The Best Starter Credit Card

This post is for those of you who probably don't deal with bills, those of you whose most reoccurring payments are late night Pizza Hut and McDonald runs, and for those of you who don't have much money to work with. Yes, I'm talking to my 21 year old self and all of you current college students getting by on ramen noodles and cereal. 
 
Maybe you aren't like me and credit cards are just another step into your rightful place as an adult. But for many, the first go-around with the credit card world can be a bit daunting and heavily one-sided. In the same way we're happy simply being able to go to prom, we're eager to apply for whatever card that'll trust us with their wallets. And it's true. We don't have much to say in our defense since there's no credit history to attest to the wise and mature decisions us responsible citizens have made all our lives. 
 
Naturally, we can't expect to get approved for the more lucrative, costly, and lets not forget, metal, cards that your older brothers and sisters flaunt. But that doesn't mean you have to miss out. It just means you have to start prepping now and being a little patient. Think of it as a savings account that needs to be left alone so that is has the chance to grow. Well savings, except the goal is to use it for travel. 
 
So what card is it? Well it's actually two cards, both of which, are part of my Trifecta strategy (A later post on this). 

The Chase Freedom

 
Chase Freedom This is a no frills, no annual fee   beginners card that most of you should have no problem being approved for. There's nothing to decipher and it's very straightforward. You get 1% cash back on all purchases. The highlight of this card however is the rotating quarterly 5% bonus categories. These include gas stations, grocery stores, Walmart, department stores, and my favorite, restaurants. 
 
 I'll give you an example. This past year from July to October it was 5% cash back on restaurants. That meant if I made a $10 purchase from a place categorized as a restaurant, a bakery, a cafe, or a fast-food chain, I got 50 points. During any of the established 3 month periods, you will be rewarded 5% cash back for those category related purchases up to 7,500 points. That's equivalent to $75 instead of the $15 you would normally get. After you hit that threshold, you'll just be earning the normal 1% cash back. 
 
 
Chase Freedom 5% Cash Back

The Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited

 This is even more straight-forward with 1.5% cash back on everything with no limits. This card supplements the Chase Freedom superbly for everything else. 


And don't forget, both of these cards have a sign up bonus of 10,000 points ($100) if you spend $500 within the first three months of opening an account. 
 
Just on these benefits alone, many credit card bloggers and fanatics rank these two cards as their top choices for cash back rewards cards. But for someone like me who devotes all their points to traveling, they have an even greater value.
 
The Strategy
If you're not familiar with the points world, you should know that every dollar you spend equals 1 point. So if I spend $10, then I get 10 points. If it happens to be 3X points then my $10 essentially becomes $30 and I get 30 points. And so when calculating points or cashing out points, we just divide our total points by 10. That's how we value 10,000 points at $100. 
 
But here's the thing, The Chase Sapphire Preferred or my go-to, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, then 1 point isn't just equal to $0.01. Chase has an amazing online portal where you can book flights at a discounted price to Google flights or even find flights that Google doesn't display
 
As a benefit for paying for these two cards, when you redeem 1 point through the portal with the Preferred card, that 1 point is now worth $1.25. That means a flight that would cost $500 (50,000 points) now costs you $400 (40,000 points). In the case of the Sapphire Reserve, 1 point is worth $1.50 which means that same $500 flight would now cost you $333. 
 
I was recently looking to book a flight from NYC to Geneva to Istanbul and this is what I found on Google Flights. 
 
Google flight
 
I searched for the same route on the same days and ended up not only finding a flight for $430 less, I ended up only paying $392.90 or 39,290 points. This is the kind of great steal you can get by utilizing the Chase online portal. 
 
 
It's not likely that a first-time credit card applicant will be able to get these cards but as long as you keep building your credit by using The Freedom and Freedom Unlimited intelligently, you'll be able to get approved for these big-hitters.
 
The Game Changer: Once you're approved for either the Preferred or the Reserve, you can transfer over all the points you've accumulated and multiply their value by 25% to 50% just by having waited.
 
So instead of redeeming your points as cash-back, give it a little time and use those points to invest in an amazing trip. Go and apply for those cards, start building your credit, and start planning your ultimate vacation.
 
And remember, if you apply at ThePointsMarket.com, you'll get an additional cash bonus from us!
 
Transforming travel from a possibility to a reality.