My biggest credit card churn to date!

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Background:

The past few months have been a pretty boring time for credit card sign-up bonuses. As a result I haven’t really felt motivated to sign-up for any cards. That being said, the past couple of weeks we’ve seen some exciting new offers, which actually caused me to sit down and decide on a churn, which I “executed” on Friday. In July I shared the 11 credit cards I currently have open, and whether I planned on keeping or canceling the cards. Take a look at that post for my thought process on which cards were worth keeping and which I planned on canceling as soon as the annual fee hit.

For once I took a slightly different approach to my churn. I didn’t just want to apply for cards that I thought offered the best sign-up bonuses, but also for cards that have value to me long term.

Cards I wanted to apply for:

As savvy credit card “churners” know, there’s some strategy to applying for credit cards. For example, it makes sense to apply for multiple cards in a day, as credit inquiries aren’t usually reported to the agencies more than once a day. That way you don’t immediately “suffer” the loss of a couple of points for each subsequent application in a single day.

After much back and forth I decided to apply for five cards which I felt were a good “balance” (based on not wanting to apply for too much credit from a single issuer in a short period of time). Here they are:

Chase Hyatt Visa Card

This card has a fantastic sign-up bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt property in the world after your first purchase. Best of all, as a Diamond member those two free nights are in a suite. I could redeem those two free suite nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, where a night in a suite is usually ~$1,800USD plus 15.5% in taxes and service charge.


Revenue rates at Park Hyatt Tokyo

For an annual fee of $75 that’s an absolute bargain, especially since the sign-up bonus is earned after the first purchase. But there are two other things that made me apply for this card. First of all, the card comes with an annual free night certificate, good for a stay at a category 1-4 hotel. While I don’t find this card all that useful for every day spend, that more than justifies the $75 annual fee for me, and makes it a card I’d want to keep for a very long time.


Free nights can be redeemed at the Andaz West Hollywood

Second of all, Hyatt has made their Gold Passport promotions more lucrative for those with the Hyatt Visa credit card, and I didn’t want to keep missing out. For example, during their spring promotion they offered 25% bonus points to those with the card, and during their fall promotion they’re going to offer a 20% bonus to those with the card. For the spring promotion alone I missed out on 11,000 Gold Passport points by not having the Hyatt credit card.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

This one is also a no brainer for me. What really drove me to apply is that having the card offers two elite qualifying stays and five elite qualifying nights towards status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program annually. The nice thing is that the benefit applies to both the personal and business cards, and it can be stacked. So just for having both cards you get four elite qualifying stays and 10 elite qualifying nights towards status annually. Given that the annual fee is only $65 per card (and waived for the first year), that’s a real bargain given that I’d otherwise have to mattress run for those credits. I’ve had the personal card for years, so it’s about time I get the business card.

This is especially useful given that Starwood introduced new benefits to their program back in March, which offer 10 confirmed suite night upgrades after staying 50 nights. Previously I would have only qualified on stays (given that you need 25 stays OR 50 nights for Platinum status), so this makes all the difference for me.


Suite night awards can be used to confirm suite upgrades in advance

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

This card is a brand new product from Citi, and is what it took for me to finally go for Hilton HHonors Diamond status. The card is similar to the American Express Hilton Surpass card, with two major advantages. First, you get Hilton HHonors Gold status just for having the card. As I covered in this post, Hilton Gold is by far the best mid-tier elite status, so getting free breakfast, free internet, and the occasional room upgrade for just $95 is an unbeatable value. But more importantly in my case, if you spend $10,000 on the card annually you get a free weekend night certificate. When you’re thinking of putting $40,000 of spend on a card for Diamond status, it sure sweetens the deal that you get a certificate good for a ~50,000 point/night hotel in addition to the other points and benefits.

The sign-up bonus on this card is also great, given that it offers two free weekend nights after spending $2,500 on the card within four months. I already have plans to use those nights in Hong Kong early next year after flying Singapore Suites on the Airbus 380. 🙂


Free weekend nights can be used to book room that’s usually $500USD+ per night

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

Chase publicly introduced the new Ink Plus card just a couple of weeks ago, and it’s very similar to the Ink Bold card. The major distinction is that it’s a credit card instead of a charge card, though that’s not really significant if you pay your balance in full each month (as you should on any points accruing credit card). But the real opportunity here is to earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $10,000 on the card within three months. That sounds like a lot of spend, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

The Ink Plus® Business Credit Card offers 5x points at office supply stores, so purchasing $10,000 in American Express prepaid gift cards over three months would net you a total of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. You really can’t beat that, in my opinion, especially since I suspect many of us are already using American Express prepaid gift cards for our every day spend (whether those cards are purchased with the Ink Bold® Business Charge Card or Ink Plus® Business Credit Card).

Bank of America Virgin Atlantic American Express Card

This was a bit of a “wild card” for me. I thought I did a good job spreading out the previous four applications, since I had one Chase personal application, one American Express business application, one Citi personal application, and one Chase business application. For the last card I was looking to stay away from Citi or Chase, which led me to the Virgin Atlantic American Express issued by Bank of America.

The card offers 20,000 Flying Club miles after the first purchase, 25,000 Flying Club miles after spending $2,500, and an additional 5,000 Flying Club miles after adding two authorized users. That’s 50,000 Flying Club miles, which, as I covered here, can be converted to Hilton HHonors at a 1:2 ratio. So I figured it would be nice to start off with 100,000 Hilton HHonors points to go with the other benefits I get from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card.

The results:

This post is getting a bit long, so stay tuned for part two tomorrow, as I share the results of my churn, as I applied for all these cards on Friday.

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Comments

  1. Didn’t you know there’s a way to get the Hyatt card with a $75 statement credit (to offset the annual fee)?

  2. Qustion regarding the Chase Ink Plus Business Card spending plan:
    if you buy 10000 in amex gift card don’t you have fees on those. And i found it hard to get amex cards for more than 200 USD each with 4.95 fee every time…. did i miss somethink ?
    thanks
    jr

  3. 15,000 anniversary bonus ONLY when you spend $25,000 during that year!
    “The card also offers 15,000 Flying Club miles upon account anniversary. That translates to 30,000 Hilton HHonors points, which I value at $240. Given that the annual fee is only $90, I suspect I’ll be keeping the card as long as they offer that bonus.”

  4. Is there a good way to buy $10,000 worth of reloadable vanilla American Express cards at Office Depot within 3 months without catching the unwanted attention from Chase?

  5. @Lord Fish

    Hint – you can dodge the annual fee using a very similar method that would enable you to get the 100K Avios without the high spending requirements…

  6. Just got the Amex pre-paid card myself! One downside is you can only load on $2500 every 30 days (at least that’s my understanding) so it would take 4 months to spend that $10K you’re referring to…right?

    Great idea though – I want to see how this could work as I’d like to use it myself!

  7. The 15,000 Virgin miles on account anniversary depends on your putting $25k on the card, and are not purely an anniversary gift. That being said, it’s a pretty good return, as you already get 1.5 miles/$, so in effect you’ll be bringing in 2.1 miles/$ on all purchases. If transferred to Hilton HHonors at 2:1, this is 4.2 points/$, which surpasses the Citi HHonors card, so you may still find it useful. -Karl

  8. @Lord Fish,

    I’m not sure why there’s feigned secrecy around the better offer. It’s been blogged about by several and is available to everyone. If you go to Hyatt.com and begin to make a hotel booking, an offer is shown that provides all of the perks Lucky listed above PLUS a $75 statement credit to offset the annual fee. You need to go fairly far into the reservation process to see the offer (in the upper right of the screen), but if you get to the point where you’re submitting your credit card details, you’ve gone too far. You don’t need to actually book a room to see the offer or get the card. I did this for both my wife and I a couple of weeks ago, and everything worked as advertised.

  9. @Stacy, Amex lets you get 3 cards under your SSN, so you are able to load up to $7,500 per month if you choose.

  10. @Grant – thanks for that! I will give that a try. Now the trick is finding the Vanilla reload cards in stock at Office Depot – I only found one store who still carries them in my area and they were already running low….

  11. @ Tim — That would be news to me. I know they had an offer in the past for that, though I wasn’t comfortable applying for a Chase card at the time.

    @ jr — The “reload” card usually costs $3.95 per $500, so I would be paying $79 in fees for $10,000 worth. But that’s very little for 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

    @ romsdeals — Well not including the Ink Plus it’s basically $10,000 of spend in six months, which I can fairly easily do, especially with the reimbursable expenses. I don’t mind “fronting” the money on the Ink Plus, so I don’t foresee minimum spend being an issue.

  12. @ shawn — Whoops, guess I’ll be canceling the card then!

    @ Eugene — I don’t think $2,500 per month with no ATM withdrawals is unreasonable. And squeezing in an extra $2,500 shouldn’t tip the boat, right?

    @ stacey — Right, you can purchase as many of the reload cards as you want (well, until Chase intervenes), though you can only load $2,500 on the AmEx prepaid every month. So it would take four months. Or you can use Grant’s method.

  13. I’m planning to redeem my HH free weekend nights @ the Conrad HK early next year as well! That’s also following an A380 ride (though in J on KE)

    As a matter of fact, I’m linking my signup bonuses from the Hyatt Visa, HH Citi Reserve, and Chase Sapphire Preferred for that same trip (Park Hyatt Tokyo for 4 nights + Conrad HK for 3 nights, 1 paid).

    Endlessly excited!

  14. Lucky,

    Thought you already had the Chase Hyatt at some point in the past? How soon can you churn the card and get the two free suite nights if you’re Diamond?

  15. I might get some of these. Waiting to hear about all your loot!

    I just got the AM EX Starwood. I’m gonna wait towards the end of the month to have my husband sign up…since there is a spending requirement.

  16. $10K in gift seems like a lot to have to subsequently spend. I put most of my everyday spending on credit cards either to meet minimums or then to get the associated miles. So if you use those $10k in gift cards instead you are in essence passing up other points. Although I suppose $10k for 50k points is a better return than you would get using a credit card. I suppose if you have a business to funnel all of this spending through it is easier.

  17. @ RakSiam — In reality it’s 100K points for $10K of spend, though, given that there’s a 50K sign-up bonus AND the 5x points per dollar on the gift cards.

  18. @Lucky, there are currently promotions for the reloadable Amex cards. I believe $25 for add $250 on a new card and $50 for having direct deposit to the card. Other boarding area blogs mention this, but I’m not sure which exactly.

  19. AmEx lets each person have up to 3 prepaid cards. No one yet has mentioned any trouble loading $2500/mo. on each of 3.

  20. Found a website/company called moneybookers on wikipedia when researching on method of online payment. It seems that the platform supports P2P transfer with no fee for residents in the US. However, their General T&C and Privacy Policy are not very encouraging (What exactly is “reasonable effort to store information securely”?)

    I have not used this website before, but it may serve as an alternative to Amazon or Prepaid Card for meeting the min spend requirements.

  21. If you already have Hilton Gold would they extend it? Otherwise I would be better waiting.

    Thanks

  22. Lucky, I’ve got a 2 night stay in Hong Kong in January. I applied for the Hyatt card and received the 2 free nights, of which I had planned to use at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. But now I’m thinking of getting a few of the Hilton/Virgin cards to build a Hilton balance. With that newly found Hilton balance I was thinking about canceling the free nights at the GH and booking the Conrad for 2 nights in king harbor view room. About 140k Hilton points. Worth it? What would you do? I’m not sure I’ll be able to use the 2 free Hyatt nights otherwise since my only other trip next year is to Cape Town (no Hyatt properties) and Johannesburg (only 1 night there).

  23. @ Rebecca D. — Well I’d say the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong is a great use of those two nights, though perhaps there are some more “aspirational” properties. That being said, if you don’t think you’ll have another chance to use them in the next year, maybe you should redeem them here.

    As far as the Conrad goes, do they not have availability in their most basic room for 50K per night? Those two nights from the Citi Reserve card or Virgin Atlantic card would cover that stay as well. That seems like the best value, as 140K points is almost enough for a four night AXON award at a category 7 hotel.

  24. Thanks for your input Lucky. I really want to secure myself a harbor view room so I was thinking the only way to do that was to book a guaranteed harbor view room with points. Having said that, maybe I should just stick with the GH (pray for an upgrade) and save my Hilton apps for another time. I’ll be in HKG Jan 6-8 if you are around then!

  25. @ Rebecca D. — As a Hilton Gold you probably have a pretty good shot of getting upgraded to a harbor view room anyway, though totally understand wanting to lock it in.

  26. @Lucky, crap. Now I really have to think about this. Thanks! I assume the Conrad is worth it? I’m traveling solo and want to be in a good central location.

  27. One more question. I got the Hyatt card in April 2012 so my two free night awards expire in April 2013. Do I have to book and use by April 2013 or can I book by April 2013 and complete the stay sometime later in 2013?

  28. @ Rebecca — Both the Conrad and Grand Hyatt have great locations. As far as the hotels themselves go, I slightly prefer the Conrad, and find they have larger rooms, so that’s what I’d do in your shoes.

  29. @Lucky, done. I’m going with the Conrad and I’m going to roll the dice and go for the 50k room and hope for an upgrade as a Gold. I’ll find a use for the 2 Hyatt nights, even if it means a mileage run! Sorry for clogging up the comments on this post!

  30. @ Rebecca D — Happy to hear! As far as your question goes I believe they have to be redeemed for a stay within 12 months, though I might be wrong.

  31. Often “churning” Credit cards referred to reapplying for cards you have already had to get multiple bonuses. Were any of the ones you’re applying for churnable in that sense?

  32. @ Beachfan — Nah, I was using the term loosely and probably could have chosen a better term. Aside from the Virgin Atlantic card, I plan on keeping most of these cards well beyond the first year.

  33. Since. Citicard AA is a card you can apply for multiple times (subject to a wait in between) I have chosen to milk that churn to the max. Right now CX F @ 135k miles rt is amazing and availability is reasonable. Since applying for other cards impacts your ability to churn a
    that card, it not only has to be a good deal but a better deal than citi AA ( and my beloved cx f)

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