July App-o-Rama. 6 Cards. 305,000 Miles & Points.

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Emily and I don’t have plans for a big loan in the next 2 years (equity, house, student, etc.) so we regularly apply for credit cards to build up a mile and point balance.

Churn Analysis - Credit Cards

6 Credit Cards.  305,000 Miles & Points

However, if you are applying for a big loan in the next 2 years, I recommend no credit card applications  to ensure that you’re doing everything possible to get your loan approved at the lowest possible rate.

In general, applying for credit cards reduces your credit score by 3 to 8 points per application (your specific situation may be different), but banks look at other factors such as how often you’ve applied for credit recently etc. when they evaluate big loans.

Much better in my opinion, to get that big loan first, and then apply for credit cards.

With that out of the way, a few weeks ago I applied for 6 credit cards which will get me 305,000 miles and points!

  1. Citi AAdvantage 75,000 mile personal Visa card
  2. Citi AAdvantage 75,000 mile personal Amex card
  3. SPG 30,000 point Amex
  4. Bank of America 35,000 mile Hawaiian Air Visa
  5. Bank of America 40,000 mile Alaska Air Visa
  6. Chase 50,000 point Southwest Airline card

Actually, I should get 340,000 miles and points, because I will be converting 35,000 Hawaiian Air miles to 70,000 Hilton points!

I’ve been approved for all of the cards except the SPG card, because American Express wants to see my tax returns.

The 2 Citi cards were approved instantly online, but I had a tough time convincing the Chase reconsideration analyst to approve my Chase Southwest application.

I call the Bank Of America reconsideration line since my application required further processing to approve the Alaska Air and Hawaiian Air cards, but that went very smoothly.

Card Selection Criteria

I apply for 4 to 5 cards every 90 to 100 days.  Here is the criteria I use to apply for cards, but I realize that folks with different goals might use different criteria.

1.   Highest Bonus.   In general, I always try to apply for the cards with the highest bonus first, even if I have no immediate use for the points.  I know that I’ll find a use for the miles and points later.

I applied for the 2 personal AAdvantage cards because it was more than 18 months since I was last approved for them and they have the highest bonus currently available.

These are also the best credit cards, in my opinion, for folks new to miles and points (who want to apply for only 1 or 2 cards) because you can apply for both the Visa and Amex at the same time using the 2-browser trick and get 150,000 AAdvantage miles.

150,000 AAdvantage miles will let me have MUCH more Big Travel with Small Money than either the 50,000 points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the 30,000 points from the SPG American Express which are often touted as the best mile and points credit cards.

For example, 150,000 AA miles will get me 2.5 coach trips to Europe, while I could barely get 1 coach trip to Europe with the 50,000 Chase Sapphire points or 30,000 SPG points.

2.   Limited Time Offers.   I also apply for a few cards with limited time bonus offers.  For example, the Chase Southwest (no longer available) was offering  50,000 points as a sign up bonus instead of the regular 25,000 points.

I would NOT apply for a Chase credit card with only a 25,000 point signup since Chase is very sensitive to the number of credit card applications you make, and 25,000 points is not a sufficient incentive for me.

The American Express SPG card is offering 30,000 SPG points after spending $4,500 within 3 months which is much better than the regular requirement to spend $15,000 within 6 months.

3.   Credit Inquiries from different credit bureaus.  In general, I apply for credit cards from different banks so that I don’t have credit inquiries hitting only 1 credit bureau.

I want to limit the number of inquiries on each of the credit bureaus, because banks don’t like seeing too many inquiries (especially in the last 6 to 12 months) on your credit report.

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the 3 main credit bureaus in the US.  Banks will usually request a copy of your credit bureau from at least 1 (sometimes more) of these credit bureaus.  The exact credit bureau used depends on where you live and which bank you’ve applied for credit from.

In my case, Bank of America used my Equifax credit report, Chase and Citi used my Experian credit report, and American Express hasn’t yet pulled my credit score.

4.  Minimum spend requirement.  I don’t usually worry about this, because there are plenty of ways to meet minimum spend requirements.

But I do some rough calculations before to see if the minimum spending is manageable.

Credit Score Impact

Here are my free credit scores from Credit Sesame and Credit Karma.

They are not official FICO credit scores which lenders usually use, but substitute scores or “FAKO” scores.

Credit Karma:

My score dropped from 749 in July (before applying) to 738 in August.


11 Point Decrease In My Credit Karma Score

In case you’re wondering why my score dipped from Aug to Oct 2010, it is because I received a very lucrative balance transfer option that I maxed out.

It was very lucrative. 🙂

Credit Karma is a proxy (FAKO) of my TransUnion FICO score.

Credit Sesame:

My score increased from 710 in July (before applying) to 738 in August.

Churn-Analysis - 1

10 Point Increase In My Credit Sesame Score

Credit Sesame gives me a proxy (FAKO) of my Experian FICO score.

Bottom Line:

Many of the millions of miles which Emily and I use for Big Travel with Small Money have come from credit card sign-up bonuses.

This is a great way to earn lots of miles and points, but you HAVE to be careful.

Don’t apply for credit cards if you can’t pay off the entire balance monthly.  You’ll likely be paying more in interest than the value of the miles and points.  And don’t apply for credit cards if you will be applying for a big loan in the next 2 years.

What criteria do you use when you apply for credit cards?  How many cards do you apply for at a time?

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Disclosure: You should know that I recently applied for the credit cards in the post.  However, I don’t get any referral bonus or commission from anyone for this post or for the links to the credit cards in this post.

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75 responses to “July App-o-Rama. 6 Cards. 305,000 Miles & Points.

  1. daraius, i understand that the sw 50k deal is over. However, i found a link while reading through ft. Can you tell me if it legitimate?


  2. if it is legitimate*

  3. Let us know how the Hawaiian transfer to Hilton works out or if you know anyone who received the 2 for 1 transfer

  4. Credit scores are also used by insurers to give you your “insurance score”, which effects how much you pay. Perhaps not a big deal, but this another “cost” of a lower score.

  5. Did you apply for 2 Bank Of America cards on the same day?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. Hi,
    Very informative. I applied for 1 card in june, and then 3 cards together in one day at the start of august. I currently have no plans to apply for a mortgage, but if i do look at applying say in a year from now, do you think that these applications could affect the interest rate on the mortgage adversely ?

  7. When you say “lucrative” balance transfer, can you share or post about this? Do banks give bonuses for transferring balances? But aren’t there usually fees associated with this?

    • @hh – The link doesn’t work for me, so I can’t read the terms & conditions. The FT post (#196) suggests caution since the application on the landing page, may not be the offer you get. If you do decide to apply using that link, be sure to have lots of screenshots and prepare for long conversations if you do not get the full 50K bonus.

      I’ve never applied from a expired Chase application, so I don’t have any personal experience.

      @Richard – That’s very funny! I don’t mind sending in my information, but it is the repeated follow-up that I don’t like.

      Thanks for sharing your churn updates on Chase – very helpful!. Chase is probably the best run large bank in the US, and it makes sense that they want their customers to be profitable (especially when they give out large sign-up bonuses!)

      @Peter L – I applied for all the cards on the same day within the same hour. Chase usually approves only 1 application in a 30 day period. That said, if you are a new customer to Chase or don’t have much credit with them, or haven’t applied for a lot of credit cards, you may be able to call the reconsideration line and get the second card approved. But I wouldn’t count on getting 2 cards approved…

      – Good point!

      @Len Williams – I did apply for 2 Bank of America cards on the same day. They both required further processing, but I was able to get them approved after calling the reconsideration line the next day.

      @Desi Guy
      – I can’t say for sure. Credit inquires will stay on your credit report for 2 years, but the weighting of the impact of the inquiry is highest within the 1st 6 to 12 months. Again, this varies by lender, so I can’t say for sure.

      c0ldlimit – Ha! I was waiting for someone to ask about that. It wasn’t a transfer which gave me miles and points, but a true 0% offer, which I leveraged elsewhere for a few months. There are fees associated with balance transfers, but some banks still have a cap on the max limit (like Barclays) which MAY make a transfer worthwhile.

      @Vinny-You can look at your credit report to see which bureau they’ve used for you before. Here’s more information on which cards, in my experience, can be churned.

  8. If you have had the SPG before and cancelled it, can you apply again and get the current sign up bonus. Or is Amex like Chase and they only give sign up bonuses once?
    Also, where can i find out which credit bureau is being used in my state. I know what Chase uses because their rejection letter mentioned the credit bureau they used but I am hoping i can find out similar info about Citi/Amex without having to be rejected by them 🙂

  9. Great post, I’ll be saving this one as a reference point on a few items. Two questions:

    1 – I’ve heard that my state, FL, is an Equifax state when it comes to credit pull reports, where can I find this info?

    2 – Where can I get my Equifax score for free?

    Thanks again!

  10. Thanks! This is great info. Do you cancel your old Citi AA cards before applying for the new ones or do you just have several open at the same time? I know there are VISA, MC and AmEx branded, so do you have multiples ones of some or all? Thanks again.

  11. Darius, something I haven’t seen much about on the web (on yours or other great sites) are generically what the poster above referenced — I’d consider myself a fairly advanced churner but I’m not sure a) how to determine what credit bureau will pull the inquiry or b) why this matters. For example, what are the parameters I should be aware of (do I need to make sure not to exceed X inquiries by whichever bureau in Y amount of time)?

  12. Make sure to double check on the spending requirements for the AA Visa and Amex after you activate it.
    I applied for both, and they require $4000 spending on each card.
    I called in 3x, and even the supervisor couldn’t reverse the visa to 1500 for me.
    My sister also applied from the same link, and hers is $1500…

    • @SB – The easiest way is to look at your credit report and see which bureau has been used. Or you can go to creditboards.com and see the “credit pulls” database which may be outdated.

      @Ed Klein
      – I’ve had every possible type of Citi AA card, but in this case, I had closed the cards before applying again. I’ve written more on my experience with the AA cards.

      @EggSS4 – In general, you want to limit yourself to say, 12 to 18, inquiries per bureau over a 2 year period, because banks may get worried if you have a lot of inquiries on your credit report. Stay tuned, for a more detailed post. 🙂

      Blackbox@ – That’s very strange, and I wonder why it happens, but is a good reminder! You may want to spend only $1,500 on the Visa and see if you get the bonus.

  13. FYI, there’s a typo in you chart for the Alaska 40K (says 35K).

    Just curious, why no Barclays apps? You seem to have capacity for some TransUnion hits (which Barclays pulls for most of us) or does Barclays not pull TransUnion for you? I recently got their AirTran card (up to 28 credits with a capped 0% BT). Since those credits will become Southwest points in the near future I view the AirTran card as a Southwest offer to apply for before Chase steps in. My 0% BT will be earning miles at BankDirect for 6 months. 🙂

    Also, I’m not sure applying for all cards on the same day really matters any more, except for applications with the same issuer (which consolidate to 1 inquiry unless different arms pull different agencies which has happened to me with BoA/FIA). The conventional wisdom used to be that same day app-o-ramas made a difference in getting approved but I’m not so sure that still holds true.

    • @HikerT – Thanks for pointing out the typo. I’ll fix it tonight when I have Excel access. No Barclays apps, because I wanted to hold off for a bit. Barclays pulls TransUnion for me too, but I want to ensure that I have excellent credit, because I don’t want a lower card and a lower bonus from Barclays. BTW, Emily got the AirTran card in her August churn for the same reasons you mentioned. 🙂

      I don’t know if applying for cards on the same day matters or not, but I do know that it is easier for me to track this way!

  14. If you have a chance, I have 2 questions about what I am considering.

    1 – Curious @ business cards. You said 25k is too low in your post. Chase Ink B-card gives 25k, and can transfer to your Chase Points account. Is this too low for a b-card?

    2 – Does the CR bureaus ding your personal CR for b-card apps too?


    • @Cheaplee – Only you can determine what is too low for your specific situation. I know that I won’t apply for more than 3 or 4 Chase cards a year, since they are monitoring the number of applications closely. So I will save my Chase applications for bigger than usual bonuses like the 50K Southwest offer etc.

      I believe that the credit inquiry will show up on your personal credit report (if you apply using your SSN).

  15. My business card applications have appeared as pulls on my personal credit reports.

    I am curious to hear more about the lucrative balance transfer offer, too. Which issuer was it? I had one a few years ago from Chase that was 0% with a capped initial fee. I recently got another one that was a 1% APR with no fee. That was Chase, too.

  16. Yea Chase are really strict on the number of cards and the credit limits.
    I kinda regret that I applied for Chase Freedom with 20k bonus before I found your site and the FT forum.
    I’m really curious if anyone ever asked to convert the Freedom Card to Sapphire Preferred and still get the 50k bonus…
    I already have 2 dings so far with the Freedom 20k and Southwest 50K.

  17. Hi, just wondering is it free and safe to use Credit Sesame to monitor my credit score? I am using creditkarma, it is good.

    • @bluto – It was a Capital One offer on one of my earliest cards which I now use sporadically. I have a large line on that card, so I (almost) maxed out the limit for the BT.

      @Blackbox – Hopefully, there will be some good Chase offers soon!

      @Andy – Credit Sesame is free to use. Credit Karma is a proxy of your TransUnion score, while Credit Sesame is a proxy of your Experian score. I like to see my score simulation with both credit bureaus.

  18. Love your blog, but man you need to lay off putting “Big Travel with Small Money” in every single blog post. It gets old.

  19. Darius,

    What do you do with old cards upon the one year mark? Do you ask for a mileage bonus to keep the card and pay the annual fee? If not successful do you ask for a no fee card? Or do you cancel the card? Or all of the above depending upon the card?


    • @Will – I wrote about that in an earlier post. In general, I see if the retention bonus is lucrative, before deciding to cancel or not. Most times, I do cancel the card close to the 1 year mark. My oldest cards are all regular non-mile cards, so I don’t have to worry too much about lowering the average age of my credit history.

  20. I did a similar churn of 5 cards on July 27. I noticed that you reported a 35k bonus on your Alaska Airlines card. I used the link on Flyer Talkand recieved 40k. Just curious why you received a smaller bonus?
    Also noticed you are a fellow Kansas resident. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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  22. Just out of curiosity, why did you not do the Amex premier gold for 75k points?

  23. D,
    I would have sworn you had a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet for tracking credit cards (when we applied, spends, etc.)—but now I can’t find it. It was posted a week or so ago…
    Am I dreaming? If it wasn’t you and someone recognizes what I’m talking about, please help me out here with a pointer.
    Thanks in advance!

  24. please do a post about the air tran barclays card app and how it impacts southwest. i missed this one in my august a-o-r. kickin myself cuz i got biz and personal chase 50k (miles have not posted yet) so some extra credits on southwest would have been good.

  25. D, thanks a Million! 🙂 Ed

  26. Daraius, how are you planning to use your 40k Alaskan miles? I got the card as well, but have had some buyers remorse about it because I can’t spend enough to earn many more.

    • @Kris – I don’t have a use for 40K miles, but I will be getting more Alaskan miles and will use them later. They are redeemable on AA and BA, in addition to Cathay, BA, and others so I’ll have lots of options. 40K is just the start!

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  29. Hey D!

    Quick question, do you know the approx churn schedule for the Alaska Airlines card? i.e. does the “clock” start ticking from the day you apply for or cancel the Alaska card?

    • @Ray – I don’t know personally, but readers are suggesting that you may not have to cancel the card and could get approved again if you apply for a good enough reason. At some point, though, I do expect that you’ll have to cancel a few cards to get new cards approved.

  30. My husband was just offered 20,000 bonus miles on a pre-approved Citi AA American Express card (spend $500/4 mo.) for an $85 annual fee. He just got a Citi business card approved in August, 2011. His last approval for his personal card (which we canceled last month) was Oct. 2010. Would you go for this offer or is it better to wait for the next 75,000 offer? (I wish I knew about the 2 browser trick last year.) Thanks!

    • @Tammy Horvath – I would wait, b/c if you were approved you would have to wait 18 months from today to get another Citi card. Righ now, you only have to wait 6 months to try again for the 75K miles cards (if they are still available).

  31. That’s exactly what I was thinking. It was just hard to turn down the free miles. I guess it is all in timing. Thanks for the advice!

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  34. I’m just tiptoeing into this possibility, not sure if I’m ready to jump into the deep end. So far I’ve just stuck with one double-miles credit card, stayed loyal on my airline, and racked up enough miles for a few trips.

    Now with my first kid about to go to college next year, maximizing rewards to enjoy some more travel during leaner financial years is appealing , but maybe credit card “churn” (a new concept for me ) isn’t the thing to do when also applying for college loans.

    • @Mark – Don’t do it if you are uncomfortable about it! And if you have college loans coming up, you likely shouldn’t apply for 6 cards at a time. But you could apply for a few (or whatever you are comfortable with).

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  37. Thanks for your post. Aside from hard inquiries, my big concern I average age of credit cards. As you apply for more cards, the average age based on the last ten years goes down. Wouldn’t we at some point have too many cards and a low enough credit score that we would be denied going forward? Inquiry counts drop off in two years so I worry less about that.

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  40. So I just did my first mini app-o-rama. I got the Sapphire a month ago. The today I was approved for the US Airway Barclays, the SPG Amex, and the Virgin BofA. However, I got “application Pending” from both of the AA Citi cards as well as the Southwest Chase. I expected this from the Chase since I just got a card about 40 days ago. But what is up with that happening with the Citi? Any ideas?

  41. Sadly, as of now Chase has taken away the 50K bonuses for Southwest personal and business cards. I got the 50K on the personal one last month, but will wait for the business one to go back to 50K since I need that to potentially get the SW Companion pass.

    If anyone gets notice about Chase going back to 50K…let me know!

  42. I meant to say above Chase reduced it to 50K to 25K

  43. Daraius,
    Can I get your opinion? I’ve been holding off applying for the Chase bus card for my husband so that it didn’t look like he got his Chase personal card last February 2011 just to get the sign up bonus. The spending on the card is Feb/2011 $7, Mar $391, Apr – Sept. 0, Oct. $29, Nov. $72, Dec. $1,550, Jan. $2,757, Feb. $3,045. I was trying to get the card spending up before applying but it looks like time may not be on our side for the 50,000 bonus. Would you apply now with your link or would you wait for the next time it comes around?

    • @Tammy Horvath – Which Chase business card are you referring to? The Southwest 50K on the blog may disappear since the regular offer on the Southwest website is for only 25K points. If your husband’s last Chase card was in February, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve got 4 new Chase cards in the last year. I wouldn’t worry about it unless I was applying for a new Chase card every month.

  44. Daraius,
    Yes the 50,000 on the blog still works, it seems. Is it risky to go for it since it is not showing on the Southwest site? Might we not get the miles? I don’t want to risk that.

  45. Daraius,
    My husband was approved instantly through your link for the Chase SW business card. I just hope we get the 50,000 bonus miles. I always question getting them when it is not on the regular Southwest page. I couldn’t find a way to copy the screen shot either. Thanks for all your help. You are awesome!

    • @Tammy Horvath – Congrats! You should be able to get a screen shot by hitting the “Print Scr” button on your keyboard or hitting Ctrl + C and then hitting Ctrl + P in Microsoft Word. The link isn’t mine (in that I don’t get a commission for the 50K version), but is better than the 25K version which does pay me a commission. I found this on google so best to take a screenshot etc., but Chase usually awards the correct bonus most times.

  46. Thanks Daraius. Still no luck so I took a pic with my camera. The page prints but I can’t copy the Southwest box on the left and I get a blank box when I print, although everything else on the page prints. My pic will have to do. Have a great day!

  47. So, does it make any difference if I do my apps for credit cards a few days apart? I applied for 3 two days ago (personal and business SW with Chase and US Airways cards) and I was thinking I wanted to do the two Citi cards for the AA points. Does a few days in between applying matter? It’s been about 6 months since I’ve applied for a card previous to this.

    • @Sheryl – I have no way of knowing for sure, but it depends if Citi will use the same credit bureau as Chase or US Air for you. If they do use the same bureau, you may have too many recent inquiries and get denied. If they use a different credit bureau, you may be fine.

  48. Thanks for the reply. Any way to know ahead of time which bureau they would use?

  49. Thank you!

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  54. Billy Staples

    Hi Daraius. I read your blog often – very good and insightful information, I really appreciate it! Quick question — do you have a blog posting that details each bank’s “churn” requirements? What I mean by that is, considering when I OPEN and CLOSE a card (which I received a sign-up bonus for), how long (and from which dates), must I wait to re-apply and get approved again (and of course, get the bonus again)? Do some banks not allow it at all? Do some have a time period lapse? Etc. Thanks!