Can your first credit card be a travel card?

MMaybe you love to travel and the idea of ​​a shiny metallic card that gives you free flights is dazzling. Maybe you are a no-nonsense student planning to study abroad and have been looking for the “best travel credit card”. Or maybe you’re new to the US and have no credit history, but want to book international flights to visit family and old friends regularly without breaking the bank.

There is only one problem. You are a bit inexperienced. You’ve never had a credit card before.

The good news is that it’s never too early to get into the travel rewards game. The bad news is that a travel credit card might not be a smart move if you’ve never had a credit card before.

Either way, there are other steps you can take to start building up your credit and cache of points for nearly free flights and hotel stays. Here’s why your first credit card probably won’t be a travel credit card.

You’ve never had a credit card before. Can you get a travel credit card?

The short answer is probably no. Most travel credit cards require applicants to have a good to excellent credit score to be approved. Without credit cards or other previous lines of credit, your score probably won’t be high enough to qualify right off the bat.

You might also be too young. According to the Cards Act 2009, card issuers are not legally allowed to open accounts for people under 21 without an adult co-signer, unless the applicant can prove they can repay their debt. (usually a source of income). They want to make sure you’ll be able to repay them for your purchases before they start rewarding you.

But just because you don’t have a credit history doesn’t mean you can’t get a credit card or start earning points and miles for travel.

How to Build Your Credit to Get a Travel Credit Card

Get cash back or a student card

OK, so your first map won’t be the most popular travel map. It’s likely to be a more pragmatic card that can still teach good credit card management habits, not to mention give you some insight into what you want in your next card. After all, you’ll need to make sure you pay your credit card bill on time, every time, and know which categories you spend the most on so you can choose the best travel credit card for yourself down the road.

We’ve compiled a list of the best credit cards for students (including a choice for international students) and for people with No credit.

Pro tip: If you opt for a cashback card, budget for those returns for your travel purchases. It’s basically getting a free flight or accommodation.

No matter what type of credit card you get, you should pay your credit card bills monthly to avoid high interest rates. According to November 2021 data from the Federal Reserve, the average APR on credit card accounts is 14.51%.

Be added as an authorized user to a travel card

Another way to build credit is to get a credit card in your name from your parents or legal guardians. When you are added as an authorized user to their account, it will help you build your credit, but your parents or guardians will ultimately be responsible for the bill.

This method requires a lot of communication to establish informal rules about spending.

  • Make sure the primary cardholder pays their credit card bills on time so you don’t hurt your booming credit score.
  • Tell them how much and when you are allowed to spend on the card. Should it only be used in an emergency? Or are you allowed to put certain expenses, like books and school supplies, on the card?
  • Do you have to pay them back?

Note that any points or miles earned on authorized users’ cards will likely be deposited into the primary cardholder’s account. Would your parents or legal guardians be willing to book flights for you with the points you helped earn?

Pay off your student loans and auto loans on time

If you are already paying any type of loan, you are already building your credit score. Student loans and auto loans are just two types of installment loans and make up about 10% of your credit score. If you pay them on time, it will show that you have a good payment history, which accounts for 35% of your credit score – the biggest chunk.

Finally, the longer you have been paying them, the longer your credit history will be. That’s another 15% of your credit score. The remaining 30% of your credit score is based on your credit usage.

Ways to earn points and miles without a credit card

Until you get your first travel credit card, you can always progress to earn points and miles to redeem for free travel.

Join loyalty programs

Join the loyalty program of the airline or hotel you use (or want to use) the most. These programs are free and there is no age requirement, so some people are even starting to earn miles for flights they take as babies if their parents enroll them.

Since you don’t have a travel credit card, you will accumulate points more slowly. Depending on how often and where you fly, it may take you more than a year to earn enough points for an award flight. But since many points and miles don’t expire quickly, it’s okay to keep them.

Participate in shopping and dining programs

Earning points by traveling or staying in hotels is not the only way to earn points in travel loyalty programs. You can actually earn bonus points by signing up for your airline or hotel’s shopping program, like United MileagePlus Shopping, and buying things online that you would normally buy. Shopping portals partner with retailers you probably already shop at, like Target or Nike.

Pro Tip: Download the Shopping Program Internet browser extension to receive notifications reminding you to activate shopping offers and earn bonus points.

You can do the same with a loyalty program’s dining program. All you have to do is link your starter debit or credit card, and every time you use it to pay at a participating local restaurant, you’ll earn bonus points on your purchase.

Start earning miles with Lyft rides

If you rideshare with Lyft, linking your Lyft account to your Travel Rewards account is a great way to earn more points. Lyft is partnering with Delta and Hilton, so passengers can choose to win either or both.

You can earn 2 Delta SkyMiles per $1 spent on airport rides and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other Lyft rides in the US. With Hilton, you can earn 3 Hilton Honors Points per $1 spent on regular Lyft rides and 2 Hilton Honors Points per $1. spent on Lyft shared rides.

Strategize to get your first travel credit card

You’re unlikely to be approved for a travel credit card if you’ve never had a credit card before, as most require users to have good to excellent credit.

Build your credit first by becoming an authorized user, opening a cashback card, and repaying loans on time. You can potentially offset travel costs by applying cash back on flights or hotels. Plus, there’s no credit requirement to join an airline or hotel loyalty program and start earning points.

Your first credit card will show you the world of spending and earning possibilities, but you’ll need to know more about yourself – and your spending habits – before embarking on a long-term relationship with a credit card. of travel.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Kayleen C. Rice