What’s in my wallet?

The main purpose of this blog right now is to update family and friends on travel related adventures that have been happening in my life.  However, down the road, I might delve more into offering advice to people who want to travel solo on a budget.  So getting a little practice in now with this post! *All opinions are my own and should not be relied on as legal advice, this post in no way guarantees the approval of any credit card.*

Recently I have been struggling hardcore with picking out a credit card that might help me save money on my travel adventures.  If you haven’t had much interaction with the “travel community” that exists online through blogs such as this one, you might be thinking, “How on EARTH can a credit card help me save money on traveling??” I was just as naive about this before I started reading a bunch of blogs in anticipation of my move to Thailand. After spending weeks scouring the internet for advice on traveling and moving abroad, I stumbled upon the hidden world of “travel hacking,” where people use credit cards to save money on flights, hotels, and other travel related expenses.  I love to travel, I love to save money, and right away I was hooked.

Before I share my journey to finding my perfect travel credit card, let me briefly explain how credit cards can save you money on traveling. There are a vast number of credit cards out there that allow you to earn “points” that can be used towards travel related expenses. These expenses might include flights, hotels, rental cars, the list goes on.  Every time you spend money with the credit card, you earn a certain number of points. For example, the Capitol One Venture card is a credit card that can help you save money on travel. (I’m using this credit card purely for an example, this is not a personal recommendation for the card.) For every dollar you spend using the Capitol One Venture card, you earn two points. (Capitol One actually uses the word “miles” instead of “points,” they mean basically the same thing.  “Miles” do not translate to literal miles.  If NYC and LA are 2500 miles away from each other, it does not mean that once you earn 2500 “miles” you get a free flight.  2500 “miles” might only earn you $25 off the flight.)  So if you go out to dinner and spend $40 on dinner and charge it to your Capitol Once Venture card, you earn 80 “miles.” Capitol One claims that 100 miles is equal to $1 in travel rewards.  Your “points” or “miles” accumulate as you continue to spend money on your credit card, and you are eventually able to exchange the points for money off your travel expense.  Credit cards can also offer great sign up bonuses.  The Capitol One Venture card offers a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles—equal to $400 in travel—once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of getting the card.  If you’re planning on flying from Boston to London and the flight is $350, that’s a free flight, plus $50 left over to use towards another flight, maybe a quick jaunt to Paris! (If all that was super confusing check out this post by one of my favorite travel bloggers, Nomadic Matt, he breaks down the system quite well.)

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It took me a few weeks of comparing different cards before I found what I thought was the perfect credit card for my traveling self, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  It offered an incredible sign up bonus, 50,000 bonus points after spending $4000 in purchases within the first three month of opening the account, equal to $650 in travel rewards.  WOW!  No foreign transaction fees (perfect for my move abroad) and a “sleek metal card design” (which is 100% useless except to make me feel like a female James Bond when I whip it out of my wallet.) Yep, sign me up for this credit card now PLEASE! I was still so very naive though to how credit cards and credit and FICO scores and everything actually work.  I thought I would be approved no problem considering I almost always pay my credit card bill in full each month, and I have only ever made a late payment once.  I completely failed to pay attention to one little detail: I had a limited credit history.  And by limited I mean that I had only one other credit card, and I had only had it for about a year and a half. So long story short, I applied for the beautiful Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the card that promised me I would be rolling in free flights and hotel upgrades as I flashed my sleek metal card down 5th Avenue, only to receive a curt rejection letter in the mail.  Credit card application declined because of my limited credit history. WHAT??!!  Were my travel hacking days over before they had even begun?

Ok this post is getting a bit REALLY long so I’m gonna summarize the next events pretty quickly, but basically I spent another few weeks researching online for a credit card that would help me earn travel rewards, but that I would only need average credit to get accepted.  And the credit card that I deemed to be a good fit for me is….. drumroll please…. the Barclaycard Arrival-Travel Credit Card!! Here are five reasons why this credit card is so fantastic for earning travel rewards when you have a limited credit history.

1. Perfect for less than excellent credit

My credit score was 744 when I applied, I was accepted immediately.  I obviously can’t guarantee anyone’s approval of this card, but I would suggest signing up for Credit Karma or Credit.com to get a quick peek at your credit score (which won’t be 100% accurate, Credit.com told me my score was 725, but it at least gives you an idea of where you’re at) and checking out what credit cards are recommended for your score.  Don’t be like me and try to get approved for a credit card without having some idea of your credit score, it actually hurts your score to apply for a new card, and is totally worthless if you’re not even accepted!

2. Awesome Sign Up Bonus

By just signing up for the Barclaycard Arrival-Travel Credit Card and spending $1000 in the ninety days, you earn 20,000 miles, equal to $200 in travel rewards! I think this is particularly fantastic because I am not a big spender, but spending a thousand dollars in three months is pretty reasonable, even for me.  Some credit cards give you a bigger sign up bonus, but only if you spend a lot more money (like $4000) in the first few months.  Be sure to think about this before signing up for a new credit card, remember, if you are going out of your way to spend extra money to get the sign up bonus, those extra points/miles aren’t really free anymore!

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3. Fits my spending needs

Ok this is what I am THE MOST excited for, the awesome rewards I am going to get FOR JUST USING MY CARD TO SPEND MONEY! Every time the Barclaycard Arrival-Travel Credit Card is used to spend money on dining or travel, 2 miles are earned for every dollar. And for every other purchase, a mile is earned for every dollar spent. If you’re anything like me, I love grabbing dinner and drinks with friends AND I love traveling (duh), so I tend to spend most of my money in both of these areas. And if you’re thinking that you don’t spend a lot of money on travel because you’re not jetting off to Tokyo every weekend, keep in mind that travel expenses include trains, busses, and taxis, so you could earn double miles just on your commute to work.

4. No foreign transaction fees

Pretty self explanatory, no extra fees when you make purchases in foreign countries! Great for traveling abroad, necessary for living abroad.

5. No Annual Fee

And finally, absolutely ZERO annual fee!  Which makes this card a complete win, because even if you find yourself not using the card as much as you thought you would, it’s not hurting you to have it in your wallet. I’ve also heard that it’s rare to have a card with no foreign transaction fees AND no annual fee, so another win for the ol’ Barclaycard Arrival-Travel Credit Card!

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Fitting that I’m finishing this post today because guess what just arrived in the mail?? My Barclaycard Arrival-Travel Credit Card! So excited to get out there and start spending money (read:shopping spree) so I can earn some miles towards my next jet setting adventure! I’ll definitely keep you guys updated on how this credit card works out for me, and if any of you already have the card, leave me a comment and let me know how you like it!


All profound crazy/funny/weird thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, it’s just how I roll 😎

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