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How to Maximize Credit Card Miles Without Ruining Your Credit Score

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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.

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(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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