“Let’s talk about the credit cards you’re going to get.”
That was one of the best things my father ever said to me. I was 21, fresh out of college, and about to start my first job as a teacher. He helped me with all the important things: buying used furniture, hanging things on the walls and apparently thinking about credit cards.
Almost a decade later, I celebrated my 30th birthday last year by going to Hawaii with my best friend. It was a trip none of us could have paid for, but we were able to go because I booked it with points and miles. Sitting on that beach, I realized that the conversation my dad started all those years ago about credit cards was probably one of the best gifts he could have given me.
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My father’s points and miles hobby
Growing up, my family always had a fun trip on the calendar. It was rarely anything big: mostly trips to cities like Chicago or to theme parks. Like most kids, I thought what we were doing was normal. Little did I know that credit cards made these trips possible.
I later learned that my father got his points and miles hobby started in 1990 when he got his first rewards credit card, a Citi AAdvantage card. He describes the process as painfully slow in the early 90’s as he encountered many places that didn’t accept credit cards. But over time, more rewards credit cards became available — and we started using points and miles for family outings.
When I went to college, my parents upped their points and miles game to travel beyond empty nests. My dad turned to resources like TPG and learned more strategies for maximizing his credit card rewards. He and my mom started jetting frequently to places like New York City and San Diego, and they always made me jealous when they sent photos of their latest glamorous hotel or adventure.
How my father taught me points, miles and cards
Even after seeing my parents’ travels, I wasn’t immediately excited about the concept of credit card rewards when my dad introduced it to me on the first day after graduation. As we talked, I was overwhelmed by terms and concepts I was unfamiliar with. I had no idea what an annual fee was or why it was important, and I certainly didn’t understand why I would want multiple cards. I hadn’t tried traveling alone either, so I didn’t see the real value in the rewards he was discussing.
A few months later, I finally began to envision how I could travel using credit card rewards. My father took our family on a trip to London and Paris and he paid for the entire trip with points and miles. While we were there he explained to me the various cards and strategies he had used to get our flights, hotels and even train tickets with only credit card rewards.
I was hooked.
With a clear idea of what points and miles could bring me, I started paying attention to my dad when he talked about credit cards. He directed me to resources like TPG and suggested some good beginner maps. He taught me how to spot a good redemption, how to renew my points and miles, and how to determine if a card’s annual fee is worth it.
My own points and miles journey
Armed with these strategies and a few trips I wanted to take, I started my own hobby with a Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and a cash back card. I gradually added various hotel and flight cards, and finally learned to maximize transferable points when I got my lover Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.
For example, my IHG Select card bonus (no longer available to new applicants) covered the hotel for a beach trip with my friends. I was able to use my Southwest card points to fly to California and take a road trip with a friend along the Pacific Coast Highway. And I used the bonus from my own AAdvantage card to tick the bucket list of seeing Machu Picchu in my 20s. Using credit cards was more than fun for me; It was the only way I could afford to do these things with my limited teaching budget.
Now my credit card conversations with my dad are a little different. He’s working on travel planning for my parents’ retirement and I’m considering how best to use my points and miles towards a trip to Australia next year.
Going forward, I’ll use all the knowledge I have at TPG to build on the travel rewards foundation my father gave me. Now that I’m planning to do more international travel, I think maybe it’s finally time to get a card like The American Express Platinum Card® this gives me access to the airport lounge. But regardless of what comes next, I know I wouldn’t be doing any of it if he hadn’t shown me the ropes.
Whether you’re a points and miles expert or just starting to think about your first credit card, this hobby is even more fun when you share it with someone you love. It’s a bit cheesy, but I’m living proof that sharing the points and miles hobby is a gift that keeps on giving.
My father’s hobby was good not only for him, but for both of us. Points and miles might seem like an odd family pastime to some, but I will always be grateful that my dad embarked on it all those years ago.
If you don’t know where to start, or someone you want to teach, visit TPG’s Beginner’s Guide.