Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from April 2015 can be found here.

This is the third post in a monthlong series. 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.

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 annualcreditreport.com, 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. The reports don’t include your credit score. If you think you’re right around 700, a generally accepted cutoff for getting in on some of the mega-sign-up bonuses, you may want to purchase your score for $8 as offered from one of the individual agencies.

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 3-4 credit cards every few months without fear!

Read this short post by Gary Leff in which he explains how applying for cards will impact your score. His explanation is better than mine, but here are my cliff notes:

  1. Applications for a new credit card have a small negative inquiry on your credit that totally falls off within two years.
  2. Getting approved for new cards increases your total credit line. This decreases the ratio of how much credit you’re using to how much you have. This helps your credit score.
  3. New accounts decrease the average age of your credit lines, which hurts your score at first. But as those accounts age, this effect reverses and having the old accounts helps your score.
  4. Scores above 760 are gravy. 760 qualifies for the best rates, so anything above that isn’t helpful.
  5. The biggest exploiters of credit card sign ups and bonuses have maintained their great credit scores.

You’ve checked your reports and hopefully had your fears of hurting your credit assuaged. In just a few days, we’ll be applying for the biggest bonuses out there. Tomorrow we’ll discover how many you can apply for in your financial situation.

Continue to Post 4.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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