Like many people, I had issues with credit card debt when times got hard. I didn't really understand credit back then so I stopped using credit cards altogether. Then, as I started doing more travel again, I couldn't use cash or my debit card to rent a car. I had to research which credit card(s) to get and which had the best benefits for me!
As a Realtor, I travel many times a year to go to the National Association of Realtor's conferences, Certified Residential Specialist's meetings / classes, National Association of Home Builders Shows, and to teach real estate classes. I suggest going out of town for these events so you can legally write off your travel to vacation destinations!
Consider your most frequent airlines and get a branded credit card for that airline. For me it was Delta. "Customers selected Delta as the Best Airline in North America for 2021 as part of the Skytrax World Airline Awards." (from Delta's website).
I started with their American Express Gold Card. It is free for the first year and then $99 a year after that. Assume you only fly Delta once a year and go to a real estate conference or vacation and you travel with one other person. Each of you would get your first checked bag for free a savings of $120 a year round trip. You can use the free first bag benefit for up to nine people flying on your itinerary ($30 x 2 for round trip = $60 x 9 people = $540 per trip potential savings)!
They also have special promotions. For example, this year, I could save $10 a month for using that card at a restaurant spending $15 or more. I take my clients out for lunch/dinner a lot, so I got that benefit every month saving me another $120 a year. If you spend $10k a year on it, you get a $100 statement credit too. Just paying your Realtor dues, MLS fees, cell phone bill, and gasoline, etc. would probably earn you that bonus.
Then, I decided to upgrade to a Delta American Express Platinum card and use the Gold Card for personal expenses and the Platinum Card for Business. That card has even more benefits to justify the higher fee for the card.
You have most of the benefits noted above, plus you get a free companion pass when you renew the card. Invite a friend on a nice trip and pay for it on your card and you fly for FREE (except for government taxes and fees). I received $15 a month credit for restaurant purchases in 2021 saving me $180. I will receive $100 toward getting my Global Entry (or $85 for Pre-Check). I might use their included Cell Phone that is included as I just cracked my screen on mine. Their Rental Car insurance (instead of buying additional coverage) came in handy when my rental car had an unfortunate run in with a Coyote last month.
Another great benefit is that if you spend $25,000 a calendar year on the card, you earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) in their SkyMiles program. That also waives the requirement of having to spend a certain amount of money on Delta directly to level up to their various Medallion Award program. I am currently a Gold Medallion Elite through 2022. That gets me 2-3 free checked bags per trip, priority boarding, my luggage gets tagged special so it is on the luggage carousel quicker to pick up, and I have a much better chance of getting a free upgrade to Comfort + or First Class. I have personally received 3 FREE first class upgrades in 2021 and four upgrades to Comfort +. Even if I don't get a free upgrade, I get to choose premium seating in Economy like the exit row window seat with no seat ahead of me (on available planes) with no additional fees. You can also utilize the Delta Sky Lounge for $39 a person where you can enjoy free food, well drinks, coffees and snacks and much more comfortable seating with better free WIFI too. Compare that to the price of a burger and a beer at the airport. You can go to the airport early to make sure you have plenty of time to get through ticketing and security or make a long lay over not as obnoxious.
Of course if you are not able to pay your card off in full every month, I do not recommend using my strategy as the interest expense can quickly overtake the benefits. But if you are used to just using a debit card like I used to, I received no residual benefit at all.
You might wonder what impact this will have on your credit. Typically, it builds GREAT CREDIT after the first few payment cycles. As you can see from my score, I just got yet a different card for their sign on bonus and haven't made a single payment on it yet. My score dropped 13 points to 834. My credit scores this year have ranged from 820 - 850 depending on if I set up a new card, spent a lot one month, etc. However, it always bounces back to 850 again since I have six cards reporting "paid in full" every month and nearly $100,000 unused available credit.
One of my clients sets up a new LLC for each rental property. Then before any major expenses, he refers that LLC to get a new credit card. This is a double win for him, since he gets a referral bonus if someone signs up with his link, plus he gets the activation bonus on the new card, then he gets a third larger bonus when he spends $3k - $5k in the next 90 days on that new card (which is timed right before he buys new appliances, flooring, windows, etc. He uses his points to take his wife and daughter on an all expense cruise (including airfare and lodging) and still earns more points than he spends each year.
I probably have enough points accumulated to get 15-20 free round trip tickets on various airlines. I only use my points for personal travel, since I can write off my business travel.
If you think this idea would benefit you, please click my link below to I can get another 20,000 referral points on my Delta SkyMiles account. I will be putting together classes on how to use these strategies and will cover many different different cards and benefits of each. I currently have airline credit cards for Alaska, Delta, Southwest, United; plus a Costco credit card and a Chase Sapphire Preferred card for all different benefits.