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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
- Hot Deals tab which lists my favorite cards with a large sign-up bonus or great perks
- Reconsideration phone numbers which has 279 comments and reader success stories
- 40+ Powerful Ways To Complete Your Credit Card Minimum Spending Requirements to help complete the minimum spending requirements on credit cards
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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