It’s time for my next credit card churn, signing up for cards to earn points for free or nearly free travel. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years and I have really great credit — in part because I’ve been signing up for credit cards for years.
If you manage your credit well you really can travel the world — and do so in a style that’s more than you’d otherwise ever be able to afford. This is why despite approval ratings, I actually really do love the banks…
I’ve had many of the very best card bonuses already. Chase generally gives a signup bonus on each of their products only once, a far cry from the old days of getting the same card bonus over and over every few months. Fortunately they keep coming out with new products! (If I didn’t already have it, number one on my signup list would be Chase Sapphire Preferred… but I’ve already had the 40,000 point bonus on that one.)
Citibank seems to let you get the same product every 18 months or so, but I’ve had the American Airlines card too recently to get that one again, and none of the other Citi cards I’ve had in the past are high enough on my list to try for again. Instead, I’m pretty excited about the new Hilton Reserve card they’re offering.
I try to spread my applications out across the banks — looking for something from Amex, from Chase, from Citi, maybe Bank of America or Barclays. Some people take this a step farther trying to spread their inquiries out across the different credit bureaus, checking the databases at CreditBoards.com to see which issuers pull which reports in which states. I don’t worry about that level of detail.
- Citi Hilton Reserve Visa. This card will replace my Amex Hilton Surpass card, which I’ve been putting $40,000 on annually to earn Hilton HHonors Diamond status.
This new card also gives Diamond for $40,000 in spend, and is better just by virtue of being a Visa so offering wider acceptance. But it comes with Gold status merely for having the card, as long as you have the card. And I might just stick with that since Gold status is pretty much as good as Diamond in the Hilton program, generating occasional upgrades but also providing free internet and breakfast.
The card comes with two free weekend nights after $2500 spend and there are no category caps for redeeming those, plus an annual free weekend night each year for putting $10,000 in spend on the card. It earns 10 points per dollar for spending at Hiltons which is also more generous than the Amex Surpass card.
- Starwood American Express business card offers up to 25,000 points as a signup bonus — 10,000 after first purchase and 15,000 after spending $5000 on the card within 6 months. There’s no fee the first year.
The card gives 5 nights and 2 stays towards elite status, just like the personal card (and offers Gold status for $30,000 in annual spend). I already have the personal Starwood American Express card, a card I’ve held for more than a decade, so that’ll be 10 nights and 4 stays towards status, and I’m seriously considering earning back Starwood Platinum next year.
Adding the business card is actually great for Hyatt stays of all things, since it comes with OPEN small business savings — if I pay for a Hyatt stay with the Starwood American Express business card I earn a Starwood point per dollar plus save 3% on my hotel bill.
Now, I had this card when it was first introduced, cancelled it before the annual fee came due, but I believe it’ll be churnable with enough time between applications (I am not certain the minimum time necessary to wait, perhaps some folks have experience with this in the comments).
- Chase Ink Plus small business card. It is basically the Ink Bold Charge Card business card, but it’s a credit card rather than a charge card (so you aren’t required to pay the balance in full each month, although you still should).
The key here is that it is a new card product, so I can get rid of my Ink Bold Charge Card before the annual fee comes do. And I can earn another signup bonus — 50,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months (easier to meet than you might think).
There’s no fee the first year, points transfer to United, Hyatt, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, Southwest, and Amtrak.
And like the Ink Bold Charge Card, the card earns quintuple points on office supplies, phone, and cable television purchases. So with Ink Plus I can keep those bonuses even without keeping Ink Bold.
- Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines Visa which comes with 20,000 points after first purchase and 15,000 more points after $1000 in spend within four months. There’s a $79 annual fee. Some folks transfer the 35,000 points into 70,000 Hilton points.
But since Hawaian miles can be redeemed for awards on Virgin Atlantic without fuel surcharges, and since you can earn Hawaiian miles for Amazon purchases, I have a modest interest in the program.
- Chase Freedom card. I explained last month why this card is the best for small every day transactions — if you also have a Chase checking account you get a 10% bonus on points earned and a bonus 10 points per transaction. A $1 purchase yields 12 points.
And the points are transferrable to airline miles or hotel points if you first move them over onto another Chase card which has Ultimate Rewards points like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold Charge Card.
It’s a no annual fee card, and I ignored it for too long thinking it was mostly about the category bonuses — which it is — each quarter a different type of spending earns quintuple points. But the bonus is capped at the first $1500 spent during the quarter, so I figured it wasn’t a big enough number to worry about, but I’m actually missing out on 24,000 points a year which is a real loss.
(Note that some though not all of the cards mentioned above offer referral credit to me if you use the links in this post, which is something I greatly appreciate.)