Robert Dwyer is a deal hound who spends hours each day thinking about points, and how to use them for awesome family vacations. He writes about wine at The Wellesley Wine Press. You can follow Robert on Twitter: @RobertDwyer
It’s been four months since I applied for a credit card, and with my home mortgage refinance behind me it was time to apply for a new batch of cards. My first foray into credit card applications was a little short sighted, but you have to start somewhere, right?
The biggest mistake I made the first time around was assuming the best thing to do when signing up for cards was to go for co-branded cards of airlines I enjoy flying domestically. I’ve since discovered this is rarely the best way to go. In the points and miles game, the path to value isn’t always obvious.
For example, take the jetBlue AmEx. The 20,000 points I earned for signing up vaporized in a flash. And although I enjoy the 50% off in-flight benefit, they only offer 3x points on jetBlue flights. With the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card you can get 3x on any airline spend, so 3x on jetBlue is hardly a great deal. If they’d step it up to 5x for jetBlue flights it might motivate me to keep the card, but as it is I don’t see a future in retaining the card.
My goals in acquiring points and miles has so far has been to reduce the cost of travelling mostly domestically with a family of four, and an eye towards an international trip or two in the mid-term: Boston to Germany and/or Italy. My credit score was around 780 and I had 4 recent inquiries prior to this round of applications.
This time around I had two things in mind:
- Laying a foundation by applying for cards that are “keepers” for how they reward spend
- Acquiring cards with flexible rewards.
The Big Three
In terms of flexibility the three programs to know are:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Starwood Preferred Guest (coupled with a co-branded AmEx)
Each of these programs offer an assortment of airlines you can transfer points to with the most valuable redemptions being for international business/first class travel.
After my first round of applications, thanks to Travel Summary, I was flush with AmEx Membership Rewards points. They’ve got some good redemption options but one of my primary goals is to travel from Boston to Munich with a family of four, so I’m looking for United miles to book Lufthansa flights. And SPG has some transfer options the others lack so I was interested in getting some points with all three of these programs.
I’ve been waiting for a Southwest 50k business card off to appear to kick off this round of applications but so far one hasn’t appeared. I wanted to get the business version of the card so I could get a companion pass early in the year but I’m afraid that goal has gotten away from me. Oh well, there are other opportunities.
One of the nice things about being new to this game is that many of the best sign up bonuses are still available to me for the first time. So let’s get to it!
Chase Ink Bold
Why I Wanted It:
50k Ultimate Rewards points (transferable to United) and 5x bonused spend at office supply stores, on cell phone bills, and cable bills. The card is good for the sign-up bonus and it’s good for the bonus spend.
It’s a business card, and not everyone feels comfortable (1) applying for business cards for their fledgling side businesses and (2) routing personal spend through the card to meet minimum spend requirements.
Doh! Off to a rough start but based on what I’ve read it’s very common for business card applications with sole proprietorships to go pending. I called the Chase business reconsideration line right up and immediately got a helpful agent. He asked me to repeat a few basic things from my application, and asked me a bit about my business. It’s a wine blog that brings in a couple thousand dollars a year and has been in operation for a few years. Since the income level of my business was somewhat low, he asked if I’d be okay transferred $5k from my Southwest Personal card I opened a few months ago. Sure thing! With that the card was…APPROVED!
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why I Wanted It:
40k Ultimate Rewards points and 2x on restaurants and travel. Enables Ultimate Rewards points earned on the Chase Freedom card to transfer to airlines.
None. This is a fantastic card.
Another pending!? You’ve got to be kidding me! No worries, I called the Chase personal reconsideration line right up. This call got more involved than the Chase Ink Bold card. Some of it was due to confusion over the credit line transferred from my personal Southwest card from the prior call for the business card. The system hadn’t updated completely from my prior application so it looked like my Southwest card still had a limit of $23,000 when in reality it had been reduced to $18,000 to enable the Chase Ink Bold to be approved. The agent also wanted to know about my recent inquiries. I explained I like to optimize my spend to take advantage of bonus categories. After some back and forth we agreed to move some of the credit line from a couple cards to enable this one to be…APPROVED!
Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard
Why I Wanted It:
40,000 points and 2.2x back towards travel. You purchase travel on your card and “erase” it with points. So it’s effectively a cash back card (with a very generous percentage) so long as travel expenses are a cash equivalent for you.
I’d heard some things about Barclays being strange about recent inquiries. And I was a little confused by how this program works. But it sounds like a Capital One Venture clone and I get that so I think this is a good card to use for non-bonus spend once minimums have been met.
My first instant approval! That was easy. So I figured why not try for another Barclaycard – they’d already pulled my credit.
Lufthansa Miles & More Card
Why I Wanted It:
50k Lufthansa miles good for United domestic first or p.s. Premium service from JFK to SFO/LAX round-trip for 35k.
$5k minimum spend. Barclaycard shenanigans like being approved for a lower level card with a lower bonus.
Another pending!? I had a hard time getting a reconsideration agent on the phone but Travel Summary helped guide me to the Credit Line Questions line at (866)408-4064 rather than the Application Line. Since I’d just applied and been approved for the Barclays Arrival card with a $15k limit the agent told me he couldn’t approve me for new credit. But he could transfer half of my credit line from the newly approved Arrival card to this new card. Perfect! APPROVED!
American Express SPG Card
Why I Wanted It:
For the flexibility, the 25k transferable SPG points, and the ability to supplement my new found Lufthansa miles.
High minimum spend ($5k) but it’s over 6 months so I’ve got time.
Pending!? Even from my pals at AmEx? I couldn’t believe it. Thankfully this was probably the easiest call of the bunch. They just wanted to make sure my account wasn’t hacked and I intended to apply for the card. APPROVED!
5 for 5 with 4 pending decisions that were cleared up with calls to the reconsideration line. A total haul of 205,000 points with annual fees the first year of $79. Total minimum spend: $14k over the first 3 months, $19k over the first 6 months. That’s a pretty healthy amount of spend but I think I can cover it with a little creativity.
- An application going pending isn’t cause for concern. Often it’s just a formality and they’re looking to make sure you actually submitted the application.
- Submit your applications on weekdays so you’ll be able to call reconsideration lines and square things away quickly.
- When deciding which cards to apply for, think of each card as if it’s the last card you’ll ever apply for. This will steer you to cards with longevity. Apply for them first.
- Your credit report includes up to the minute applications. Each application will be aware of prior inquiries. The reason to apply for multiple cards on a single day isn’t to sneak in a bunch of applications before they land on your report (though you might get lucky if you’re really quick). It’s to allow multiple inquiries from a single bank to be combined into a single inquiry thus diminishing the number of recent inquiries on your credit report.
- The Points Guy’s list of reconsideration line phone numbers is helpful.
- Million Mile Secrets guide to filling out Chase business card applications is helpful.
- Million Mile Secrets guide to Chase business reconsideration calls is helpful.
- Be honest on your applications and when talking on the reconsideration line. The agents you’ll be dealing with want to help get you approved. Help them help you!
Question of the Day: What do you think of this batch of cards? What tips and tricks have you found helpful lately when applying for cards?