Money Hack – Paper or Plastic?


You can benefit GREATLY, as I have, doing as little as you want. I am happy to help!

Look over to the right side of this page at “Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offer$” for up-to-date deals, terms, and conditions on cards that give airline miles, cash back, travel, hotel points and more.  Email me if you have any questions about which card might be right for your situation.

Getting started
First of all, you do not need to pay an annual fee for a credit card.  There are plenty of No Annual Fee cards that give you cash back, airline miles or rewards of some kind.

What I suggest for EVERYONE
For emergencies, I think every adult should get an airline branded credit card.  When I got the call that my dad was dying, I used the 25,000 frequent flyer miles sign-up bonus for a ticket that otherwise would have cost me almost $1,000 on the exact same flight.

Right now, the Big Three U.S. carriers (Delta, American, and United) have frequent flyer mile sign-up bonuses that will give you enough for a free flight.  Apply for their card, meet their spending requirement, and the miles are yours – even if you end up canceling the card.

All three waive their $95 annual fee the first year.  With their credit cards, they all allow you check a bag for free.  In fact, you can get a free checked bag for those on your reservation as well.  United will give you and your companion a free checked bag.  American will cover you +4, and Delta will cover you +8 in your reservation.

Without the card, all would charge you $50 round trip to check a bag.  You can see how the card’s annual fee can actually pay for itself, or save you money.

Southwest will give you enough bonus miles for a free flight, but does not waive their $69 annual fee.  They allow up to two free checked bags for any passenger.

Starwood’s Starpoints can convert to frequent flyer miles on 30 different airlines, as well as hotels.  They waive their $65 annual fee the first year.

Do not worry about miles expiring
Some people will get an airline card, collect the sign-up bonus miles, and get at least a mile for every dollar spent on the card.  Twelve months later, they will cancel the card instead of paying the annual fee.  The miles are still yours, even if you cancel the card.  Delta miles never expire, but the others do every 12-24 months.  Fear not, there are easy ways that you can extend the expiration date even if you cancel a card.

Cash back
These days I mostly use No Annual Fee cash back cards to charge everything.  I get 5% cash back when I use Chase Freedom Visa, Citi Dividend Platinum Visa, and Discover it for purchases that fall under their 5% cash back categories which change quarterly.  Otherwise, I use my Fidelity Visa which gives me 2% cash back.  You need to open a free Fidelity Brokerage account to get the cash back.

The easiest solution: Get the with Chase Freedom Visa and get 1% cash back on everything, as well as 5% cash back sometimes.  It adds up!

A very profitable hobby
In 2011, I made $3,844 tax free (equivalent to making $5,125 at a real job after paying 25% in taxes) and received 238,000 frequent flyer miles (worth more than 11 round trip tickets) without leaving the ground.  All thanks to cash back and airline credit cards.

Golden Rule
When you have a credit card, I strongly suggest that you pay off your balance in full every month.  If you cannot afford something, don’t buy it.  Period.

Thank you for clicking on my links under Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offer$” for up-to-date deals, terms, and conditions on these cards and more.  I appreciate it!  Not only will that ensure you get the correct offer, but we may get a referral credit from approvals. That support helps keep the 1s and 0s spinning around cyberspace bringing great Chip’s Money Tips to you!!  Many graciases.  Email me if you have any questions about which card might be right for your situation.

Video Transcript:
Hi Everybody. Welcome to ChipsMoneyTips. I’m Chip Chinery with a Money Hack, if you will. I will, I did. I do.

In 2011, I made $3,844 tax free doing this. That’s the equivalent of earning $5,125 at a real job, after paying 25% in taxes. I also collected 238,000 airline frequent flyer miles without leaving terra firma.
How? One word… Plastic. I did this by using cash back credit cards and taking advantage of sweet airline credit card promotional bonus offers. It’s completely legal and my FICO score stayed at 797.

Frankly, besides the cash back and miles, I throw down plastic because I don’t like to handle dollars and coins that have been fondled by junkies, hobos, and booger-eating morons. I like that a credit card puts a firewall between my money and a merchant – something neither cash nor a debit card does.

Now, this is very important, you have to know yourself. For example, I can’t keep Oreos in the house. If I buy a box, they will be gone in 24 hours. So if a credit card is your Oreos – don’t do this.

Otherwise, you can benefit greatly, just by having one card. Last year, when I got the call that my dad was dying, I used 25,000 frequent flyer mile signup bonus for a ticket that otherwise would have cost me almost $1,000 on the exact same flight! As the saying goes, “A thousand saved is a thousand earned.”

Go to, if this intrigues you, and you want to learn more about this Money Hack.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.


  1. Excellent tips and congratulations on winning video entry at GRS.I read your tips just in time as I will be doing a international travel back home end of this year. I have been looking at the flight tickets past few days but did not book a flight yet (thankfully). I am glad that I stumbled upon your tips as I can make a great use of this opportunity to use these cards with miles on them. I will be taking AA to fly so I will go with Citi Advantage card for me and my wife.

    My understanding is that I will apply for a card while I book my ticket and get 30,000 free miles and then book a ticket for my wife on the same flight using those $30,000 miles earned from the credit card. That will qualify me for those miles as I already would have spent $1000 towards by ticket. Would that be a way to go? Please advice.

    Thanks, again!

  2. Thanks GoSolar! Good news is that you may still have time to use miles to fly. Unfortunately, the miles will not show up in your account instantly.

    Here’s how it usually goes with these signup bonuses: Apply for the card. Get the card. Meet the spending requirement for the bonus miles. In the Citi American Airlines AAdvantage case that is $1,000. The bonus miles usually show up after the statement in which you met your spending requirement is released (or “drops” as the kids say”).

    Then you will have the 30,000 miles plus 1,000 miles for having spent $1,000. If your wife is flying with you, both of you can sign up for your own cards and each have 30,000 miles!

    As you and I have talked about in this post about Paying Your Rent with Plastic, you can send up to $1,000 per month on a credit card and incur no fees using AmazonPayments.


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