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Basic Credit Card Points and Miles Strategy

Updated 4/26/18...

If you decide to sign up for any of the credit cards listed here, please show some love and use my referral links!
Chase Sapphire Preferred - Earn 50,000 bonus points with Chase Sapphire Preferred. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.
 Chase Freedom Unlimited - Earn a $150 bonus with Chase Freedom Unlimited. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.
  Chase Freedom - Earn a $150 bonus with Chase Freedom. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn more.


If you're not completely nerding out on the points and miles game, then this one is for you. If you are, then this one is for your friends, wives and/or girlfriends...because you want those referral bonuses!

This is for people who do a fair amount of eating out and fly less than 4 times per year. This is the most basic strategy I recommend. You can modify this with anything from the Credit Card and Points Strategy Modifier post if you want more. Just watch out for the 5/24 rule. With any credit card strategy, the first card you use is always the one you are trying to earn the sign-up bonus on. After you have hit the spending requirement for a newly opened card, simply revert back to your strategy.

Keep reading below for tips, strategy thoughts, etc. Sign up for them in this order:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred - 50,000 bonus points after $4,000 spent in first 3 months
  2. Chase Freedom Unlimited - 15,000 bonus points after $500 spent in first 3 months
  3. Chase Freedom - 15,000 bonus points after $500 spent in first 3 months

I recommend signing up for the Preferred first since it's an "Ultimate Rewards" earning card rather than a "Cash Back" card. Then, when you get the bonuses on your Freedom cards, they'll automatically be Ultimate Reward points that you can transfer to the Preferred card. Points are worth more than simply cashing out. That's what this whole thing is about after all.  

Use them in this order:

  1. Chase Freedom - 5x on Quarterly Categories. Use for category until $1,500 max, then:
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred - 2x Restaurants, Dining, Bars, Flights, Hotels, Buses, Uber, etc
  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited - 1.5x on every purchase, every day. Use for everything NOT included above.

That's it! Three cards. If you JUST CAN'T do three cards, then do without the basic Freedom. I get it. It requires you to check and see what the category is each quarter. Then you have ONE CLICK to activate it. I'm sure that sounds terribly difficult, but is it? It's worth FIVE POINTS PER DOLLAR (up to 7,500 points per quarter)!! 

If you choose to stick around, here's a little more detail for you!

There are so many people that have the Chase Freedom card and don't even know what it can do for them. You may already have this card and not know. That's ok. That's why you're here. The Freedom gives you 5x points per dollar spent on a quarterly bonus category. At the time of this writing, the category bonus is Restaurants and Dining. All you'd have to do is activate the bonus for the quarter by logging into your chase account. EVERYONE eats out. Just like that you'd be earning more dining bonus points per dollar than ANY other credit card available. The small print is that you max out each quarter at 7,500 points or $1,500. Once you max it out, immediately switch to your Sapphire Preferred for Restaurants and Dining.

The Sapphire Preferred, or CSP in points terminology, is probably the single most recommended card out there. It's got a host of great benefits, but the main points I'll provide is that it earns you 2pts per dollar on any dining and travel. The nice thing about these Chase cards is how broad they define the terms dining and travel. Here are some of the places you'll earn the 2x multiplier! 

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Hotels
  • Flights (booked directly with an airline or through a booking agency like Expedia, etc) 
  • Rental Cars
  • Taxis, Uber, Lyft
  • Parking Charges

That's a huge deal since you are already spending in these areas. Use this card for any of those purchases. I've already linked you to all the other great reasons this card is a must-have so I'll move on.

Finally, we come to the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This is the final card in the basic lineup and it's a card that you'll see in every strategy I'd ever recommend. There is zero excuse for not having this card. If I were a basic credit card user this would be the card that I carried. It automatically gives you 1.5pts per dollar spent on anything, anytime. That's huge. To put that in perspective, before I knew anything about this "points and miles hobby", I was earning 80-100k points on a basic Sapphire card. I won't even mention that I was actually exchanging those points for cash every year... If I had been using the unlimited, I'd have been earning 120k-150k points all those years. That's huge by itself, but then imagine the difference in value if I had been using those points for travel instead of cash. My MINIMUM travel redemption is 1.5 cents per point. So I'd have been getting 3% return on my credit card spending instead of 1%. That hurts. That's why I'm so adamant in sharing this info with you!


That sums it up! There you have my basic credit card strategy to get started. There is an enormous amount of information out there about dialing in your game for maximum points, and it took me days and days to even get to the point I'm at now. If I can answer any questions and save you some time, feel free to ask! 



HOU to EWR on Southwest for 4,500pts one way! BONUS: 2 FREE nights at the Park Hyatt