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Credit card sign up bonuses are a great way to travel on the cheap, but of course applying for new credit cards all willy-nilly can be a great way to get yourself in some hot financial water, too. If you think you’d like to apply for a new credit card, or especially several new credit cards, there are a few things to ask yourself before you start:
- Do I have excellent control of my finances?
- Can I afford the minimum spend?
- Am I able to pay off my credit card bills entirely every month?
- Do I have excellent credit?
- Am I detailed enough to keep a budget and track credit card balances?
- Do I plan on taking out a major loan in the next two years?
If you answered ‘No’ to any of those questions, or ‘yes’ to #6, I wouldn’t recommend applying for a new credit card. You’d be better off getting your personal finances under control and setting money aside for a vacation, rather than trying to pay for one with frequent flyer miles or hotel points.
If you answered ‘Yes!’ to any of those questions above (and ‘No!’ to #6) you might be ready to take the travel card leap.
Folks are always curious about how applying for all these cards has affected our credit scores. In the 3+ years we’ve been applying for travel credit cards, Greg and I have each opened nearly twenty new accounts and closed multiple others. In that time my credit score has gone up over 70 points, and Greg’s up over 50 points (both of us over 800). But we don’t have any debt other than our credit card balances and we pay those in full every month.
If you’re curious about how applying for a new credit card could affect your credit score, here are some facts and figures to help you out:
I check our credit scores at least every few months for discrepancies, and keep track of the changes on our budget spreadsheet. Creditkarma.com offers free (really, it’s free) credit scores, financial advice, and even credit card recommendations. And they have a Credit Score Simulator to estimate how given actions might affect your credit score:
As you can see, getting a new credit card or closing an old one don’t have nearly the affect on credit scores as taking out a new loan or transferring an existing balance. Now if you’re carrying a balance on your new credit card, or racking up late payments your credit score will obviously reflect a little differently. If you can’t afford to pay the entire balance every month, interest rates and fees will eat you alive and most likely negate any reward miles and points you may accumulate, deeming a falling credit score the least of your worries.
If you’re financially responsible, travel credit cards are a fun, easy way to rack up loads of free travel. If you play your cards just right you may never have to pay for a vacation again! Check out our Credit Card Recommendations page for a list of the ones we use. Full disclosure: We do get miles and points for recommending certain credit cards. If you’re in the market for a new one, we’d love to refer you.