December 20th, 2012
My name is Dan and I’m a credit card churning addict…
It has now been 10 years since I turned 18 (and 8 years since I started blogging) and I’ve opened over 300 cards building a nest egg of over 10 million miles and points so that I can always hop on a plane, fly in first class somewhere, and stay in a 5 star resort without having to pay for it. Now that was easier before Rafi came along, but he’s logged tens of thousands of air miles under the doting eye of his incredible mom. It really is an addiction, from earning top-tier airline (United 1K) hotel (SPG Platinum and Hyatt Diamond), and car rental status (Avis Chairman), when I travel, I travel like a king and get to drive fancy cars and fly in first class suites for pennies. And yet I still enjoy nothing more than coming back home to good ole’ unpretentious Cleveland where my wife and I share a single Nissan Altima and we can sleep in our own (W) bed. At least until I start planning the next trip.
I’m not here to brag about what I’ve done. My point is that anyone can do this. Just be careful not to use cards to buy things you can’t afford and fall into a vicious cycle of debt. Otherwise it’s all fun and games
Over time I’ve perfected my churning methods. While I started with a simple Gap card I discovered by accident some 9 years ago in a method that’s since spread across the web that I was able to get 2, 3, or even 4 cards at the same time with just 1 credit pull by applying for multiple cards in different web browsers or computers at he same time. 2BM/3BM/4BMs are often talked about on DDF these days. The truth is that as long as the apps are submitted the same day it also generally counts as 1 pull, though nothing is ever guaranteed and it can take multiple attempts to call reconsideration to get your apps approved.
I became proficient at never paying an annual fee without either getting a retention bonus to keep the card or using the card as leverage to get approved for more cards. American Express and Chase reconsideration departments are only all too happy to allow you to move around credit lines to get new cards approved or close down old cards to get a new card approved so as you build your portfolio of cards it becomes a virtuous cycle as you keep getting more and more leverage to get new cards.. And I’ve gotten better at understanding how to properly churn cards and get matched to better offers, though companies have attempted to clamp down on that as well.
Over the years bonuses have gotten bigger, though spend thresholds have as well. Luckily there are many options these days to meet those spend thresholds. Travelers checks and dollar coins may be kaput but these days we have Amazon Payments, Vanilla Reload purchases via credit card and using Bluebird to cash out, and free cash advances from Vanilla Debit cards which can be funded via credit card or Vanilla Reloads. And you can always just buy gift cards to use in the future (particularly lucrative on Chase Ink cards as those earn 5 times the points) in order to meet spend thresholds on time as well.
As for my credit score, it’s still top-notch!
Here are the cards I currently have that are active and that I am the primary cardholder of:
(An * is listed next to the 7 cards I have in my wallet for use every day)
AMEX (9 active cards)
AMEX Consumer (6):
Got this one in my first 4BM of the year which resulted in just 1 pull. Not as good as the 100K offer matching of last year that I did multiple times, but 25K is nothing to sneeze at. If you apply right now you can get the $200 airline gift card for 2012 and another $200 for 2013 in just a couple weeks.
If offers a host of other benefits like platinum card lounge access (even if the card is closed), priority club lounge access, expedited immigration via Global Entry, Starwood Gold status, lost item insurance, and a whole lot more.
I don’t use this card for spending.
*-Premier Rewards Gold #1
Got this in the first 4BM as well for 25K points. With 3x points on airfare, 2x points for gas and groceries, and 15K bonus points annual for spending $30K it beats the Platinum card for spending hands down. Points transfer instantly to many airlines.
-Premier Rewards Gold #2
Got this in my 2nd 4BM of the year which also cost just 1 pull. Automatically got the 25K points in October even though my other Gold card is active.
I’ve had this SPG card for many years and they are always happy to give me 3K points per year to keep it open which covers the $65 annual fee. Of course Small Business Saturday and all of the other great AMEX promotions throughout the year make it quite profitable to keep. Benefits include preferred plus elite status and nights and stays towards gold and platinum elite status. Starpoints of course transfer at favorable ratios to dozens of airlines and are also awesome at Starwood hotels.
This card used to get nearly all of my spending, but Chase has really improved their offerings of late. I still always use my SPG card for items that I either want the extended warranty coverage for, that I may need to dispute (as nobody can compete with AMEX dispute resolution), or that I may want to return using AMEX’s awesome return protection.
Got this card in my 2nd 4BM of the year for the signup points and the elite status nights which posted automatically with a new Starwood number that I merged afterward. Came in handy for Small Business Saturday as well.
This was part of the first 4BM. The signup bonus posted automatically with a new Delta number that I merged afterward. I don’t have elite status with Delta but in case I even fly them at least I’ll get free bags and priority boarding now.
AMEX Business (3):
Had this one for a while as well. Makes getting Starwood Platinum easier and Open Savings on top of Starpoints is awesome.
Plus spending on business cards doesn’t hurt your score like spending on personal cards does.
Got this one in the 2nd 4BM of this year for the signup points and the elite status nights.
This one was also part of the 2nd 4BM as a toss-in.
Chase (13 active cards)
Chase Consumer (8):
*-Sapphire Preferred Visa
Got this card once again earlier this year in a 3BM. It’s an excellent churnable card for the 40K signup bonus and the 2.14 points per dollar on airfare, hotels, dining, car rentals, caterers, tolls, etc. Plus 1.07 points per dollar elsewhere, no Forex fees, and it’s an awesome heavy metal card with top-notch customer service that answers on the first ring. And it allows you to transfer all your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airlines and hotels.
*-Freedom Exclusives Visa
Another excellent card I’ve had for a while for the 5 point categories and the Exclusives program I have that gives 10% bonus points and 10 points every time you use your card. The lack of an annual fee makes it that much sweeter.
Not a great card for spending but for the 2 night signup bonus that can used at ultra-luxe hotels and the annual free night that you get as well.
I got an incredible 55K+$50 signup bonus for this via SM and the benefits are top-notch. Primary car rental insurance, free checked luggage, expanded United saver and standard award availability, priority boarding, elite upgrades on awards, free club passes, etc.
*-United Club (Click on the Club tab from the explorer card)
This card gives the benefits of the Explorer card and a whopping 1.5 miles per dollar on everything, no Forex fees, 2 free checked bags, a Club membership with access to lounges worldwide, gate passes for you and companions to the secured section of the airport terminal if it has a United or USAirways club, waived award expedite/close-in fees, Avis President’s Club, and Hyatt Platinum status (which also gets you 2 free suite upgrades when you apply for the Hyatt card). You can SM to get the fee waived.
-United Awards Visa
This card is discontinued and I’ll use it for leverage to get a new card.
-Sapphire Preferred Mastercard
Converted my previous Sapphire Visa to this card and got the Visa and the points again. That’s not an easy feat anymore and you may have to close the Mastercard to get approved for the Visa again. Great card for renting a car in Israel.
-Southwest Premier Visa
Got for the 50K points which is now gone. Will use as leverage for a new card, might try for the British Airways 100K card again now that Vanilla Reload as made that threshold so easy to attain.
Chase Business (5):
See this post for how to get a business card and why business card spending is better than consumer card spending.
-Ink Bold Mastercard
Got this card last year when you could link this card for Exclusives to earn up to 1.675 points per dollar. Now you can get 5 points per dollar by buying gift cards and using those for spending or cashing out via Amazon Payments. All of the Ink cards give 5 points per dollar at office supply stores and on telecom, cable, and internet. They also all give 2 points per dollar for gas. The Bold, Plus, and Classic cards also give 2 points per dollar at hotels while the Cash card gives 2 points for dining.
The cards also give 2 free lounge passes for all cardholders, even free additional users.
You need a Bold, Plus, or Sapphire Preferred to transfer points to airlines and hotels. The Bold card is a charge card to be paid off in full while all other Ink cards are credit cards that can be paid off over time. They even come with 6 months of 0% APR on purchase and balance transfers and best of all as they’re business cards spending and carrying a balance on them won’t hurt your score. Plus they’re churnable, what else do you need?
*-Ink Plus Mastercard
Got this for the 50K signup bonus during a 3BM last month. Coupled with 5 points per dollar at office supply stores to meet the $5K spend threshold that a whole lot of points.
-Ink Classic Mastercard
Got this along with the Ink Bold last year. Was going to use it as leverage but didn’t need to.
-Ink Cash Mastercard
Got this card as well during last month’s 3BM.
-United Business Visa (Click on “Are you a business owner” in top left.
Got 50K+$50 for this card after SM last month as part of the successful 3BM with 2 Ink cards with just 1 pull.
Citi Consumer (6):
Keep it around for the elite status it gives for free. I’ll pick up a Hilton Reserve card as soon as I have the chance to try out the Waldorf Jerusalem.
-AA Visa #1
-AA Visa #2
Used to be able to churn these things every 60 days. Now it’s more like every 1-2 years. Retention offers are generous though and benefits include free bags and discounted awards. There are backdoor links for these cards that are always changing. Check DDF for the latest ones.
Before United introduced primary car rental insurance this was the card to use. Now it’s just for retention bonuses.
Citi Business (1):
Barclay Consumer (3)
Got all 3 of these and the business card below as part of a 4BM last month. There are backdoor 40K links for these on DDF.
Barclay Business (1)
-Discover More 5%
5% reward categories (5% on Amazon Payments, you bet!) are great for a fee-free card.
GAP Inc (2)
-Banana Republic Lifetime Luxe
Used to be your got Luxe status for life. Not anymore but I luckily got grandfathered years ago.
My first credit card
Was nice while the 2% lasted, now it collects dust though it gets us into museums for free on the first weekend of every month.
USBank Consumer (1):
USBank Business (1):
My Northwest Airlines cards converted to these and they gather dust, may one day use for leverage.