Building Your Credit...which Cards should you start with and how do you do it?

          The best way to Free Travel is to grow, build, and maintain an Excellent Credit Score/Report.  REMEMBER, Credit cards should come with a warning, because they can and do lead many people into debt that they may not be able to pay off for years or a lifetime. 
          If you decide to work within the system created by FICO and the Credit Bureaus and be careful to not overspend, you will earn many rewards that at this time you might have thought impossible.  Again, the choice is yours, but for my money, choosing to use them, not abuse them has paid dividends in merchandise and family vacations.  
Sometimes it pays NOT to use your card, if they regularly offer bonuses to spend with them throughout the year.  A few months before Christmas we had offers from our Hyatt card, Discover Miles card, Gap card, US Bank cards, Virgin Atlantic, and American Express cards. 
Citi Hilton Reserve card grants you immediately "Gold" status with Hilton Hotels and their group.  
This Double Tree one night stay in this room gave me 5,000 American AAdvantage miles.  See the video on this page for details of the program, the normal cost to buy 5,000 miles AAvantage miles is $188.56 USD.  Usually, it's better to enjoy a stay somewhere if you needed to top off your Airline miles account for an award flight than just buying the miles (note: can take 1-2 weeks after stay to post) 
Rocketmiles offers minimum 1,000 airline miles per night at the hotels they partner with and their partners are growing.  Sometimes you can get 4,000 miles per night and they say the average "stay" received 7,000 airline miles.  All the links on this page go to my referral page, which means you get 1,000 bonus points the first time you complete a reservation and so will I.  Then, you can refer your friends to do the same.  This is one program I like besides Credit Card bonuses.  They give random large bonuses at times throughout the year.  My first stay for one night = 5,000 airline miles.  
          Suggestions for applying and managing credit: 

1. Already know your travel plans.

2. Already know your credit score and credit report.

3. Browse the Credit Cards that best suit your needs that I list on my site, remember to look at the cards I would always carry, airline cards, hotel cards, and bank cards, which include Chase Ultimate Rewards and AMEX Membership points cards.

4. Choose a day/evening and have a plan to do all your applications at one time, one day.  Why?  If you applied for one credit card a month, on the 3rd month it is likely that you could be denied simply for "too many recent credit inquiries".  Certain banks like Barclay and US Bank watch that more than others, but still it looks like you are desperate for credit if you keep applying each month.  Therefore, if you apply (and apply for most important to you first) do them all in one sitting.  I, personally, like to do it all in one hour or less.  STEPS 5-11 CONTINUE BELOW VIDEOS...

Observe how one credit card, the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, can help your hotel stay in this video below:
          Another great program I recommend IF YOU HAVE to or want to pay for your hotel room is Rocketmiles.  This video below gives a great overview of Rocketmiles and again how the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card helped us with that free Gold Status for free breakfast, internet, and drinks.  Obtaining enough points for free hotel stays has to be planned out well in advance for longer stays so if you have to pay for a hotel, better to get tons of airline miles.  
5.  Limit your applications to 6 or less.  The first time I applied for 6 cards, I did get them all for a haul of 300,000 points/miles.  Then, I waited 90 plus days (around 93) and applied for 6 more.  This time only 3 were approved and even after calling in/writing letters for reconsideration, the applications remained denied.  Therefore, if you are new at this, I would not do more than 3, but even if you are experienced and you do not want to "waste hard inquiries" on your report, I would not do more than 3-5.  My new number is maximum 4 at one time personally.  Experienced bloggers brag of 6 every 91 days, but I urge some caution here. 

6.  Be careful of your REQUIRED Minimum spend.  I might note that when I applied for 6 cards in my enthusiasm I needed to spend thousands in 3 months.  Now, I did know how to manufacture some spending through WalMart gift cards, American Express Blue Bird, and money orders, but it was still was a little stressful.  As of January 13, 2014 I do not see those WalMart gift cards for sale anymore.  I needed to make some family members authorized users to be sure I made it and that adds a layer of stress and hassle.  Make sure you can handle what you apply for because not getting the bonus makes this process a waste of time.  Personally, I prefer to get at least one or two cards that have an annual fee up front and obtain the bonus points on the first purchase.  

7.  Keep a record of what did and know your start dates/end dates!  Screen shot or cut in paste in Microsoft Word or do what you do to make a record of the terms and conditions for each card.  Only once have I had a problem, but that problem cost me 15,000 SPG points and if you know anything about those points, there is a sweet spot at 60,000 and 70,000 SPG points for a hotel/airline mile combo.  This left me with 50,000 SPG points after meeting my spends on a business and personal card.  AMEX SPG cards have a 10,000 after first purchase and 15k or 20k after spending $5,000 in 6 months.  Meeting a $5,000 spend to find out you don't get the extra bonus miles is extremely frustrating.  I kindly asked for something and they did aware me with 3,000 SPG points but left me postponing my vacation.  

8. Set up the cards with online accounts or with your bank for easier tracking, paying bills, and monitoring your daily/weekly spending as well as when your bonus points hit.  When your bonus hits, you can back off on spending, of course, but continuing to put little on the cards will increase your chances of a retention bonus later.  Most cards will either let you see when your bonus online immediately or it will be on the statement following meeting the spend requirement.  AMEX Membership points card often are delayed a month just like Best Buy except Best Buy will say "pending".  

9.  Leave some room for occasional good deals on sign up bonuses. Yes, it is good to stay with your plan, even if it's every 4-6 months.  If you are married, space out your spouses applications from your own, always taking stock in your minimum spending requirements.  This year there was a few surprises like Chase Ink cards offering 60,000 bonus points during small business week.  Barclay also launched it's Arrival card around that time, both were nice to pick up at one time, so maxing yourself out can save for times like this.  Make a note: Small Business week is May 12-16, 2014, there is no guarantee any bank will do anything special.  I had just obtained their INK card 3 weeks earlier, I emailed and asked if they would honor the 60k bonus instead of 50K and they agreed.  That email was worth $125 in travel or $100 cash to me, total worth it.

10. Always call RECONSIDERATION lines if you are denied for credit at first.  My mother, wife, and friends have all obtained great cards, points/miles worth $500 plus by simply making that phone call.  Especially if you apply for 2 cards from one bank on the same day.  For instance, if you want the Chase Business Ink card and a personal Chase Sapphire Preferred card then you're almost always have to call in for the second card will be put into "pending" status.  Note: Applying to 2 Southwest 50k bonus points cards is usually necessary in order to get their companion pass.  In addition, when you apply for 2 credit cards on one day from the same bank, sometimes the "inquiries" are combined and only show up on your report at 1 hard inquiry. 

11.  Do what you are comfortable with, but do something.  Even if you only focus on one small vacation a year within driving distance, get a good percentage back on a good credit card for gas stations.  Too many people are scared of credit and rightly so, however, knowledge of it can lessen these fears.  If you are not disciplined to pay your bills on credit cards, only obtain 2 with $0 annual fees and put them in a metal can filled with water so you can't thaw them out in the microwave.  Your credit report needs history and diversification.  If you have no credit and will never need credit for anything, you're the lucky one so just stay the way you are and pay cash for everything, just use a debt card for hold car rentals and hotel rooms.  There are still a few ways to make points through checking accounts/debt cards and through investment accounts.