points!
    • Read more about the card here.
    • DD take: A fantastic no-annual fee card that earns 50% bonus points everywhere.
  • Chase Freedom Flex Card
    • DD take: An good no-annual fee card if you can stay on top of where to use the card each quarter to earn 5 points per dollar spent.

Chase Premium Ultimate Rewards cards:

These hybrid cards can transfer all of your Chase points into airline miles or hotel points, or can be used with an additional bonus when redeemed for paid travel. You can transfer points between all of your Chase Ultimate Rewards cards and the cards of any authorized user as well. These cards have very strong benefits and include the:


Chase Co-Brand Cards:

These cards earn miles or points with an airline or hotel program in exchange for a relatively low annual fee. These often have special benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, expanded award availability, the ability to earn a companion pass, etc. However they typically offer a poorer value for spending and worse yet, they mean that your points are locked into a single currency that is subject to devaluation and can’t be transferred to other programs. Examples include:

  • Chase United Club Infinite Card 
    • Welcome bonus: Earn 80K bonus miles for spending $3,000 in 3 months.
    • DD take: A good card if you want United Club access and 2 free checked bags on United.
  • Chase United Club Business Card (Click through United Business Card application)
    • Welcome bonus: Earn 75K bonus miles for spending $5,000 in 3 months.
    • DD take: A good card if you want United Club access and 2 free checked bags on United.
  • Chase Chase British Airways Card, the Chase Aer Lingus Card, or the Chase Iberia Card 
    • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 100K bonus Avios (75K bonus Avios for spending $5,000 in 3 months and another 25K bonus Avios for spending another $15,000 in 12 months.)
    • Read the full card review here.
    • DD take: A good signup bonus, but weak spending benefits. If you use the new fuel surcharge rebate just once per year you will get back more than the cost of the annual fee.
  • Chase Air Canada Aeroplan Card
    • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 100K bonus Aeroplan Miles (60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in 3 months and another 40,000 bonus points after spending another $16,000 in 12 months from card opening.)
    • Read the full card review here.
    • DD take: This card is loaded with unique features, but unless you’re an Air Canada loyalist, it may be not enough.
  • Chase IHG Premier Card 
    • Welcome bonus: Earn 175K bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months.
    • Read the full card review here.
    • DD take: Good limited time signup bonus. The annual free night should be worth more than the annual fee and the Global Entry fee refund is a nice touch.
  • Chase IHG Traveler Card
    • Welcome bonus: Earn 120K bonus points for spending $2,000 in 3 months.
    • DD take: Good limited time signup bonus, and 4th award night free has some value.
  • Chase Marriott Bonvoy Bold or Boundless Consumer Card
    • Welcome bonus: Earn 30K bonus points for spending $1,000 in 3 months on the Bold or earn 3 free 50,000 point nights after spending $3,000 within 3 months on the Boundless.
    • DD take: Not a great card for spending, but a decent signup bonus and the anniversary night on boundless more than covers the annual fee.

Capital One Miles Cards:

These cards can transfer all of your Capital One points into airline miles. You can transfer points to other cardholders as well.

  • SavorOne Card
    • Welcome Bonus: Earn $200 cash back for spending $500 within 3 months.

Capital One Cash Back Cards:

American Express Membership Rewards Cards:

These cards can all transfer points into airline miles and hotel points.




  • AMEX Platinum Consumer Card:
    • Welcome bonus: 80K bonus points after spending $5,000 within your first 3 months of card membership.
    • DD take: A pricey card, but laden with benefits that can exceed the annual fee.

  • AMEX Gold Consumer Card:
    • Welcome bonus: 60K bonus points after spending $2,000 within your first 3 months of card membership.
    • DD take: If the spending categories make sense for you then this card be a worthwhile card to have.

  • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card:
    • Welcome bonus: 15K bonus points after spending $2,000 within your first 3 months of card membership.
    • DD take: If you can swing 30 purchases per month, this becomes a valuable card for spending, plus get return protection.

American Express Cash Back cards:

  • AMEX Blue Cash Preferred Consumer Card
    • Welcome Bonus: Earn a $250 credit after spending $3,000 within your first 6 months of card membership.
    • DD take: A good cash back card for the spending categories and valuable return protection.
  • AMEX Blue Cash Everyday Consumer Card
    • Welcome bonus: $200 back after spending $2,000 within your first 6 months of card membership.
    • DD take: A decent cash back card for the spending categories.

American Express Co-Brand Cards:

Citibank Cash Back and ThankYou Cards:

  • Citi Double Cash Card
    • Spending categories: Earn 2 ThankYou points per dollar everywhere. You can use this for 2% cash back or transfer to miles via Citi Premier.
    • Full card review here.
    • DD take: A very good card for spending for the ability to transfer points or earn cash back, but no benefits or extended warranty.
  • Citi Rewards+ Card
    • Signup bonus: 20K points for spending $1,500 in 3 months.
    • DD take: A good card for small transactions and the points rebate, but no benefits or extended warranty.
  • Citi Premier Card
    • Signup bonus: 60K points for spending $4,000 in 3 months.
    • Full card review here.
    • DD take: A good card, especially when paired together with Double Cash for 2 points per dollar everywhere and Rewards+ for a points rebate.

Citibank Co-Brand Cards:

  • Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi
    • Spending categories: 4% back on up to $7K of annual gas and EV charging, 3% back on dining and travel, 2% back on Costco purchases, 1% back elsewhere.
    • DD take: No signup bonus, but decent for bonus categories.

More in-depth reading:

What cards do you have, and which will you be signing up for?

Leave a Reply

41 Comments On "The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Credit Cards And Points In 2023: Where To Start And What You Need To Know About The Best Cards For You!"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

BG

Great summary. One question:
– You say “plus get a 35% rebate on paid airfare with all airlines in business or first class and on the airline of your choice in coach with the AMEX Business Platinum.” This is only on flights booked with points; not paid flights, right?

Johnny, CPA

A lot t digest, one comment. I have 100K BA miles, can almost never use them on AA NYC-YYZ.

lcm

Awesome write up
I think discover may have pulled the plug on free fico scores for non cardholders

Moishe

Amazing detailed card report…It would be extremely helpful to all of us if you can please explain which cards would be best to use to convert those points/miles into purchasing a airline ticket on ELAL airlines which I assume
will be through through one of the airlines that Elal partners with e.g. Alaska Airlines or Eithiad airline or Qantas airline…thanks again for your terrific report…

Abe2023

@dan we are waiting for the book
Thanks for the great article

Than you sir

Does this work originating in NYC or just TLV?

Abe2023

Is amex currently charging to transfer points? I never noticed this

k

@Dan Why don’t you promote the capital one savor one in other capital one miles posts

Moish

Dan – for booking a VRBO or AIRBNB stay – is there a preferred card to use or a points program that would be a better deal?

Wcf

Is credit karma scores Fico or Fako?

Rachel

How do you know if you’ll get the bonus for an Amex card – like delta, Gold…- if you apply after many years (because of once per lifetime policy). Ty

Sam

I am new to this and have a question. This might be a dumb Q but can i transfer Chase UR points to united points even if i dont have a united Card or i must have a card in order to recieve United points?

Pesach

Chase gives a credit score is that real? Aod how about Amex?

Mile

Thanks for sharing Dan, this information is amazing.
It would be really helpful if you add some information on which points transfers are instant and if not how long approximately it takes to transfer.

EG

if you are getting multiple cards for multiple businesses but they all need to be under your name for sole proprietor, how does chase know that it is for a different business, do you put that in the DBA section or something? Or do they just not care and if they don’t approve all you will just explain then?

TLV

any post on which arilines charge less for united to tlv from US flights? or delta? have cc points, can move over – need a guide NYC- TLV for more cost effective points

DG

Which card do you use when the transaction doesn’t belong into any bonus category & you can’t use a gift card, special promotion etc.?

Dm

If I have 240,000 pnts between chase sapphire and Preferred and I’m told that I can get around $2880 if I sell them, how can I get more for them using the actual card points if I don’t travel? Is chasing out with the card or getting credits better?

Jose

Dan great article! For a business with substantial cc spend would you recommend we get the chase biz unlimited for 1.5 or another of the 2 cent per dollars cards from capital one or amex? I have the sapphire reserve to pair with however don’t mind the AF’s of another program if better as the benefit’s will outweigh the expense. Ty!

EZL

What’s the minimum age to sign up for a credit card?

Ray

Thank you Dan for this amazing write up!

I saw you spoke about this in this article, but I would really like to know I personally try paying up all my cc’s every week in full, is that not a good thing to do?

Mack

What is a recommended card for college students? Just starting out with building credit and won’t be able to take advantage of those offers that ask you to spend 3k in first 3 months.

Sam

@Dan The transfer mile discounts to save on flights work only for one-way tickets?

shaya

which cards can be upgraded to sapphire reserve? is sapphire reserve the only one that will give me 1.5 towards travel with ultimate rewards points? how soon after upgrading can i combine points?

jo

u said here “If you’re like me and you run more than one business, you can signup for multiple of the same card for each business to manage each businesses expenses separately”. do u have a post how to apply and get approve for same CC ? Will u get the sign up bonus for each one of the cards ?

Heyman

“Pay your account balance off, besides for a buck or 2, the day before your statement closes. This will greatly increase your credit score.”

I have seen conflicting info on this. Do you need to do this for every card, just one, or just one from each bank? Also, is $2 enough or does it need to hit 1 PERCENT? Thanks.

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