Do you live in US or planning to move in near future? You can make free money by learning how to manage credit cards. Your next Hawaii trip can be free if you live in USA, have a regular source of income and good credit history.

I landed up in united states in 2011, having no knowledge about credit cards or credit history. But I love reading finance and how to make free money.

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I learnt how to build credit history

Since I was alien for US banks, I had to build their trust in my financial repay capacity, known as ‘credit history’. Banks collect credit report from three companies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These credit bureau companies keep an eye on all your credit cards and loans.

The first step for building credit history was to get a loan from the bank. But I knew that banks are not going to approve me any loan until I had credit history.

To break this paradox, easiest way was to get a secure credit card that work like pre-paid card but banks report it as credit card. Let’s say if I pay $500 (as deposit) for getting card then bank will grant me credit limit for shopping upto $500. I have to pay monthly bills of the card to maintain good health of my credit history.

I realized credit card companies offer sign up bonus

Banks in US are very generous. They offer a good amount of money on card approval in the form of cash back, reward points or miles. Cash back can be used to repay credit card bills which is equivalent to cash. Reward points and miles can be used for shopping vouchers, travel tickets, and hotel bookings.

I could have got a bonus from $100 to $500 depending upon my credit score and length of credit history. But it was too early to apply for such credit cards.

Each credit card request put a dent in credit history. I holded up my craving for cards until I had excellent credit score.

Improving Credit Score

Credit history starts with first card approval, and credit score is a number between 500-800 which depends on how responsibly we use credit cards.

Credit history management is a new concept in India, but now every bank verify credit report before taking a decision on the loan application. I landed up in a situation where my credit history got messed up by CIBIL authorities in India. You better be careful.

We should never miss a payment, always pay the minimum due amount before due date. Bank will charge interest on carryover balance, pay the full amount to avoid interest charges.

Never over utilize credit card limit. Maintain credit balance in a range of 10-20% of overall limits. If we have two cards with limits of $500 and $1000, then our total limit is $1500. For best credit score, we should maintain utilization in between $150 to $300.

Use a credit card so that due payments reflect on credit history. If we are not using cards, then banks will think we no longer need credit. Banks report due payment and previous month payment status to Credit bureau companies. It’s good sign if we are owed money last month and paid in full this month.

This way I managed to improve my credit score to 700+ which is considered very good.

I prepared one year plan of my expected expenses.

The credit card bonus can only be credited in account if we meet certain conditions. Most of the times banks give 90 days to spend $500 to get $100 as a bonus.

My plan was to align my credit card approval with my future expenses

Monthly Expense (Grocery, Dine, Online Shopping, Gas, Utility Bills) Additional Expense (One time)
$400 – $600
$400 – $600
$400 – $600 $1000 (Household Shopping)
$400 – $600
$400 – $600 $1500 (Trip to SFO)
$400 – $600
$400 – $600 $3000 (Hotel Booking for friend)
$400 – $600
$400 – $600 $1000 (Shopping)
$400 – $600
$400 – $600 $2500 (Trip to Hawaii)
$400 – $600

I observed that every alternate month I am going to have some big expense. We were planning to buy LCD, X-box and some furniture that I postponed till approval of my credit cards.

Our holiday was planned to San Francisco in few months. One of our friends was moving to US in next six months. He asked me if I can book a hotel for him which he will pay me in cash. It was an opportunity for me to apply for credit card with hotel benefits.

Finally our dream holiday to Hawaii, which going to cost us at least $2500. We needed credit cards with travel & shopping benefits.

Execution Quarter by Quarter

Execution of plan starts when I first applied for JC-Penny store credit card that was offering $50 and 15% cash back on the bill. I did shopping of $200 and got $30+$50 = $80 as cash back.

It was time to apply for another store card and wait till 2-3 statements to appear in credit history. I applied for 3-4 cards at once and waited for at least three months for my next hit. This improves chances of credit card approval.

Quarter #1

  • JC-Penny – $50 + $30
  • Walmart   – $25 + $25
  • Capital One – $100

Quarter #2

  • Chase Freedom – $100
  • Discover – $100
  • Bank of America – $100
  • Chase Amazon – $100

Quarter #3

  • Chase Marriott – $500
  • Bank of America Travel – $100
  • Chase Amazon – $100
  • Citibank Thankyou Card – $200

Quarter #4

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – $500
  • American Express Blue Cash – $150
  • American Express Hilton HHonors- $100

My Wallet with free money

  • Total direct bonus = $2200
  • 1% cash back on total expenses = $120
  • 5% on various categories = $100
  • 10% on shopping = $200
  • + Bonus nights at Marriott Hotels
I have got all above cards approved, but the list is not necessarily in the order of approval. Additional cash back is estimated amount]

Bonus Tips

  • Credit card limit enhancement increases chance of approval of premium cards
  • Get free credit card reports at and
  • Free credit score with Walmart card
  • You can call credit card company for expedited courier delivery just after credit card approval
  • Join account holder on credit card will inherit credit history (good and bad)

Do let me know if you are using Credit card bonus like this or in any other way? Share your tips in the comment section.

This is a guest post by Pardeep Goyal from CashOverflow. If you would like to guest post at ShoutMeLoud, check our submission guidelines.

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