Card recommendations for first time, large spend

As I said in my very first post, I’ve been on my longest spell at home in a year but it broke at last with a quick trip up north for a marketing event. Felt good! While there, I chatted with a colleague and they asked for recommendations for a first round of card applications. Pretty nice timing as I’ve been thinking about a round for Mrs. NF and I think this is a great moment to kick things off with two excellent offers.

This year’s opportunities haven’t been as strong as last year’s. That said, there’s a short window here for a great round of applications as you’ll see.

As background, here are the parameters that I’m operating with:

  • Significant spending capability.
  • Has not had many travel cards.
  • Based in an AA hub.

Standard Disclaimers

Your credit is more important than points/miles.

Here are a few things to know:

  • As a general rule, don’t apply more than once every 3 months.
  • Spread your applications around.
  • Always be truthful.
  • It’s best to keep your credit score 720+. Expect a brief dip immediately after application and recovery over the next 1-3 months.
  • Don’t exceed your natural ability to manage your spending and budget.
  • Unless there’s a reason to, I don’t add authorized users at the time of application.
  • It’s really best if you apply for all cards on the same day.
  • An occasional decline or, more often, pending review response is not the least bit uncommon. Calling reconsideration lines for review yields good results (esp. with Chase).
  • Don’t forget to double up – if you can swing the spend and your spouse has good credit, go for two.

One bit about my methodology – I believe that instead of chasing the program you’re most interested in, that you should generally chase the best offers at the time. In other words, I may be a Delta flyer but I’ll gladly take a large American Airlines sign up over a small Delta sign up. There’s a lot more but I’m just going to dive in.

Recommendations

Most people tend to comfortable with 2 or 3 cards on their first set of applications so I’ll start with 2 biggies. Our spouses are also often a little wary. That’s perfectly reasonable and there’s nothing wrong with starting small.

Chase British Airways Visa – 100k – $150 for 2 years – No spending requirement

A quick bit about British Airways Avios – BA is part of OneWorld so you can redeem on their partners, including Iberia, American, Cathay Pacific, LAN, and many others. These can still be a bit difficult to use to go to Europe but there are workarounds. They are excellent for booking AA milesAAver awards which can be as little as 9000 miles round-trip.

Many of us have had a Chase BA card already but for those that haven’t, this is almost as good as it’s ever been. Just take a look at the screen shot above. I’ve first got to give credit to this thread over at Flyertalk.com. This is a bit tricky. You get this offer by attempting (but not completing) the purchase of a flight at ba.com. There’s another offer that picks up the miles earlier but requires $20,000 in spending to reach 100k BA. That offer’s reported to expire in a few weeks. It makes sense if you were planning to shoot for the companion ticket on BA but I’m not sold on that.

Here’s exactly what I did to get BA.com to present this better offer:

  • Open a Google incognito window, IE InPrivate, or Firefox Private Browsing window.
  • Go to ba.com.
  • Do not log in (may not matter but I didn’t).
  • Search for SFO to LHR.
  • I tried searches in all classes of service but only received the offer in economy.
  • I selected a Fri to Sun time span in August.
  • Proceed through the purchasing process.
  • When asked, I did not provide my FF number nor did I accept the marketing email checkbox.
  • Keep going (just don’t actually buy the ticket).
  • Immediately before the purchase screen requesting credit card info, you will hopefully be presented with the screen above.
  • NOTE: I received the offer on three different attempts in different browsers with different names so, at least as I write this, these parameters seem to trigger the offer. Other parameters didn’t work for me. If you don’t get it, try different techniques. As of 7/12/12, this search was still yielding the offer.
  • Go ahead and complete the application for the card. Provide a BA FF number during the card application. The FT thread reports that you do NOT need to complete the flight purchase.
  • Don’t forget to go sign up for an Iberia account, as explained in this post. Critical if you hope to use these miles to go to Europe.
  • Consult the linked flyertalk thread for additional information.

American Express Business Rewards Card – Fee Waived – 75k Membership Rewards Points on $10k spend in 4 months – APPLY BY JUNE 26, 2012

Darius does a nice job keeping up on the best card offers and posted this first so go here to read more.  In a nutshell, the annual fee is waived for the first year and this has a high spending requirement at $10,000 in 4 months.

Here’s why this is a great offer… Offers over 50k points have been rare this year. Amex Membership Rewards points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, are incredibly flexible and may be transferred to quite a few airline and hotel programs, most instantly. One of which is BA so between these two cards, you could create a 200k+ BA account. After spending, you’ll have at least 85k points. Further, you earn 3 points per dollar on airfare so possibly quite a few more points using the category bonus. Further, Amex has often had transfer bonuses of 20-50% so this could well net 102k to 127k points after bonuses.

This offer is as good as public offers for Amex MR have been this year have been and when they’ve been out, they are short lived. Best to go now, collect the points, and wait for a transfer bonus.

Wildcards

If you were up for one more card, I’d consider these:

Chase United 55k + $50 statement credit on first spend – First year fee waived. I covered this in another recommendation so I’ll just link there. Do this only if you cannot get the British Airways link to work. Going for two Chase personal cards on the same day can be done but guarantees a need to call Chase for reconsideration.

The next 3 are from other banks which has the advantage of having a much higher liklihood of approval by spreading around the applications IF DONE ON THE SAME DAY. All are good offers that fit in well with the two core cards above.

Citi Thank You Premier 50k on $2,500 in spending – First year fee waived. Book up to $700 (52.5k * $.01333)  in revenue plane tickets. These links come and go.

Barclays US Air 40k on first spend – annual fee waived. US Air Dividend Miles can be used on Star Alliance flights. US Air miles tend to be undervalued and this is a great start.

Bank of America Virgin Atlantic 50k on $2,500 in 3 months. $90 annual fee. The beauty is the ability to transfer to 100k Hilton HHonors points in my opinion. Here’s why I like Hilton so much.

Summary

Suppose that the first two are approved and, just for illustration, that the BOA Virgin Atlantic is too. This would generate 100k BA miles; 85k-127k points via the Amex card which may be transferred to BA, Delta, Singapore Airlines, and others; and 100k+ HHonors points. The cost would be $240 in annual fees and spending requirements of $12,500 which is a bit steep but the rewards are pretty rich.

Darius provides several resources, particularly how to make an effective reconsideration call should you not be approved automatically.

You can, of course, be much more aggressive but that requires a comfort level with cards and credit that’s probably beyond this post and quite a bit more thought about business cards, bank limits, and how to make reconsideration calls.

3 comments

  1. […] 4 months with the annual fee waived for the first year. I recommended it to a colleague in the post here. I caught this card earlier in the year myself but since it’s back, I’m ready to pick […]

  2. […] option as well (though I’ll probably stick with United for those). Finally, there’s a 100k BA card for those of you that haven’t had it. I’m not sure how I’ll build those balances back up right now but I’ll be keeping […]

  3. […] However, I’ve also been aware of an approach that nets 100k BA with only requiring one charge and at a cost of only $150 in fees. I described that previously in this post. […]

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