Building The Ideal Travel Reward Credit Card Profile

Beginner’s Gameplan

Budget together large expenses to meet minimum spend – If possible batch together larger expenses into shorter time frames to possibly start doing a binge and purge spend approach if needed.  Determine your monthly expenses that can be put on a credit card. 

Figure out where you want to go and pick cards to make that dream possible – Do some research on your travel destination and see what airlines fly there.  Your first credit cards will be based on using your points on this trip.

Focus on Chase – Chase Ultimate Rewards are the most flexible points and the variety of credit cards along with generous sign up bonuses enable you to rack up points fast.  Also they have the 5/24 rule that limits you from getting their cards after being approved for at least 5 cards in the last 24 months. 

Spread the Wealth – If your first card is a Chase card, then go after a different segment with your second card.  Something like an American Express card will will benefit you greatly.  The third card could be a Starwood card, and then back to Chase for the next.  Continue to build and create diversity.   

Look Out For Increased Bonus Offers

Many credit cards will increase their bonuses from time to time.  For instance Hilton cards will routinely raise their bonus offers for a limited time.  Follow sites like The Points Guy and Boarding Area on Twitter and Facebook to get the most up to date new on when increased bonuses are offered.

The Ideal Credit Card Portfolio


The ideal credit card portfolio will be well rounded and flexible, giving you as many options as possible when a trip arrises.  Once you have built the portfolio the focus should be on maintaining it by replenishing points as they are being used and continuing to be on the lookout for limited time offers you can take advantage of.  The well rounded travel credit card portfolio should have the following qualities.

One Premium Travel Card (Or at least two for the frequent traveler) – Premium credit cards come with a hefty annual fee but lots of perks and bonus categories that make up for it.  Find a premium credit card you can use as an everyday spend card that can rack up points fast and has perks you will use.  Many premium cards will include airport lounge access like Priority Pass and travel credits.  Premium airline cars include lounge access, elite status, and more.  Hotel premium cards often include free nights stay that is worth more than the annual fee itself, making them a great value.

Cards that Have Flexible points – Focus on cards that are flexible and have multiple transfer partners.  Cards linked to Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood have multiple partners that allow you to use them in a variety of ways.  You may have a lot of points through a specific airline card, but if that airline doesn’t fly where you want it to go or their is no award availability for your travel dates, you are out of luck.

Well Rounded Portfolio – As mentioned numerous times Chase points are great, but having nothing but Chase points will leave gaps in your portfolio.  You want to create one that has points everywhere and gives you options. 

Airline and Hotel Cards – Part of having a well rounded portfolio is being able to get both your flight and lodging covered as much as possible through points.  Your two biggest expenses going down to near zero does wonders to your travel budget.  In addition to having credit cards with multiple transfer partners, having airline specific cards allow you rack up points with a specific airline.  This enables you to save those more flexible points for another day along with getting perks such as elite status, priority boarding, free checked bags and more.  Hotel Cards are similarly valuable as they often come with an immediate increase in status and the perks that go with it, along some cards giving away free nights for having the card. 

Bonus Category Reach – Ideally you want to have different cards that cover the major categories covered  with bonus points.  Having one card that gives you 2 or 3 times on travel and dining, followed by another card that gives you 3 times on gas, another one that gives you 5 times on your utilities.  Try and make most of your purchases with a card that will give you 2 points or more.

For more information on travel reward credit cards see our complete guide on conquering travel reward credit cards.

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