Like many of you, I got thrown off my usual 90-ish day credit card churn schedule earlier this year when we learned that the Ink Bold and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card bonuses would be changing. Now that about three months have passed from that frenzy, I bet I am not the only one that is circling the waters looking for which cards to select next. While we aren’t seeing as many mega-offers that we did in 2010-2011, there are still some exceptional offers out there. Since the trend we are seeing is generally one of decreasing bonuses and increasing spending requirements, I don’t recommend sitting on your hands and letting some of the great offers that are out now pass you by.
I’ll take you through some of the offers I am considering, but first I want to go over how I decided it was time for another churn (and help clarify what a churn even is). First, a credit card churn typically refers to when a miles and points junkie, like me, applies for new rewards credit cards for the primary purpose of earning miles and points. It used to mean applying for the same card over and over again for the sign-up bonus, but now it often just means applying for any rewards cards – usually doing a few at a time. As a general rule, I like to apply for a new credit card (or cards) about every three months. There are many reasons I do that, but here are a few:
- Just over 90 days seems to be a semi-sweet spot where issuers aren’t as concerned about credit inquiries. They still show up on your report, and do have an impact on your score, but the overall impact seems to be lessened.
- Spreading out applications quarterly helps with hitting spending requirements. If I applied for all the offers I wanted in a year at once, it would be hard to hit all of the spending requirements at the same time.
- Offers change throughout the year, so I want to be able to take advantage of limited time offers that come out periodically. For example, we know that in recent years Amex SPG has upped their offer in the summer. We know that Capital One has run their largest offer in the early spring. History isn’t always an indicator for the future, but spreading out applications means that you can take advantage of the best offers throughout the year.
- It also just helps with organization and record keeping to have some sort of schedule in place. It helps me with self control by looking at the calendar and knowing I just need to wait it out a bit longer before pulling the trigger on an offer.
Knowing that about three months had passed since my last application, I took a peek at my credit scores using some of the free or low cost websites out there. I often use Credit Karma and Citi Identity Monitor. When I checked Credit Karma on July 13th I had an estimated score of about 755, and that is in their “Excellent” range.
To give a bit more of a historical visual, here is a chart of my Credit Karma score dating from October 2011 – July 2012. My high came in November 2011 at 774 and my low was in April 2012 at 726 when I churned without waiting the full three months due to expiring offers. That is also the month that we sold our house in Austin and thus had that mortgage come off our report. I pay everything on time and my credit utilization doesn’t change that much from month to month. I really don’t think that my true credit scores go up and down quite as much as this estimate, but you can see that my score does take a tip when I churn credit cards. If I am patient enough, the score does rebound on its own relatively quickly.
To give some more perspective, my credit scores according to Citi Identity Monitor range from 759 – 781 for the three credit bureaus. Citi dubs this in the Good to Excellent category.
Basically, what this means to me is that my score has recovered enough that it is ready to help earn me some more free miles and points. I don’t care if I am not sitting at an 800 credit score when my 759 – 781 range will pretty much do the exact same things for me. That said, if I were about to take out a mortgage or otherwise try and obtain some major financing I would sit on the credit card sidelines for at least 6 months, and probably closer to 12 months (depending on what I was looking to finance). It is just not worth the risk.
The next step is determining which offers to apply for. I am pretty conservative in this regard. I often apply for just 1-2 cards at a time. Many others apply for 3-5, and some are even more aggressive than that. I decide what to apply for based on the offers that are available (ie are there any “mega” or limited time offers available), and I also evaluate which programs I need more miles and points in for my future travel goals. I like to have a general idea of what I am likely to do with the miles and points that I obtain. I also try and balance the applications between the issuing banks. I am especially sensitive to not being too aggressive with Chase, which is hard since they have so many of the best offers!
Here are some cards I am strongly considering for this churn:
- Hyatt Credit Card: I would love to get my paws on two free nights at any Hyatt in the world upon the first use of the card! Since I had Diamond status with Hyatt, those nights would be in a suite! I also have been targeted for an offer that waives the annual fee for the first year (not the link in this post since it is a targeted offer), so it really would virtually be two free nights. I would likely use them in Paris, but I’m not sure Paris is on the radar for the next 12 months, so I may wait on this.
- Chase British Airways: I believe that the official “up to 100,000 Avios offer” has expired, but the unofficial offer seems to still be working. I still have a little longer to wait for my churn, so I hope it is still working when I am ready to pull the trigger as I value Avios very highly. However, it is still possible that I will avoid Chase all together on this churn…if I can muster the willpower.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Business Amex: This one is almost a certainty for me. I need to replenish my SPG points, and I need the two stay credits toward elite status that the card would provide. I am hoping that the pattern from previous years holds true and we see an increase in this sign-up bonus in the near future!
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card: If I did a personal Amex application right now, it would probably be this card since I have never had it, and the annual fee is waived the first year. The 25,000 point bonus is the highest truly public offer we have seen in a while (minus the bump the bonuses that are no longer applicable), and I do like the bonus categories, but I will likely hold off a bit longer since I am getting 3x on airfare from my Amex Business Rewards Gold card right now.
- Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Card: I only have one credit card with BoA and it is very old, so this would be a good bank for me to utilize. I would earn a total of 50,000 points on this card after spending $2500 in three months and adding an authorized user. I could then convert that to 100,000 HHonors miles and start working toward a stellar Hilton vacation. Eventually I will get some of the other Hilton cards like the Hilton Amex and the new Citi Hilton Reserve card to further bolster my Hilton arsenal. There is a $90 fee for this card that isn’t waived. It is a strong contender for me.
- Citi AAdvantage Business card: There are a few versions of this offer available that come with 50,000 miles plus some other benefits. I will have to plan to put several thousand dollars of spending on the card to get this bonus, so I need to keep that in mind when planning the churn. I am building AA miles for a big redemption in the future, so this is on my radar for some point this year for sure.
- Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card: I haven’t ruled out getting the brand new Citi HHonors Reserve card. This one provides two weekend nights at a Hilton family hotel (including Waldorf Astoria) and automatic Gold status, among other things. There is a $95 annual fee and a $2500 spending requirement to trigger the bonus. I am planning to increase my Hilton points/nights in the near future, I just have to decide if now is the time to start doing that or not.
- Barclays US Airways card: Some folks have success with getting a second US Airways card to “keep expenses separate”. This card is great as it pulls from Transunion for me, has no annual fee the first year, no spending requirement, and is a potential hit in a potential US Airways Grand Slam. (yes, there are lots of “potentials” in there…..more on that in another post)
After writing this, I found out that the Ink Plus has now been officially released as well! It is like the Ink Bold (which is my favorite card right now due to 5x spending categories) but it is a charge card. What I care about the most is that it is a new credit card….which means it should be fair game for all of us! It does have a hefty spending requirement to get the full bonus. I’ll post more about this soon, but Frequent Miler has a post up now if you want more info!
I will likely just choose two cards, three at the absolute max for this “churn”. I may or may not skip Chase on this go round. If so, I will definitely add a Chase card roughly three months from now on my next churn. I am going to see what is still around and available in a couple weeks, and then make my final decisions. I’d love to know what cards you are considering for your next churn (and why)!
Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you use my link to be approved for some, but not all, of the cards in this post. As always I only provide a link to the best deal I am aware of. Whether you choose to use any of my links or not, thanks for your support.