Free flights, easy-breezy first-class upgrades, no-fee checked baggage...that's the lure many travel credit card companies use to convince people to sign-up for more debt. And bloggers and writers who are affiliated with the banks are rewarded with up to $100 or more for each debtor they convince to sign-up for more financial obligations.
But here's the thing....If you really want to travel and experience true freedom, you can't be in debt, and spend money you don't have. That's not freedom.
Debt is a system of control
As long as you owe money to any corporation or bank, it's impossible to live completely on your own terms. And isn't that what this travel lifestyle is about? Isn't freedom the goal?
Don't get yourself deep in debt chasing a free upgrade.
Credit card companies make money because most people spend money they don't have, carry a balance, and pay huge interest fees. Don't be that person. These credit card companies have enough money already, you don't need to hand over any more of yours. Save that money for yourself and for travel.
Many of us want to break away from the typical corporate 9-5 because it's too limiting. We feel bound to our job and burdened by our bosses and responsibilities. And the last thing we need to do is trade one obligation for another.
But wait, don't some people really travel for free using on miles?
Yes. But those people are rare. Here's the thing...to get all of those free flights and miles, you have to spend a lot of money.
After the initial offer where you might get 20-50k miles for a thousand or more in purchases, each mile you earn is connected to the dollars you're spending. Meaning, you're going to need to spend thousands of dollars on your credit card before you're able to get a flight worth only a few hundred bucks. So instead of spending thousands to save a few hundred, what about figuring out how to save those thousands???
So, forget all these alluring credit cards deals. Focus on paying off the ones you already have, not getting new ones. Aim for freedom, as allusive as it may seem. If you have 4, 5 or 6+ credit cards, consider canceling some, or at least get those balances to zero. The first to target should be ones with annual fees. Any credit card with an annual fee is automatically putting you in debt. Meaning even if you don't buy anything, you'll owe that bank money. Now that's crazy! Even a no fee credit card with a high interest rate is better than a low interest rate credit card with no fee assuming you're able to pay off your balance every month.
Canceling a credit card could cause your credit score to take a dip, so please be aware of that if your short-term credit score is a concern.
But let's get practical, you may need to use a credit card from time to time. There are times when travelers need to book things online, and a person might not want to use a debit card for security reasons. So sure, you will likely need to use a credit card. There's really no escaping that. But use caution with credit cards and see them for what they are. Credit cards can be an excellent tool for making purchases and then paying them off every month, but that's not generally how they're used.
As for me, I'm still working towards financial independence and do still have some debts that I'm working on paying off. I have 2 travel credit cards that I applied for before I really understood the implications of having so much debt. But I intend to cancel one later this year, leaving only 1 credit card, with no annual fee, that I pay off every month and therefore carry no regular balance.
So remember, the best travel credit card, is one that's not putting you into debt. Forget all these shiny offers of free travel, and focus on effectively managing the money you have to get and keep yourself out of debt.