I got an email from an acquaintance/blog reader of mine a few days ago. He had first reached out to me a few years prior for some advice knowing that I dabble in miles and points every now and then. I offered my own take on things, and also pointed him towards some of the other blogs I’ve learned so much from.

But back to the most recent email. My reader had come across the news that Citi was out with the 100K Citi Executive card. I could tell he was excited, and who wouldn’t be? It’s not everyday that an offer for 100,000 miles of any kind come along. These being AAdvantage miles makes the offer even more enticing. The reader asked “do you think I should apply for this card?”

Knowing this reader is no stranger to mileage earning credit card opportunities, I was kind of surprised at the question. Usually, when someone that I know is relatively well-schooled in cards and miles asks me if they should apply for a particular card it means one thing – they are looking for someone to tell them not to apply. In my reply, I asked the first question I always ask – are you carrying any credit card debt? I am not a financial planner or expert, but I know how to count and I know a little bit about human nature. If the answer to the card debt question is yes, stop right now.

As I suspected, the answer was yes. I also got a bunch of details about how this reader always pays their bills in full each month just like we talked about before, but got a little over extended to the tune of a “few thousand” with Christmas, a couple of unplanned repair bills, etc. I did not ask specifically how much debt we were talking about, and I’m not even sure it matters. A “few thousand” may be 10 thousand for all I know. My advice to this reader was that anyone is free to do what they feel comfortable with, but if it were me, I’d just say no. If you’re behind with holiday spending and some unexpected bills, I just don’t think it’s worth the risk to promise yourself that you’ll manage better going forward just to get a particular card product….even if it comes with the promise of 100,000 miles.

Miles earned from credit cards have flown me to lots of interesting places. That said, I always strive to play any game from ahead, not behind. Thinking of applying for a big mileage/points card offer and carrying thousands in credit card debt? Deal with the debt first. Just my opinion.

– MJ, February 8, 2014