Since starting this blog in May 2011 there are some questions that I get more than others, so here is a listing of some of the most frequently asked questions I have received. As always, feel free to email me at mommypoints at hotmail . com if your question isn’t covered here!
Do you have a subscription service so that I can get your daily posts delivered to your inbox?
I don’t currently have an email subscription service for one very important reason…you. I have found that there is such a great community of readers here that actively participate and exchange information in the comments section of many posts, and I would hate for someone to miss out on that by just reading the blog in their inbox. I may cave one day and start an email service, but I very much am resistant to that idea as I find that the information exchanged in the comments section is extremely helpful and valuable (sometimes more so than the original post!).
How do I go about starting a blog?
There are many paths to go about starting a blog, but I use WordPress. You can learn more or get started with that process here. I will freely admit that I am not an expert on “blogs”. My husband is the IT brains behind the operation, so I was lucky enough to skip the set-up steps involved with blogging. So while I do have some experience being the one writing and managing a blog, I am not a good point person for technical questions related to blogging. Sorry!
Credit Card Questions:
How do I get a business credit card if I don’t have a small business?
I would never tell someone to pretend they had a business they don’t actually have, but I would encourage folks to think in a broad sense about what a small business is. Almost all of my friends are engaged in some sort of small/side business whether they label it that way or not. Heck, this blog started out extremely small, and it still counted as a “small business” for the purposes of a business credit card. Other common small business are Etsy, eBay, small home repair projects for friends and family, etc… You can apply for a business card with your name as the business name and with your SSN. You don’t need an EIN or any other special documents in most cases. You can read this post for details about some questions you will likely be asked about your small business. Having a small business really opens up doors to many more lucrative rewards credit card offers!
How do I choose which credit cards are right for my family?
If you are new to the miles and points game, I would start small with obtaining rewards credit cards. There is little disputing that getting and using rewards credit cards is one of the best ways to rack up tons of miles and points, but don’t jump in head first. I would consider what your travel goals are and then find a card or two that will help you meet those travel goals. For example, if you live convenient to a United hub, but also want to use some points for hotels then I would recommend getting a card that earns Ultimate Rewards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you live somewhere near an airport that has service on Southwest and mainly want to fly on domestic coach tickets, then jump in with the Southwest Airlines card. You can check out some of the best offers at any given time on my Top Credit Card Deals page. While I do receive a commission for some of the cards on that page, I only post the best offers that I am aware of. If you do decide to use one of my affiliate links to obtain your new card, then it is greatly appreciated (though certainly not required).
How many credit cards should I have?
There is no magic number. Some have one some have sacks full. Literally. You should get as many as you desire and can effectively manage. I have a couple dozen. I keep most of them in a safe at home and don’t use them on a regular basis, but I do have many credit cards. Some I got primarily for the sign-up bonus, and some I got both for the sign-up bonus and the ongoing benefits. Again, just start small. The worst thing you can do is lose track of your cards and miss a payment. That will seriously hurt your credit!
How do I decide which cards to cancel?
Many folks cancel some of their rewards credit cards after the first year. I don’t recommend cancelling any of them until you have had them close to a year as it does not look good to the issuing bank, and there really is no good reason to do so. However, before the annual fee is assessed for year 2 (if applicable), then you do need to decide whether to keep or ditch the card. Thinks I would consider: are their ongoing benefits useful to me (annual free night, free checked bags, elite status, etc), does it earn points that are very valuable to me and I can’t easily get elsewhere (like the Starwood Amex), is it a card I have had open a very long time so I want to keep the account history, how much is the annual fee?
I keep several cards for the long-haul since they are valuable to me in different ways. I would say my cancel rate at the first year anniversary is about 50%. With some cards you may find that when you call to cancel that they offer you incentives to stay. The equation on whether or not you should cancel then must be re-evaluated based on the offer presented.
Won’t getting credit cards hurt my credit score?
In the short run, yes. in the long run, probably not. When you have a new credit inquiry on your credit report, your score does temporarily drop a few points. How many points it drops really depends on your overall credit history. However, within a few months the impact the inquiry diminishes, and within two years it is no longer on your report. My credit score has dropped from near around 780 to currently in the 750-760 range since I started getting new credit cards every three months or so. Some folks actually experience their credit improving by getting new credit cards. Again, it all just depends on your overall credit history.
I am willing to take a small hit to my credit score in order to get virtually free travel from credit card sign-ups, but you have to decide if that trade-off is right for you. I do not recommend getting multiple credit cards if you plan to purchase a home, refinance, or obtain another major loan in the next 1-2 years. I also don’t recommend trying to obtain rewards credit cards if your credit score is below 700 as you will likely get denied.
Family Travel Questions:
Should I sign my children up for rewards accounts with the various hotels, airlines, etc?
Yes and no. I don’t recommend getting them a ton of different accounts the second they are born, but make sure that they aren’t missing out on miles and points when you do travel with them. Most US airlines will allow you to obtain a frequent flyer account for your children when they are born. Some non-US airlines require children to be a certain age before them can obtain miles. You child won’t earn miles on flights if you choose to fly with them as a “lap child”, but if they are on a paid ticket then they will earn miles. So, just sign-up for accounts as they need them or if a really good promotion pops up that necessitates registering them before you have a planned trip.
Should I fly with my children in a premium cabin or just sit in coach? Will people give me dirty looks if I sit in first class with my baby?
Sadly folks may give you dirty looks just for boarding a flight at all with a young child. However, that doesn’t mean you should just sit at home and wait until your child can do algebra before you travel. Sit wherever you wish on the plane, but be prepared to entertain your child for the duration of the flight in that seat. Don’t be the parent that lets their child run around like a wild animal on the plane. Also don’t be the parent that allows their child to scream or cry without trying everything under the sun to placate them. The normal rules of parenting go out the window once you board a plane. The new motto should be “whatever it takes to keep the kid happy until we land”. Your regular rules can resume once you and your child are free from the small confined space. Some tears are inevitable, but be prepared with lots of tricks up your sleeve to try and manage them as best as possible.
There are some benefits to being in a premium cabin with your child. Some first and business class seats actually lie-lat making it easier for children to take naps. There is also more room, better food, more attentive service, and less chance of a line for the restroom. I plan to fly with my child for the first time in a premium cabin just before she turns 3, but the “right age” will differ for everyone.
Should I buy a seat for my infant or fly with them as a “lap-child”?
Until children are two-years-old they can fly in a parent or guardian’s lap without purchasing a ticket. On domestic flights that means that lap children fly free. Internationally, there is a surcharge for flying as a lap child that can range for 10% of the mileage cost (ie a flight that cost 60,000 miles for the adult will cost 6,000 miles for the lap child) to 25% of the fare. I have found that most airlines charge 10% of the fare for the lap child on international tickets, but even that cost can add up – especially if you are in a premium cabin. The fee is charged regardless if your ticket is purchased with dollars or miles. So while the cost to fly for “free” can be substantial in some cases, it is still the option that many parents choose in order to conserve miles/money.
I totally understand the desire to conserve valuable miles and money, but I do recommend obtaining a seat for all children, regardless of age. Not only is it safer for a child to be in their own seat as much as possible, but it is also just logistically much easier when you have the extra space, free arms, etc. That reality only amplifies once the child starts to make the transition from infant to toddler. Safety issues aside, having a lap infant when your child is only a few months old isn’t horrible for short flights since they may be nursing much of the time anyway, but that changes dramatically as they get a bit older. At the very least I would not have a child who is over one in your arms for very long. It makes for a difficult travel experience for everyone involved.
If you do find yourself traveling with a lap child, most airlines will allow you to use an adjacent open seat, if one is available. Inquire when you check-in to your flight and again at the gate, but don’t expect a free seat since so many flights are full these days. However, I would recommend gate-checking your car seat just in case a seat is available.
Do you have any tips to help with my first trip/flight with my child?
Yes! What will work will depend entirely on the age and temperament of your child. The time of day, length of flight, etc. will also come into play, but the basics remain more or less the same. Check out these posts for tips on traveling with different age children.
Traveling with a Lap Child (Planning)
Traveling Alone with a Lap Child (Review)
Little C’s Traveling Friends:
Earning Elite Status:
What are hotel stays vs hotel nights in terms of qualifying for elite status?
One of the ways you can qualify for elite status each calendar year based on having a minimum number of qualifying nights or stays with a particular family of hotels. I have a post dedicated to this topic available here.