It’s pretty interesting being seeing how far I can push the credit card sign-up approach despite having done this for years. Sometimes I surprise myself.
Firstly, we did a refi on our mortgage just 2 months ago. The good news is that despite 20+ inquiries on some credit reports, we flew through with flying colors so our constant applications seemed to truly have no effect (your credit’s important and there’s a lot more to it than inquiries). The bad news is that we had new inquiries from the mortgage itself and I thus decided we’d take a small breather and focus on some high spending goals. Well, two weeks ago my wife went ahead with her churn based on a very limited time offer. Now I find myself contemplating a short-term offer and diving in sooner than expected. As before, I thought I’d illustrate how I construct it. Let’s start with what I call my anchor offer…
Chase British Airways – 100k on one purchase, $150 in total fees
In 2010-2011, we redeemed somewhere around 350-400k+ BA and one travel together certificate. In late 2011, BA changed their program and have been generally seen as less valuable (with some bright spots). Then some Amex transfer bonuses came into play but I ignored them. And a couple 100k offers were floating around that I didn’t pay attention to (since we’d both had the card before). And then some options like Aer Lingus and Iberia emerged but I didn’t really have any BA but now my interest was piqued. And then I saw Darius post about Emily getting the BA 100k card a 2nd time (this isn’t supposed to work). I’m also aware that the card she applied for is expiring soon (July 18 2012). I haven’t mentioned that one much because it requires spending $20,000 (keep reading, don’t stop here). If you do that, you may as well push on to $30,000 and get the “travel together” (aka companion) certificate. It really can be a great value but we have so, so many points that the significant costs (fuel surcharges) of using it dissuade me.
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.
Well, $150 for 100k BA… I’ll take it! Conveniently, I’d been holding at 2 Chase personal cards in anticipation of a Chase Southwest card. That card recently dropped its bonus so this card slots in perfectly.
Credit Background: Chase generally pulls Equifax for me (it varies, seemingly by location) but also occasionally Experian. My score is fine on both (740+) but I have 16-18 inquiries on those. 😦 My most recent Chase application was ~4 months ago and my last credit card inquiries were 4-8 months ago depending on report. That said, remember that I had a few 8 week old mortgage inquiries from our refi.
Risks: High inquiries but aside from mortgage inquiries, I’ve actually been kind of quiet this year so I was feeling pretty good so approval is pretty likely I think. The bigger risk is getting no points at all but I’ll accept it.
Result: Initially Pending. Almost all my Chase applications go pending so I’m not worried. I carry some mortgages on rental property (that my wife isn’t listed on) and that seems to trigger a lot more manual reviews than my wife gets. At least that’s what I tell myself and I do nearly always get approved in the end.
UPDATED RESULT: Approved. One nice thing about Chase is that your card will often appear in your account automatically on approval. No call necessary this time… it just appeared.
Citi AA Amex and Visa Cards – 50k on $3k spend in 4 mos, $100 AA statement credit, companion cert, fee waived
You can apply for both the Citi AA Amex and Citi AA Visa personal cards on the same day, in different browser sessions (aka the not so well named “two browser trick”) and collect the bonus on each. I’ve had these before but it’s been 18+ months since my last run at them and reports are very strong that you can come back after that long. So I did! With my Chase Anchor motivating a round of apps, why not throw these in since they’re pretty compelling and probably pull from a different credit bureau for me. Read all the details in the first post here but also be sure to check the end of the thread for very recent updates. You will have to have some faith that this just works.
About the offer: 50k AA miles (among the most valuable miles) on spending $3,000 in 4 months. Also includes a $100 statement credit on AA purchases as well as a companion certificate. Be sure to understand the companion certificate requirements. I’m not well versed in AA fare codes but I’ve picked up that these are somewhat more lenient than most companion certs. Nonetheless, don’t expect it to work on the cheapest of fares.
Credit Background: Citi exclusively pulls from Equifax for me and my wife. As I noted above, I have pretty high inquiries and was a bit worried but recently, I’ve actually had very few EQ inquiries. One really nice thing about applying for both of these on the same day (since they’re both persona and from the same bank and really the same card) is that the 2 inquiries will probably merge into 1 which is a good thing long-term.
Risks: With $40k+ personal credit and one Citi AA Amex still open (though nearly 2 years old), I was worried that I’d hit maximum personal credit limits. I contemplated closing them but there are positive reports that Citi will even let you have 2 of the exact same card (e.g. an old Citi AA Amex and a new Citi AA Amex) and I decided to go ahead and hope for the best. Perhaps I’d get denied or perhaps I’d have to negotiate some credit line moves or closures. Only one way to find out.
Result: Instant approval on both! And high credit lines! Wow! I now have 5 Citi personal cards (3 are AA branded) and 1 Citi business AA card. Crazy.
Quick note about Citi’s credit card division… I’m convinced that on April 6th, 1998, common sense was downsized and relocated from their offices in Jacksonville, FL and Sioux Falls, SD to an office on a remote tropical island with no email, no phones, unreliable mail, and only an old thermal fax machine. By October 8th, 1998, they’d run out of paper. Since then, reports vary but I hear faxes still occasionally show up in various Citi offices with a desperate, hand scrawled note demanding updates and warning that it “will all end badly.” Since then, the computer is always right at Citi. Arguing gets you nowhere nor does escalating denials (unless you go WAY up). I instead focus on understanding their approval requirements and then going for it. If I get denied, oh well. I probably get approved 80% of the time though. The couple times I pushed for reconsideration, all it did was add more inquiries to my report and extend my Citi time-out. I used to get angry that things made no sense over there. Now I love Citi for the strange computer driven machine that it is.
Amex Hilton Surpass – 60k Hilton HHonors on $3k spend in 3 months. Fee of $75.
I already have the base Amex Hilton card. I really wanted to upgrade that one for 50k HHonors points to the higher trim level Surpass card but they won’t let you do it for 13 months. 10k more Hilton for a new card just wasn’t worth that much and I wanted to keep my credit card number (since a few autopays are tied to it and require manual paper form updates). Anyway, I wanted the status sooner which required a new card and since I’m doing applications, I may as well throw this in. Since I value HHonors around $.0075 each when combined with Gold (which I have) or Diamond status, this is only a $450 value bonus but you have to discount that by $75 in fees for the first year so a net of $375 in value.
There’s one really compelling thing about this card. You get Hilton Gold status for the first year which is mid-grade. I’ve really enjoyed that but since I already have it, this aspect of the card does nothing for me. This card is best acquired AFTER you build up your Hilton balances with other cards and are anticipating some big stays where status will result in better treatment.
Here’s what I’m really after…You can get Hilton Diamond status (top-tier) each year by spending $40,000 on the card. I have access to some pretty substantial business spending and use those points to cover a lot of business travel but the spin-off value of status to improve my travel experience is awfully nice too.
This is not for everyone. There are definitely other high spend cards I’d go for first but if you have a LOT of spending, this is one of the best cards for it. It’s one of several reasons why Hilton is the hotel program for me. I felt rather validated when Lucky at One Mile at a Time started coming around but I won’t take any credit for that.
Credit Background: Amex exclusively pulls Experian for me where I had some inquiries back in March and around 16 total. I also held 3 business and 1 personal card. I honestly wasn’t too worried about this one, based solely on how successful I’ve been with Amex approvals and that this is a card that I think they find pretty profitable – the bonus isn’t that large and it encourages very high spend and the fee isn’t waived.
Risks: None. I was told repeatedly, in writing, that I could upgrade my base card in December and my year to date spend on that would count toward Diamond status. I just didn’t want to wait that long. This was purely opportunistic.
Result: Instant approval!
Barclays Best Western Mastercard – 48k points on first purchase. Fee waived.
Yes, this is a strange choice. I wasn’t planning on this at all but just 3 hours after I completed the applications above, in rolled an email for this offer. 48k BW points (THREE times the normal offer) is worth 1-6 nights and there are so many BW’s around, that this is pretty useful. They can also be useful in transfers to US Air if the Grand Slam returns and this is a Barclay’s card which almost always pulls Transunion (the least used credit bureau) where my inquiries are very low so it’s an easy opportunistic add-on. So, why not. No link currently for this card but I might see if that 48k offer is targeted specifically to me or open and just distributed through email channels. More to come on that soon.
Credit Background: I have one no-fee downgraded reward card from them that’s a year old, just to keep a line open. I actually WANTED to convert to this card or the Choice or Travelocity but they wouldn’t let me. My last Transunion inquiry was for our mortgage but before that it was probably around September of last fall.
Risks: None really. I’m well positioned for this unless Barclay’s is just bothered by my recent Airtran closures but even then, it wasn’t a card I was planning on and wasn’t hitting my usual credit bureaus.
Result: Pending. Dang! Will see what happens I guess and update this later.
Updated Result: Approved automatically after a couple weeks wait. Sure took a while! I didn’t bother calling in on this one though.
If all goes well, this is $225 in annual fees with $9k of spending required in 3-4 months, generating 200k high-quality airline bonus miles and 108k lower-value hotel miles via 5 cards. There are some fringe benefits which aren’t negligible. In credit terms, it really even distributes the inquiries with 1-2 expected to go to Experian, 2 going to Equifax, and 1 to Transunion. That’s a good pattern that’s sustainable. If I did that every 4 months, I’d never exceed 12 inquiries since they fall off after 2 years thus my inquiries should keep falling (from a high of, get this, 27!).
It’s also worth noting that these all have a reason behind them. Either they’re great offers, provide some status, or are targeted. As a churn for someone that’s been doing this for quite a while now, it’s a pretty nice one.
So I think there’s some really good proof here. Despite 21 (if my count was correct) cards opened just in my name in the last 24 months (not including this round), we pulled off a major refi with out issue and I still constructed a nice round above. It may get harder going forward but there are still a fair number of products I’ve never had and a fair number I can go back to still.