Category Archives for Finance

Approve Chase Card

How to Get Approved for A Chase Credit Card – How Long It Takes & Other Tips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Whether you are new to credit or you’re just looking to get into the Chase atmosphere of credit cards, you could feel intimidated by getting started. 

But credit card applications don’t have to be difficult. The thing is that the banks hide how they really work to confuse the consumers so they won’t learn how to game the system.

This is why you’re in the right place. I’m going to show you what factors mainly affect getting accepted for the starter cards of Chase along with an action plan on how to get accepted.

I want to preface this post with saying that we are only going to be talking about two beginner cards here, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

If you are relatively new to credit, Chase doesn’t just hand out access to their top of the line credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. They are more selective because they are higher value cards and that’s just how the game is.

So let’s get started with the three main guesses as to what impacts the application process the most.

Approved First Chase Card

1. Recommended Score

The first thing Chase will look at is obviously your credit score. While there is no known “if you have this number you’ll be approved” answer, we can guess based on the people who post what they have when they applied and if they got approved or denied.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are both expected to approve most for credit scores over 700. There are reports of people as low as 645 getting approved though.

I signed up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited a couple years ago and believe I had a 690 - 700 score back then. I got instantly approved.

Good Credit Score

I want to clarify that there is a big range for what can be accepted and rejected because your credit score isn’t the only factor that goes into it. You can have a 750 credit score but if some of the next factors aren’t right, you could still get rejected.

I wrote a post on how to increase your credit score that can help you out if you need it. If your application isn't getting accepted and you have a score below these levels, check out the article and get that score up and come back to this later. 

2.  Credit History

This probably affects you less if you have a higher credit score because it takes time to get to the high 700s but Chase likes people who have time on their credit cards.

Now, not as much time as you would think. Most people believe around a year of credit history is recommended to apply for a Chase Card.

This isn’t a hard rule. I had multiple credit cards for years before signing up for my first Chase Card but I know people that got approved for their first without any trouble.

Basically, think of it from the bank’s perspective. You walk in there with no credit history and they can’t tell if you’re responsible or not. Chase doesn’t want to just hand out free cards so people can take advantage and then run.

If they got screwed all the time with people taking advantage they wouldn’t be able to give such great rewards so I think it’s worth it.

Average Age of Accounts


3. Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization is basically the ratio of how much you currently have on your cards divided by how much limit you have on those credit cards.

Let’s say you have $10,000 of total credit limit on two cards and you have $1500 to pay off on one and $500 to pay off on another. That adds up to $2000. 2000 divided by 10,000 equals .20 or 20%.

There is no rule for the limit on what your utilization would be to get approved but most financial experts will tell you to stay lower than 30%.

Myself and other travel hackers will tell you to keep it under 10% and ideally, no utilization at all.

When you have utilization that means you’re accruing interest, and if that’s the case, then all the rewards you’re getting by using credit cards gets wiped by paying that high interest.

This is honestly the easiest factor to change though in the grand scheme of things. It could take a year to get your credit history where you want it to be or your score to go up. You can make one payment though and bring your utilization down to a better rate. It’s that easy.

Credit Utilization Ratio

5/24 Rule

This could be even more important than what I just showed you but I wanted to tell you about those factors because they affect 95% of people who sign up for Chase Credit Cards.

Now, that you know those three things, we have to move onto the Chase 5/24 rule. We will be making an article completely explaining this but to sum it up - the Chase 5/24 rule states that you can’t be accepted for certain Chase Cards if you have applied and been accepted for five credit cards in the past 24 months.

This means even if you have a credit history of 20 years and you have a perfect credit score, if you’ve gone over this 5/24 rule, you’ll automatically get rejected. It’s just programmed into their algorithm that does the applications.

If you don’t sign up for credit cards often, then this doesn’t concern you and you can move on to the next section. But if you do, stay with me.

There are a couple ways to find out if you’re over and some ways that it could be a different number than what you think but I’ll teach you the easiest way to check right now.

Go to your Credit Karma (if you don’t have one, you need to sign up.). Find the accounts tab and under every account, whether it’s a credit card or a student loan, or a car loan, it will say the date that it was started.

Only count the credit cards and see how many were within the last 24 months. This is your X/24 count and will impact how your Chase applications go.

If you are 5/24 or over, you need to wait before trying to get many of the main Chase Cards. Give it some time and come back when you have went a while without signing up for cards. 

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Three Phase System

So we learned the factors that most commonly go into a credit card application with Chase and about the 5/24 rule. Now we are ready to apply.

I wanted to think of the easiest way to bring you down this path for applying so this is a three phase system. If you get through one, you can go to another if not there is a way to change it up and try something else to get where you want to be.

Phase 1: Apply for Freedom or Freedom Unlimited

This depends on which card is best for you.

I recommend the Freedom to anyone who wants to earn more points or cash back but have to pay attention every quarter to see what gives them the best ROI.

If you just want a card that you don’t have to think about and can just use, the Freedom Unlimited is the card for you.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Now if you get approved, you actually move to Phase 3 so congratulations.

If you get rejected you’re going to go to Phase 2.

Here’s a different option. If you apply and you get a message coming up saying that they need some time to think about it, there is actually a number to call to talk to a person where they can look at it with you and make the decision.

This option takes computers and formulas out of the picture and let’s you have an influence on it with a person. Now they will ask you questions so make sure your social skills are there and don’t be nervous. They are there to help but they also deal with lots of angry people every day.

Say a couple niceties like “hope your day is going well” and things like that and explain that you want to make a relationship with Chase.

This part of the Phase is actually going to be Phase 1.5.

If 1.5 works and you get approved, you get to be at Phase 3.

If rejected, go to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Apply for a Chase Slate card

Now I didn’t mention this card before this because it’s not really worth mentioning in the rewards game. It actually offers no rewards and no benefits.

The reason I’m telling you to apply for this is because it is a lot easier to get approved for this card than the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited.

You can have a low 600 score and get approved for this. The benefit of this is now Chase has information on you and can know exactly how you are with payments and how responsible you are.

If you get accepted for the Chase Slate, put a couple subscriptions on it like ​Clickfunnels or buy some things on Amazon and just make sure you pay the minimum every month. If you don’t pay it off, they’ll actually know you’re not responsible and this will have a negative effect.

In 3-6 months after getting the Slate, try Phase 1 again.

If you get rejected for the Slate, get your score up to a 700+ and get your credit history over a year. Take about six months or so and then start Phase 1 again.

Phase 3: Other Chase Cards 

Phase 3 is the easy phase. Once you break through to these first two cards, all the other Chase Cards are basically at your disposal.

They are much more likely to approve you for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred once they have a record of you being responsible in their internal system.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Once you get to Phase 3, the sky's the limit and you can get bonuses and benefits worth 1000s of dollars for signing up for these credit cards. So worth it.

Congratulations! You're in the Chase Circle Now!

Now that we have broken down the things that impact the application process and ways to make sure you are under 5/24, you should have no problem jumping into Phase 1 and seeing where the game takes you.

Once again if you want a no-hassle card that earns you Chase UR points, the Freedom Unlimited is the card for you and we have a review on that card here if you want to learn everything about it.

If you don’t mind taking a couple minutes every quarter and really maximizing your Chase UR points, then the Freedom card is for you.

You can’t go wrong with either of these cards and I recommend everyone to get the Chase Trifecta at some point early in the game anyway.

If you’d like to learn more about travel hacking, we have a post on The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking that I’m sure you’ll love.

Also check out our resource on my Top Credit Card Recommendations for Travel Hacking.

If this process works for you, or you have either of these cards, please let me know with a comment down below.

Also if you know anyone else that would benefit from this, feel free to share this post with them to help them out.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek
Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited Review: The Sign-Up Bonus, Benefits & More!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

When you first look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you might think that it is a normal cash back card. But once you start looking into how you can use it, the possibilities are endless. 

This is one of the cards I recommend the most in my free card consultations and probably the easiest to start with when you want to start getting into gaining travel points. 

Let’s take a look at what makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited worth it.

Who Should Get The Chase Freedom Unlimited?

Chase Freedom Unlimited

There are a couple different types of credit card users that should get this card. 

The first route is if you really don’t want to think hard about what credit card to use, this is perfect for you.

I have a specific card for dining, a card for hotels, a card for airline purchases, a card for groceries and so on. This isn’t the process everyone wants to go down though. The Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you 1.5x return on all your purchases which is a huge benefit and makes it easy to use in any situation.

The second route that makes this card for perfect is for those that are just getting started wanting to earn points for travel. Not only is this card relatively easy to get approved for, but it can help you have more eligibility when you apply for other Chase cards later.

It has no annual fee so once you open this card, I’ll advise you to never close it and your points on your account will never expire.

One last thing to keep in mind is this card is subject to the 5/24 rule meaning if you have opened 5 or more cards in the last 24 months, you will automatically be denied for this card.

The Sign-Up Bonus

Chase Freedom Unlimited Sign-Up Bonus

Right now, the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a sign-up bonus of $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of having the card. You also get an extra $25 bonus if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months.

One of the great things about this credit card though is even though they say you can get $150 back, it’s actually 15000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. This means that you can always cash out your points at a rate of 1 cent per point.

But you can also pair this card with other cards offered by Chase and use 15000 points toward airline tickets, hotel stays and more.

I just used 14,000 UR points to book two tickets to San Diego that would have cost me $310. I’ll show you how to do all this in a moment.

Vegas & SD & Credit Cards

Ways to Earn

This card earns 1.5x on every purchase, everywhere. So you don’t have to put any brainpower into thinking about if you’re going to hit a spending cap soon or if this is a grocery store or a supermarket.

Just use the Chase Freedom Unlimited every time and your points will always be growing. 1.5% if you’re only looking for cash back isn’t bad at all but there are a couple better options.

If you only want cash back, check out the Citi Double Cash Card which earns you 2% cash back on everything you purchase.

The reason why I offer the Freedom Unlimited to most first is because of what I’m about to show you for when you redeem your points.

Ways to Redeem

Now we’ve already talked about the first way you can redeem points which is turning your points into cash back. If you have 10000 points and each point is worth 1 cent, this means you can cash it out for $100.

There are some other insignificant ways to redeem like buying gift cards that also can be redeemed at 1 cent per point but if you had a choice between $100 cash and a $100 gift card, which one would you want?

The best way to redeem UR points though is by connecting this credit card with one of the other Premium Chase Cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or th Ink Business Preferred.

Combining points across cards can allow you to turn points from your spending into full scale vacations.

Having one of these premium credit cards allows you to book travel through Chase’s Travel Portal.

If you have the Reserve, you can book at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred, you can book at 1.25 cents per point.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal

This means that your 15000 point sign up bonus can kinda be looked at like 18,750 - 22,500 points if you have one of these cards.

That’s if you use the travel portal.

There is another option though. Chase gives you the opportunity to transfer these points to airline and hotel partners. This opens you up to a lot more opportunities.

Remember how I said I got two tickets for 13,000 points earlier. This is how I did it.

One of Chase’s partners is Southwest Airlines. They had a flight going from my home airport to San Diego at $155 per person. That’s $310 for two people.

What I did instead was looked up the Southwest points it would cost me to get on that same flight. Each ticket would cost me 6,313 points or 13,626 for the two of us.

Because I had points from my Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and I also had a premium card (specifically the Chase Sapphire Preferred), I can transfer my UR points over to Southwest’s program.

So I transferred 14,000 points over and paid for our flight to San Diego with points.

Now, if you’re still following, did I save money or lose money doing this and by how much? If I cashed out 14,000 points back in Chase, I would have got $140 in cash.

By using these points with Southwest, I used that same amount of points to book two tickets for $310.

This means that I more than doubled the value of those points by transferring them out.

Redemptions like this is what makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited so powerful and much more powerful than a generic cashback card.

Recommendations on Credit Score and Credit History

Good Credit Score

Whenever I recommend a card or am giving a free consultation, I have to remember that every person’s situation is different. Some of us have great credit scores and some of us have poor credit scores.

Some of us have had credit cards for 5+ years and some have had cards for 6 months.

All these things play into effect when applying for these cards.

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, I recommend you have a credit score of 690+. If you don’t have a score this high, check out our post on how to increase your credit score which will help you out so you can get to the point where you can start applying for cards like this.

I also recommend that you have a credit history of at least 6 months. This means that you’ve held another credit card even a secured or student credit card for at least that time period.

This helps show Chase that you are reliable and trustworthy enough to have card with them. 

Of course, having these factors doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get approved so don’t get mad at me if you don’t. Also these rules aren’t set in stone so you might be below this and get approved as well.

No one knows (besides the banks) how these algorithms work but we can make our best guesses. 

Also one more reminder that this card counts with the 5/24 rule. This means if you have gotten more than 5 new cards in the last 24 months, you won't be eligible for this card. Don't even bother applying because you'll get automatically rejected. 

To Wrap It Up

With a lot of premium cards, you have to be able to know every detail of your card, when to use it, when not to use it, how much you need to spend on it and so on.

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, it’s so simple that it is my #1 everyday, non-bonus spending card. This means I use it on things that don’t fall into other categories where I have a better card.

If you’re just starting out with credit cards or you want the simplicity of having an everyday card, I wouldn’t look any further than the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Do you have the Freedom Unlimited or do you want it? Let me know in the comments down below!

Also want to learn everything possible about Travel Hacking? Check out our Ultimate Guide on Travel Hacking post now!

Credit Cards & Vegas & SD

Travel Hacking 101 – The Ultimate Guide to Becoming A Travel Hacker

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

In this ultimate guide of travel hacking, you’ll learn how to travel for significantly less and be able to vacation and indulge yourself more than you can ever imagine.

I’ll teach you what travel hacking is, which kind is best for you, and the ins and outs of travel, airline, and hotel credit cards. You don’t want to miss the top notch hotels I’ll show you how to get in this guide with certain credit cards.

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel Hacking

Travel hacking is the act of collecting points from banks, hotels, and airlines to travel for free or for huge discounts.

We all know what loyalty programs are. A good one is every tenth cup of coffee you get a free cup.

This makes most people think that travel loyalty programs are the same. Spend 1000s of dollars and maybe you’ll get a free checked bag.

I'm going to teach you that you don’t need to spend money outside of your daily spending to earn these points and miles for free. The way to do this is to take advantage of what is being offered to get these flights, hotels, and even cash for free.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Is Travel Hacking for You?

Now, travel hacking isn’t for everyone. There are some people that I wouldn’t recommend to get into this hobby.

Probably the most important requirement to get started travel hacking is that you must be 100% fiscally responsible. I’ll get into credit cards and everything a little bit later but we all know credit cards have insanely high interest rates.

The only way this will work is if you’re able to pay 100% of your balance each month.

Is travel hacking for you

Because if you use a credit card to get 15% of your spend back in free travel but you’re paying 24% in interest that doesn’t really make sense, right?

Most people that do this hobby/lifestyle are either very number-driven and can remember when cards are due and what they’re charging where. Or they have a system to keep track and stay on top of things.

Stephen Liao racks up millions of points and says that being number-driven can help you out a lot in this game but it isn't necessary. 

Stephen Liao

Usually the second group keeps auto-payments on all their cards and a spreadsheet just to keep track once you get a good collection of cards.

If you’re applying for mortgages or other loans, travel hacking shouldn’t be done at least six months from when you think you’ll start applying. We’ll get into this a little bit later about how doing all this affects your credit score (believe it or not, it makes it higher!).

But for now, you don’t want the flow of signing up for new cards on your report when it’s time to get that huge mortgage.

Speaking of which, if you have zero credit or below a fair level of a score (650 or below), you probably won’t be able to get far.

90% of the recommendations I’ll give you around credit won’t work unless you have a 700+ score.

If you are in the category of 650 or lower credit score and even if you’re in the area of 650-699, you should focus on simple tactics to build your credit.

Learning to increase your credit score is essential and everyone needs to learn it.

This won't work if you don't want to do any work.

Travel hacking isn’t entirely just go crazy with no strategy and don’t put any kind of thought into it. It’s actually entirely strategy and thinking.

Which sign up bonus is best?

Is this bonus better than the past history of bonuses for this card?

Should I use card A or B for this redemption?

Do I pay with this card or that card?

How will my next vacation be free?

These are all questions I ask myself when I’m thinking about being a travel hacker and if you don’t have the patience, stamina, or brainpower to do this, this probably isn’t for you.

thinking hard gif

What we won’t cover here

Now this is a guide to getting started. So there are things involved with travel hacking that won’t be brought up here that some hardcore guys think should be in this post.

I just want to clear the air here and explain some things I won’t be talking about if you’re looking for those answers here.

These are all things I’ll talk about in future posts but for now it doesn’t make sense to go in my guide for getting started.

I’m not going to talk about manufactured spending. There are some good ways of doing this and lots of ways that could end up getting all of your accounts closed.

Basically, this is creating fake charges and putting the money back into your checking accounts without spending any real money.

It’s a dirty game and banks and credit card companies are getting more aware of it and they will take all of your points and shut down all of your cards - they have the right to do it too!

Status with companies is a huge ball game and one of my favorites when it comes to travel hacking. I got upgraded to a better suite because of my hotel status in Vegas and I reserved a basic rental car and got to drive a convertible in San Diego because of things like status.

Mustang Rental Upgraded

But I’m not going to talk about it too much here just because getting status with these companies can be it’s own ultimate guide.

Not really going to get into churning here just because it's more advanced. Churning is basically signing up for a card, getting the bonus, cancelling the card, then signing up again as soon as you're eligible.

Banks are getting savvy to this as well and you can end up with your accounts being shut down if you aren’t careful.

Using The Game to Our Advantage

Now we are already so far into this guide and I bet you’re thinking this all sounds great but what exactly is travel hacking about? What is the process to get started? Well here we go…

Becoming a travel hacker means that you are using the rules of credit cards, airlines, hotels, banks, and other travel topics to win at their own game.

Think about a credit card for a second. There are a couple different levels of credit cards but let’s break them down.

You have Credit Card A.

This card gives you no points, you get no cash back, it’s basically just a piece of plastic in your wallet and it’s building your credit. These cards have no offer when you sign up with them but they have the easiest approval odds and basically anyone can get them.

Credit Card A

Most likely someone you looked up to told you to get a simple credit card and that’s the one you have. Nothing wrong with that but you’re going to learn why that card is worthless (besides the age of it) to you.

Then there’s Credit Card B. It is a good card. Every time you use it, you get 1-2% back in cash or points. Usually no or very low annual fees on this card and they usually are where most travel hackers start when they want to get into the early game.

They usually have pretty easy sign up bonuses like get “$50 back after your first purchase” or “spend $500 and get $150 back in points.”

Credit Card A & B

This sounds pretty good right?

Now let’s look at Credit Card C. These are the big ones. You get 5x points when buying airplane tickets or 3x points on every dining option you can think of.

They give you access to airport lounges, you get credits back when you purchase within certain categories like travel, you get free nights and status with hotels, you get priority boarding and free checked bags with airlines and lots more that we will get into below.

Now what’s the bad side about Credit Card C? They are expensive to get (annual fees) and they aren’t available to anyone (must have good credit).

Most of these annual fees range from $95 a year to $550 a year!

Now 90% of people are going to tell you that any card with an annual fee isn’t worth it. Why spend that much money on a piece of plastic that stays in your wallet?

Because of the huge expected value you’ll get that outweighs the annual fee.

Most of the luxurious cards could involve you paying $400+ for the annual fee but you’ll get thousands of dollars back in value when you factor in the sign up bonuses and the benefits from the specific cards.

Now I feel you asking, “Joseph, I want to know these cards already and find out which one is right for me!” I’m going to get to that but first I got to explain why credit card companies do this.

You see, these sign up bonuses aren’t cheap. I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and got 50,000 points after hitting the minimum spend requirement of $4000 in three months.

Now with Chase Ultimate Rewards points I could cash that 50k out for $.01 per point meaning I get $500 back just for hitting a bonus. That comes out of Chase’s pocket.

I actually made that bonus worth more than $800 because of certain tactics that I go into detail in this resource and you can find out about that in the link below.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Anyways, on the bank's side, $500 to get a credit card customer is pretty expensive. These banks are averaging 25,000 people getting new cards every day. 

Why do credit card companies do this?

The most obvious reason is because they want to make the money off the interest on your card. Remember in the earlier section where I said travel hackers must pay off their card every month. This is why.

I’m getting $500 back off $4000 spent. I’m getting 12.5% back on the low side of redeemable points which you’ll see what I mean later. But if I’m getting 12.5% back and I’m paying 20% in interest what happens?

I’m paying 8% more interest than if I just paid cash. So it makes no sense if you’re trying to hack the system.

Pay your Interest Rates

But banks know that a lot of people do this. We all know at least one person who has a maxed out credit card gaining interest each month and they’re only paying the minimum amount.

I sure hope this isn’t you. But this is how the banks make more money than they are paying on the sign up bonuses. That’s their first revenue stream on making their money back.

The second stream is from processing fees. Every time you swipe any card, debit or credit, the place of business that you are purchasing something from, has to pay fees to everyone in the middle handling the money situation.

If you have a Hilton credit card from American Express that’s hooked up to your Apple Pay and you scan it on a machine at a food truck, Hilton gets a cut, Amex gets a cut, Apple Pay gets a cut, and the company that owns and operates the credit card machine gets a cut.

You’ll find a lot cards will do things like give you a free hotel night or some other benefits once you hit a certain threshold of spending with that card because you’re making them money every time you use it.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Even if you’re paying off your card 100% with no interest before the statement date, the bank is still making money off you so they can’t be too upset.

You also can’t be too upset because by putting certain daily expenses on different cards, you’ll see in just a second how beneficial it can really be.

Introduction to Bank Credit Cards

Top Credit Cards for Travel Hacking

Now we’re going to get into the good stuff. I’m going to walk through how Bank Credit Cards like Chase, Amex, Citi and others work and what some of these credit cards can get you when you get their sign up bonus.

I’m going to mix in a couple easier cards and also some advanced cards but we’re not going to go over secured cards or cards that don’t offer anything of value.

Keep in mind that almost all of these cards generally need a recommended credit score of 700+ and above. This doesn’t mean that you will get denied if you have a score below that and it also doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get approved if you’re above it.

Don’t come back to me yelling because that’s my warning to you. Every company and application is different.

One of the earliest things you’ll learn on your journey to becoming a travel hacker is the Chase 5/24 rule. The Chase 5/24 rule states that you can’t get a good amount of Chase credit cards if you have gotten 5 or more credit cards within the last 24 months.

This means if you have gotten two Chase cards, two Amex cards, and two Citi cards in the last two years, you’ll automatically be denied for about half of Chase’s cards. If a card is being issued by Chase, you need to research and see if it is affected by this rule or not.

Because of this rule though, most people’s strategies involve getting Chase cards first. Think about it. If we sign up for five cards with other banks, you can’t get any Chase cards for two years.

But if you sign up with the Chase cards and get them first then you’re free to get whatever after that and not worry about this rule. This is just one of the ways that strategy plays a big part in this game.

Now let’s get into some different bank cards and what they all mean.

Because of the 5/24 rule, I’ll start with some Chase cards first. That is usually what I recommend to people when I do one-on-one coaching with them on travel hacking.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The first card I try to start people with is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. This card is a no annual fee card and the sign up bonus gives you 15,000 Chase UR points after spending $500 in your first three months.

The card is a pretty great everyday card because it gives you 1.5x points back on all your purchases. So if you spend $100 on a car repair, you get 150 points into your account. You’ll see later about different category spend and how to utilize it.

Now with each one of these cards I’ll explain some things you can get for obtaining the sign up bonus. I’ll either show you a cool redemption with it or the cash value of it depending on the card.

Because the Chase Freedom Unlimited is technically a cash back card, you can really only redeem those 15,000 points for cash back at $.01 a point. This means your 15k bonus gives you $150 back. That doesn’t sound bad at all but we’re travel hackers now and travel hackers always want more.

I’m going to show you how to turn this into more right now.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Let’s get into one of Chase’s premium cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This card is powerful because not only can you redeem for cash back but you can transfer it to the hotel and airline partners that Chase has.

Chase Transfer Partners
Chase Transfer Partners

So with this card I can transfer any of my Chase UR points to United, Southwest or any other airline partner and redeem it for flights. I can also transfer it to Hyatt, Marriott or other hotel partners and get free hotels with it.

I’m not going to get into the exact actions to make this happen because I can do that at another time.

Now the Sapphire Preferred is definitely on a different level than the Freedom card. It comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus after $4000 spent in three months. Now this could be very difficult for some of you.

After the credit card section of this post, I’ll talk about some ways to help yourself reach these high requirements in a way that is simple, efficient and without buying things you would never use.

Now because this is a premium credit card, it comes with an annual fee but it’s not bad at all. It’s a $95 annual fee and it’s actually waived within the first year. This means that you can test out the card and get the sign up bonus before even paying $95 for it.

You get 2x points on everything you buy within the travel and dining categories. Travel classifies as airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, passenger trains, buses, taxis (including Uber and Lyft), limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways and parking lots and garages.

Any company that serves food or drinks should count as a dining purchase including bars, coffee shops, and food delivery services. As long as the business registered as a resturarant when applying to accept credit cards, the purchase should qualify for 2x.

Now let’s talk about that 50,000 sign up bonus. Just like with the Freedom Unlimited, you can cash it out for cash making that 50k equal to $500. If you have $4000 in bills, who would turn down paying your bills and getting $500 back?

Now another option that you have with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and their more luxurious card the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the option to use their travel portal and pay for anything travel related with points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal

If you want to stay at a hotel that you can’t transfer to, this is how you would do it.

Basically the travel portal takes the cost of the hotel, or flight, or rental, or even ticket to certain things and it’s proportionately calculated into points value. If you are using the CSP it turns into 1.25x cents per point and 1.5x cents per point for the CSR.

Now I know that made no sense to you so I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say we have a hotel room that costs $250. With the CSP, you can use 20,000 points to pay with Chase points instead of cash.

If you remember, if we wanted to cash out 20,000 points we would get $200. So we’re actually turning $200 into $250.

If you want to go on a flight that’s $625 to Europe, that would cost you 50,000 points. So you’re turning $500 of the cash in value to a $625 flight.

Now the last way you can use points is the best and that’s transferring out. This is different though and can get kind of difficult for some people.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Transferring points to airlines and hotels can become very confusing and you have to make sure the math is good for you. But a good rule of thumb for transfer partners is to try to get at least $.02 per point here.

So let’s say you are finding a flight to Hawaii. You find one that is $700 and it costs 35,000 miles. 700 divided by 35,000 equals .02. This means that the value you would be getting for 35,000 points is 2 cents for this $700 flight.

If you find this flight to Europe for $350 and it is also 35,000 points. 35,000 divided by $350 equals .01 or 1 cent per point. This is where redeeming here wouldn’t make sense.

You would get more value finding the flight on Chase’s travel portal because this same flight would be worth 28,000 points, saving you 7,000 points.

Transferring points is where you get some tremendous value and I’ll go through some of the best redemptions that you could get from the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus.

Here’s some crazy things you can get with 50,000 Chase UR points.

Two Nights at Maldives Hadahaa Resort

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa

This wouldn't be your average vacation. These Villas are some of the best in the world and the weekend that I randomly inputted came out to only $2,125 A NIGHT for these villas.

Now 99.999% of people can't afford that. But what you can afford now is signing up with a credit card and getting to stay for two nights at 25,000 points a piece. Making your weekend getaway cost you 50,000 Hyatt points. 

Because the room cost is $2,125 and the point cost is 25,000, we can figure out the cost per point value we are getting here is 8.5 cents a point. We get that by dividing the cost which is $2,125 divided by the points which is 25,000.

2,125/25,000 = .085 * 100 = 8.5 cents. 

A great redemption value is two cents and you're getting more than 4x that! Just make sure that you send Chase a travel notice to let them know you're going out of the country. 

Extra tip: you and your significant other get this card and you have a 4 Day Getaway.

Introduction to Airline Cards

Now we all know bank credit cards aren’t the only kind of credit card you can have. Airline credit cards are pretty much the second most popular after bank cards and rightfully so.

Now I’m going to give you my opinion here and a good amount of the community agrees with me but 95% of the time bank credit cards are going to be the card you’re using.

Airline cards and hotel cards, which we’ll get into later, give points that are only useful for one thing. That’s using the points with their own company.

Now this is bad for two reasons. The first one is because let’s say you have 100k Delta points and you want to go to Europe. You can only go a specific week and Delta doesn’t have anything available that week because their flights are full.

You’re basically out of luck here. Unless you want to pay with cash, you can’t go on this trip. Now if you had 100k Amex points or Chase points, it would take a lot more for 10 or 15 different transfer airlines to be full to get you over to Europe.

The second reason that bank points are a lot nicer than airlines is because banks can’t devalue their points too much.

Let’s say you have family in Canada and you always fly United Airlines home. It costs 20,000 points to get there and 20,000 to get back. Nothing is stopping United from changing the point cost for this flight to go from 20,000 points to 30,000 points.

So your flight home could go from 40k points to 60k points overnight!

not good gif

This happens a lot and it’s just part of the game. That’s why I’m recommending for you to focus on everyday spending on bank credit cards.

Now I wouldn’t have a section talking about Airline Credit Cards unless there was a reason for them in this game and of course there is.

Airline cards sign up bonuses are some of the best in the game. Almost all of them give you enough to get a round-trip flight and some give you a chance to take a business class international flight as well.

Let’s go into some of these cards…

United Explorer Card

United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card is offered by Chase and you need to be below the 5/24 rule to be accepted. If you’ve gotten more than five new cards in the last 24 months, you’ll be automatically denied for this card.

It has a $95 annual fee but it’s waived in the first year. It comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus and you need to spend $3000 within the first three months.

I’m not even going to mention the points you get on spending because like I said, once you hit the sign up bonus you probably shouldn’t use this card unless you only will fly United.

But now you’re thinking, “If I’ll never use the card, why would I keep it?” This is a good question and depends on your use of it.

It comes with extra perks that can justify you keeping the card.

The first perk is that you get free checked bags for you and one other person when flying with United. It costs $25 per bag to check so if you take one round-trip flight with someone that would be $50 on the way there and $50 on the way back.

This already makes you positive (only a little) over the annual fee.

You get a $100 credit for Global Entry which is a great perk and one I’m taking advantage of soon.

You get priority boarding and a 25% discount on in flight purchases. That $10 vodka and Sprite just went down to $7.50!

You can use this 50k sign up bonus to fly anywhere in the United States on four flights. 12,500 miles gets you anywhere in the continental United States. This could be two round-trip tickets for free or four one-way tickets.

Most airline cards work the same way and I think you get the gist of it.

Introduction to Hotel Credit Cards

Now we’ve gone through bank cards and airline cards. Now we’ll move on to the last and probably my new favorite category of credit cards which is hotels.

It’s very hard to find a hotel credit card that isn’t worth keeping because 75% of them offer a free night every year that you keep the card.

This means you pay an annual fee of $79-$95 and you get to use it at certain categories of hotels but these hotels usually cost $300-$500 a night. Plus a lot of them give you some sort of status with the hotels meaning you might get some upgrades, free breakfast, gifts and more.

Just like with airline credit cards, spending on hotel cards usually aren’t recommended unless you’re staying at the hotel. But the main difference is if you’re getting those free rooms, most likely you’re getting positive value from keeping the card before you even factor in the sign up bonus.

Speaking of bonuses, hotel cards have some of the highest you’ll find in the credit card game.

Let’s go through a couple and see what you can get…

Hyatt Credit Card

The Hyatt Credit Card has a two tier sign up bonus. You get 40,000 points after spending $3000 in three months and you also get 20,000 more points if you spend $3000 more in the first six months.

Basically spend $6000 in six months and you’ll get 60,000 Hyatt points.

Want to spend some time in Paris? You can stay at the Hyatt Paris Madeleine and check out the Eiffel Tower for two nights at 25,000 points a piece and still have points left over.

Or maybe you want to see the ball drop in Times Square.

Stay at the Hyatt Times Square New York for 25,000 points a night but make sure to have give plenty of time before booking. These rooms go fast! This view would be crazy!

Hyatt Times Square Ball Drop

After the first year and you pay your annual fee renewal, your loyalty account receives a free night credit that can be used at any category 1-4 hotel in the world.

This free night can easily be worth $300. The annual fee is $95.

You can get this card along with your significant other or travel buddy and pay $95 each year and take a fancy weekend trip that can easily be worth $600 - $1000 a weekend. All by paying just $190 a year in annual fees.

Ways to hit sign up bonuses

Now part of the travel hacking game is getting all these cards to hit sign up bonuses. You’re probably thinking that you only put $200-500 on credit cards a month right now. You’ll never be able to hit these $4000+ sign up bonuses.

That’s not true. I am going to show you a couple easy ways that you can hit these and do it in a way that you won’t get in trouble with the credit card companies.

Now my first tip is to always have a strategy before getting the card. If you don’t have a lot of spending coming up and you want a card with a $5000 minimum spend, you should probably just play it safe and get one with a smaller minimum requirement.

I’ll never go to get a card with one of these huge sign up bonuses unless I can plan out exactly how to get to those $4000 and $5000+ numbers.

Next is if you don’t have too many expenses in your life you should probably only go for one sign up bonus at a time.

You might be thinking who signs up for multiple cards in the same month and you’ll be surprised.

Once you take action on this stuff, you’ll be gaining confidence after you start hitting these bonuses and you’ll maybe think you can do more than one at a time. I wouldn’t start it in the beginning phase just because you don’t want to miss out on the bonus from a silly mistake.

The first actionable tip I would suggest is to make the card you’re aiming to hit the bonus your primary card. You can use a different card if it has a specific purpose and you need the extra insurances on it or another benefit but mostly use your new card until you get the bonus.

The second tip is to pay your rent with the card. Most people don’t know you can do this but if you have a high rent cost and you don’t have much else that you pay for to hit minimum spend you can use a company like Plastiq.

Basically you pay Plastiq and these guys send a check over to your landlord or whoever receives your rent. Fair warning that there are fees with this and I wouldn’t say to use this for whenever you’re not going for minimum spend. You can also do this with mortgages, car payments, and many other things.

But when you need a big number to hit that bonus that will get you $1000+ in value, you wouldn’t mind paying an extra $30 or so for it.

The third tip also involves necessities. You can always pay for future bills now. You can do this with utilities, rent, and I actually do this with car insurance.

I save up and every six months, I pay $1200 or so for the next six months instead of paying $200 each month. $200 barely makes a dent in most sign up bonuses but $1200 sure can make a difference. I just plan out a specific card to get around that time and go to town.

Here's a bonus: Some people reading this will now say, “Hey I don’t pay rent or have any expensive bills like this.” Well maybe you still live at home or you are in a lucky situation where you’re living somewhere for free.

Talk to someone you trust about maybe charging their bills to your credit card and then them just reimbursing you. I did this when I was younger with my parents. They paid their car insurance and phone bills with a transfer from their checkings every month.

With all of their kids, these two bills added up to over $1500 a month so I would charge it on my cards and they would just either give me the cash or transfer me the money and I would pay it off.

It was an easy way to hit those high minimum spends without me worrying about buying something ridiculous I don’t need.

This last tip is something I only really recommend if you have around two weeks left and still need to hit around $500 or so. This is to go to your grocery store or any store that you would think and buy gift cards to places that you shop all the time.

I say grocery stores because this is probably the easiest. If you shop at Trader Joe’s every week and spend $200 a month there, you know you’re going to be doing that for the next three months.

Gift Cards

Why not buy gift cards now to ensure you’re going to hit the minimum spend and then just use up those gift cards how you normally would spend?

Amazon would be another perfect place to do this if you shop on there frequently. You can go and buy $500 of gift cards and just use that until the balance is gone.

I don’t advise you to do this all the time just because I don’t like getting bogged down with having all these gift cards to different places, especially because you probably would buy more than you need if you have a huge amount of gift cards. 

But it is the perfect way if you have that little bit left to ensure you'll hit the bonus.

So here are a couple different ways to hit minimum spend that is easy. The main thing about hitting these bonuses is to not spend more than you usually do.

Most people saw the first part of this ultimate guide and probably think, “oh I have to spend $4000 in three months. Let’s go buy a new computer or a drone." Or "let's go spend some money at the club and act like a huge alpha male.”

Obviously if you were going to spend that money anyway that’s great and you’ll get a free trip out of it.

But travel hacking is all about optimizing your spending that you do everyday. 

Not spending beyond your means just to get a “free” flight because that doesn’t really make the flight free.

F.A.Q.

I know by now you probably have a lot of questions if you made it all the way through this article and I wanted to take this time now before sending you to start taking action to answer some of the most common ones I get.

1. Won’t this hurt my credit score?

Credit Karma Snippet

95% of the people don’t know how credit scores really work and that’s why they believe this will hurt your score. Honestly, the best travel hackers I know are in the 800s with their score. Opening a new account will have a small temporary hit of a couple points but it moves back up.

As long as you build a base out of cards that you’ll keep for life, you can apply, open, upgrade, downgrade, and close cards without really worrying about your score taking a hit.

2.What are the best airline and hotel programs to start looking into?

This question has a different answer for each person and the only answer I can give here is it depends on your vacation plans and situation.

For hotels, I almost always recommend to just look into the next plan you have and what hotels they have around there. If you’re planning to go to France and you find a really nice hotel there that you want to stay at, think about ways to get points to use for that trip.

Another consideration is to find out if you have status with any hotels from having certain credit cards. If you have a hotel credit card, you probably can get some kind of status and even some premium bank cards come with status as well.

For airlines, this one almost always is based on where you live. Major airlines have different hubs around the United States and this plays a big factor in who you’re going to be using.

Check out the major hubs list here.

If your main airport is the Atlanta airport, then that is a hub for Delta. This means that most of the flights going in and out of that airport are run by Delta. They’ll have the most routes and you’ll end up using them the most.

It doesn’t make sense to focus on getting a lot of Southwest miles besides from sign up bonuses in this case because  Delta will almost always have better routes and coverage.

3. How do I get my credit score up so I can start travel hacking?

I’ve done a whole post on this so you can read how to grow your credit score here but I’ll give you a short synopsis here.

Get Credit Karma and see where you stand with all six major factors. Focus on getting your credit utilization down to below 10%. Then focus on building a base of cards that you’ll have for life so they grow your average age of accounts. 

The longer you keep your utilization below 10% while growing your average age of accounts, your score will keep jumping up month after month. 

One easy way is next time you're sitting down and watching Netflix or a Ted Talk, just open up your computer or phone and get on Credit Karma to check. That's what I do once every two weeks or so. 

4. What is the best travel credit card for me to get?

Just like question 2, this is entirely different for every person. Like I said earlier if you don’t have some of the main Chase cards, you should probably look into those because of the 5/24 rule.

I actually offer some free card consultations from time to time and you can sign up for one of those here. I have to ask you some questions about what cards you have and where you’re planning to go but you’ll get an answer pretty quickly.

It’s a perfect way find out what card to apply for.

Tools And Resources I Use

Before you start going into action, I want to give you some tools and resources that can help your travel hacking get started and take it to the next level. 

Credit Karma - You need to use a service to check your credit score, keep track of the cards you have opened and when you opened them, along with track your utilization and average age of accounts. Credit Karma can do all of this for you easily.

AwardWallet - You'll be getting lots of points and miles and it's going to be hard to keep track of all of them. Some of these points expire and it will be really bad if you have 50,000 Marriott points and they expire on you and you can't use them. AwardWallet helps you keep track of all points programs out there and they also keep track of things like when they expire and when your balances change. 

Seat Guru - Want to make sure you're seat is inline with a window? Maybe you want that extra leg room? Or what if you're on a long international flight and you don't have a plug on your seat? Check Seat Guru and just input your flight information and it will tell you which seats are the best and which seats you want to avoid. 

Google Flights - This is Google's flight booking service which access all airline websites and shows you the prices of flights from each airline. You can search within days, weeks, or months if you're flexible to really find the lowest cost flight. 

Kayak - Sometimes Google Flights doesn't always show the lowest price though. You should always do a couple different techniques when researching a trip. I usually check Google Flights, then check Kayak, then go into my Chase Travel Portal and find the price there. I enjoy Kayak more but you can use Priceline, Expedia, or all the other options. 

The Points Guy - Probably the biggest travel hacking blogger out there. He's got millions of miles and points and is never going to stop travel hacking. I read his posts all the time and actually use his posts to know what to value certain miles and points at to see if I'm getting a good deal. If he says something is 1.5 cents a point and my specific redemption is 1.7 cents a point, I know I'm getting a better than average deal. Check TPG current valuations here. 

The Points Guy

Doctor of Credit - DoC is more of a news site about credit cards and even offers things like checkings account bonuses you can get and other options for you to make or save some money. His site is kind of bland so don't expect to be entertained for hours but if you want more information about different cards, DoC is a good place to look. 

Let's Get Started

So you've made it all the way through this post and thinking one of two things...

The first one is "I'm pumped! Let's do this!"

The other thought could be "Isn't this a lot of work for a vacation?" I agree with this in some aspect. 

The average cost per vacation is $1145 and that's only for four days. If I get that same vacation for $300 doing this, I can go on three vacations for the price of one. 

All by learning how to optimize my spending. Sure the tracking, spending, and applying for cards can be tedious. 

But when you book a flight or hotel using points and brings you around the world for basically pennies, this small effort is more than worth it. 

What do you think about travel hacking? Do you have any other tips or strategies? Comment them below!

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek
Credit Cards

How to Increase Your Credit Score: A Guide for Millennials in 2018

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Increasing your credit score can make your life much simpler. It gives you a better chance to get more cards and loans and get you better rates. So if a car or house is in your future within the next 40 years, you should probably care what your credit score is. 

Maybe you’re just starting out and you have no to very little credit. Maybe you’re finally starting to pay attention to it even though you’ve been kind of using it for a couple years now.

The important thing is that you want to improve your credit score and that’s why you’re here. Building credit isn’t really quick or easy but I have some tips that can help you.

Now I say that it isn’t quick but I got mine up pretty fast tips that I’m going to show you here.

I brought my score from 611 in August 2017 to 793 in just 10 months. Now granted this involved me paying off a lot of debt quickly but I’m going to teach you how to get that boost you need to your credit score today.

Increase Your Credit Score

​Let's Increase Your Credit Score 

First thing you should know on improving your credit score is that we’re playing the long game here. Your score is going to jump twenty points than might go lower a couple points and then jump again over the next couple months but all we care about is the steady climb to the top.

To start out with I want to go over the six main factors of credit and how they affect you. 

  1. Credit Utilization
  2. Payment History
  3. Derogatory Marks
  4. Credit Age
  5. Total Accounts
  6. Hard Inquiries
Credit Card Score Factors

Now let’s go through these one at a time.

Your credit utilization has a high impact on your credit score meaning it’s very important to growing your score. The lower your utilization, the better it is for you. Lenders don’t like to see that you’re using all the credit that is available to you, ironically.

The general rule is to keep your utilization under 30% for good credit but my recommendation is to always try to be under 10% for excellent. That means if you have $5,000 in credit limit, you shouldn’t spend more than $500 on your cards at one time.

Payment History is the second high impact factor. This one makes perfect sense. If you miss payments in the past, you're more likely to miss payments in the future. A payment that is more than 30 days late goes onto your credit report as a late payment.  

There are methods to get late payments taken off your report if you have one random one. If it’s a recurring problem and you’re not going to change, this guide isn’t for you. Try to keep this at 100% or 99% at the lowest. You don’t really want to go any lower than that.

Derogatory Marks is the last high impact factor. This is really bad things like repossessions, collections, and even bankruptcy. You should never ever get into one of these messes and they stay on your report up to seven years.

So if you get into one of these things, you’re going to be paying for it for almost a decade. Be responsible, pay what you need to when you need to. If this is difficult for you, learn to set up automatic payments that at least cover your minimum payment.

Age of Credit History is a medium impact factor but mostly out of your control if you’re in the beginning stages of this game. Lenders like to see that you’ve been using credit for a long time. This isn’t exactly fair in our 20s but it makes sense.

This is the reason why most of the time it’s not recommended to close credit cards. You improve your average age by keeping your accounts open and in good standing.

Average Age of Accounts

Your total accounts are also important to lenders. This is one of the things I have to explain to my coaching clients on credit cards. 3 out of 4 people think the fewer accounts you have is better but that’s actually a myth. The more accounts you have the better it is looked at on your report.

This might make sense. Would you rather have a doctor perform surgery on you and only has performed the surgery once or twice? Or would you pick the doctor that’s done the surgery 25+ times. I think I know your answer.

Hard Inquiries is when a company or lender looks up your report to see if you’re eligible when you apply for credit. This could even happen when you do things like getting a new apartment or car and even a cell phone.

Hard Inquiries is kind of a necessary evil when it comes to growing your score. It is kind of counter-intuitive but since this is a low impact factor, at certain times it’s better to take on inquiries to get things like more cards to help out other factors of your report.

Now that we know about the six factors that impact your credit report, let’s actually check yours out. We’re going to use the free app called Credit Karma.

Either download it on your phone or head over to creditkarma.com and create an account. They ask you some questions including your social but I assure you it’s safe. They’re a $3 Billion company and I’ve been using them for years and never had a problem.

If you have an account already, then you already know your score a little bit. But still open it up so we can figure out how to make it better.

Once we know our score, we can start tackling it.  

Bring Down That Utilization

Credit Utilization Ratio

Your Debt-to-Credit Ratio is considered one of the most important factors when it comes to your credit score. This means that focusing on this is also the fastest way to see a rise in your score as well. 

Let’s talk about what your utilization actually is. Let’s say you have two credit cards and both of them have a $1000 limit. You have $2000 in credit limit to use at your disposal.

Let’s say you put $50 on one card and $150 on another card throughout the month. That comes out to a $200 usage. $200 divided by the $2000 equals 10 percent. This means that your utilization is 10% and that’s considered good.

Credit Card Utilization

0-9% utilization is excellent. 10-29% is good. 30-49% is fair and everything else is poor. A rule of thumb is to not go over 30% but my rule is to try to always have under 10%. This could be hard to do if you only have or two credit cards with low limits.

Most likely your credit cards won’t come out to even numbers like this so I’ll give one more example just to help you out. Let’s say you have four credit cards. One has a limit of $1500 and another has a limit of $2000. Your third card is $3800 limit and your fourth card has a $1600 limit.

$1500 + $2000 + $3800 + $1600 = your total credit limit or in this case $8900 in limit. For simplicity sake, let’s say you have $1200 scattered on all these cards. $1200 divided by $8900 equals 13.5%. This puts us in the good category. 

Credit Card Utilization

Now there are three ways to get us into the excellent category. That’s the main goal. We want to get down to 0-9% utilization.

The first option is kind of obvious. It’s to pay off some debt. You keep paying your minimum payments on the card but you do an extra payment on one (usually the one that’s gaining the most interest.)

If we paid off $400 of that $1200 it goes down to $800. $800 into $8900 equals 8.98% utilization. That brings us into the excellent category. So the first option for building your credit score is paying down your balance to help your utilization. 

The second option is actually easier than you think sometime and that’s getting credit limit increases. This is actually a pick your poison option because for some banks asking for a credit limit increase is going to result with hard inquiry. We’ll get into this a little bit later so stay tuned.

But basically with one of our credit cards that we were using above. If we ask for a credit limit increase on the card that has a $3800 limit and they move it to $7500, it makes a big difference. 

We had $8900 in credit limit before and now we have $12,600. $1200 divided by $12,600 equals 9.5% which is below our 10% limit I push people towards. 

Card Utilization

The good side of this is that it’s pretty simple and can move you into that next bracket overnight. The bad news is that you don’t change your spending habits and sometimes people use this new limit to get even more in debt. If you can’t be financially responsible, then asking for a increase is not for you.

The last option is to get another card. This is ultimately doing the same thing as asking for a credit limit increase in terms of your utilization. Instead of getting a $3700 raise in a credit limit, you get a new credit card that has a $4000 limit.

It still moves your total limit to $12,900 which will bring your rate down to 9.3%. We’re going to get into whether this is a good option for you in the next couple paragraphs.

Getting Your Average Age of Accounts Up

Average Age of Accounts

Now I mentioned above that this is mostly out of your control and that if you’re in the beginner stages it basically will just get better over time. While that is true, there are also some tips to make sure that you’re not going to entirely hurt it while building up your score. 

I’m going to go through a couple scenarios to help you understand average age of accounts.

Let’s say you have three cards. The first card you opened 3 years ago and the second card you opened 2 years ago. Your third card you opened last year. You add up all of those years so 3+2+1 which equals 6. Now you divide that by the total amount of cards which gives you an average age of 2.

That’s all that this is and you can probably see why time plays a big factor in this. Excellent rating for this is 9+ years which means it’s impossible to get for at least 9 years from getting your first credit card and probably a lot longer for most people because they get more than one card.

Let’s just show you how important time is. Let’s fast forward 5 years. So the first card is now 8 years old, second card is 7 years old and the third card is 6 years old. 8+7+6 now equals 21 which means your average age is now 7 years old which is considered very good.

Now let’s say once your average age is 7 years old you get another card. So your years now are 8+7+6+0 which still equals 21 but now you’re dividing by 4 which means your new average age is 5.25.

Average Age of Accounts

This is why your score takes a little dip sometimes when you get a new card. But this isn’t terrible because it then rises because of your new utilization rate.

The way I think about this is that it is a necessary evil not only to get a better utilization rate but all of the cards that I get now are forming a base for my average age for years to come.

Think about the foundation to a building. All of the cards I get in my first five years of credit building will be 10+ years by the time I’m in my 30s. This will give me a great advantage in my credit score even if I get some new ones in my 20s.

Limiting those Hard Inquiries

Hard Inquiries

The last tip I have for you is to watch your hard inquiries like a hawk. Inquiries only lower your score by a couple points and actually fall off your score much faster than anything else but are still important to watch. 

Every time you look for a car loan, not just received one, you get an inquiry. If you apply for an apartment, you’ll most likely get an inquiry. If you try to sign up for a cell phone payment plan, they probably will check your credit report resulting in an inquiry.

And of course, if you sign up for a new credit card, you’ll get an inquiry.

These can rack up fast. In 2015, I didn’t know about this so I thought it was in my best interest to go to three different banks and see what’s the best rate I could get a car loan for. They all basically gave me the same rate so I took on three inquiries plus one more for actually receiving the loan and come to find out I basically hurt my score for no reason.

Some credit card companies actually decline you automatically if you have a certain amount of inquiries within a given time period.

Most importantly, interest rates for big things like mortgages actually go up with the more hard inquiries you have on your report.

So whenever something online, or a form in person asks for your social security number, it’s usually because they will be performing what is called a hard pull. This means finding your credit report to perform a hard inquiry.

Anytime this happens I either ask the person if this will result in a hard pull, or I look in the terms to see. Sometimes it is going to have to happen. If you need that new car then you’re going to have to have one.

But I was opening up a checkings account and they asked about my social so I asked if there would be a hard pull and they said it usually is but if I request it they will do what is called a soft pull which is the same action that things like Credit Karma does.

Soft pulls don’t negatively affect your score. So if you can, try to find a way to get companies to do soft pulls on you instead. It doesn’t hurt to ask these cell phone companies and sometimes even landlords.

What's Next?

So where should you go from here. The first thing I would do is sign up with Credit Karma. Checking your credit score consistently will put you on the right track to being responsible and starting to build your credit score.

After that, I would recommend to start paying attention to that utilization score. If you're someone who has a utilization within the 50+% range then I would focus on getting that down to 30% or lower. If you have around a 30%, use the tips in this post to get below a 10%.

I wouldn't focus on really worrying about your average age or your hard inquiries until you can get your utilization under control. 

If you want to know more about the best credit cards I recommend to everyone, you can click the picture below.

Do you have a credit card story to talk about? Comment below and tell me your story and how you're going to use these tips to your advantage.

Disagree with Financial Rules Cover

Why I Disagree with These Normal Financial Rules (Part 1)

I know what you’re thinking…

What are normal financial rules?

Basically these are financial rules of thumb that focus around money that 90% of the world or so believes is concrete and everyone should follow them.

I’m here to tell you that many of these rules I disagree with and I will share two with you today.

My first piece of advice here is to never trust anyone that tells you an absolute rule.

Especially about money.

Money management and personal finance is always on a case by case basis.

And I’m going to walk you through my take on this today.

My Take on Financial Rules & Management

Now, since I was 18 I’ve classified people and their financial needs in two ways.

There’s the slow and steady group. The people that save for retirement, pay off their debt ASAP, buy a house and a van, keep the same job for 40 years and then live off their pensions.

This is for the cops, teachers, military, mechanics or basically any person who is counting down the days until they can retire. The type of people that follow Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.

This post is not for you. Not to say there is anything wrong with that, if that’s the lifestyle you want. I just will be spilling out some reasons why I don’t agree with the financial rules that you should follow and I don’t want to confuse you.

Now you’re probably wondering what’s the other classification of people.

This is the 10% who are trying to become the 1%. The people actively trying to become within the wealthiest of the world and not trying to wait until 65 to get there. The people who follow Grant Cardone and Robert Kiyosaki for their money advice.

More importantly, most of the people are entrepreneurs in this category.  The people who fall into this category might resonate with the points made throughout this post so get ready…

Like I said before, my way is not the right way. Dave Ramsey’s way is not the right way. Your high school friend who is now living out of a shoebox is not the right way. No one has the right way to manage money. We just have ways that work (or at least think they work) for each of us.

So let’s get into the rules and my take on them…

The 50/30/20 Rule

Most people don’t know this rule has a name but it basically means 50% of your income goes towards necessities, like housing and bills. 20% goes towards financial goals like retirement and investments and paying off debt and then 30% goes into wants like vacations and entertainment and those type of things.

The reason why I don’t agree with this rule is for two reasons. The first one is when you’re an entrepreneur your income is so volatile that you can’t live this way. One month you’ll make $5,000 and the next month you’ll make $2,000 then you’ll jump up to $10,000.

We can’t keep an absolute rule like that when our income varies so much.

The second reason why I don’t agree with this is because this rule doesn’t factor into self growth. The number one factor that will help you reach success is investing in yourself. Buying books, learning from online courses, going to conferences and traveling, and having the ability to create multiple income streams are so important and these things compound over time.

In 2014, I spent close to $700 on books and courses. I then kept track (I’m a spreadsheet nerd) of the income from the things I learned. It was close to $4000 from the new skills and enhancements. I then made close to $8,000 the next year using the same skills and guess what I did? I bought around $3,000 in courses from 2015 to now and I turned around and owe a lot of my success into investing in myself.

If I didn’t have that extra money to spend on the books, I might not have even learned how to be able to make this website and write this post for you right now. That’s the power of investing in yourself and it’ll just keep compounding non-stop.

Save 15% for Retirement

This one will ruffle a few feathers. I don’t save any money for retirement. I don’t think I need to right now for a couple reasons.

First one just so happens to be that I’m 23 years old. But I’m not the 23 year old that acts like he can always do it later or like I’m indestructible. It’s just that for right now, it’s not a need of mine. Robert Kiyosaki tries to find more ways to earn passive income for his retirement. So instead of having a finite amount of money in his accounts, he makes “X” amount a month of income still and spends “Y” and as long as “Y” never goes over “X” he can keep living his way. I’m looking for more ways to increase my income now than to worry about something 40 or 50 years away.

The second reason has to do with 401(k)s and IRAs. If you’re following along with this post correctly, you can probably guess I’m not a fan. I would probably (hopefully) never be in a position where I have an employer to match my $6,000 a year or whatever it would be. I wouldn’t like the chances of just giving up a little bit of money and just hoping it grows. You’re not even allowed to touch it for 40 years.

This might hurt but I believe the reason why people say to use 401(k)s and the like so much is because these advisers and teachers don’t trust the collective of the group to invest or spend their money wisely. It’s the easy way out and the Wall Street way out.

You’re basically saying, “I’ll send you money for the next 40 years so you can invest it for me because I don’t want to learn to create income on my own. When I’m ready to retire I hope enough money is there for me.”

Let’s do a comparison real quick. (if you hate math, just skip this part.)

We’ll take my example of investing in myself above and we’ll take a person (let’s call him Randall) who puts the same amount of money into an investment fund.

We’ll take mine first. $700 in books and courses in a year comes out to $58 a month but let’s round down to $50. I then turned that around into $4000 that year giving me a real return of $3300 in the year 2014. Not buying anymore courses or books on those topics, I made another $8000 from those skills bringing that up to $11,300. Then I said I bought around $3,000 in courses and books after that up until 2017. That brings it to $8,300.

Let’s just stop right there and take that number to show you how crazy this is.

Bring on Randall. Let’s take that $50 a month and put it into an index fund that has an annual rate of return of 10%. I am using a calculator on calculator.net if you want to try this out for yourself.  From 2014 to now is about 4 years so that’s 48 months making for the contributions that Randall makes $2,400. I inputted that amount into the calculator. As you can see from the picture below in those 4 years he only made an extra $510.03 or around $125 a year.

Investment Calculator.net

So $8,300 in profit within two years or $510.03 in four years.

Which one would you want? Let me make it even worse. $510.03 plus let’s say your friend wanted you to invest in something with them or you slipped and hurt yourself and need that money out. You then have to take off fees for the investments, penalties for taking it out early and probably more that we can’t even think of here.

I understand that the investment route is a long-term play. But the things I do with that $8,300 as a long-term play for me too (hint: you’re reading a post off of one of them now.)

Now most don’t want to put in that work. They’d rather work their job and let their money work like Randall and that’s perfectly okay. But if you ask me, that money that I make from my “investments” I then turn them into some kind of income through a side hustle like these.

Recap

To close, I wanted to recap that these financial rules aren’t for everyone like money advisers say everyone should follow. But on the other hand, not everyone reading this should follow the advice I’m giving here today.  Remember what I said in the beginning. Never listen to anyone that gives you an absolute rule.

Thank you for checking out this Part 1 of this post. What rules will I disagree with in part 2? Make sure to stay tuned if you enjoyed this one.

If you have any questions or comments on this controversial post, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below!