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How to Maximize Credit Card Miles Without Ruining Your Credit Score

How to Maximize Credit Card Miles Without Ruining Your Credit Score

Credit card perks can be very lucrative. Apply for one or two good cards and you could be enjoying free flights, free hotels stays, and more.

In fact, the perks can be so good that some people apply for a handful of new cards at one time, just to maximize the points and rack up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles.

If you’re like me, your first response is probably, “Uhh, that’s great, but won’t that ruin my credit score?”

As it turns out, there are two simple things that, if you do them, will allow you to maximize your credit card perks without ruining your credit score.

What are those two things? Keep reading and I’ll tell you…

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Step One: The Secret of Credit Card “Churners”

There is a small group of travelers that call themselves, “credit card churners” because they apply for card after card and churn through as many applications as possible.

Then, they spend the minimum amount needed on the credit card to get the frequent flyer mile bonus (for example, $1,000 in 3 months) and move on to the next card. Some people are routinely cycling through 10 cards at once!

This strategy allows them to rack up over 1 million frequent flyer miles per year, but here’s the most surprising part: most of these people have excellent credit scores of 760 or higher.

How do they keep their credit score high?

It’s pretty simple actually: they pay their balance in full each month. It sounds simple, but if you’re a responsible spender and don’t carry debt on your credit cards, then it’s unlikely that a new card (or even 5) will hurt your credit score in the long run.

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Let’s talk about why this is true…

How Your Credit Score Actually Works

Here’s why your credit score is rarely hurt if you get a new card and pay your balance in full each month.

Let’s say you want to try this strategy out and you apply for a new credit card to get some frequent flyer miles. When you apply for a new credit card there is an inquiry on your account. New credit inquiries usually drop your score by a few points, but new inquiries only make up about 10% of your overall credit score, which means the drop is small. This dip is also short term.

As a general rule, if your credit score is above 720, then you’re in good position and have nothing to worry about when it comes to this initial drop.

At the same time, however, your new card will probably help your credit utilization ratio, which is also part of your credit score.

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Here’s an example of how credit utilization ratio works. Let’s say that right now you are spending $3,000 and your total credit limit is $10,000. In this case, your credit utilization ratio is 30% ($3,000/$10,000).

When you apply for a new card, let’s say your overall credit limit increases to $15,000. Your credit utilization ratio drops to 20% ($3,000/$15,000). A lower credit utilization ratio helps your credit score because it shows that you are responsible and that you are more likely to stay within your spending limits.

Remember, your spending habits should stay about the same because you’re only getting the new card so that you can reach the minimum spending limit to get the frequent flyer miles and then you’re filing it away or cancelling it a few months later.

For this reason, many credit card churners actually see their score increase over time. Some of them have more than a dozen cards and still maintain credit scores above 780.

Step Two: Where to Find the Best Deals

If you want to maximize your credit card perks, then staying up to date on the latest deals is critical. Credit card companies change their bonuses, launch new cards, and remove old ones on a continual basis.

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If you’re looking for a simple way to keep track of the best deals going on right now, then The Credit Card Fly is a great place to start. It’s a free email newsletter that sends you a short weekly update of the best credit card deals for earning frequent flyer miles, free hotel stays, and rewards points.

You can also find deals and information on frequent flyer mile credit cards online at a wide range of personal blogs, forums, and websites.

Get Started Now

Now it’s just a matter of applying for a few good cards and watching the points roll in.

Remember, make sure to pay your balance in full each month and stay up to date on the best deals, and you’ll be well positioned to maximize your credit card perks.

You’ll be flying for free in no time.

(Photo credit: Business Figure and Credit Card via Shutterstock)

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James Clear

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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