We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
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.
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
[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.
My score increased by 18 points from 717 to 735 in January. Credit Sesame gives me a substitute of my Experian score.
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!
My score dropped 19 points from 753 to 734 in January. Credit Karma gives me a substitute of my TransUnion score.
My score is still considered good and I know that I’ll likely be approved for more cards in the future.
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.