Are We Nearing The End Of The Road? A Brief History Of The Game We Play, Changes To AMEX+Chase+Citi Card Rules

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Update, 8/11: I wrote this “pre-obituary” back in February. Since then the new Chase rules went into effect on most of their cards making it far more difficult to signup for new cards if you don’t have Private Client status.

Tonight DoC shares that Citi cards now have harsh new rules.

From his post on DDF,

“American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles not available if you have had any Citi / AAdvantage card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.”
“Expedia+ Points Bonus Offer is not available if you have had any Expedia+ or Expedia+ Voyager card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”
“Bonus Hilton HHonors points are not available if you have had any Citi®Hilton HHonors™ card opened or closed in the past 24 months.”
“Bonus ThankYou points are not available if you have had ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige cards opened or closed in the past 24 months.”

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was 3BMing Citi American cards every 30 days racking up lifetime elite status and millions upon millions of miles.

With the new rules you can’t alternate between types of American cards or types of cards that earn ThankYou points for example. Once you’ve opened a card you’ll need to wait 24 months from that point or from when you close it to get another bonus within that brand.

For now business cards and consumer cards are not considered within the same brand, so you can still get a bonus for a Citi American business card despite having opened or closed a consumer card within 24 months.

Like I said, it’s been a fun ride. I still cashed out $5,000 of gift cards today for a quick 25K miles, but the game gets harder with each passing month. Enjoy the rest of it while it lasts!


Originally posted on 2/25/16:

It’s been a really fun run since I started blogging in 2004.

Even before I was blogging I was using eBay to flip beanie babies as a 13 year old at big profits and generated 7 figures of miles for free.

I pioneered credit card application techniques like the 2BM which became 3BM and eventually got as high as a 24BM. I typically kept the specifics limited to the 15 seminars that I ran from 2012-2015. Over the years we’ve been able to travel the world while burning over 10 million miles and banking tens of millions more along with lifetime elite statuses and other perks. Like I said in an interview last month, my problem is finding the time to burn them, not earn them. With G-ds grace, that’s an amazing problem to have and it’s one of things that I was so thankful for.

Alas, other bloggers that attended some of those seminars have taken the stories for their own. They often dumbed them down in scale and strategy, I suppose as a way to not outright break a promise to keep their lips sealed. But in the process they wound up killing many of those methods in random posts of selfishness. There’s such a fine line when deciding what things are safe to write about and what things aren’t and I’ve been guilty of poor judgement at times. But there have been posts that are so misguided that they sting. #CestLaVie

There’s no doubt that this game is on the downward slope of the bell-curve here.

It used to be easy as pie to keep applying for the same cards again and again with bonuses that just kept on growing with each passing year. It used to be really easy to meet the minimum spending requirement (Back in the day most cards only required $1 in spending) and manufacture spend by buying dollar coins or sending your spouse payments with Amazon Payments. Now those things have become increasingly difficult to do so.

Banks have gotten stricter with approvals and have policies that limit how often you can signup for the same card. And while there have always been loopholes for those in the know, those too are winnowing down.

There are still ways to manufacture spend, but in places like NYC it can be tough, especially if your Serve card was shut down.

Am I being a bit dramatic here? After all there are hundreds of avid DDF users who maximize the system, rack up millions of miles, and fly around the world in first class at a greater frequency than I do. If law school student CS91 can go from mileage newbie to racking up and burning 1.7 million miles this year, then surely all hope is not yet lost in this game. But there’s no denying that things are getting more difficult and require more time to master.

This blog has always been an odd convergence of bargain, travel/miles deals and information. It’s funny to see them come together as more and more people move into reselling as a method of manufacturing spend. That’s when people buy bargains on their credit cards and try to sell them on places like Amazon or eBay at a profit or at least break-even in order to earn miles in the process. Perhaps this will be the only way forward to keep manufacturing miles on the cheap? It’s funny to see it come full circle from the old days when I sold beanie babies and generated Cathay Pacific miles via eBay.

The airlines themselves have tried to take the gaming aspect out of the earning side of the equation as they move to reward flying based on revenue instead of flying distance. While in the past you could fly on a mileage run and earn miles worth more than the cost of the flight, those opportunities and few and far between these days. In 2004 we earned 8 tickets valid anywhere in the world on American by flying on a couple flights between NYC and California or Florida.   In 2006 I flew on a dozen AA flights in Texas and for a couple hundred bucks I had elite status and 6 figures of miles. Those days aren’t returning, though there are still ways to earn miles based on distance by crediting flights to partner airlines.

Airline consolidation has made lucrative promotions fewer and farther between as there is less need to compete. In 2005 Airtran ran a promotion to earn miles for Wendy’s cups. I sent in thousands of cups and they bought me tickets on Continental that I’m still using for free flights on United. Those were the golden days. Now airlines and hubs have been eliminated and loyalty is taken for granted.

Same goes for hotels. Not long ago I was earning 13,500 United miles+6,000 Hyatt points+1 free night at any Hyatt in the world for every 2 stays that I made. That was extremely lucrative thanks to $60 Hyatt Place stays that I was able to checkin to over the phone for every day of the promotion. Those Faster Free Nights promotions ran from about 2002 through 2010 but are gone for good. Even Starwood got in on the action and that allowed me to stay at the S. Regis Princeville in Kauai for dirt cheap in 2011. If airline mergers were the big story of the past 15 years, the ongoing hotel mergers will be the big thing. We’ll see what Marriott does with Starwood and what Accor does with my precious Fairmont, but I’m not very hopeful.

Heck, even Starbucks is moving from a “gameable” frequent user rewards based system (use their mobile app to make separate orders for every item you buy to quickly rack up free drinks) to a non-gameable revenue based system in April. The rewards landscape is changing as blogs proliferate and people maximize the benefits farther than the programs intended.

The redemption side has also become tougher with unprecedented devaluations from the likes of Hilton and United. Delta went so far as to delete their award charts and now American is poised to copy United’s devaluation in a month.

The good news from that end is that the major airlines know if they switch from an opaque system where savvy customers can game it and win to a non-gameable revenue based system, that they will lose billions of dollars in revenue as consumers switch from earning airline miles to earning cash back. The banks and their steady revenue stream won’t let that happen anytime soon.

In March of 2014 I broke the news that AMEX consumer cards would be much harder to churn. Officially most offers are once per lifetime now, though some don’t have that language and others have reported that after a number of years they’ve been able to get a signup bonus again on the same card. It’s hard to say exactly how many years it takes for that though.

Effective today AMEX Business card applications now have this language as well.

Citi started cracking down later in 2014 as I first reported here as well.

Bank of America went from one of the easiest to one of the hardest banks for multiple applications thanks to some blogs.

Chase’s approval guidelines on their Freedom and Sapphire cards got much more rigid last May when they started giving a tough time to people who have been approved for more than 5 credit cards within the previous 24 months. Some people have had success with reconsideration, others with $10K+ in a Chase checking account or with Private Client status have had luck by asking a banker to fill out a special reconsideration form for them, but it’s much tougher than it used to be.

Chuck from DoC has an inside source that says those same guidelines will begin to apply to Ink cards sometime in March and to all Chase cards sometime in April. With the way things have been heading that doesn’t surprise me at all.

 

What are you thoughts on where things are heading? Sound off in the comments!

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92 Comments on "Are We Nearing The End Of The Road? A Brief History Of The Game We Play, Changes To AMEX+Chase+Citi Card Rules"

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Mark

#CestLaVie

@Yehuda

Nice shoutout CS91!

sol

Dan, Please don’t retire!!!!

GTR

I’m really just happy with the 250k/yr I generate on my Ink Plus from what really amounts to annual spending (with a little MS). It fits my busy work schedule, my level of commitment and the amount of travel I desire. Perhaps it’s because I never experienced the good ole days, but today feels pretty adequate (a ringing endorsement).

Oscar

DAN, I applied for the sapphire two months ago and they didn’t approve cause I opened 6 cards including Au’s that they count in the 5 cards open in the last 24 months, went to the bank but no luck, any advice how to get that sapphire??

Jack

Will the downgrade to green workaround no longer work?

Doug

@Oscar: Easy enough… stop applying for cards for a couple years then apply for the Sapphire.

Its Adar!

hey, this post should be made in Av.

High end hobo

Amex is losing billions and looking to cut losses.

How do these rules work if I apply with an EIN and not SSN?

paul Goecke

You are a good man Dan. Keep up the fight.

LS

I always read AUs in the blog. What is an AU? Still cant figure it out. Saw it on Reddit yesterday also.

Israe

I got an amex business platinum offer for 150k but i already had this card a few years ago, will i got bonus offer?
Is there a way to check before applying?

mareh

הבוטח בה’ חסד יסובבנהו – keeps the dealz coming

J

Now I’m kicking myself. My spg business just hit the 2 year mark and I was going to open a new one 🙁

Dan

@Mark:
Indeed.

@sol:
Heh.

@GTR:
Nothing to sneeze at.

@Oscar:
Apply for one of the less strict cards while you still can…or wait it out.

@Jack:
It may stick around.

@Its Adar!:
Indeed.

@High end hobo:
Try and see?

@paul Goecke:
Thanks.

@LS:
Authorized user/secondary cardholder.

@Israe:
What do the terms say?

hey SUP?

Please don’t leave us!!!!

Ydad

So amex business once in a lifetime is the straw that broke the camel’s back, huh?

yosef

just applied for southwest cards ..denied because i already had in the past 24months….any advice

ShlockDoc

#CashbackFTW (For now)

Israel

@Dan: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product”

David

Dan, how long does it take for a crediter to report on my credit report that they approved me for a new account ?

Happy Purim

Sounds like Dan is ready to throw in the towel.
Gook luck on your next endeavor!

Eli

So Dan, in your prediction, what’s next? Meaning what will the credit card issuers offer, if the banks will never let the cash back? How will a CC issuer convince you to sign up with them? And also airlines/hotels?

Eli

You’re not throwing in the towel, are you?

rediplus

probably the most depressing post ever. only in the game 2 years and have only taken 2 first class flights. my only dream left to me is to try to earn a million points somewhere, somehow that will allow me to take the family to israel for my sons bar mitzva in 2 years. i only have 300k now and this post basically blew my dream away..thanks dan

Venilla

Am I gonna get an HT for this?

Gary

@Ydad:
It’s a symbolic end of an era.

stbaum

from the Dorsey article:

“Eleff counters that although the programs constantly change, he doesn’t see the practice going away anytime soon.
“At the end of the day, it’s really a win-win situation for both of the parties involved. Airlines get rid of distressed inventory, which they wouldn’t have sold anyway, and they get revenue for that. The banks get credit card sign ups,” he says.”

so where exactly do you see this game being 5 years down the line??

Stephen

I just did a 3BM in December with Bank of America. This consisted of both Amtrak cards and an MLB card that gave me a $100 cash bonus after spending $500 (the MLB card was more of a throw-in). 3BM/2BMstill works just not with the same exact card twice or if you already have that card open.

BrooklynCPA

WOW, not being able to churn Amex Biz cards is the final nail in the coffin 🙁 !!!

We all knew this couldn’t last forever with the amount of people playing the system these days!!

Mendy

I hope the value of miles goes up because of this 🙂 I have so many waiting to sell 🙂

Laura

@J: The Starwood Business credit card still has the old wording of, “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product within the last 12 months”.

shmilu

Dan keep up the good work ur saving klal yisroel tons of money and the knowledge will last forever so dont worry

AR

So finally an admission that it’s game over. As @stbaum quoted above, Dan has been saying for years that all these changes are normal, “this isn’t going away”, blah blah.
At least now we can start calling a spade a spade. The points world is disappearing fast. I hope all you folks who put in tons of time and effort into accruing points have also put time into a long term strategy-to actually make an honest living and be able to afford paid travel.

Anonymous

@Venilla: NO NO NO

lasthoorah

if its within the 2 years of receiving a bonus for ink, can my wife apply for card (same business , tax id # ,was au on my app)and get bonus?
also when does the 2 yr CBT (chase bonus timer)start running? ( is it the last day on the statement when they posted? the day you met the threshold? or something else? )
thanks for the nostaga

shauly101

and now the SPG has the language already 🙁

Mark

Well the good news is that maybe MR can now go back to 1.4-1.5

Anonymous

@AR: I think most people have quite enough socked away to last a very long time.

AR

@Anonymous:
Ya keep talking. Let’s speak again after another year or two’s worth of devaluations, FR’s, A/A’s, and more restrictions on sign ups.
That’s not quite what I intended as a “long term strategy”. I actually meant more along the lines of a real job. Ultimately that’s what you’re going to need to keep up your travel lifestyle.

24 months wait?

canceled last month BA SP SW
Which one can re apply and get BM?

LG

When downgrading a BA card To a chase freedom card. its that a new pull and is it part of 5/24 Rule?

Anonymous

@Anonymous: So you’re basically saying that if I would’ve had one you’d take it away… It is indeed sad 🙁

alyssa kaplan

business cards say have or have had in the last 12 months are not eligible

Daniel

I may be out of context for this blog, in suggesting something from a different perspective. Aren’t we held to a different standard? Isn’t the legacy of enjoying “the good life” a shallow one to leave to our children? Is beating a “system” a meaningful pursuit in life, or a childish game? Isn’t churning the opposite of achieving? Don’t we want our children to build themselves and their own children, by doing and creating lasting things of true value? With all do respect, maybe it’s time to let the game die, and begin to really live…

Sandy

5/24 rule seriously includes AU too? That sucks….no wonder why I haven’t heard back about my Sapphire application, it has been more than 18 days since I applied 😢

JM

Yes, I agree it’s definitely gotten worse – seems to be a new change for the worse each day. I work for a DB company and several years ago, our CTO used to say to potential customers, “I don’t fly United anymore – they’re one of our customers and they reward their flyers on revenue, not on miles flown”. Companies will continue to use technology to their advantage and reward appropriately. Sure, they’ll still do dumb stuff and let us take advantage of the loopholes, just less frequently…

On the manufactured spending side, are there any good ways to do it anymore since Bluebird got shut down?

REDCard z"l

As an afterthought. I was told yesterday that the entire Prepaid REDcard z”l is being discontinued. I guess once all the MSr’s dropped out, noone used them at all….

y dauber

Well said Dan!

Lynda B

I’ve never churned cards, but have signed up for multitudes of different cards and have made thousands of dollars playing this game. Personally, I feel it’s not fair to the credit card companies. But that’s just me, and it’s fine that you all do it. Be glad you got what you did out of it. There will always be new cards with new offers. Maybe not as many, but I think we will still all have fun doing the credit card game.

mh

It has been a nice ride – over 5,000,000 points over 6 years from approximately 60 credit cards between me & my wife.

Some Churning. Slow & Steady

We have had beautiful Hotel Rooms, Flights in Business class, Sold points anywhere from 1.2 to 1.8 of different cards.

There are some small finds though – Have to be on the lookout & see what comes in the mail that you might not have had before etc.

I just got the Barclays Luxury Card. That should work out well

Good luck

CollegeGirl

@Dan:
A little off topic; Do you know a way to pay tax payments online by credit card??

PLEASE ANSWER YES/NO, THANK YOU.

Achshell

@CollegeGirl: There are companies that do it for fee… Dan made a post about it last year.

Achshell

The time has come for a Dan’sDeals credit card. It should have 1,000,000 points bonus for $1 spent, 1,000 points per $1 afterwards, points transfer to any loyalty program in the world or 2 cents per point cash back, you could reapply every week.
Oh, that sounds crazy? Good point! but big banks also need money, and they decided that they won’t be giving it out free!
So good luck everybody finding a real job…

T

Nice sentiment- its been a good run…

Surprised

@rediplus: Girl, we all started with economy. Can you do your math?

Duvid

I currently have an ink is it possible to get another one under another business name and get the signup bonus ?

Yochiek93
ashin

If my business has a ink cash with the EIN, and on my wives name, will I be able to apply again with the EIN if it will be on my name? What about the promotion, will I get it?

Gary

@CollegeGirl:
Yes, but there are fees (usually around 2%).

LG

HOW CAN I APPLY ON GOOGLE CHROME BROWSER FOR SOMEONE ELSE AFTERING APPLYING FOR MYSELF? I APPLIED FOR CHASE MARIOTT & WAS NOT APPROVED. WHEN I TRIED OPENING THE PAGE TO APPLY FOR MY HUSBAND, IT SAID MY APPLICATION WAS SUBMITTED.

Gary

@ashin:
If approved, you’ll get the bonus.

Harry

@LG:
Try click on the three dots on the top right and open an incognito window

Harry

Does anyone know around what income level is required for an Amex EverDay Card? Credit from all 3 hovering around 700

Anonymous

Also is there a chance that Amex will bring back the old language of 12 months?

yitz

Dan, another great post. I love when you show em why you are more than just another point blogger. my sources are saying that the marriott/starwood transaction will yield nice returns for marriott points holders. Do you have any comment? good shabas.

evan h.

well, there will always be ‘other’ opportunities.

that Gilt $20 off $20 spend (w/free ship via shoprunner) was pretty good…

thanks!

Anonymous

@AR:m

Don’t be do smug. There are never guarantees, even for the likes of you.

Amex

Af payable now
Delta gold
Any reason not to cancel card
Reapply dec time
Save 9/12 x $95
Good credit
Will be approved
Does chat help waive?

Lee

Daniel, I have been thinking along these lines for a long time already. It’s too bad it has to end. What I like and use most from DD however, are great prices on everyday items. Keep up the good work.

AR

@Anonymous:
Smug? That sounds more like your comments (“I’m sure everyone saved enough to last a long time”) instead of mine.
But as a matter of fact I am pretty smug. I spent the last few years not only thinking in the short term (getting points) but also in the long term (building my way towards a real well paying job). It never fails to amaze me the way commenters here and on DDF are so preoccupied with getting a few points it totally consumes their life (yes I know people who spend many many hours A DAY on the site). Though it’s a possibility that many here don’t have the skills it takes to do things the real way.
So soon enough the whole industry here will be shut down due to selfish point abusers and vacations will return to the way they always were. I doubt I’ll be seeing too many points fellas in PH MLE when I’m vacation there (paying with cash-gasp) in another few years when the points situation will no doubt be much more impossible than it already is.

question

I have never opened an INK card yet… but just got declined for the sapphire for opening too many cards in the past 24 months…

does this rule not apply to those applying for an INK card? can I still get approved for it even if I opened 5 cards in past 24 months?

Anonymous

@question: ink might still work

Pessie

Might be time to get a real job

A

Dan, you said you cashed out 5k of gift cards? How do you do that if redbird is closed?

Mom

Tg with a super size family I was able to get tickets with my miles for my kids flights to and from seminary and yeshiva overseas for the last 10 years. Now I use them to visit my kids on Shlichus. Still have 6 more to send. Hoping one day to actually use them for ourselves! Thanks Dan.

Anonymous

If I had AA platinum in the past year but closed it..but Haden had AA gold for two years-can I now sign up for AA gold Citi and get bonus? Or do I know have to wait until it’s been a full two years from the time of my platinum AA Citi closure?

Anonymous

Is it from the time you got the bonus or from the time you closed the card? This started yesterday?

EliR

Haven’t read all the comments.
What if I’ve had a citi AA card for more than two years and have not closed it. I haven’t ‘opened’ it in the last two years, but it’s been open for the duration of the last two years. Can I get another bonus now? Or close it and wait?

Sara

Same question as @A, how did you cash out 5K? Also with which cc? Thanks

Ari

@dan
Which miles did u cash for gift cards?

chevron

I dunno… I think sign up bonuses will get better.. many of us 3bm’ed apps but we didnt churn.. Marriott 100k, chase reserve 100, united 70k.. i think sign ups will exceed 100k

Jerry

@Sara:
The CC is Ink.
Cashed out by money orders.

David R

“card opened or closed in the past 24 months”
But if the card was opened more than 24 months ago, you can still get a bonus if it remains open when you apply, right?

Anonymous

@mh:
why do you think that LC pays? if i may ask?

Anonymous

How predictable. AMEX cracks down, so people move to Chase, so Chase cracks down, so people move to Citi, so Citi cracks down. Who’s next?
In any other setting people would wake up and see the writing on the wall. But abusine churnersbhave never been about long term thinking and so the game is ending. Go out and find some real jobs, fellows.

Gubevo

So when is the next seminar?

Anonymous

@Gubevo:
To take about what? Deals on diapers and baby carriages?

Anonymous

@LS: authorized user

miriam leah

Hi Dan,
I purchased a ticket for my husband to fly to Honkong in December using 40000 United miles.
Now he can not go. United said they would charge me $200.00 to redeposit the points back into the account. Is there any way around this? I dont want to lose the points and I have no other flights we are planning for at this point. What do you sugguest?
ps. Please dont stop writing your blog.
pps. I think my cousin (Kabakow) in Cleveland is friendly with your family.
Small world.

PM

Finally!

PnM

Great news. Let’s focus on great deals instead of Dan’s criminal activity.

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