320,000 Miles & Points. 5 Cards. Daraius’ November 2011 App-o-Rama.

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As I’ve written before, Emily and I don’t have any big loans in the next 2 years (equity, house, student, etc.) so we regularly apply for credit cards to earn millions of miles and points.

We then use these miles and points to have lots of Big Travel with Small Money!

If I were applying for a big loan, I wouldn’t apply for any credit cards until I had my loan.  Much better, in my opinion, to do everything possible to get a low interest rate on the big loan first, and then apply for credit cards.

Many credit cards require you to complete a certain minimum amount of spending before receiving the sign-up bonus.  I am careful to see that I can complete the minimum spending and use the 40+ ways to complete minimum spending requirements.

5 cards from 3 different banks

In general, I apply for credit cards from different banks so that I don’t have credit inquiries (which usually happens every time you apply for credit) 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.

Citibank – 2 cards, 100,000 miles & points

[You should know that I get a referral if you sign up for the Citi Thank You Premier using the links in the post.  Emily and I both have a Citi Thank You card and each got free airfare worth $665.  As always, we are very thankful to readers who apply using our link!]

1.   Citi Thank You Premier with 50,000 bonus points.  Citi Thank You points are not transferable to other airlines so this is NOT a card to put your regular spending on.

But 50,000 points will get you $500 in gift cards or $ 665 worth of airfare booked from the Citi ThankYou portal.

Emily applied for this card earlier and we redeemed the Thank You points to book 2 tickets to visit her parents in Traverse City, Michigan.  Traverse City is a very small airport where regular tickets are over $300 and it is hard to get award seats on that route.

But it was very easy to use our Thank You points to book tickets.  We even earned miles on those flights!

Just to be clear – if you’re new to miles and points, I don’t recommend applying for the Citi Thank You card immediately (even though I earn a referral on it).

Much better, in my opinion, to get 100,000 American Airlines miles by using the 2 browser trick and consider the Citi Thank You card after a few months.  I don’t get a referral on the Citi AAdvantage credit cards, but those are a better deal for newbies!

2.   Citi AAdvantage Business Visa Card with 50,000 American Airline miles, 2 Admirals Club lounge passes and a $150 statement credit after any purchase with American Airlines.

I used to be able to get a  new Citi Business card every 3 months after cancelling my old one.  However, Emily wasn’t able to get a new Citi business card in February, 4 months after cancelling her last card, so I didn’t try either.

But since my last Citi AAdvantage business card was approved in January 2011, I decided to give it a shot again.  And I eventually got approved for the card.

I love American Airline points because they are so easy to use – either for domestic US travel or for First Class international travel.  I’ve also earned well over a million American Airline points and achieved lifetime gold elite status almost entirely due to Citi credit cards which is not possible any longer.

Results:  Both my Citi applications were NOT approved instantly.  I also decided to submit a 3rd application for the Citi ThankYou card to test if Citi’s 2 cards (2 personal or 1 personal and 1 business) in 65 day policy was still applicable.

I called the reconsideration line a few hours later, but the rep didn’t give me any meaningful information about my application.  I kept on calling back, but got stonewalled each time.

Citi Reconsideration

A few days later, I got emails declining my application for all 3 cards!  I was expecting to get denied for the 3rd Citi Thank You card, but not for the others.

I’ll write a more detailed post on my experience with the Citi reconsideration department, but I eventually got approved for both cards after writing via US mail to their executive office twice.

100,000 points.  Score!

Chase – 1 card, 50,000 points

3.    Chase Southwest Airlines business card with 50,000 bonus points.  I had applied for the personal card in my last app-o-rama in July and was eager to get the business version because the 50,000 sign-up bonus counted towards Companion Pass status.

The companion pass is an awesome benefit, because it lets a companion fly free with you on any Southwest flight even if you book the flight using points earned from the credit card signup bonus!

I explained my  personal experience with the Chase business reconsideration line and how applying for 2 Chase Southwest credit cards got us $3,666 in Big Travel with Small Money earlier.

In my opinion, the Chase Southwest credit cards with the 50,000 sign up bonus are one of the best credit card deals available for domestic US travel.

And yes – it is even better than the Chase Sapphire Preferred for domestic US travel because the sign up bonus currently counts towards the Companion Pass whereas points transferred from the Chase Sapphire Preferred do not count towards the Companion Pass.

Bank of America – 2 cards, 170,000 points

4.   Virgin Atlantic card with 50,000 points.   Emily applied for this card earlier and we were able to convert 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles into 100,000 Hilton Honors points very easily.

I’m always short of hotel points so this was a great way to increase our stash of Hilton points for only the $90 annual fee.

As I like pointing out, you earn more points applying for the Virgin Atlantic credit card and transferring the points to Hilton than by applying for the official Hilton credit cards from Citi and American Express!

5.   Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines with 35,000 miles.  I applied for the Bank of America Hawaiian Airline card in July ($79 fee not waived) and successfully converted 35,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles to 70,000 Hilton points.

Since I’m always looking for hotel points, I decided to apply for the Bank of Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines card as well.  This card is actually issued by FIA card services which is a part of Bank of America.

Both my applications were not approved immediately, but I called the reconsideration line to get approved. 

I explained why I needed so many cards (“Virgin Atlantic is much better for trips to the UK” & “I want to earn miles to go to Hawaii!”) and offered to close my Alaska Air card to get approved for these cards.

All in all, this was a pretty effortless way to earn 170,000 Hilton hotel points!

Credit Score Impact

My free credit score from Credit Sesame (Experian) has actually increased, while my score from  Credit Karma (TransUnion)  decreased a bit since my App-O-Rama.

[You should know that I get a referral if you sign up for Credit Sesame using the links in the post.  Emily and I have been using Credit Sesame for years and are very thankful to readers who use our link!]

They are not official FICO credit scores which lenders usually use, but substitute scores or “FAKO” (as in fake) scores.

But these are good substitutes for me because I don’t want to spend money to get my official credit score.

 Credit Sesame:

My score increased by 18 points from 717 to 735 in January.  Credit Sesame gives me a substitute of my Experian score.

Churn Analysis November 2011

Credit Sesame Score Increased!

My score is still considered good which is what I want it to be because I plan on applying for more credit cards in the future!

 Credit Karma:

My score dropped 19 points from 753 to 734 in January.  Credit Karma gives me a substitute of my TransUnion score.

Churn Analysis November

Credit Karma Score Decreased

My score is still considered good and I know that I’ll likely be approved for more cards in the future.

Bottom Line:

Most 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.

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* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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57 responses to “320,000 Miles & Points. 5 Cards. Daraius’ November 2011 App-o-Rama.

  1. Great post! It’s really useful to see how other people plan their app-o-ramas. I’m trying to be really careful with my Chase applications since they seem to be pretty strict about approving cards. Would it ever make sense to apply for a Chase business and personal card in one app-o-rama? Or are the two types of cards interchangeable in Chase’s system?
    Thanks!

  2. iNK BOLD has $5k spending within 3 months, that is a lot to spend in 3 months. I wanted to try it if it was $3k spend.
    I am working on mine and wife’s CHASE SP $6k total spend.

  3. Good info…I’m thinking of applying for a lot of those same cards in February – I’m also trying to up my Hilton point stash. How many total inquiries did you get resulting from the two HA apps and the Virgin app? Were any pulls combined into one inquiry?

    • @Kay – You will have to call the reconsideration line to get approved for both a business and personal card on the same day, but that may be easier to pull off than 2 personal or 2 business cards on the same day. Chase’s agents seemed to know about my business cards when I called about personal cards and vice versa.

      @jimmy – Much better to wait and try the Ink Bold later on.

      @JTI – The Citi Business and Personals were seperate inquiries and the Bank of Hawaii was from FIA card services which was a different inquiry from the BOA Virgin card.

  4. I had applied for the Citi Business AA card over a year ago and about two months ago had it downgraded to a Citi Universal AT & T card with no annual fee. Do you think I can apply for this card again and get the signup bonus? Thank you

  5. Can you do a post on how to redeem citi thank you points for airfare in order to get the 33%phone bonus? Thanks.

  6. I recently was stonewalled by Citi Reconsideration department (worst in my opinion). I called all numbers and got same response. I too wrote a letter to Citi executive review but have not heard back yet. I applied December 27. Mailed letter two weeks ago. Should I send similar letter again?

  7. How many is too many credit inquires with Chase? I have 5 inquires within the last 12 months on Transunion. Out of those 5, four were Chase cards, two of which I had to use reconsideration line. Only one was within the last 6 months (opened in Nov). I am debating whether to go for the United Explorer card (60k offer) or wait out a little bit. What do you think Daraius?

    • @Maury – I’d wait another month and then give it a shot if you can spare the credit inquiry.

      @Ian – You just log onto the Thank You portal and book a ticket and it automatically prices the ticket taking the 33% bonus, but I’ll do a post on it soon.

      @Josh – Citi is terrible for a phone reconsideration, but writing a letter to their executive office usually yields results. It took me about 3 weeks to hear back from them, so wait a few days and then send the letter to them again.

      @Dave Op
      – That’s going to vary by person and your credit history. I’d wait 2 months since your last Chase application and then try again, but suspect that you may have to chat with the reconsideration department again too.

  8. Darius. This is why I read FF blogs. This was such a helpful post. I feel like the majority of credit card offers publicized are for Chase. And you can’t apply for all those great offers within a year. Very refreshing to see other banks in the mix and how you are maximizing the points. I hadn’t read anything about Virgin and Hawaiian tranfers to Hilton. Brilliant!

    I did conquer my fear of the Chase Reconsideration line and got approved for the Chase business card. YESSSSSSS! Off to buy myself some Marriott reward points to top of my points too 110K. Thanks you for your detailed posts.

  9. You might want to add that the Virgin Amex card comes with a $90 annual fee, not waived for the first year.

  10. Question about the Citi AA business card. When you say you were able to get a new one 3 months after cancelling you old one, how long did you hold on to the old one before cancelling?
    Thanks

  11. Thanks Daraius. I might wait until towards the end of March. My Chase BA comes up for renewal in early April. So, when I call the reconsideration line, I’ll have them close the Chase BA card then. Also, one inquiry will fall off the middle of March, so I’ll only have four Chase inquiries left within 12 months. (Still, it will be 6 inquires over the last 2 years.)

  12. whats the consensous about reapplying for citi personal card after 18 months. Do i need to cancel old ones or not and can i jsut cancel old ones then reapply basically right after?

    • @Marilyn – It is not fair that we can’t apply for all the good Chase offers which we see! I have written previously about the Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic transfers to Hilton, but that was a few months ago. Congrats on your approval and thanks for reading!

      @D – I’ll add that to the post.

      @Joe
      – I can’t remember the exact time, but I probably kept it for 3 to 4 months before cancelling. In general, I keep a card for at least 9 to 10 months, but I’ve found that I can churn the Citi Business card only after cancelling it.

      @Dave Op – You’re welcome! And your plan sounds good.

      @steve – I’ve always cancelled my Citi cards and then reapplied, b/c I didn’t want to risk getting denied for having too much open credit with Citi. But I wouldn’t cancel the card if it was one of my oldest cards.

  13. Please let me know the address of the Citi Executive office – just got denied on Thank You Premier – thanks

  14. Great article Daraius! Will apply to the Citi TY Premiere card using your link after my second refinance (in progress) since the rate is dropping. I never understand how the loan process works since I refinanced once last year, also got a second mortgage for a rental a couple of months later. Somewhere in between, also had several cards…

    • @Nguyen – Thanks for using our link to apply for the card – we appreciate it a lot! I would rather be safe and not apply for cards when I’m refinancing, but thanks for sharing your experience.

      @Scottrick – The Virgin Atlantic card is a great way to get 100K easy Hilton points!

  15. I didn’t know about the Virgin Atlantic to Hilton transfer yet. That certainly helps since the Hawaiian to Hilton transfer is much smaller. Thanks for the rundown. I have to start planning my own card churn for March, and those two will probably be on it.

  16. I love your site! I’ve recently become absolutely hooked on this fabulous hobby myself. I was really inspired by some of your recent posts about the reconsideration line and also about using secure messages to Chase. I just sent a secure message to Chase asking if I could simply swap my current Southwest rewards card for a Southwest business card without a credit inquiry/hard pull on my credit. I also asked if I could get the current bonus. We’ll see what they say!

  17. Yes, I will let you know if I have any success!

  18. I don’t know why everyone thinks you can’t get all the Chase cards. I have applied and been approved for Hyatt, Continental, Southwest, Marriot, Sapphire Preferred, Priority Club and United cards from Dec. 2010-Jan 2012.
    The only card I did not get with was the Southwest business card, only because the CS rep told me I wouldn’t get the bonus when applying so soon after receiving the personal card.
    I recently closed Continental and Hyatt (both were coming up on annual fee time) to receive the Sapphire and United.
    My credit score hovers around the 700 mark, and not because of the >30 inquiries in the last 12 months. I have some old paid collection (from 2005) items ready to fall off.
    So the two most common fallacies are don’t apply so much and you have to have superior credit to achieve maximum churn. I also received 4 Amex in the last 9 months as well.
    The reconsideration line is your friend. Use it without any fear and you can have it all.

  19. Forgot British Airways as well

  20. I signed up and was approved for citibank’s thank you card but never activated it. I realized that the points cannot be transferred to miles and I’m really only in this game to get business class seats. They recently sent me an application for their miles earning card but only for 40,ooo miles. If I complete this application will it mean no hard inquiry? Or should I call the reconsideration line and explain the situation and try and get 50,ooo miles with no hard inquiry? I haven’t had a Citicard in years and want to get the best deal.

    Maybe wait for 75,000 miles?

    Thanks. — love your blog.

    • @ace – Thanks for sharing your success. In general, I suspect that it easy to get approved for Chase cards initially, but it gets harder later on and if you’ve applied for a lot of cards from them. But I agree that using the reconsideration line is key to getting approved for a lot of cards.

      @Patty
      – I suspect that it will result in a credit inquiry if you fill out the application and submit it. If you’re in the game to get business class seats, this isn’t a good card since it can be redeemed only for a fixed value $665 in airfare or $500 in gift cards. You could call the reconsideration line and explain what happened, but it sounds like you already have the card but never used it within the 3 months needed to get the sign on bonus.

  21. Hi! If I wanted to get the Hawaiian Airlines card to transfer to Hilton points do I need a Hilton credit card or can I just use a Hilton Account? Does one have to have the particular credit card to accept a transfer from the Sapphire card or can that be just a rewards program? Thanks.

    • @Lisa – You don’t need a Hilton credit card to transfer points from Hawaiian Airlines to Hilton. You just call Hawaiian Airlines and ask them to transfer the points to your Hilton account. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer points to select hotels and airlines, but you don’t need to have that hotel or airlines credit card. For example, you could transfer Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt or United online through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal without needing to have the Hyatt or United credit card.

  22. I am new to this !!!! I was considering the Southwest business card offer, however it does not state that the first year’s fee is waived. Would I be stuck with the $69 fee right off the bat?

  23. Daily reader and re-reader here. Thank you for sharing one of your passions.

    I’ve had the Southwest personal card since November with a 40k sign up offer. I’m not sure what the business version sign up is right now, but I’m wondering with my 40k points having posted prior to Jan 1, 2012 am I in a poor position to get the biz card and then find a way to make up points to achieve the companion pass. That’s a great goal for me, but I worry my timing was off to make it work. Rookie mistake perhaps. All the best!

  24. Thanks, Daraius! I thought I would have to have the credit cards for all the accounts I wanted transfer to from my Sapphire card! This is much easier! I really like your blog!

  25. Daraius, check your math on the Hawaiian Airlines/Hilton. We did this a few months ago per your suggestion, and wound up with 35kx2=70k Hawaiian miles, and converted 1:2 to Hilton so wound up with 140,000 Hilton points (you mention above 170k…?) We got ourselves a few more points last weekend (5k) on a 2 night Hilton stay with the Hilton Amex Surpass card, and now we’ve been able to book an AXON award 4 nights at Hilton Hawaiian Village on Oahu for spring break for the discounted rate of 145,000 Hilton points! Thanks for the clever tips and all the great advice!

  26. I received the 100,000 American Airlines miles by using the 2 browser trick several months ago. I have tried twice to apply using your links for my husband but each time at the submit step I get a message back from each app (in different browsers), “System error, please try again later”. Any ideas what is causing this? Thanks.

    • @Kathleen – You would have to pay the 1st year’s fee, but you’re getting 50,000 Southwest points which can be redeemed for $833 worth of Southwest flights!

      @Mike H – Thanks for reading! The business sign up for the Southwest card is 50,000 points. But, as you point out, you will need 110K points or 60K extra points to get the Companion pass this year. There are 2 types of personal Southwest cards – the Plus and the Premier, but I’m not sure if you can get the bonus for each of those cards.

      @Lisa – Thanks for reading. Here’s an earlier post on my experience transferring Ultimate Rewards points.

      @BothofUs2– I can see why this was confusing! 1 got to 170 K by converting 50K Virgin to 100K Hilton and 35K Hawaiian to 70K Hilton for a total of 170K (100+70). Sounds like you’ve got a great trip to Hawaii!

      @cdrunner
      – The application sometimes doesn’t work. Try clearing your cookies and using different browsers. There are also 2 different versions of the offer available. Which one are you trying?

  27. Actually I already have a personal sw card, premiere, with 40k points sitting on my rapid rewards account. If I got the biz with 50 I would be at 90k, but I thought all points had to post in the same calendar year. Thanks.

  28. Hey D and E!
    I have posted comments and questions before stating that I am a noob to the miles game. Love, love, love your site, too! But, I have a question…how often do you (as well as Emily) do an app-o-rama? I did a small app-o-rama in September with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi AAdvantage Visa and Citi AAdvantage Amex with a grand total of 200,000 miles/points. Last week I did the reconsideration line call to Chase for the Mileage Plus Explorer card and got approved 1-2-3 (thanks to your tips) giving me another 50,000 miles towards United flights. I have good credit and always pay on time. Also, I track my credit monthly through Costco for $7.95 a month just because I have been bitten in the butt before with the free report and actual score being off by about 15-20 points and not being aware of it.

    • @Corinne – Thanks for writing in! Thanks for your kind words. Emily and I have an App-o-rama about 3 to 4 times a year. We wait at least 95 days between each round, but if a mega 100K offer happens in between, we jump on it.

  29. Any idea on the instant approval phone number for the virgin boa card? I just applied online and it said to call a specified number for instant approval status, or to wait 30 days to get a letter in the mail. As I went to dial the phone number, though, it redirected me to virgin’s website and I lost the number.

  30. Just out of curiosity, you mentioned you’d wait 2 years if you were applying for a loan, and I understand why as 2 years is how long the inquiries drop off, however, after 1 year don’t the inquiries stop counting towards your score? Or for loans do inquiries that do not affect your score also matter as well, in that banks typically do not want to see too many inquiries regardless of age? You would think by now banks would have come up with a better model that accurately captures risk of defaulting on a loan since the current metrics are not exactly accurate at predicting default.

  31. Also in doing AOR, when you do eventually apply for a loan, even if you stop for 2 years, as closed credit accounts stay on the credit report for 7 years, does anyone know how banks giving loans view many closed credit accounts? I’ve started to generate quite a view with all the bonuses I’m applying for, and curious about it.

  32. Besides CreditKarma and CreditSesame, do you check your score anywhere else? I signed up for Citi IdentityMonitor at a $4.95/month rate a couple months ago, and my scores are all over the place. Citi says between 730-750 depending on the bureau, while CreditKarma says 780, while CreditSesame says 790. I really don’t know which one to believe.

  33. Thanks for this! Just applied for the B of H Hawaiian Air visa and Virgin Atlantic card last night (was also going to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or BA visa but since there are reports of higher targeted offers for both, decided to wait). Might actually use some of the Virgin Atlantic miles for inter-island Hawai’i flights since we go to the islands at least once a year (that’s what the BA Visa would be for, 25K Avios for a roundtrip from LAX – sweet!)

    Neither application was approved on the spot (I have no credit cards with B of A, btw) but when I called the application status line in the morning, they told me the Virgin Atlantic card was actually approved already and then transferred me to a “credit specialist” to review the B of H application. Asked a few simple questions (none related to my innumerate credit card accounts) and opened the second card on the spot!

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  35. I’ve bookmarked this page for awhile now and finally used it today after my recent app-o-rama. Applied for the new United card for the 50k bonus. Called in and was shot down. Tried again and it worked! Thanks Darius!

  36. As someone who is new to this (have had AMEX for years, just got Sapphire Preferred) what cards would you sign up for first? I have a very high credit score but obviously just got the Sapphire. There are 1,1, and 0 inquiries on my report. I am interested in the Companion Pass from Southwest but can you sign up for both those cards in one day? And could I do it so close to getting the Sapphire?

    • @AK – I don’t check them anywhere else, because I’m cheap. But I’ll get down to it soon. I”m not too worried because I still get approved for cards and my official scores which the banks sometimes send me after applying are fairly close to my Credit Sesame or Credit Karma scores.

      @KateFromCA – Congratulations and thanks for sharing!

      @Rambi
      – That’s great and thanks for sharing!

      @Brian
      – I would get the 2 Citi AA cards for 50K miles each which is the best offer in my opinion. I don’t see any other way to get 100K miles so easily. You could get the SW business card, because folks have been able to get 1 business and 1 personal card together. If you don’t have any other Chase cards you *could* get approved for the personal SW card as well, but you’d have to call the reconsideration line for both cards and explain to them why you want the cards. But it could be worth it for the Companion Pass. The AMEX SPG card is another good option as well.

  37. when you wrote to citi’s executive office what was your format or wordings on your letter?
    im planning to write to Amex’s office coz they didn’t approve my hilton surpass app and when i called they just read to me the reasons why i wasn’t approved. thank you so much 🙂

  38. Out of curiosity, what is the churnability of the Bank of Hawaii and BoA HawaiianAir cards, and do I need to have canceled the existing one before reapplying for either?

  39. Bank of Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines card yesterday but it was not approved immediately. Should I call the Bank of American reconsideration line or is there another number for the FIA services? Thanks!

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  41. Gold status as long as you are a mebmer and free nights is a winner. Sounds like it is better than Amex. If I didn’t already have the Surpass Card from Amex, I would apply.