I’d like for you to contrast and compare two things. The first is an excerpt from Freequent Flyer’s review of the Charlotte mile madness festivities:
You are not playing against any other member of the community when you manufacture spend, book tickets, or sign up for credit cards. You are only playing against yourself (and the referees).
When people hear about the levels of manufactured spend being reached by others, their first, natural reaction is envy: why aren’t I earning as much as they are?
And the answer is simple: they have a different credit history, different credit limits, different risk tolerance, different geographical restrictions, different ethical boundaries, and different knowledge.
And that’s totally fine. It would be deeply weird (and not a little suspicious) if we all had exactly the same spend patterns, at the same merchants, all year every year. Instead, we’re all different, and that’s one of the things that makes it hard to pin any one of us down (our relatively small numbers help, too).
Contrast that passage with the headline of a recent post from another blogger:
WOW – Only 24% of readers have an INK card!
“Only”? Left unsaid is what the appropriate percentage of readers with an Ink card should be. I can only wonder what number would be satisfactory for the post’s author–50%? 75%? 100%?
Online Travel Review just posted a nice rant against this sort of thinking:
After reading the 372nd blog post about someone getting points through credit card signups and now they fly business class and if you don’t fly business class you a loser, I was feeling just a bit beaten down. 275 ways to use 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points. If you miss this added bonus you a loser. It’s exhausting.
And I liked this:
You can probably get 8-10 cards per churn. But you are not a loser if you’re only comfortable getting 1 or 2 cards a year. The Internet makes it easy for people who take things to the extreme to make it seem like they are normal and you are a loser for not taking part. Sleeping comfortably and not worrying about credit cards and manufacturing spend makes you sane, not a loser.
Freequent Flyer phrases it well: “You are only playing against yourself”. One thing I liked about this past weekend’s points-n-miles meet-up was the laid-back nature. There was a lot of “here’s how this system works” and “here’s an interesting trick” but nary a soul asked me to sign up for a credit card.
And everybody there was doing different things with their credit cards. Some people were doing hard-core manufactured spending at ridiculous levels. Some people were relatively new and working their way up the learning curve.
You don’t need an Ink card, and you won’t be missing out on a life-changing experience if you don’t get one. My wife and I each have one. We only got them last year because there was a good sign-up bonus (60K, same as now) AND because we saw an opportunity to bring her family here from Central America for a visit, a trip which would otherwise be difficult to afford. So yes, it worked out well for us… but not everybody has large numbers of in-laws in foreign countries.
A question often asked by people who lack knowledge of this stuff is, “What’s the best credit card?” And the answer is always, “It depends.” What are your goals, if any? Most people are best off with something like the Fidelity Amex, a straightforward 2% cashback card. Somebody like me is best off with a whole bunch of different credit cards since I know how to work them and I have a weird obsession with figuring out credit card deals. Somebody like you is best off with your own arrangement.
The nature of that arrangement is up to you, so figure out what you want (it will probably involve some combination of cash, travel, and simplicity / peace of mind) and then figure out how to do it. There are lot of forums for doing this–I like Fatwallet Financial and Flyertalk–and of course there are tons of blogs with helpful bloggers and helpful commenters. Most folks are happy to help you out just so long as you’re civil, appreciative, and you make a sincere effort to learn.
But you’re not missing out if you lack any buzzed-about card. To make you feel better about whatever you’re doing, here are some confessions from me:
- My wife and I both lack a Chase Sapphire Preferred. Good card? Sure, it has a nice sign-up bonus and UR points are awesome. But I never really needed it for anything in particular. Given that we have a bunch of small kids we’re not doing a ton of travel since it’s exhausting just keeping up with them at home, to say nothing of traveling with them. Maybe we’ll get those bonuses someday, or maybe not. I’m not losing sleep over it, though.
- My wife and I both lack a Barclaycard Arrival. Good card? Sure, it has a nice sign-up bonus and 2.2% travel rewards are awesome. But again: we haven’t really needed it. We actually tried to get this for Mrs. PFD in the last app-o-rama as a way to work the Big Win promo, but Barclaycard said no. Big deal–we’ve had plenty of credit card fun to keep us busy anyway.
- The Citi Executive Aadvantage: Nope, not much use for one of those right now, much less two, three, or four.
Whew! Felt good to get that off my chest. Feel free to add your own confessions of points-n-miles inadequacy below.
CHARLOTTE WRAP-UP: I hope you’re not getting sick of hearing about last weekend, but here are a few more bloggers’ summations and pronouncements:
If you wanted to go to this one but missed it, there’s talk of another one. It would make sense to have it on the west coast, and Portland seems to be the early front-runner.