Emily’s September 2012 App-O-Rama – 5 Cards. 170,000 Miles & Points + 4 Free Hilton Nights

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Emily applied for 5 credit cards in September.  So far, she’s been approved for 4 cards for 120,000 miles and points + 4 free Hilton nights.  In case you’re wondering, Emily has a 6.5 year credit history.

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 also pay our cards in FULL each month because paying interest will negate the benefits of earning 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.  And to be as conservative as possible, I wouldn’t apply for many cards in the 2 years before a mortgage or refinance.

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.

Credit Card Resources

5 cards from 4 different banks

In general, we apply for credit cards from different banks, every 3 to 4 months, so that we 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 report 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.

Personal Cards

1.   Citi Hilton Reserve.  I like this card so much that Emily applied for 2 Citi Hilton Reserve cards at the same time!  It offers 2 free weekend nights at almost all Hilton hotels.  Thanks to Rapid Travel Chai for leading the way.

The card also gets you Hilton gold elite status (free breakfast and internet).  We have Hilton gold elite status from a virtual move to Australia, but Emily will now be able to extend her Hilton gold status.  We plan on keeping this card because the $95 annual fee is well worth the Hilton gold elite status.  For example, we saved ~$80 per day in Bora Bora by not paying for breakfast and internet!

We plan on using one card for personal expenses and the other card for business Hilton stays since the card gets you 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton.  You earn 3 Hilton points per $1 spent and the card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees for using it outside the US.  Big Spenders can earn top-tier Hilton Diamond status & at least 120,000 Hilton points after spending $40,000 within a calendar year.

Emily applied for 1 card and then another immediately afterwards.  She was approved for 1 card instantly, but called the reconsideration line to find out that her second application wasn’t received.  So she submitted another application and was approved!

The free weekend night certificates are valid for only 12 months from when they are issued, so we plan on completing the minimum spending in January 2013, so that we can use the 4 (hopefully!) free nights in December 2013.

We’ll use these free nights at a top tier category 7 Hilton which usually cost 50,000 points, so 4 free nights is worth ~4200,000 Hilton points to us.

2.   Bank of America Hawaiian Airline.  Emily applied for the Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airline card a few months ago and still has the card open.  This time we applied for the Bank of America Hawaiian Airline card.

Ideally we’d have applied for the Virgin Atlantic card with a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus, but that offer is now only 25,000 miles.

We were too busy to call the reconsideration line immediately after applying, but got an approval letter in the mail after 10 days.  Bank of America used the Experian credit bureau and her score was 721 on the approval letter.

We would normally transfer the 35,000 Hawaiian Airline miles after spending $1,000 within 4 months to Emily’s Hilton account.  However, we’re also looking to see if we can book a ticket on Virgin Atlantic from the US to Europe and not pay fuel surcharges for that award.

Here is a link to the different Hawaiian Airline partner airlines where you can use Hawaiian Airline miles.

Business Cards

The credit line for business cards does not show in our personal credit report and impact our credit utilization or credit aging, so it doesn’t impact our personal credit score.  However, the credit inquiry does show in our personal credit report, but the effect drops off after 3 to 6 months.

1.   Chase Ink Bold.   As I’ve written previously, the Chase Ink Bold is a great way to get another 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  I’m a big fan of Ultimate Rewards points because they have a great airline partner, United, which doesn’t charge fuel surcharges for Star Alliance award travel and Hyatt which has some very nice expensive hotels which I wouldn’t stay in without the points.

Business cards are an easy way to get extra miles and points, and as I’ve written previously, many of us may qualify for businesses.  However, business credit cards may not have all the consumer protections which personals cards have.

Emily had previously applied for the Chase Ink Bold in February using the Million Mile Secrets Tax ID (if you don’t have a tax ID, you can use your social security number).

I wrote earlier about our experience getting approved for her 2nd Ink Bold card.  We’ll also be using the card to earn Ultimate Rewards points while paying down our student loans.

2.  American Express Business Gold Rewards.  Emily also applied for the American Express Business Gold Rewards card with a 50,000 Membership Rewards points sign-on bonus after spending $5,000 in 3 months.  This is a limited time offer until November 26, 2012, and the regular offer is for 0 (zero!) points, so we took advantage of the 50,000 point offer.

American Express has been running limited time offers for a 75,000 point version, but the minimum spending of $10,000 would be hard to reach with our other minimum spending requirements.  I got in on the offer the last time it ran.

So we’re giving up the extra 25,000 points and saving $5,000 in minimum spending.  I don’t like leaving points on the table, but I also don’t like biting more than I can chew.

I know we’re all trained to maximize awards, and fly extra miles just to experience “premium cabins,” but do what makes sense for you!  There’s no point wasting a credit inquiry on a card if you can’t make the minimum spending.

American Express wants to see Emily’s tax return (again!), so this will take a while to sort out.

Credit Score Impact

Credit Sesame and Credit Karma 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:

Emily’s score of 770 was last updated in June before her September App-O-Rama.  Credit Sesame gives a substitute of her Experian score, but for some reason is not updating after June 2012.

Miles and Points Churning 2

Emily’s Credit Sesame Credit Score

Credit Karma:

Emily’s Credit Karma score is 725.  It was 735 before she applied for these 5 cards.

Credit Karma gives a substitute of one’s TransUnion score.

Miles and Points Churning

Emily’s Credit Karma Scores

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.

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50 responses to “Emily’s September 2012 App-O-Rama – 5 Cards. 170,000 Miles & Points + 4 Free Hilton Nights

  1. How much in referral money did you make off of her churn?

  2. Could I ask how 1 person can “easily” spend $21,000 on credit cards in 4 months time?
    Does Emily use her credit card for purposes other than personal usage (ex. she buys employer related items (office supplies) or travels a lot for her employer and is reimbursed)?

    I’m an avg. middle-class person who has no loans or credit card balances (except a mortgage payment ~$2,200/mo), own a home, have kids, etc…and I have to struggle to spend $10k worth of expenses in 6 months to get a miles bonus for two AMEX cards in 6 months. I even began using the Amazon Payments “trick” to make sure I can meet the spend requirements.

    Could you please explain more of how you are able to meet these high spending requirements? You must be doing something beyond normal monthly expenses that most have. I’m not buying the 40 ways to complete min. spending tip as being able to “easily” meet these requirements (i.e. Insurance, Cell Phone, Cable, Internet, Dining, Groceries, Gas, Gifts, gift cards, Charitable Contributions, utilities, etc).

    Thanks!

  3. You can apply for 2 of the same Hilton Reserve cards? Why and how do they let you?

    • @BillyBob – Great question! First off, we have the option to earn 25,000 fewer points on the Ink Bold, but reduce our minimum spending by $10,000. We can do $1,000 a month in Amazon Payments, $1,000 a month for our rent using William Paid, and ~$1,000 a month in regular expenses (insurance, groceries, loans etc.). That’s $3,000 a month or ~$12,000 in 4 months. Emily is also lucky to be in a graduate program where she can pay for 1 class at a time with only a $15 fee and she has a few reimbursable business expenses. And I will pay a fee to pay my student loans with a credit card. We also experiment with pre-paid cards (more coming soon). I don’t mind paying a 3% fee to pay rent and student loans just to get the sign-up bonus.

      @andrew wu – You can do that with most Citi cards, but Citi allows only 2 personal applications within a 65 day period.

      @Debbie Schroeder – That would be a neat redemption if it is possible!

  4. Good point about the possibility of no fuel surcharges on a Virgin Atlantic award. I’ll have to look into that one myself. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the update on Emily’s churn. I am about to do one myself!

  6. I would also be very interested in how Emily is going to spend 21K in four months. I assume you have your own spending to meet so for the two of you it is well above that.

    I just met a 15K in three months spend for the two of us. 6K went on Amazon so it was only really 9K in three months and included car/home insurance for the year.

    I also dont buy the 40 ways to meet the spend because for the most part it is still real money you are spending and regular people just dont spend that much!

  7. Sorry, had the page open for a long time before replying and didnt see your replies.

    I dont really believe in prepaid or gift cards though, because you are always trying to meet a minimum spend so you cant really realistically prepay future spending….
    I get paying the 3% for rent and loans but it still doesnt equal 21K per person in 4 months.

  8. Do you each use Amazon Payments for $1,000 for a total for $2,000?

    Thanks for the package! I have been wearing the 1st class pajamas even though they are way too big. My husband keeps waiting for me to hand them over to him 🙂

  9. Great post. I have been looking to get into the Hilton arena. FYI…4 x 50,000 per night = 200,000 miles, not 400,000

  10. Great info! Like Emily, I also applied for the BofA Hawaiian Airlines card and didn’t get instant approval, but got a letter this week saying I was approved (followed by the card the next day). I thought maybe I was going to have my first go at a reconsideration call, but I guess I’ll have to see if that happens on my next App-O-Rama!

  11. Another great post. Every data point helps. I’m half way done with my AmEx SPG spend…so it’s time to start thinking about another app-o-rama.

  12. hi,
    is there anyway you can post about what cards you and emily are canceling, or thinking of canceling at the moment? also, i received a card in the mail yesterday about a new citi AA mastercard offering 40K miles – was wondering if anyone has gotten the same?

  13. I have two aadvantage cards currently? Is there a limit to how many personal cc with citi? Interested in the hilton points since i am planning to go to Italy next summer.

  14. No love for US ? It’s always a TransUnion pull and has great benies.

    Credit Sesame seems to charge for each update after your first.

  15. Hi Daraius,

    I love reading about your and Emily’s app-o-ramas, so thanks for the post. Question: was there a 2-browswer trick involved with the Hilton Reserve cards, or did those 2 cards result in 2 credit pulls?

    Thanks.

  16. so what are you planning on doing with all of these points??? 😉

  17. Do you actually think that 4 nights at a hilton is worth more than $1000+ if you get 2 premier cards instead? Just wondering….

    • @John – But what if you could withdraw cash from the prepaid debit card or send money orders? I’m not advocating $21K in 4 months as the Gold standard. As always, do what’s comfortable to you. I also have the option to spend $11K in 4 months and get only 25K fewer points by not chasing the 2nd 25K spending on the Ink Bold.

      @Jasmine
      – Yes, we do that sometimes. Glad you got the package!

      @Dan
      – Thanks! Late night typo is fixed…

      @ms13 – We cancel most cards which don’t provide a benefit to keep. I’ll put together a post on that in a few weeks. There are 50K offers for the AA Visa and AMEX which are better than the 40K offer for the MasterCard.

      @Apaperture – You could cancel 1 Citi AA card (perhaps the Visa and keep the AMEX for the Small Business Saturday promotion) and then apply for 2 Citi Hilton cards.

      @tassojunior – Citi and Barlcays use TransUnion for us. But will consider them for the next round.

      @Kendra – Yes, we applied for them one after the other. But you could apply for them in separate browsers as well. It should be only credit pull, but that’s not always the case.

      @brian s
      – I’ve got trips earmarked, but haven’t booked them as yet!

      @CaptainCool – I’ll try to use the Hilton points at hotels which cost more than $250 per night.

      @RayB – It takes 2 years for the credit inquiries to fall off a credit report. I tend to be conservative, so I would not apply for a bunch of cards in the run-up to a mortgage or refinancing. Sure, many folks get approved even with credit card applications, but I focus on the worst case which would be a higher interest rate or potentially not getting approved. As always, you have to assess that risk for yourself.

  18. You wrote, “I wouldn’t apply for many cards in the 2 years before a mortgage or refinance.”
    That’s seems a bit difficult since homeowners with good credit and home equity have refinanced every 18 months or so for the past 12-14 years. At least, that’s what we have done since 1999 over two separate homes. Each time for a lower rate, with no money cashed out. The last refi was a no-cost refi for a 30 yr fixed jumbo (~$530K) loan at 4%.
    So, are you stating that doing App-o-Rama’s in not advisable for people in our situation? We both have credit scores ranging between 750-805.
    Ray

  19. @John & BillyBob, “the 40 ways to complete min” need to be updated including prepaid card that comes with ATM function(not using prepaid to pay bill but for ATM withdraw, you pay 0-1%ATM fee, it’s worth to meet the min spend). Even if each card has $2500 to $7500 monthly limit, with 2 people that each one gets 2 cards, you can “spend” $20,000 per month. I am really looking forward to reading Daraius’s post for the secret of using this type of pre-paid cards and won’t get your account shut down .

  20. Dear
    I just did two-browsers trick on citi hilton (reg) back in July. How long should I wait for another two-browser trick for Citi Reserve? thanks as always.

    Sam

  21. @John & BillyBob, also using occasionally opportunity and hit it hard also help too. For example, my electricity company introduce a new payment system that allow you to use credit card pay the bill over the phone up to $1000(they charge you a $4.95flat fee). I hit it hard paid my bill over and over for $20000 until the system reject me. Now I am waiting for my refund check(takes 2-3 month) and the electricity company banned me from using credit card to pay the bill. I am not upset because they do not shut down the electricity service. I met all the spending requirement in a very short time and I don’t think I would like their new system that charge $4.95 for paying my $120 bill/month anyway. If you pay $1000/m and then request the refund, after 2-3 times, they will ban you too. You better do it all at one time.

  22. How many app-o-rama would you do in a year. Why do 4-5 app at one time? Couldn’t you just apply for them as you see them.. or is there a rule/benefits to apply for a batch at one time? I haven’t understand this part of churning yet.

  23. Darius, I hope you do not lay out the prepaid details in extreme lay out on your site.
    There are few things that the individuals need to investigate, test and enjoy the bounty.

  24. Hi, great blog with lots of great information! Although I do think you stretch it a little sometimes with comments like “we saved ~$80 per day in Bora Bora by not paying for breakfast and internet!”. Just because Hilton charges something doesn’t mean it’s worth that amount. Almost nobody would pay $40 cash for breakfast. I’m sure you could find a perfectly decent breakfast for $6 and not eat at the Hilton every day!

  25. Citi advertises 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton, but they do not honor that. I used my Citi Hilton Reserve card at both Hilton properties in French Polynesia and did not receive 10x points for either of them. After sending an inquiry to Citi, they are manually giving me points for the Hilton in Moorea, but not for the Hilton in Bora Bora since it doesn’t say “Hilton” on the credit card statement (even though it says “Hilton” on my credit card receipt). Definitely makes me hesitant to use the Hilton Reserve card in the future.

    According to Citi:

    To qualify for the bonus points on Hilton purchases, the merchant must identify themselves as Hilton Hotel. In addition, they must identify the transaction as a Hilton transaction or submit their transaction under one of the Hilton merchant category codes 3504, 3535, 3665, 3692, 3695, 3721, 3751, 3655, 3594, 3571, or 3576.

    The Bora Bora Nui Resort did not identify themselves as a Hilton Hotel, did not use one of the Hilton category code, and did not Identify the transaction as a Hilton transaction. Therefore, we are unable to award the bonus HHonors points on this transaction.

    The Hilton Moorea did identify themselves as a Hilton hotel. However, as they did not use one of the Hilton merchant category codes and did not identify the transaction as a Hilton transaction, the bonus HHonors points were not awarded automatically. We have added xxxxx HHonors points to correct this issue.

  26. Thanks for the great posts. My wife and I have been learning a lot from them. We actually are in the position of buying a house in a year or so, but we have also been slowly getting into the points/miles game. Currently we have the Chase Freedom and Sapphire with a credit score of 769 (Credit Karma). My thought was to go ahead and get the Ink Bold or Plus and then be satisfied with that for a while until we got the house loan. Do you think getting the one extra card would be ill advised?

  27. Darius – Do you find it hard to meet that high of a spending requirement? Spending $20k in the next 4 months can be difficult with the average person. But that goes to say, that anyone can do this, you just have to know ‘your’ limits and what spending requirements you can meet.

    Gotta love the business credit cards! 😉 I’ve got 5, looking to add onto that number in a few months as I’ve started a new LLC.

    I’m also curious if you’ve ever seen you credit score with any of the credit cards you apply for. I don’t know if that is mandatory, but when my wife and I got the Delta AMEX credit card, when the packet came in the mail, they gave us the credit score they had on file.. might give you a more accurate number, just not sure if all credit card companies do that.

  28. I think it’s fair to say that the chart “Total” should also show the $269 you’re paying in first year annual fees that are not waived (and that’s $269 that don’t go toward minimum spend). Great value, but still at a cost.

    In other news, I got a Barclays denial in the mail today, called them up, and within 5 minutes had a new credit line without having to cancel a previous card or shift credit lines. That was a pleasant surprise! 😀

  29. I’m also curious why you chose to go with the Ink Bold and not the Ink Plus. The offers I’ve seen have shown a 0% interest rate for 6 months on the Plus … while you still have to pay the minimum each month and eventually pay it off in full, it gives you three months buffer to pay back the $10K.

    • @bbs – I’d wait at least 3 months.

      @Tommy – Applying as you seen them should work as well provided you don’t do 3 or 4 every month. I prefer at a batch, so that I can keep better records and plan.

      @Ritson – Fair point, except that the Hilton in Bora Bora is on a (Motu) island by itself with no other options…unless you pay to take a boat into town.

      @Elizabeth – Nice to know. Thanks for sharing!

      @Chris D. – Only you can decide what to do. But applying for 1 card 1 year before a mortgage seems reasonable. Applying for 5 or 10, perhaps not…

      @Derek – ThePointsGuide – Hitting the spending requirement takes time, but is possible for me. But that doesn’t mean everyone should do it. I believe that lenders have to disclose your credit score if you’re denied credit, but some also disclose it on approved applications.

      @AK – I’ve added a total to the annual fee column. Good point! How many Barclays cards do you have? We applied for the Ink Bold to see if one person can get multiple Ink Bold cards for different businesses —> http://millionmilesecrets.com/2012/09/25/yes-you-can-get-2-chase-ink-bold-cards-for-seperate-businesses/

      @

  30. @Jack,

    Thanks for the nugget of info…I’ll get investigating!

    I too do the electric company deal…but not at such an extreme amount. My Electric company only allows me to charge a max of $600 a time for a $3.95 fee…and they DON’T take AMEX (that sucks!).

    I will look into that other nugget though…as I believe that I can purchase $200 AMEX giftcards w/no fees & free shipping.

  31. @MMS – it was my 2nd Barclays card, but 1st non-US Airways one. I got denied for a 2nd US Airways one earlier this year, and got the $400cb NFL card this time around. I was ready to close my existing US Airways card if need be. The rep mentioned that I was a good customer of theirs already (even though I’ve only used that card 3 times total in a year :p)

  32. MMS- I know if I refer a friend/family member to Amex Gold I get a small bump. Is there a similar feature with Amex Hilton or Citi Hilton cards?

  33. You mentioned: “Bank of America used the Experian credit bureau and her score…”
    Did you have to call to get this letter and see the FICO score or was it sent to you automatically. I had read somewhere that you can request your score for free from merchant/bank who have accessed it – for 30 days – is that it? Do you email or call?
    I read recently online that there is no single score – even FICO can be different.

  34. Hi Daraius,

    I would like to apply for the 2 Citi Hilton Reserve credit cards. Currently, I have 2 Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature cards last July. I know I have to wait 3 months to apply for another Citi Hilton Reserve credit cards from your previous posts but should I cancel the 2 Citi Visa Signature cards or it will not matter? Thanks a lot!

    • @Loven – If you have a high credit line on those Hilton cards, you can cancel both of them. Otherwise, you can cancel one or none of them and reapply. I usually try not to have to much available credit with Citi before applying for another Citi card.

  35. Hey Daraius,
    I want to apply for the 2 Citi Hilton Reserve cards too. I currently have 2 Citi AAdvantage cards one Visa and one american express and a citi thank your card. Its approaching the one year mark for the AA cards and annual fee are about to kick in. I have $8000 credit line on each of the AA cards and 7000 in the thank you card. I am thinking of cancelling the AA amex but dowgrading the AA visa to the bronze card so that I don’t lose all the credit line. Also, I have already used the Citi Thank you points so I can cancel that too. So my questions for you are: Do I need to cancel these cards to get approved for 2 reserve cards? If i cancel them today, can i immediately apply for the reserve cards? Is cancelling these cards gonna negatively affect my approval for the reserve card? Thanks a lot.

    • @blueflower – With Citi I usually have better luck cancelling cards if I have a lot of available credit because, in my experience, the reps don’t reallocate credit. It could make sense to keep 1 AA card since you get 1 free bag and a 10% mile rebate up t0 10,000 miles back in a year.

  36. On a second thought, Do you think I should not cancel the cards and use the credit lines as leverage if I have to call the reconsideration line to move the credits around or cancel old cards then?

  37. Hey Daraius, i know you convert the b of a Hawaiian airlines miles into Hilton points, but does it bother you or anyone else that the advertisement for the card says you’ll earn enough miles for a round trip flight to Hawaii, however the hawaiian airlines website shows their cheapest flight is 20k miles per way, or 40k miles. am i missing something? is the ad false? or are the miles more useful as hilton points instead of using to fly hawaiian? thoughts would be appreciated.
    http://www.hawaiianairlines.com/HawaiianMiles/book-award-flights/

    credit card application says this.
    Earn a flight to Hawaii
    Earn up to 35,000 HawaiianMiles after qualifying purchases—enough for a round-trip flight from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii

    • @greg – I believe there are some flights for 17.5K miles each way, so 35K in total. I actually just used our miles for a flight on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, but transferring to Hilton or using for flights to Hawaii could make the most sense. You can always get another Bank of Hawaii card to add to your miles.

  38. My wife just got approved for both Hawaiian airline cards. They told her she had to spend $1000 on each card the first month to get the 35,000 miles X 2. She even called back to confirm and was told that both times. Once we get the cards to activate we will ask again. Have you heard of this rather than the 20,000 for first use and an additional 15,000 once you spend $1000 in 4 months?
    Thanks
    Bret

  39. Pingback: Hilton Honors Credit Card | Million Mile Secrets

  40. Could you use one HHonors account number for two applications from different people? Meaning that my wife can put my account number when she applies to a Hilton related credit card.

  41. Pingback: Emily's December Churn | Million Mile Secrets

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