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Results of a Churn, and Some Back to Basics Credit Card Churn Advice

I’ve been shying away from writing about my credit card churns primarily because I don’t think it’s all that interesting to read about what cards other people have applied for. But I thought I’d share today because sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics.

Most of the cards my wife and I applied for were done because we’re considering going to Hawaii in August, and I wanted to bulk up on Hilton Hhonors points. Yes, I know, they devalued the program and blah blah blah. But there are still a whole bunch of ways to get Hilton points, so even though some of the best values are gone, there are still lots of ways to use those easy-to-mint points. We were looking at the Hilton Waikoloa on the Big Island — you can get the Presidential Suite for 95,000 points a night (reviews of that property are ALL OVER THE PLACE —- if you have any feelings about the resort one way or the other, I’d love to hear about it).

In any case, we focused on building up our Hilton balances, and then I filled in with some others. For me, I got about Hawaiian Airlines cards and the Citi Hilton cards for the Hilton points. I grabbed the US Airways card (35k miles) – I had cancelled my previous US Airways card last month and there’s no reason not to jump back in there. And I always like to add a Chase card, so I got the Ink Plus (I canceled my Ink Bold last month). I was approved for each.

For Susan, I grabbed the Hawaiian B of A card and the Citi Hilton cards for the Hilton points. I got the US Airways card for the same reasons above. And I got her the United Explorer card (55k) because she was eligible for it (I was not because I have the United Club card). She was approved for all of them, except the B of A card, which we are waiting to hear back about (though I have asked my darling wife, who is sitting next to me right now, to please call them and just confirm that she will be approved, but that was 3 days ago and we’ve been busy, etc, and I’m pretty sure she’s not going to call).

You may note that I did not apply for the Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines card for my wife, and that is because about 9 months ago I was a complete and utter moron and, through a turn of events too uninteresting to detail here, I neglected to pay a $6 charge on her last B of H Hawaiian Airlines card, leading them to cancel her card and put a note on her credit report that she had a delinquent payment for 6 months. This was 14,000% my fault, and the only consolation I have is that she is still being approved for credit cards, despite my idiocy. Out of respect for B of H, I did not re-apply (though I bet they’d approve her).

And this is where I thought I’d go back to basics for a second. A friend of mine wrote me last week saying that after getting well over a million miles through card churning, he has now been cut off by all card issuers. It turns out he had been applying for cards pretty much willy-nilly (technical term) over the past year. I wanted to take this opportunity to remind the veterans and, more importantly, make sure the newcomers know some of the very basics of card churning:

- Group your apps together and apply on one day every 3-4 months. Please don’t be greedy.

- Only apply for 1 Chase card at a time.

- US Bank doesn’t like churners, so they’ve been turning people down with good scores apparently because of the churn. Don’t take it personally.

- ALWAYS keep cards open for 11 months.

- Err on the side of caution.

Sure – you can be as aggressive. You can apply for more cards more frequently. But please, exercise restraint. I’ve been doing this for years following those few simple rules, and (except when I neglect to pay a $6 bill) I’ve had no problems getting 2 mortgages and – knock wood – I’ve yet to be turned down for a card. If you play it safe, you’ll be printing yourself miles for years to come.

POSTSCRIPT
I have been asked to include this statement: My wife did, in fact, call BofA with very little prompting, and she was approved for the card.

I also take full responsibility for the missed $6 charge, though allow me to stipulate that it does not make up for the 15,000 Amex points we have lost because the very same wife went 3 years without paying a single Corporate Amex bill on time.


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15 Comments.

  1. Interesting post. I think exactly because of the type of thing you ended up talking about, it is extremely interesting to hear about what cards people are applying for.
    To me, someone saying ‘do everything in moderation’ does not mean much unless I see examples of what moderation is.
    In the same vein, I wish you would tell us more specifically what your friend did to get cut off.
    The technical term you used, makes it rather vague.
    Bloggers somewhat regularly talk about applying for 12 cards in one churn (and getting them)…. so what did you friend do that was so extreme? Apply for 12 cards a week?
    I find the ‘group applications in one day’ somewhat questionable after reading recently that banks (forget which bank) can see and call you out on other applications you made on the same day as calling them.

    Yes, you have to try and disguise your churning, it is just always not clear how to best do it. Chase recently denied me for an Ink Plus because they wanted to see more usage on my existing cards (I dont use them); — this is also back to the basics so I guess ummmm yea.

    • Glad the site is working better :)

      I believe my friend was cut off for 2 main reasons:

      1) He was applying for cards frequently (sometimes a couple of times a month with the same issuer); and

      2) He was canceling cards well before the 11 months I suggest.

      Card churning is one of those things where you have to make a choice about whether you want to be conservative or not; I suggest being conservative. You can absolutely get 12 cards in a churn. The question is whether that’s a good long-term strategy. As I said, I’m in this for the long-haul, and it’s worked for me for years. I think that’s been the case because with just about all of the decisions I make around credit cards, I side with being conservative.

      So for me, doing 4-5 cards a churn, each from a different bank, is reasonable — as I’ve mentioned here repeatedly (and as you can see on the right-hand side of the page), I help readers plan credit card churns so they can get enough miles for a trip — for some of those readers 1-2 cards is the right amount.

      I group the applications together so I can more easily keep track of when I’m doing the applications, and spacing them out so I’m not applying for cards every few weeks. Banks can certainly see when you’ve applied for cards – I think it’s just a more disciplined approach so I’m not going overboard.

      I don’t think you have to disguise your churning (you’re not disguising it, since banks can see what you’re doing). You just have to be smart about it, meaning that you’re keeping cards open 11 months (so you’re not opening and closing them right after the bonus); that you have a few cards that you have open for many years (no fee cards like the Chase Freedom are good for this); and that you’re paying off your balances – it’s crazy to pay interest so you can get points..

  2. BTW, your site is faster today :mrgreen:

  3. Suggestion – call Hilton Grand Vacations (see http://www.hiltongrandvacations.com) and ask if they have any promo offers at the Hilton Kings’ Land which is about a half mile down the road from Hilton Waikoloa. If they don’t, just ask them to add your name to their mailing list. I did this about a year ago and about 3 months after making the call, I received an $899 offer for a 7 day / 6 night stay in a studio villa which included 7 day car rental (value $250-$350),a $200 Spend a Night on Us certificate, and choice of 2 additional offers (which we used on the luau valued at about $220 for 2 people and a sunset champagne dinner sailboat cruise which was also about $200 for 2). Only catch is that you have to listen to a 2 hour timeshare pitch, but ours didn’t even last 90 minutes and there was absolutely no pressure to buy (a few firm “nos” and they gave up). We spent $60 more and upgraded the offer to a 1 BDR villa because we have kids. Hilton Kings’ Land has free shuttle service to the Hilton hotel (or you can drive your rental car over and park for free – just show your Kings’ Land room key to the valet and they validate your parking ticket). Hilton Waikoloa is a huge complex. We absolutely loved the private lagoon, snorkeling around watching the fish and sea turtles. They have a few pools too. The thing is, if you stay at the timeshare property you don’t have to pay the $25/day resort fee or $17/day to park, plus you can hit the grocery and prepare some meals in your room. The restaurants at Hilton Waikoloa are a little pricey as you might expect. There are better options nearby for less cash. The Big Island has a wider variety of things to do than Oahu, IMHO. You will want a car to explore coffee plantations, the volcano, Tex’s drive-in, waterfalls and other jaw-dropping scenery, etc. Have a good trip!

  4. You don’t explicitly say, but I’m guessing the Citi Hilton card is the Reserve card right? Get those 2 free weekend nights. No barclays card or Club Carlson card this churn?

    • I went with the regular Citi Hilton to void the annual fee, but ill get it next churn.

      I got the US Airways card from Barclays.

      I was on a work project in 2000 where I stayed in a Radisson, and I literally JUST used up those points. I figured if it took me 12 years to stay in a Radissom again, I wasn’t in a rush to get more points for Radisson. That isn’t to say I won’t grab that Club Carlson card at some point, but I can hold off on that one for a bit.
      (Yes, I am not taking my own advice to always grab the points because you never know when you’ll need them – ill get the card a churn or 2 from now).

      • Im going to Europe in January and they have Club Carlson hotels everywhere in Europe, so I’m hoping to get 1 or 2 club carlson cards and use them all up in Europe. I’ve never stayed at a Radisson Blu before, but I’m sure they are nice hotels.

        • Oh – for Europe the hotels are great, and the Radisson Blu hotels are fantastic. It’s so odd the US Radisson Hotels are 3-star type properties, while overseas hotels are stylish, interesting destinations. But yes – it’s a great call for Europe.

          Don’t forget about the Radisson Friends and Family program – you can get most hotels around the world for less than $100 or so.

  5. I’ve taken the family to the HWV a couple of times. It’s fine, as Hawaiian megaresorts go. But I think a much better Hawaiian vacation can be had away from the crowds on the Big Island with an inexpensive house rental in the Pahoa area. Unfortunately, you have to pay in real US dollars instead of HHonors points. :) Shoot me an email if you’re interested.

  6. We stayed at Hilton Kings Land in June 2011. Did not love.

    The room was gorgeous; my daughter said “mommy, are we RICH???” when we walked in. The pool was also beautiful, and the kids club was nice.

    The reason I did not love it was that I felt like we could have been anywhere. Phoenix? Palm Springs? Oh, there is an ocean over there?

    The pools at the part of Hilton by the ocean were amazing looking, but also a bit “Disneyland” Hawaii.

    So, FWIW, that’s my take on Hilton at the Big Island.

    Anita

  7. I am looking for the postscript that says that your awesome wife DID call B of A and got approved for the card. And, more importantly, she proved you wrong and called with very little prompting!

    Meanwhile, you left me hanging on a $6 delinquent charge? You can’t get mad at me anymore when I forget to pay my work AMEX!

  8. so to apply for an ink card and a saphire at the same time isnt a good idea? what about ink plus and ink bold at same time?

    • You certainly can apply for both. I’m just very conservative with Chase because they have a lot of good cards and I don’t want to risk them cutting me off. I’m sure you’ll be fine applying for both, but I really prefer not to.

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