Mo Cards in Movember
(If you despise posts just about credit cards, skip this. I don’t have credit card referral links — the links in the post are to other blogs’ posts that better explain what I’m trying to say, or to credit monitoring services).
I’d be lying if I didn’t say the majority of my miles/points come from credit cards. I’ve usually been conservative when it comes to applying for cards for myself, only applying for 1 or 2 at a time, letting my credit history grow a little bit. However, I feel like it’s ready for me to “graduate” and test myself with a 3-5 card app-fest. In this post, I’ll explain how I went about with this set of applications:
My goals for this set of applications:
I wanted to avoid Barclay’s and US Bank, since those are the banks I most recently applied to in the late summer/early autumn. I also wanted to avoid Citi, since I’m planning on applying for another set of American Airlines AAdvantage cards once my 18 months from my last applications pass in January 2013. Because of this, I ended up focusing on Chase, American Express, and Bank of America/Bank of Hawaii.
I applied for a couple of cards in March, one cards in August, and one card in October so I chose a date that was 91 days since the August application, just so that I can start setting up a schedule. Frugal Travel Guy wrote why he does a 91-day schedule and it makes sense to me for several reasons. One is that most spending requirements are within 3 months, so you give yourself time to meet spending requirements. Next is that some banks don’t like seeing too many recent inquiries within the last 6 months, so going on a 91-day cycle means that your churn 2 cycles ago is outside of that 6-month window. I’m not going to say I know the rules down to a T, but this is what I’ve learned from experience and from others, and it seems to work.
I’m not really much of a hotel guy, and I would rather collect airline miles than hotel points, and stay at more “authentic” places when abroad. I know a little about hotel programs but don’t really bother with them. After all, this is Points TO Point B, not Points AT Point B. Nevertheless, I figured having a stash of points to fall back on could prove useful, and decided to start racking up some hotel points, particularly Hilton points since they’re so easy to tally up through multiple credit cards and I can see myself using them overseas for otherwise expensive cities.
While coming up with my list of cards, I realized that I don’t actually have a Chase Ink card for myself … the ones that I’ve used for the past several months are as an employee on a family business with others as the primary cardholder. Since the spending requirement recently went down to $5000 in 3 months, I figured I should include an Ink card since I love Ultimate Rewards points for their ability to transfer to United miles (and in case I need a room at a Hyatt, that too!).
I decided to apply for the Ink Bold (card #1), because I figured that when it comes time to possibly apply for a 2nd Ink down the road, it’ll be easier to convince a possible reconsideration representative that I want a Chase Ink Plus because it allows payment flexibility as a credit card, unlike the Bold which is a charge card. It probably doesn’t matter, but I tend to overthink things, and this seemed like a legitimate reason to go with the Bold over the Plus for my first Ink card.
Since I was already doing a Chase business application, I decided to add a Chase personal card to the mix. I already have the Sapphire Preferred and the United MileagePlus Explorer (which I think is the best offer of the year, giving you 55,000 United miles for $1000 spending if you have an active United account). I don’t really care for Southwest points at the moment … before you call me an anti-Southwest elitist (which I probably am!), I actually think Southwest points are great for some uses. I recently learned that if you book a Southwest points redemption, you can cancel your award ticket for free and get all the points back. That’s actually really huge for a commitment-phobe like me. Unfortunately, Southwest flights are tied to the price of the ticket, and I really don’t see Southwest flights being so much cheaper than other airlines for the flights I want to take.
In the end, I decided to go with the Priority Club 80K (card #2) offer on first spend, available here on FT. This is great because it’s easy hotel points for one swipe of the card, and unlike the Chase Hyatt or Citi Hilton Reserve cards, I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and have only a year to maximize the free night credit (I’m looking for a stash of points to fall back on, I don’t have a specific redemption in mind at the moment). The points will stay in my account for a while to come for any use — I used 5K points for a PointsBreak night in Frankfurt when I had a one-night layover, saving me over $200! The Chase PC card comes with the first annual fee waived and renews at $49 where you get another free night at any property. Sounds great to me!
As for American Express, I decided to go with the no annual fee Hilton 65K offer (card #3) (40K after $750 in 3 months, additional 25K after reaching $3000 in 6 months). This offer ends on November 30th. I’ll use this card at bonus category places like pharmacies and grocery stores at 6x, especially now that Reloads can be purchased at CVS. I could make this a 75K+ signup bonus with that sort of spending. This doesn’t have the elite benefits that the Amex Hilton Surpass or Citi Hilton Reserve cards have, but all I’m trying to do now is start building up a portfolio of Hilton points, and this is an easy way to do so.
Lastly, I decided to go with the Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines cards (cards #4 and #5). Both offer 35K Hawaiian Air miles for $1000 of spending within the first 4 months, totaling 70K miles. Those 70K Hawaiian miles can be transferred to 140K Hilton HHonors points. The main thing with the BoA/BoH cards was to get a $5K credit line on each, thus qualifying for the Signature Visa and the full bonus. My plan had been to possibly use the miles for a redemption on Virgin Atlantic, but they recently raised the prices for those redemptions by over 100%! 😦
Taking Stock of my Credit Scores:
I have a $4.95/month subscription to Citi IdentityMonitor, which tracks any inquiries that hit my credit report and any changes that occur on my credit report. I also get non-FICO credit scores through there but they seem to be lower than what the scores really are.
I also use Credit Sesame and CreditKarma, but the scores I get on those are abnormally high. I don’t believe it for a second when CreditSesame says I have an 811 score …
Luckily, I got a Transunion score last month from Barclay’s when I closed my US Airways Mastercard that I got the previous year, and that was a true FICO score showing me at 764. My US Bank FlexPerks card gives me a free Experian non-FICO score each month, and mine was 736. While it’s another non-FICO score, Experian is the most popular credit bureau the banks pull in my area (Southern California). Bank of America/FIA sent me notices about my credit shortly after applying that stated that the credit score I had when my file was pulled was 756, but I learned about this a week later. Lastly, I signed up for a trial at MyFico to check my Equifax score, which showed 751. All in all, a good place to start, since you want to stay above 700 when playing this game.
Day of Apps
1. Chase Priority Club 80K — Approved instantly
I started off with Chase and figured that I would probably have to call in for the Ink Bold no matter what, so I started with the Priority Club 80K offer to see if I’d get approved instantly. I did — for a measly $2,000 spending limit. Hah! No worries, though, the bonus is on first purchase and I plan on keeping the card for the free night credit anywhere in exchange for the $49 annual fee, the 10% points rebate, and Platinum status. I don’t actually plan on using it much. Since it’s the end of the year, I’ll make the first spend in late December so that they post in January — I’ll get Platinum via points for all of 2013 and 2014, so even if I give up the card for some odd reason, I’ll still have Platinum status for an extra year.
2. Chase Ink Bold 50K — Approved with a phone call
I then signed up for the Chase Ink Bold 50K with my personal information, which came back with pending status. I got on the phone with the Chase Business reconsideration line — (800-453-9719) — and spoke with a representative about my side business. After a while on the phone, he suggested that I close down my Sapphire Preferred since I “barely use it” (I don’t consider $5000 of foreign and/or travel transactions “barely using it,” dude!). Not only did I not want to give up this line, but my sister is currently abroad using that card because it has no foreign transactions! I can’t let them cancel that!
In the end, I ended up getting them to close my United MileagePlus Explorer card that had a paltry $4K limit and that I had no use for after opening it in March. It’s also the first card with an annual fee next year, so I decided to close that. I’m really surprised that they had me close a personal line of credit to open up a business charge card, but in the end, I have a $5000 flexible spending limit, just enough to get the minimum spending done. I lost a net $2K in credit with Chase, but it was worth getting 50K Ultimate Rewards points and 80K Priority Club points.
3. American Express Hilton 65K — Approved instantly!
After going 2/2 with Chase, I turned my eye to American Express, and got instant approval for $5000! The best part was that they gave me my full credit card information (number, expiration, CVV code) so I got that registered for Small Business Saturday in a jiffy! The card arrived in a few days, and I was able to get an extra $25 gift certificate at a local restaurant.
4 and 5. Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii — Hawaiian Air 35K (x2) — Approved with phone calls
I applied for these in separate browsers simultaneously and got pending status on both. I first called Bank of Hawaii and answered a bunch of questions (including why I applied for 2 … because I want to separate my personal and reimburseable expenses, duh ;)). I’m used to reconsideration calls but this was had me give up the most information, including my major in college (WTF?). The rep congratulated me on a spotless credit report, even wondering how I had an Amex card at age 9 and a Discover card at 14 (gotta love credit reporting agencies!). I was approved quickly.
I then called Bank of America and spoke with a rep who asked me NO questions whatsoever. After about 5 minutes on hold, I was approved with the same $5K credit line – score!
Impact on credit score
I’ve been keeping track of Credit Karma and Credit Sesame and they’ve been holding steady. Most of my credit inquiries came on Experian, despite applying at so many different banks. However, Bank of America sent me my Experian score after applying for their card, and I was ecstatic to see that it was much higher than expected.
Meeting minimum spend
I’ve actually already met the first spend on my American Express Hilton card, and have drawered that until I finish the rest (I have 6 months to reach the higher threshold). I got the Priority Club card and will make a small purchase on that soon. My Chase Ink Bold came in this week and I’m already over 20% of the way there for minimum spend thanks to Office Depot Visa gift cards and some methods of upping spend. Want to know more? Find me at Frequent Traveler University at LAX this weekend!