By Stephanie Miller


5 Min. To Read

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The first industry expert we interviewed was Jason Steele. Jason is a long-time finance writer and the founder of CardCon, a conference for other professionals in the credit card industry.

While he admits that few people consider personal finance to be exciting by default, Jason believes that’s mostly just a lack of awareness. If everyone recognized just how beneficial their personal finance prowess could be, it might prove to be more thrilling.

Here’s a look at some of the questions we asked Jason, and what he envisions for the future of credit.

Do you have any words of wisdom/tips for those readers who think that personal finance/credit is boring?

“What I like to focus on is the opportunities that are available to those who are savvy with their credit cards and their finances. This includes all sorts of award travel, and even the chance to retire early. That's worth getting excited about.”

Few people would claim to be excited over checking their credit scores, managing monthly statements, or juggling credit card accounts. However, knowing the benefits that these products can provide – and just how important they are to your overall financial situation – might be enough to ramp up your enthusiasm.

Of course, that prowess and appreciation doesn’t come without some hard lessons… even for an expert like Steele.

What was your most painful credit lesson/biggest credit mistake?

“I once failed to meet a minimum spend requirement, and never received the sign-up bonus. It's a very painful memory. And long before I wrote about credit cards, I once signed up for a card just to receive a large set of drill bits. I still use the bits regularly, but I now know that sign-up bonuses can be worth hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, while the drill bit kit was only worth about $50.”

Missing out on big bonuses can turn a great card choice into a mediocre one. After all, you might be leaving literally hundreds of dollars on the table!

Be sure to plan out your spending to ensure that you earn all bonuses offered to you. Also take some time to compare card offers before making a decision to apply. A bonus might look great at first glance, but actually be a subpar offer for you and your spending habits.

Speaking of spending habits…

What is the biggest downside/pitfall when it comes to carrying credit cards?

“Clearly debt is the biggest problem [with credit cards]. Too many Americans use their cards as a license to spent money they don't have, which is the dark side of having a very convenient form of payment.”

When managed properly – paid in full every month, never paying finance charges, late fees, or penalty interest – credit cards are an asset. However, get stuck in the debt cycle and they can quickly become your biggest mistake.

What do you believe to be the biggest benefit of credit cards?

“For individuals, credit cards are by far, the most secure and convenient form of payment. And for those who manage their cards optimally, they represent the opportunity to earn very valuable rewards. But for society as a whole, credit cards are an invaluable part of the economy. Their security and convenience, as well as their financing power, serve to facilitate trillions of dollars of transactions.”

Whether you’re using credit cards as a way to build credit history, earn valuable rewards, or manage payments securely, you may want to utilize more than one type of plastic. This allows you to maximize earnings while also contributing to a healthy credit report.

Speaking of, we asked Jason…

How many credit cards do you carry at the moment?

“As I write this, there are six cards in my wallet, but I only use three of them for 98% of my purchases. On the other hand, I have about 15 active accounts from a total of five different issuers, and my wife, who's accounts I manage, also has about the same number.”

Considering that the average card-carrying American has 3.7 current credit cards, this number is pretty impressive. However, as long as each account is actively managed and maximized, the benefits can be fantastic.

What is the best credit card bonus you’ve ever gotten, and how did you use it?

“I earned the 100,000 point bonus for the British Airways Visa, and spent the $30,000 required to earn a Travel Together ticket. I then redeemed those points for two First Class tickets British Airways, where I accompanied my mom. The seats weren't much by today's standards, but they were large enough to accommodate the two of us to enjoy dinner in one seat (the foot rest was designed for a passenger to sit on). Our two tickets were worth about $10,000 each, although there we did have to pay about $1,000 in taxes and fuel surcharges.”

Snagging $20,000 in luxury airfare is nothing to scoff at, especially when all you have to do is spend as you normally would.

This example also stresses how important it is to properly vet your card offers before applying; I don’t know about you, but I would much rather an international first-class flight than the aforementioned drill bit set!

Even if you’ve previously missed out on some of the most exciting card offers introduced, don’t worry. Mr. Steele doesn’t believe the doomsday journalists who feel that the best days are behind us.

Do you think that credit card rewards will get more/less lucrative in the next few years?

“There are many pessimists that point out that airlines and hotels continue to devalue their points each year. But I content that the credit card issuers are increasing their bonuses even faster than their partners are decreasing the value of their awards. I optimistically predict that savvy award travel enthusiasts will continue to find even greater uses for their points and miles, while cash back rates will continue to climb.”

This is great news for anyone just starting their credit card rewards journey, or those looking to maximize their earnings along the way.

The next time an issuer releases an exciting new bonus offer, you’ll be sure to read about it on blogs and news sites just like this one. Journalists like Steele remain at the forefront of the industry thanks to their professional connections, and events like CardCon.

Tell us a bit about CardCon, and why you founded the conference.

“CardCon is a conference for media, influencers and content creators who, like myself, cover the credit and credit card industries. Since 2011, I've been involved in FinCon, the financial bloggers convention. But as FinCon grew, there was less time for those focused on credit and credit cards to learn and network. So I decided to start a partner conference that takes place in the same venue as FinCon. In 2017 and 2018 it was before FinCon, but in 2019 it will be right afterwards. In 2020 CardCon will be in a different time and place than FinCon.”

While CardCon (and FinCon) aren’t necessarily designed for the average consumer, they will still benefit every single person reading this blog. Attendees at Steele’s conference come together to discuss industry trends and predictions, get insider information about upcoming offers, and stay on top of everything important in the world of credit.

Do you have any words of wisdom/tips for those readers who think that personal finance/credit is boring?

“I recognize that few would consider personal finance or credit cards to be as exciting as sports or entertainment. But what I like to focus on is the opportunities that are available to those who are savvy with their credit cards and their finances. This includes all sorts of award travel, and even the chance to retire early. That's worth getting excited about.”

No matter your ‘why’ for using credit cards, they can be an invaluable tool in your personal finance arsenal. By responsibly managing your spending and account management, you can not only build an enviable credit report but also net serious rewards along the way – without ever spending an extra penny in the process.

To learn more about CardCon and see Jason Steele’s work, you can visit his website at And of course, you can also get his insider scoop here at Credit Card Reviews, in the weekly industry roundup series.

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