New to the Miles and Points Game? Anyone Can Score Big Using This Easy-to-Understand First Step

Start with these two credit cards right now.

As a miles and points blogger and expert, I can craft a custom miles and points strategy for anybody as long as I know things like show much you spend, your travel habits, and your travel goals. But the single most common question I get asked by miles newbies is this: What credit cards should I get first?

So I’m going to keep this post simple and easy to understand — and easy to take action on. Taking into account the most current offers, I recommend the attack plan of just these two credit cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom Unlimited. 

Now, this may not be the best plan for everyone in every situation, but it is a very sound first go of it for three reasons.

First, you will start off with 65,000 Ultimate Rewards points just from the signup bonuses based on today’s signup bonuses of 50,000 for the Reserve and 15,000 for the Unlimited. All points can be combined into the Reserve account where you can redeem on anything travel.

Because of Chase's so-called "5/24 rule," which says that you won’t be approved for a new Chase card (with some exceptions) if you have opened five new credit cards with any bank in the last 24 months, a newbie should acquire the prime Chase products before any other bank issuer. 

Now, just a bit about how these Chase points work: Chase allows you to combine points from any Chase card to any other Chase card. You will always want to transfer to and spend from the Sapphire Reserve card because only that one gets 1.5 cents per point on redemption.

You will want to use your Reserve card for all of your travel and dining purchases as these earn three times on the Reserve. That means at 1.5 times redemption, you are earning a net effective 4.5 percent cash back on these points. You will then use your Freedom Unlimited card for all other non-travel and non-dining purchases to earn 1.5 points per dollar. Once you transfer to the Reserve, you are earning a net effective 2.25 percent cash back on these points.

If you also have the Chase Business Preferred card, you can use that for three times points on travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets, taxis, and more.

Based on your spend habits, you will likely have a total cash back north of three percent. Score!

I’m also just using redemption for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal as the “base case” as you should never do worse than that redemption value. If you learn how to transfer to airline and hotel partners, your yield just goes up from there.

Congratulations: You’ve just graduated from miles and points novice to insider!

Dave Grossman has collected millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. He’s flown some of the most epic first-class seats and stayed in the world’s finest hotels for miles and just a few dollars. He shares his tips for how you can do it too on his blog MilesTalk.com, where a version of this post originally appeared.

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