NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Scott Bilker first applied for a credit card in the late '80s when he realized he would need to borrow money to pay his tuition bills. His efforts to avoid paying interest and score better deals quickly got him a very fat wallet.
“I knew it was expensive to use credit cards and had to find a way to minimize the costs,” he says. His quest for the best rewards deals, coupled with his desire to prove he could still get banks to lend to him after accumulating 20-plus accounts, led him to amass more than 80 credit cards by 2007.
According to Bilker, banks rarely turned him down thanks to his perfect payment history.
“I’ve never missed a payment in my life,” he says, adding that his credit score, hovering around a solid 790, has been as high as 819.
After downsizing in recent years, Bilker has 50 credit cards at his disposal with his total available credit close to $250,000. (To be fair, while this arsenal of credit cards is formidable, it’s not the largest in existence. The Guinness World Record actually stands at close to 1,500.)
Contrary to what some may believe, he says, having a ton of credit cards doesn’t necessarily lead to massive debts.
“I have a car, but I don’t drive it off a cliff,” Bilker says. “A lot of people might have the impulse to [overspend]. I don’t.”
We asked Bilker, who has gone on to share his unique credit strategies in several books and on his website DebtSmart.com, to share some of his favorite stories to get a better idea of how his unique spending strategy has paid off.
What’s in his wallet
Bilker, who tracks his credit card usage with software such as Quicken and some simple spreadsheets, rotates the cards he actually keeps in his wallet based on which offer the best rewards. His current favorites include the Chase Sapphire (Stock Quote: JPM), since its rewards points can be redeemed for movie ticket gift certificates, and the Discover More card (Stock Quote: DFS), which offers 5% back on gas and allows points to be used directly for Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) purchases.