Other than buying gift cards, there’s one major sin in the points game…

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a world where things that sound too good to be true, sometimes aren’t? Like for example, traveling the world for free, potentially paying zero dollars out of pocket for flights and hotels sounds way, way too good to be true – yet every day, people do it. Sure, you could say there are opportunity costs involved, and get really painfully technical, but if you keep things simple, you really can travel for as close to free as humanly possible. There’s just one mistake that ruins it all, other than buying gift cards with your points of course…

Free Points

If you get more value out of your credit card annual fee than you pay for it, consider that free. If you pay off your bills in full every month, paying zero interest on zero debt, those points you earn in the process for buying things coffee, dinner, movie tickets and hotels are essentially free too. If however, you fall behind and start paying interest on any credit card, your points are no longer free, your travels are no longer free, and you may even be paying bad rates to earn those points.

Start Slow

It’s so easy for blogs and websites to tell you about all these offers which could give you this or that, but even if they wanted to, it’d be impossible for them to know what’s going on in your finances and personal life and if you really should take them. Reading blogs is like standing in a buffet line – just because it’s offered, doesn’t mean you have to get it. Yep, no matter how much someone says “best ever” or any of that kinda stuff. Don’t put your expenses above your wages just to earn some credit points bonus because some person on the internet told you to. If you can comfortably spend $3000 in 3 months, wonderful, do it! Huge credit card bonuses are great. If you can’t sit out and look for a more reasonable bonus. And also, think seasonal. Maybe apply when it’s bonus time, or when you’ve gotta buy presents!

New Opportunities

Of course, with all that said, there are so many ways to earn credit card points, using credit cards for things like paying rent, mortgages, car insurance and phone bills now. Companies like Plastiq, BillHopPayPal and RentShare allow you to pay a small fee to pay virtually any bill via credit card, so it’s easier than ever to run up charges you have to pay every month anyway. If you’ve got the cash, might as well earn points, right? Playing the points game is so much fun, if you can do the hardest thing in life: stay responsible. Do that, and your next crazy Instagram worthy baller vacation will feel even better.

Set Goals

The problem people encounter in the points game, is the same one they find in general life. They want it now, not later. Sure, it’s exciting to spend like a crazy person, open tons of cards and get a crazy trip booked in weeks, not years – but for most people it’s simply not responsible. If you collect transferrable points which can be used on many airlines or hotels or for cash back, rather than just straight up airline miles which can devalue you don’t have to worry. By doing so, you can set realistic time limit goals, and not feel pressure to unload your miles before it’s “too late”. Also, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. At the end of the day, travel is the best, and you can really do it on a tiny budget, if you stay responsible with how you earn it.

How has the points game impacted your personal finance habits?