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Emily and I set travel goals and we then collect miles and points to get to those goals. Our goals are quite simple. We want to have enough miles and points to travel within the US in coach to visit friends and family and to have weekend getaways.
We also want to travel internationally 2 to 3 times a year – ideally in business or first class, but we’ll choose a flight in coach if it means less connections and more time on the ground (like we did when we visited Brazil during Carnival).
We also need hotel points since we have to stay somewhere. We don’t really care which airline we fly or hotel we stay in as long as we can save money while traveling. I’m partial to Hyatt because I’m a Hyatt diamond, but I won’t say no to free or cheap hotel stays.
I applied for 6 credit cards the day before Thanksgiving and was approved for all of them after ~1 hour on the phone, so I had extra reason to be grateful on Thanksgiving. In case you’re wondering, I have a ~12 year credit history and a credit score above 700. This application focused on domestic US travel and hotel stays.
I wanted to apply for an American Express card as well, but decided to wait for a higher offer on the American Express Premier Rewards gold card. The current offer is for 25,000 points, but I may apply for it during my next application. I already have the American Express Hilton and Starwood cards and didn’t want to spend $475 for the American Express Mercedes Benz Platinum card with 50,000 Membership Rewards points since all the other cards which I applied for had annual fees due in the 1st year.
I applied for the cards in the order of importance to me – first the Southwest Business Card, then the Southwest personal card for the Southwest Companion Pass for domestic US travel, next were the 2 Citi Hilton Reserve cards for 2 sets of 2 free weekend nights, followed by the Barclays Frontier Airlines for domestic flights and lastly the Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines card for more Hilton points.
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!
Note that you should NOT apply for multiple cards just because I or other bloggers do. As always, do what is comfortable for you! Make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements comfortably. There is no harm in applying for just 1 or 2 cards at a time.
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. I may also buy Vanilla Reloads at CVS and use them them to fund my Bluebird and pay bills.
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 298 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
- Buying Vanilla Reloads at CVS and using them them to fund my Bluebird and pay bills.
6 cards from 4 different banks
In general, I 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. If you apply for 1 or 2 cards at a time, I wouldn’t worry too much about this.
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.
Update: Citi NO longer lets you apply for 2 Citi Hilton Reserve cards at the same time.
1. Citi Hilton Reserve. I like this card so much that I 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). I have Hilton gold elite status from a virtual move to Australia, but I 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, I saved ~$80 per day in Bora Bora by not paying for breakfast and internet!
I 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, 1 free weekend night & at least 120,000 Hilton points after spending $40,000 within a calendar year.
Citi usually lets you apply for 2 personal cards (besides the American Airlines cards) at a time within a 65 day period, so I applied for 2 cards at the same time, but I got a message to call the reconsideration department. I called and the rep asked me questions and kept placing me on hold. I suspect he was new because it took 25 minutes to approve me for the card. I immediately called backed to process my second application, and the rep approved me in only 5 minutes!
The free weekend night certificates are valid for only 12 months from when they are issued, so I see several weekend getaways for us in 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 ~
200,000 Hilton points to us.
2. Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines. I last applied for the Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines card in July 2011 and and cancelled the card in March 2012. I was interested in booking a ticket on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with Hawaiian Airlines miles, but Hawaiian Airlines increased the price of award resumptions for Virgin Atlantic flights.
Oh well. I’ll just have to transfer the 35,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles after spending $1,000 within 4 months to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, so I’ll get 70,000 Hilton points.
Here is a link to the different Hawaiian Airline partner airlines where you can use Hawaiian Airline miles.
I called the Bank of America reconsideration line at (866-458-8805) to get approved for the card. The representative told me that my application was automatically declined because of too many inquiries (fancy that), but he transferred me to a lady who kept thanking me for my business and approved my application.
3. Barclays Frontier Airlines Card. I recently wrote about the Barclays Frontier Airlines card which offers 35,000 miles after spending $750 within 3 months and decided to apply for the card since Frontier Airlines flies to Kansas City and has a few non-stop flights from Kansas City.
I didn’t have any open Barclays credit card at the time and had cancelled my Barclays US Air credit card in June. I was debating whether to get the Barclays Virgin America, US Air or Frontier Airlines card. Virgin America doesn’t fly to Kansas City, and we’ve got lots of US Air miles so I chose the Frontier Airlines card.
I was thrilled to be approved instantly with a $5,000 credit line because I didn’t want to have to call the Barclays reconsideration line if I didn’t have to.
4. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. What can I say? I love the Southwest Companion Pass and want to earn it again in 2013. Earning the Companion Pass in 2013 means that Emily can fly for free, up to the end of 2014, on every Southwest ticket I book using either miles or points.
Read this post for a detailed rundown on the Southwest Companion Pass and how to get one.
Currently the points from the 50,000 point credit card sign-up bonus counts towards the Companion Pass, but that could change anytime. I’m hoping that the points which I earn will count towards the Companion Pass in 2013! Even if I don’t earn the Companion Pass, 50,000 Southwest points are worth ~$833 in flights on Southwest.
I won’t cross the $2,000 minimum spending until January 2013 so that my points post to my Southwest account in January and count towards the Companion Pass then.
I had the Southwest Premier personal card before (now cancelled) so I applied for the Plus card this time. I called the Chase personal reconsideration line to get approved for the card since this was my 2nd Chase application within a short period of time. The representative verified my income, occupation and my rent payment before asking me how much credit line I wanted for the card.
She noticed that I had also applied for a Southwest business card, and I mentioned that I wanted the business card for my business travel and the personal card for personal expenses.
I said that $5,000 would be enough and she transferred the credit line from my British Airways card. I was prepared to close my British Airways card if needed to get approved for this card, but didn’t have to! This call took only ~ 10 minutes.
The credit line for business cards does not show in my personal credit report and impact my credit utilization or credit aging, so it doesn’t impact my personal credit score in the long term. However, the credit inquiry does show in my personal credit report, but the effect drops off after 3 to 6 months.
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 even though we don’t realize it. However, business credit cards may not have all the consumer protections which personals cards have.
1. Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier (Business).
I was initially going to apply for either the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus with the reduced minimum spending of $5,000 within 3 months for 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. But I applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card to get another 50,000 points towards the Southwest Companion Pass.
At first, I kept getting a “This application is unavailable” when I clicked to the application page. I switched browsers from Firefox to Chrome and the application loaded.
I applied for the card using the Million Mile Secrets Tax ID (if you don’t have a tax ID, you can use your social security number).
I called the Chase business reconsideration line at (800-453-9719) to get approved for the card. I applied for the business Southwest card first and called the reconsideration line to get approved and later applied for the Southwest personal card.
The rep was friendly, but it took 20 minutes to get approved. I’ll write more later, but the representative asked lots of questions – how long has your business been established, is it a full time job for you, revenue projection for 2013, how much experience do you have in your business etc.
In the end, I was approved for the card without having to reallocate credit from my other Chase cards.
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.
My score of 742 was last updated in July before my November App-O-Rama. Credit Sesame gives a substitute of my Experian score, but for some reason is not updating after July 2012. Credit Sesame also categories my credit as “excellent.”
My Credit Karma score is 757 and was updated on November 26, 2012 – 1 day after my applications, though I don’t suspect my score reflects my recent applications.
Credit Karma gives a substitute of my TransUnion score.
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. We use our miles and points for a mix of domestic travel, international travel, and to spend time time with friends and family.
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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