Does Travel Hacking Ruin Your Credit?
Spoiler Alert: No it Doesn’t!
This is usually the very first question asked about travel hacking. It’s a very legitimate concern. Doesn’t opening credit cards ruin your credit? I have answered this question 100 times in 100 different ways.
The short answer is no travel hacking does not ruin your credit. If done correctly travel hacking / opening new credit cards can actually increase your credit score. I know personally, my credit score has risen over 70 points since I started this hobby.
That being said, I am not a credit expert and you should do your own research. I have spent dozens of hours researching this topic and can only speak from my research of other travel hackers and my own personal experience.
Lies all Lies
In my opinion, everything you think you know about credit cards is probably wrong. Credit cards are generally viewed negatively as they can cause massive problems if you spend money that you don’t have and are not able to pay it back.
Racking up debt and paying interest is totally stupid and not what travel hacking is about at all. If you play the travel hacking game successfully and responsibility the rewards are endless and believe it or not, you can actually strengthen your credit history & score while doing so. Banks love to see that you can responsibly handle multiple lines of credit over a length of time. The longer the better! This can be beneficial in many things in life well beyond free travel.
My Travel Hacking Experience
I have opened more than 10 credit cards within a 6-month period and still currently maintain a credit score over 800. During this same period, I was even approved for a mortgage, so there is some social proof for ya.
My credit is now damn near perfect (for someone in their 30’s) and big part of it was because of travel rewards cards. I treat my credit responsibly, always pay my bill on time and never let anything negative get to my credit report. I watch my credit report like a hawk.
Rule 1: Never Carry a Balance
In order to keep my credit score high, I never carry a balance & never pay any interest. I always pay off 100% of my balance every month and have never missed a payment. Carrying a balance & paying interest offsets the benefits of the travel rewards. Rule #1 of travel hacking: never carry a balance!
Most credit card online systems have an option to automatically pay off your balance the last day before your statement ends. It’s a great feature and very helpful once you start using multiple cards each month, so you don’t lose track and accidentally miss a payment. You can also make sporadic small payments throughout the month so it’s not such a big hit at the end of your credit card statement.
What About My Credit?
I would not be here today if opening (many) credit cards really ruined your credit. I take my finances very seriously and even through traveling for free is totally amazing, it is not more important to me than my personal finances. Think about it, travel hacking would not be growing in popularity if it was ruining everyone’s credit.
Another point that I like to bring up is to think about the banks, if your credit is being ruined by travel reward credit cards then how would you be approved for the cards by the banks…?
Ruining my credit was biggest concern before I started this hobby and the reason I did not start sooner. I did massive amounts of research on this topic before I dipped my toes in the water of the travel rewards credit card game and now I am totally bout that life.
How it Works
When applying for a new credit card, the bank does a credit inquiry which does drop your credit score about 3-10 points for 3 months. Then this inquiry drops off as if it was never there. Sure, nobody wants a credit ding but once you build a strong credit history it’s really a minor inconvenience and really has practically no effect on your credit score long term.
If you are constantly credit card churning (frequently opening and closing credit card accounts) and do not have a long credit history then yes, your credit score could be lowered for a period of time. This is not what travel hacking is all about and I do not recommend what is known as credit card churning unless you are an expert with a very strong credit history.
If you are a beginner, I suggest starting off slow with 1 card that you plan to keep open forever. I have several cards that have been open more than 5 years that I will never close because they strengthen and lengthen my account history, an important part of your credit score.
Credit Scores & Such
My credit history is now so strong it really doesn’t affect me at all. When your credit score is over 750 you can already apply to pretty much any card imaginable. Anything over 750 is considered top tier credit and you will not see much different in interest rates for loans or new card approvals. Of course, we all want to keep our credit score as high as possible but its notable that the benefits from a 780 credit score to an 850 are minimal if any.
If continue to pay off your card in full each month and never miss a payment (or have any other issues outside of the credit cards) then your credit history will improve and your credit score will increase, possibly a lot. It’s quite incredible really. Most people are shocked when I tell them this or they just flat out don’t believe me.
I often log into my credit karma account to show them my credit history. It’s a truly free service, I recommend you sign up for an account and watch your credit score closely, always.
More to Come
I will be writing considerably more on this complicated topic of interest. I just wanted to try to quickly ease the worry of… if credit card travel hacking ruin your credit. I hope I helped erase your major concern of ruining your credit and showed some social proof that even aggressive travel hacking will not ruin your credit if done properly.
Stay tuned for lots more of this topic. If you are looking for a great card for beginners or even more advanced travel hackers, check out the Chase Sapphire Preserve.
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