If you’ve read my other articles on credit card churning and developed a churning strategy, it’s time to fill out those application! Make sure you register for loyalty accounts at airlines and hotel chains first so that you can easily plop your account information into your application so that your rewards go to the right place.
How many credit cards should I apply for?
You can apply for 1-3 at a time, on the same day, depending on how aggressively you’d like to churn. Wait 3 months before applying again, as that is when most minimum spend periods end and your credit score begins to bounce back. Keep a calendar and spreadsheet of your credit card applications, payment deadlines, and minimum spend requirements.
Five Great Starter Cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred VISA
You want to start with Chase cards. Remember why? Anyone? Bueller? Yep, the 5/24 rule. Pat yourself on the back if you’ve been paying attention.
This is a great card to start with, because it gets you enough points for two round-trip domestic flights right off the bat, award redemption is incredibly flexible, and it’s a good card to keep around for day-to-day use.
Sign-on bonus: 50,000 points. An extra 5,000 points if you add an authorized user who make a purchase.
Minimum spend: You must spend $4,000 in the first three months to receive the sign-on bonus.
Award redemption: 55,000 UR points is enough for two round-trip domestic flights, either booked through their travel system for a discount or transferred to the frequent flyer program of your choice.
Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95.
Chase IHG Rewards MasterCard
If you wait for a promotion, this card is good for free hotel nights. If you keep it past a year, you get a free night at any of their hotels once a year, which includes their extremely high-end $600+/night hotels.
Sign-on bonus: The 80,000 point sign-on bonus, which appears regularly, is the best. With the 70,000 point sign-on bonus that is currently in offer at the time of this article, it’s still worth it.
Minimum spend: $1,000 in the first three months.
Award redemption: With 70,000-80,000 points, you can get 2-4 nights at a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express or 1-2 nights at a nicer hotel like an InterContinental. Some less popular hotels are even offered for as little as 5,000 points each night.
Annual fee: Waived the first year, $49 each following year.
Alternative: The Chase Ink Plus is also a great option to pair with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, currently offering a promotion for 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
The sign-on bonus is a little less attractive here, but this is very worthwhile if you can get the promotional offer that’s often floating around.
Sign-on bonus: Usually 30,000 miles. Wait until you find the 50,000 mile offer.
Minimum spend: $1,000 in the first 3 months for 30,000 miles. $3,000 in the first 3 months for 50,000 miles.
Award redemption: 50,000 miles is enough for two domestic round-trip flights.
Annual fee: Waived the first year, $95 each following year.
Alternative: The Delta SkyMiles American Express cards and the United MileagePlus are good options for people loyal to those airlines, and often offer even better bonuses. Citi Prestige is a good alternative Citi card if you can find a 50k, 60k, or sometimes even a 100k sign-on offer.
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express
SPG’s points are often touted as the most valuable hotel points system by frequent travelers, making this relatively smaller sign-on bonus arguably more valuable than a larger sign on bonus from a brand like Hilton Hotels. You can also transfer these flights to a number of frequent flyer programs at a 1:1 rate. With 5 points for every dollar spent at a Starwood property, if you stay in hotels a lot for business, using this card will help you quickly rack up SPG points that can then be converted to airline miles.
Sign-on bonus: 25,000-30,000 points.
Minimum spend: $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Award redemption: 30,000 points could potentially get you one round-trip domestic flight on the airline of your choice, or 3 nights at a Starwood hotel. If you can spend enough to accrue 40,000 points, you can get 5 nights due to their 5th night free program.
Annual fee: $0 the first year, $95 each following year.
British Airways Signature VISA
This is a great choice for short non-stop award flights and people who travel between international countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America and sometimes Europe, a lot. It’s also good for short domestic travel. However, longer flights and flights with connections are often not as worthwhile, because the airline is notorious for additional fees and fuel surcharges.
Sign-on bonus: 50,000 points with a potential for 25,000 more, for a total of 75,000 points.
Minimum spend: $2,000 in the first 3 months. If you spend $15,000 in the first year, you get an additional 25,000. If you spend more than $30,000 the first year, you also get a bonus companion ticket.
Award redemption: Flights are as cheap as 4,000 miles one-way for off-peak very short distance flights (Montreal to NYC). More common is the 8,000-20,000 range (LA to Hawaii is 12,500 each way).
Annual fee: $95, not waived the first year.
Whatever you do, don’t forget…
Scour the internet for promotional offers on places like Flyer Talk! These can make or break your churning strategy. Maybe you picked a card that will give you 25,000 miles, but there’s a link out there to an offer for 50,000 instead. In this game, bigger is always better.