Just over every three months, I apply for rewards credit cards.  It is no secret that credit card sign-up bonuses are the quickest and easiest way to rack up a ton of miles and points in a hurry (at least for those of us lucky enough to be based in the US where the offers are plentiful).  Sure, there is the “work” of having to keep up with more credit cards than the average bear, manage deciding when to cancel the cards, and occasionally have to call in to get approved, but really it is pretty simple given the massive rewards payout we get for doing it.  Doing it only once every 3 months (unless a mega offer comes along in-between) seems to be sufficient in keeping me safe from being turned down due to “too many recent inquiries”.  It also just helps give a method to the madness.  I am able to complete minimum spending requirements during those three months so that I am ready for a new crop of spending requirements by the time the next churn rolls around.

It should go without saying, but do keep in mind that churning cards is not for everyone.  Don’t do it if you think you will be tempted by the new found credit, if you can’t pay off your bills monthly, you can’t keep track of multiple cards, or if you plan on applying for a major loan in the next 1-2 years.

Step 1: Check Credit Reports/Scores

As always, my first step before getting ready for a churn is to check my credit scores and reports to make sure I am ready for another churn.    I see that from my August churn my SPG Business Amex pulled Experian, my Bank of America Hawaiian card also pulled from Experian, and my US Bank card pulled from Equifax.  I am glad to see that none of those cards pulled from more than one credit bureau.  The credit bureau(s) banks pull from varies from location to location, so your results may be different than mine. 

I use Credit Karma and Citi Identity Monitor to estimate my FICO score.  I don’t get caught up in the exact numbers as it is just an estimate, and I have found the online estimates to often be on the low side for me.  However, they are still helpful in giving some idea where I stand.  My numbers are currently between 745-781 depending on the source and the credit bureau.  Those numbers are in the good – excellent range and that is totally fine with me.  I’ll trade a few points off my score temporarily in order to travel around the world (almost) for free!

Step 2: Survey Available Credit Card Offers

The really fun part of churning is deciding which cards to apply for.  There is never a shortage of offers, but I like to give preference to limited time offers that may not be around when my next churn comes up.  I do pretty well with this strategy.

Some current possible limited time offers include:

  • Ink Bold Business Card or Ink Plus Business Card 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.  This offer does not have a particular end date, so it may be around for quite a while but given the reduction of the spending requirement from $10,000 to $5,000 in recent weeks, I am mentally counting it as a limited time offer as I don’t want to skip it now and be stuck with a $10,000 spending requirement down the road when I could just do it now and play it safe.  There is no fee the first year for this card.
  • Expired: The Business Gold Rewards Amex also awards 50,000 Membership Reward points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.  This one is a limited time offer that expires today (Tuesday).  The standard sign-up offer for this card in recent times has been zero sign-up bonus points (though one-day offers for 75K have happened with $10K spending requirement).  I already got this card early in 2012, but I wanted to include it in the limited time round-up in case it is helpful info for someone else.  There is no fee the first year for this card.
  • American Express Hilton Amex (expired) is giving a total of 65,000 HHonors points when you meet the minimum spending requirements (40,000 awarded after spending $750 in three months and an additional 25,000 when you spend $3,000 in the first six months).  This offer expires on 11/30/2012 and it is better than the standard offer of 40,000 – 50,000 points.  This card comes with no annual fee.
  • The Southwest Chase cards are currently all at 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months (partially expired).  This is a tremendous deal, especially if you leverage it to get the Companion Pass – as outlined in this post.  There isn’t a set deadline with this sign-up bonus that I know of, but it likely won’t stick around longer than a few months since it seems to come and go.  If Southwest flew into a convenient airport for me, I would be all over this one!

Step 3: Look at Your Travel Goals/Needs

  • I like to consider trips for roughly the next two years.  Airline and hotel award charts change too much to really plan much further out, and even two years can be a little risky.
  • My major trips for 2013are already accounted for on miles and points.  They aren’t all 100% booked, but what I need is already available to me.  I’m sure more trips will pop up, but they aren’t possible to plan for since they don’t yet exist in any figment of my imagination.  Also, since my husband is out of vacation days already for next year based on what is booked, I doubt any truly significant trips will pop up for next year (other than of course Star MegaDo 5 which will be booked with $$$).
  • My major trips for 2014 are likely to be to Australia/New Zealand and possible Maldives – though that may have to wait longer as our family Australia trip takes priority.  I just about have the miles I need for travel on Star Alliance to Australia/NZ (though a few more Ultimate Reward points wouldn’t hurt), but am still in need of a few more AA miles for my Maldives trip on One World airlines, and a chunk of more HHonors points for the hotel.  These are the trips I am actively acquiring miles and points for at this point.  Obviously everyone’s travel goals will vary, so adjust your target points accordingly.

Step 4: Combine All Info to Make Your Decision

  • Once you have looked at your credit score/report, reviewed all available offers (with a preference to good limited time offers), evaluated your travel goals, and determined what level of minimum spending is realistic for your family, it is time to decide which cards to apply for.  I am currently in this step.  I know for sure I am going for the Ink Plus, but I may also do the Amex Hilton since the limited time offer is pretty good.  I want to have a light churn this time around, but I know I could handle the spending for those two cards.  My only real hesitation with the Amex card is that I have already applied for several Amex cards this year, and I don’t want to raise any red flags with them and have to deal with a financial review right now.  However, this would be my first personal card application with them this year, so hopefully I would be okay.
  • I plan to apply for the card(s) in the next couple of days, because I have my annual fee due on my old Ink Bold I got a year ago, and I want to be able to trade it for the Ink Plus if/when I have to call to try and get approval.  I’ll keep you posted on how it all shakes out.

Have you done your final churn for 2012 yet?  What offers are you looking at?  Did I leave off a great limited-time offer that should be considered?

 

Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for some of the cards linked in this post.  As always, your support is appreciated. 

 

Posted by mommypoints | 38 Comments

38 Responses to “Prepping for the Last Credit Card Churn of the Year”

  1. Maury says:

    I am also thinking about my last churn of the year. Possibly the Amex Hilton,Ink Plus, and the Frontier 35k. I already have all the ones you listed. Any other suggestions? Thanks

  2. “I plan to apply for the card(s) in the next couple of days, because I have my annual fee due on my old Ink Bold I got a year ago, and I want to be able to trade it for the Ink Plus if/when I have to call for reconsideration.”

    When coming up on an annual fee, is this a strategy to avoid fees + no sign-up bonus on Bold/Plus and let’s say, Amex Golds and Platinums? Like, can I request that I be switched over to a fee-matched card that is offering a bonus? Sorry if this is a dumb or inartful question. I am just trying to wrap my head around that last sentence.

  3. Sil says:

    I have 3 Citi bank credit cards. I applied for two Citi AA visa and amex in May 2011, canceled one in May 2012. I have 2 Citi Bank Hilton Honors Visa Credit card which I applied in June 2012.

    I would like to churn both the Citi AA and Citi HH. Is it best to wait several months more and churn Citi AA first , then wait ? months to churn Citi HH?

    Only Churn ever for me is the U.S. Airways cc.

  4. AMC says:

    I am thinking about my last one for the year, too! In my last one, I got the Chase United Explorer, Chase Marriott, US Bank FlexPerks and SPG AMEX. If I cancel another Chase card soon, I might then apply for the Ink Plus… I’m not sure which cards out there are really the right fit for me. I’ll keep reading and will hopefully find a few good ones :) Thanks!

  5. MC says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m curious to know how you determine which credit bureau(s) are pulled. I know you can get it from free credit reports, but those are only available free once per year.

  6. B says:

    Didn’t realize Amex Hilton was ending so soon. Applied this morning and approved with your link. Hope it helps because I love your blog!

  7. Tim2 says:

    Mp, I just started medical school ( loans hit credit report !). I had to leave my job for school. I live in a communal state and can add my wifes income but… Do you suggest waiting until the summer when I can work again to do a churn? Or would no job matter when applying and factoring in household income. Also, my last app was in June so there would be a year between my last inquiry.

  8. smay says:

    @Tim2 – depends on your comfort level but adding cards will help your credit score due to improved credit utilization ratio so doing it now is actually a good idea. Also, card apps don’t ask for employer phone number or addresses….. in any case I always put total household income + a splash on the app. Never had a problem with that EVER. The only company to tread lightly is AMEX. Your FICO score doesn’t reflect current job status so if you pay your bills on time and have a good household income you will be fine. Good luck!

  9. MP is your max 4 CC at a time?

  10. DrSifu says:

    Citi AMEX AA 50,000 miles
    Citi VISA AA 50,000 miles
    Barclay’s NFL $400
    AMEX Surpass 50,000 Hilton
    Chase Southwest

    Would like to fit in a US Bank or BofA, but nothing seems really interesting that I am “eligible” for.

  11. Peggy says:

    We’re taking a mega trip to Asia for the month of June, and I’m needing hotel points. My Marriott card will arrive in a few days, and I plan to apply for the Citi Hilton (free) card – to compensate for the AA Amex card I’ll be closing when the annual fee comes due in January. Planning to collect AA miles via the SPG card from now on. I had the Amex Hilton card a few years ago so don’t want to get it thru AX now.

  12. Jenn says:

    MP-do you believe that companies are more likely to issue cards if you submit multiple apps at the same time every three months or stagger the same number of apps throughout the year? I’ve taken the stagger approach and am starting to get declines…just wondering if there is a difference and a reason for the difference? Thanks.

  13. mommypoints says:

    Just a few quick notes:
    -Doing them every 91+ days is important to avoid getting turned down due to too many recent inquiries. Also, an initial decline doesn’t mean a real decline. Get used to calling reconsideration lines if you get more than a couple cards a year. It sounds scarier than it is. I promise. ;)
    -My max has been three at a time, but I am pretty conservative compared to some.
    -I can tell you that I would still get cards even if it was on my husband’s income as I live in a state where what’s yours is mine. ;)
    -I check credit bureaus with my Citi Identity Monitor subscription. I pay about $6 a month for it. There is an old post on my blog somewhere with that info.
    -Don’t be asked to be switched to a different card as you won’t get the sign-up bonus. Apply for the new card outright and then offer to close the existing card to get approved, if needed.

  14. [...] Home › Frequent Flyer News › How to Prepare for a Credit Card Churn (a.k.a. “App Party” or “App-o-Rama” [...]

  15. Maury says:

    Anybody have the link for the Barclays NFL $400? Thanks

  16. Glenn says:

    Just did mine last night to get the Amex Business Gold Rewards bonus before it expired, which forced me to go a little early:

    Chase Ink Bold (Business card) 50,000 UR pts
    Chase Southwest Plus (Personal) 50,000 mi
    American Express Business Gold Rewards 50,000 MR pts
    BofA Hawaiian Airlines 35,000 mi (for transfer to Hilton)

    I didn’t do the BofH at the same time just because the spend felt a bit heavy already, so I stopped at 4.

    One thing I do think you might highlight though MP is that there are restrictions on some of these offers that might be a problem. For example, I applied for the Amex NAF Hilton 65K (really 55K) offer for the wife, but couldn’t do it myself since I already have the Hilton Surpass card…

    Anyway, helpful post thanks.

  17. Tim2 says:

    I know this is a grey area but what do you list as a job if you are in school or unemployed and in a communal state?

  18. Tim2 says:

    @smay and mp thanks for the advice

  19. Austin says:

    Can you get two personal Amex cards in one churn? My wife was targeted for a 50,000 mile bonus Gold Delta Amex, but I was also going to get her to apply for the Hilton Amex, since the 6x bonus is great for our spending pattern.

  20. Grant Thomas says:

    @Maury, the FT thread says that the $400 NFL card offer is no longer valid.
    .
    @MP, I was talking to AMEX last week and the rep told me that I can only have a max of 4 credit cards with Amex (Personal + business), but the gold amex card is a charge card (similar to ink bold) which doesn’t count in the 4 credit cards. Have you heard anything like this before?

  21. jimjam says:

    i have three chase cards already (united, freedom, sapphire preferred), what are the chances i can get SWA personal and business cards?

  22. mommypoints says:

    -I had read the NFL $400 offer still worked with direct links, but that was a few weeks ago. I don’t know if that is still the case or not. My husband got in on that one a while back. Great deal if it still works.
    -I would certainly not lie about my occupation, but just give some thought to how to best describe your situation. ;)
    -I have never heard a hard and fast rule with # of Amex cards. I am certain some have more than that. It may be like the “six month rule” with Chase. It really isn’t a rule, but reps thrown the terminology out and it may mean that anything over that requires manual approval. I have not heard that myself though.
    -You can apply for two personal Amex cards, but will likely have to talk to recon for the second. Here is a thread with some experience.
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/archive/t-1385398.html

  23. mommypoints says:

    @jimjam, depends how long you have had them. You may have to close one to get approved, but could be possible. I have four personal Chase cards and two business Chase cards.

  24. jimjam says:

    i’ve had the united card for about 8 years (and i hardly use it anymore). the freedom is a bit over a year, and the sapphire about 5 months. think i have a good shot? mechanically, would i apply for both essentially simultaneously? should i cancel my united card before i apply or wait to offer that if i need to call the reconsideration line? thanks for your help.

  25. Grant Thomas says:

    @Jimjam, I would apply for both. Your credit sounds pretty good and your history with Chase will definitely help. Apply for both and if one doesn’t get instantly approved, I would call Chase and ask them to transfer the credit from your United Card.

  26. Peggy says:

    Re American Express, they seem to place a total personal credit limit of $25,000 per individual, regardless of how many cards you carry.

  27. Jason says:

    Hi MP,

    For some reason when I try to apply for the Hilton AMEX through your link it says, “Problem with the input data for one of the fields”… Any ideas?? I have entered everything correctly??

  28. Kroozer says:

    @Peggy Not true. I have $60K combined on SPG personal + SPG business + HHonors and charge cards PRG + Biz Plat.

  29. Peggy says:

    @Kroozer, I was only speaking about personal cards. I have no idea about business cards – I don’t have any.

  30. mommypoints says:

    -I think that max credit line varies dramatically from person to person.
    -Jason, it actually isn’t my link (just the best deal out there), so I can’t say for sure. Maybe try another browser or call in if it is still giving you trouble in a couple of days. So sorry!

  31. thegasguru says:

    @mommypoints: is the Hilton Amex you mention here different than the Surpass card? In other words, does your link here send me to the Amex where I can get Diamond status for the $40K annual spend?

  32. mommypoints says:

    gasguru, the Surpass is a different Amex product that can be found here: http://www304.americanexpress.com/getthecard/learn-about/Hilton-HHonors-Surpass (also not my link, but the best one I know of). Hope that helps!

  33. SgFm says:

    Here is a link for the Barclays NFL card that does still look like it works: http://tinyurl.com/b9mou76

  34. Jason says:

    @mommypoints: Thanks, I tried both FireFox and Chrome and they both weren’t working, but then I switched to Safari and it worked.. Very weird??

    Anyway, I did a CC churn of 4 cards (775 Credit Karma Score):
    - Chase Ink Bold Charge Card (review, but called reconsideration line and was approved)
    - AMEX Hilton (approved instantly)
    - US Airways MC (review, but approved next day – automatically sent me an email)
    - BofA Hawaiian Airlines Card (review, but showed up on my BofA online banking acct a few days later)

    All-in-all, I was able to get 50k UR points, 135k Hhonors points (65k AMEX, 70K to be transferred from BofA Hawaiian Airlines 35k promo – 1:2 Ratio), and 40k US Airway miles.

    I will also note that I currently have a 5 personal CC’s w/ Chase, and 1 business card: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, Chase United Explorer, Chase Southwest Cards (personal and biz), and Chase Hyatt. TBH, I think I’m maxed out with Chase for the moment!

  35. mommypoints says:

    @Jason, that is weird, but I’m glad it worked! Congrats!!

  36. Helene says:

    I need helpful advice. I applied for a new Starwood Amex personal card( I have one for about 5 years). After spending the 5K, spg told me I was not allowed any points since I already have another Starwood card. Before u churn cards, do u close your present cards?

  37. mommypoints says:

    Helene, you can have the biz SPG card and still get the bonus, but it doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t get the full bonus since you had an open SPG card. I think you have to have not had one in a year. Most people do get the spending bonus w that one though, they just don’t get the first spending bonus.

  38. [...] Prepping for the last credit card churn of the year via Mommy Points. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote “to churn or not to churn, that is the question?” Maybe not… Mommy Points offers some insight into her approach on credit card churning and provides advice to make sure you understand what card churning can mean to your credit score, future plans for large loans, etc. It’s true that card churning is the fastest way to score points for travel, but you have to be aware of both the pros and the cons of how often you do this. Mommy Points says she churns 4x per year.  I personally leave it up to the deal. If it’s good, I’ll bite. I do always keep a free slot in my credit card line up so I’m ready for the next big one. [...]

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