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This is the fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Signing Up for Travel Loyalty Programs.

The main source of frequent flier miles is credit card sign up bonuses. If managed correctly, they can be used to earn millions of miles without negatively impacting your credit score. In the game of flying for free, your most valuable asset is your credit score.

So today’s post will focus on getting your free credit reports from the three main credit bureaus and a little explanation of the credit score.

Start by going to, the only site where you can get a free, no-strings-attached credit report from the three bureaus once a year.

Type in the information and look at or print out all three reports, which should all be slightly different. Make sure the information is accurate and that no one has stolen your identity.

(Alternatively as suggested by Kevin in a previous post: “Looking at one report every 4 months should be adequate enough to make sure there are no errors on your report. It is like getting free quasi-credit monitoring when you space them out. “)

The reports don’t include your credit score. If you want to see your score, you can purchase it for $8 as offered from one of the individual agencies.

From talking to people, the number one thing that holds people back from Free First Class is a fear of harming their credit scores. Simply put, if you manage your applications well, and you don’t have a mortgage or refinance application coming up, you can apply for credit cards without fear!

If you’ve heard any semblance of a personal-finance talk, alarm bells are probably going off in your head. Let’s look at the publicly available information.

FICO is the most widely-used credit scoring model in the US, and FICO’s official website lists “My score will drop if I apply for new credit” as a fallacy.

Here’s why:

Only 10% of your credit score is based on inquiries derived from applying for new credit like credit cards. That 10% is swamped by other factors, all of which are helped by getting more credit cards!

Specifically, a big part of the 30% listed as “Amounts owed” is percentage of credit utilized. A new credit card will come with a new credit line, say $5,000. If your monthly spending on that card is just $500, then your credit utilization is only 10%. This will make you look like a good credit risk, causing your score to rise.

The extra credit lines from new cards, the payment histories you generate, and the relationships you establish with banks will all help your credit score over time.

In my experience monitoring my credit score closely, I notice a decline in my credit score from each new credit card application. I see my score fall 2-5 points when I apply for a card. Then I see my score rise slowly over time until I am at or above where I started.

I’ve gotten more than a dozen cards in the last year, and my credit score is higher now than ever. Here’s a documented example of someone applying for 11 cards in a year and seeing his score rise.

The bottom line on your credit is that it is very important, and you should take care of it. You are responsible for your decisions related to your credit, and you should research this matter independently of this post to decide whether applying for a credit card is right for you.

If you decide that applying for one or more cards is right for you, then I have some suggestions for what cards those should be to get the maximum amount of free travel from your spending patterns!

Stay tuned!