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.
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.