All of them. As many times as you can.
People frequently ask me which credit card they should get (and every time I die a little on the inside because I don’t have any affiliate links to make money off of them). But it’s a question that I find challenging to answer because I don’t think that there’s a single credit card that people should get–people should get them all. The best credit card strategy is to apply for new cards as quickly as you can meet the minimum spend requirements on your previous cards so you’re constantly earning sign-up bonuses. Sign-up bonuses are currently the single best way to earn points in the current environment.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred–which seems to be the gateway travel credit card for many people–currently offers 40k points after spending $4k within the first three months of having the card. This isn’t even the best the offer has been (it can go up to 50k points, ignoring the 5k points you can get for adding an authorized user). But that means that for the first $4k you’re spending on the credit card, you’re essentially earning at least 11 points per dollar spent. Or the Citi AA card which offers 50k miles after $3k in spending. That first $3k spent is earning over 17 miles per dollar. You’re not going to get anywhere close to those numbers on ongoing everyday spend.
In addition, by applying to credit cards as quickly as possible, you’re also resetting your clock on when you can then churn those cards. Chase cards are churnable 24 months after receiving the sign-up bonus, so applying for and meeting the spend earlier means that you have to wait less time to earn the bonus again in the future. Granted, there are some banks that are cracking down on this, but this game always evolves, so you should take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Now, I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I’m not really following my own advice: I haven’t been applying for as many new cards as I could be, but this is mostly driven by the fact that I’m sitting on more miles than I can redeem so I haven’t been too focused on earning. But I’ve accumulated many of those miles from applying for (and subsequently closing) lots and lots of credit cards.
When people ask me what the best credit card to use is, I usually tell them that there’s no specific card but that they should be continuously applying for new credit cards to get sign-up bonuses. There’s not as much talk about churning on blogs nowadays (perhaps because banks don’t like it when the bigger blogs use that word?), but I still regularly apply for new credit cards.
So what’s next on my list? The card that I most want right now is the Citi Prestige card. It’s kind of like Citi’s answer to the Amex Platinum, and it comes with a Priority Pass membership that allows guests for free, American Admirals Club access, and a $250 annual airline credit. But I’m mostly interested in this card because I have a Citi Forward card that gets 5x Thank You points on restaurants and bookstores, so with the Citi Prestige, I can then redeem those points for 1.6 cents each toward AA flights. That means I can get about 8% back on restaurant spending all year round. Crazy good deal, right?
I’ll probably try to pick up another US Airways credit card before Barclays has to stop issuing them and perhaps an Alaska Airlines credit card. I’ve had the US Airways card three times before, so I’m not optimistic about my approval chances, but it’s been 6 months since my last application, so I might as well try. I don’t know how many times I’ve had the Bank of America Alaska credit card, but they keep approving me, so might as well keep on getting those miles, as I recently used 100k to book a first class Emirates ticket.
Another card that’s been in the back of my mind for a while is the Chase IHG card. Low annual fee for a free night certificate, and you get a redemption rebate, so it’s worth keeping around. I haven’t gotten to it yet since I haven’t really focused on IHG, and I probably will continue to wait until the 80k point offer comes back (if it does).
So not the most ambitious set of credit card applications, but if I get approved for them all, it’ll be about 125k miles/points which I value at over $1800. Not too shabby for minimal effort.
I wrote last week that I was feeling pretty meh about credit card churning, which is true. But it’s also true that not applying for new credit cards is like leaving miles on the table, and so I got off my butt today and applied for a couple of new cards.
#1 was the Citi Executive AA card. The 100k mile offer is gone, but there’s still a 75k mile offer alive, which is still a whole lot of miles for a card that seems to be endlessly churnable. And in order to meet the minimum spend requirement, I’ll need up my manufactured spending game anyway (currently at $0 per month), so I’m okay with the lesser miles offer since it requires lesser spend ($7500 instead of $10,000). I got a pending decision, though, so we’ll see if I actually get approved. I currently have a version of this card that I got in January at the 100k offer.
#2 was the Barclays US Airways card. I’ve had this card twice before (and currently have one card open). The current offers aren’t quite as good as they’ve been in the past (i.e. no first year annual fee waived anymore), but I applied for a 40k after first purchase, $89 annual fee not waived, 10k miles upon first (and only first) anniversary. I surprisingly got instantly approved. Pretty happy about this, as this card might possibly be going away with the merger, and reports on Flyertalk have said that it’s been a lot harder to get approved by Barclays reconsideration recently.
#3 was the Bank of America Alaska card. I’ve also had this card twice before (one open, one downgraded and open). The offer that I chose was 30k for getting the card, $75 annual fee not waived. Unfortunately got a pending decision on this one as well.
And that’s it. I briefly contemplated a Chase card (like one of those Chase Ink cards that bloggers endlessly pump), but decided against it for completely arbitrary reasons. I might regret that, but I can always apply for more cards in a couple of months. I’ll post again once I finish calling recon.
I have a confession to make: I’ve only applied for one new credit card in the past 9 months. Last year, I got 11 new credit cards for nearly 500k miles and points and 4 free nights at hotels. This year, I’ve only gotten the Citi Executive AAdvantage card once for 100k miles.
I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t been more active in applying for credit cards, as they’re one of the easiest ways to accumulate lots of points. Part of it is due to not having particular uses in mind for the points. A lot of my previous credit card churns were very targeted to specific trips that I was planning (e.g. getting a Chase Hyatt card to use at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, getting the Hawaiian Airlines cards to transfer to Hilton for the Conrad Koh Samui when that was still a good deal), but I currently have relatively healthy miles balances on Alaska, US Airways, and American, so I don’t really need more airline miles (although I guess I’m no longer diversified with the US/AA merger), and I don’t care that much about nice hotels.
Miles and points are only useful if you use them (I guess there is some benefit to having a stash for emergency trips), so I don’t really see that much of a point in accumulating miles from credit cards just for the sake of it. And while credit card sign-up bonuses are a really great deal, they’re not completely free: even if there’s no annual fee for the first year, you’re paying with a credit score check, and meeting minimum spending requirements takes a non-trivial amount of cognitive overhead for me since I don’t really spend that much money naturally. There’s also the fact that banks seem to be increasingly clamping down on the actual churning part (i.e. getting the sign-up bonus for the same credit card multiple times), which makes me think that I should save future apps for when I really have a need for them. (On the flip side, a lot of cards are much more churnable than people think, and part of this misconception is due to the credit card salesmen aka points/miles bloggers perpetuating false information on behalf of the banks).
Just goes to show that I must be a pretty bad miles/point blogger.