I am frequently asked this question by people who have an interest in the topic, but do not know how to get started. For sure, when you first get started, it will feel like there is a lot of information to sort through. But just like most things in life, you start with one step at a time.
First of all, the first post that I would recommend that you read is our Pointshogger 101. It outlines all the steps to get started. You can read more details about each step in the post, but here is a quick recap of each step.
- Identify Your Spending Habits
- Sign Up on Your Loyalty Programs
- Track Your Loyalty Points
- Know Your Credit Score and Financial Situation
- Find a Credit Card that is Right for You
- Pay Everything with your Credit Card and Shop Online
- Set a Goal
- Cash Out
I strongly recommend that you really follow each step, one at a time. Lots of people skip to step 5 right away, just wanting to know what is the absolute best credit card to get. It’s fine to go this route, but it will not optimize your rewards. The answer is that there is no one best credit card out there. I would love to see a credit card that gives a $500 sign up bonus, no annual fee and 5% cash back on every single purchase. Until we see a credit card like that, there is no one best credit card out there.
So my example might sound very outrageous at first, but if you dig deeper, all of those features are available, but just not all on one credit card. For example, if you find an Aeroplan sign up bonus of 30,000 miles, that is worth about $500 in value. There are definitely credit cards that offer no annual fees. And there are some credit cards that offer the 5% cash, albeit only during a promotional period. The point is, if you have a combination of credit cards in your portfolio, you can take advantage of multiple offers and have the best of all worlds.
The two most important steps really are to set a goal and to cash out. You will want to set a goal so that you can strategically gear your portfolio to be more efficient. Also, you want to redeem your miles (e.g. award booking) and points sooner rather than later, because we all know that devaluations are going to constantly hit.
Understanding Credit Cards
You will notice that the menu bar flows from one step to the next. After familiarizing yourself with the 8 Pointshogger 101 steps, and you are ready for more education, I would definitely try to understand the different types of credit cards:
- Fixed Value Credit Cards
- Transferable Points Credit Cards
- Co-branded Credit Cards
- Pure Cash Back
What is important here is that each type of credit card is available in Canada, and each offer different pros and cons. What I do is that I take the pros of each category and put it to work in my portfolio. Personally, I would never be loyal to any type of loyalty program, credit card company or type of reward. I am loyal only to the best offers.
Top Credit Cards
After you understand the different types of credit cards, it will make it easier to select which credit card works best for your portfolio. We continuously update the top current credit cards for the following categories:
If you ever see anything missing or outdated from the list, feel free to let us know. You will also want to time your application during higher than normal sign up bonuses or first year fee waived promotions. Any bonus offer really helps accelerate your rewards and first year fee waived promotions can really save you a lot of money. It also helps encourage you to apply (to give it a try) for a credit card that you may otherwise not have even bothered to consider.
Personally, I have no problem giving a credit card a try if they are willing to offer a first year fee promotion to give us this opportunity.
The Points Index
The next level of education is to get familiar with the value of each miles and point. You can consult our Points Index to get an idea of what we think the valuation is of a mile and point, with each respective program. As you probably know, the value per mile or point constantly fluctuates and it highly depends on what type of reward that you redeem for. The goal is to get as much value as possible, so this part requires most of the math.
So there you have it. I have given a quick summary of the basic steps to get started in the miles and points world. The next step is to read our posts to get more in-depth analysis on very specific topics. You can browse through our Topics (far left of the Menu bar) to help you find information more quickly. Or you can use the search function at the top right hang corner of this site.
Personally, I am unable to memorize all this information. So part of the reason this blog was founded was so that I can centralize all the information that is relevant to me, so that I can easily find it for myself.