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So, you're ready to start earning free travel with credit card rewards. That was me six months ago. I had finally gotten over my aversion to annual fee credit cards and decided to start some low-key travel reward hacking.

Before I applied for any new rewards credit cards, I began with a little research. I wanted to open the best travel credit cards that would help me earn valuable points and miles as quickly and as easily as possible. In the end, I earned more than 300,000 points through American Express and Chase. Here's how I did it.

1. I Found the Right Credit Card and Welcome Offer

As I read advice from respected travel reward enthusiasts, two cards stood out to me — the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Many experts agree that Chase Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership Rewards are two of the most valuable types of credit card points you can earn. This is especially true because points from both cards transfer easily to a variety of airline and hotel partners, which may offer a more valuable rate of return.

Tip: If you dislike the relatively high annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card from American Express (see rates and fees), the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, with its lower annual fee, might be a better fit. Plus, it's offering a generous sign-up bonus for new cardholders.

Before you apply for any new credit card, you should check your three credit reports and scores. If your credit isn't in great shape, you can work to improve it. In the meantime, it's best to avoid applying for credit card offers that don't fit your credit score range.

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2. I Met the Spending Requirements

Once you qualify for your ideal credit card offer, you'll need to meet the initial spending requirement on the account to earn a welcome offer.

To reach the spending thresholds for each welcome offer, I had to be strategic:

  • I didn't open the credit cards all at once. Instead, I aimed to earn one welcome offer at a time.
  • I funneled all household spending through each new card. When I opened a new card, almost all of our family's spending went on that account. My husband and I both paid for groceries, gas, utility bills and even recurring payments (like Hulu and my kids' sports tuition fees) with each new account until we reached the spending requirement.
  • I timed credit card applications before major purchases. A few years ago, my family decided to take a last-minute cruise over spring break. We had the money in our vacation savings fund to pay in cash, but I opened the Sapphire Reserve, so the $2,100 in cruise line fees could help earn a sign-up bonus. Then, I paid the card off in full to avoid interest. I repeated the process with another card when I needed a new MacBook for my business. With the American Express Platinum Card, we spent $800 on a new washer and dryer after our family's old set stopped working. We paid off the purchase from a household-savings account we contribute to monthly.
  • I travel frequently. In the last six months, I've traveled at least once a month — primarily for business, but often with my family as well. Those travel purchases earned many valuable points.
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3. I Was True to My Budget

To reach my goal, I had to commit to $14,000 worth of spending, which I realize is a lot. (In my case, $5,000 of those purchases were business expenses.) In reality, $14,000 in spending won't be a realistic goal for everyone, and that's OK. Maybe you shouldn't aim to earn 300,000 reward points in six months. Perhaps for your budget, it may take 12 or even 18 months to meet those spending thresholds, in which case, you'll need to time the opening of each new credit card appropriately.

If you want to win at the credit card rewards game, you need to be 100% committed to never overspending just to accumulate points and miles. Some people earn far more points than I do. But I don't try to keep up with their earnings. I never spend extra money to chase credit card rewards. Doing so would only set me up for financial and credit problems down the road. If you want to win at the credit card rewards game, you need to be 100% committed to never overspending just to accumulate points and miles.

4. I Earned More Points

In addition to the points I earned from welcome offers, I earned 82,000 additional reward points. This brought my six month total up to well over 300,000. The extra 82,000 points came from regular credit card spending.

However, I aim to never earn just 1% cash back or rewards on purchases. All of the cards I opened offered the chance to earn bonus points when spending money on certain product categories (in my case, I earned a lot of accelerated rewards when paying for food and streaming services).

When making purchases, it pays to think about which card offers the greatest return.

Some of My Favorite Rewards Cards for Earning Points

Do you want to give my strategy a try? Here are some of the cards I used to earn 300,000 points in six months.

Card Recommended for Welcome Offer Annual Fee Rewards Rate Learn More

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Ultimate Rewards Points

60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus points after using your card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$550 1x - 10xPoints More Info

The card offers 10x points per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars as well as 5x points on air travel booked directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after you spend $300 on travel purchases annually. Additionally, earn 3x points per dollar spent on all other travel and dining purchases and 1x everywhere else.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Additional Chase Points

100,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $2,300 (100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$95 More info

This fee includes extra cards for authorized users, such as employees, at no additional charge.

1x - 3xPoints More Info

Earn 3x points on the first $150,000 of combined spending in a number of key business categories

Bottom Line

All things considered, I'm still somewhat new to the world of travel rewards hacking. I don't use detailed spreadsheets to manage my account balances, and I don't follow a complicated system. I do, however, use AwardWallet to automatically track all of my points, miles and benefits in one place.

My point is this: If I can earn more than 300,000 credit card reward points in the space of six months, many others can do the same. You don't have to be a travel rewards pro to get started, especially if you already have a good credit rating. You can learn and earn as you grow.

Currently, I have plans to earn another sign-up bonus before the end of the year. Holiday spending, which I've already budgeted for, will help me meet some of the spending requirements. Once the new points have been added to my total balance, my goal is to book four round-trip flights to Europe for an amazing family vacation in the future. Wish me luck.

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Michelle Lambright Black

Michelle Black is founder of and Michelle is a leading credit card journalist with over a decade and a half of experience in the financial industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, small business, and debt eradication. Michelle is also a certified credit expert witness and personal finance writer.