First a warning: Don’t apply for credit cards like this if you plan to carry a balance. Only do so if you pay off your cards in full every month. And don’t bite off more than you can chew – calculate the minimum spend requirements and make sure you can hit them before applying for too many. Don’t spend more money than you normally would!
A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was time to apply for a bunch of new cards. I generally follow the 91 day rule (at a minimum) and was closer to 110 days this time, plus my Credit Karma and Credit Sesame accounts both told me I had solid credit scores. The only thing left to decide for me was which cards and what order!
I decided to go slightly off the beaten path this time by applying for a few cards I didn’t really consider before. In particular, I wanted to get the Barclays Arrival World Mastercard for the 2.2% cash back and 40K points bonus, and I wanted a Discover card so I could get access to the Discover Cash Back Portal. Beyond that, I was more or less flexible, but knew I didn’t want to apply for more than one card from the same bank/issuer.
Below are the cards I finally decided on, including the order in which I applied for them. I’ve also included an explanation of why I wanted that specific card.
1. Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard
This one was the one I wanted the most. It was from Barclays, which is not one of the bigger credit card issuers. The only other Barclays card I have is the US Airways MasterCard that I got last year, so I think I was in good shape to get approved. The 2.2% cash back feature for travel is the best there is, and the 40K point bonus is equal to over $444 in free travel.
I decided to make it my first application since this is the card I wanted most. And wouldn’t you know it, I was not instantly approved. My applications were done on a Saturday so I the reconsideration line was closed, but when I called during the week I was approved over the phone.
On a separate note, the reconsideration call was very strange compared to normal. They asked me all kinds of questions to verify my identity, including mother’s maiden name (not a big deal), the address of my last residence (which was 10+ years ago), the name of one family member I live with (I never told them who I live with), and I was asked to name a landmark near my house (there are none, so they settled with cross streets). I actually got really suspicious of these questions, but I got the card a few days later so I guess it was legit. It just felt weird.
Final Result: Approved with a $3K limit.
2. Discover it Card
As I mentioned before, I really wanted to get my hands on a Discover card so I could gain access to their cash back portal. Frequent Miler has run numerous experiments on the portal and most have turned out to be a success, meaning that double-dips for cash back and points earning is possible. I picked this particular card because it has no annual fee and the many advertisements I’ve seen tout the customer service aspect of this particular card. The only downside is that there is no sign-up bonus for this card, but that wasn’t why I wanted this card.
Final Result: Approved with a $3K limit.
3. Chase Priority Club Visa (FT link)
This card is one that’s been on my list for a couple of years, but somehow I just decided there were better deals from Chase when it came time to apply. Not this time – I made sure to make this my one and only Chase application. I’d received targeted emails and snail mail letters about an 80K point bonus after $1K spend, plus FlyerTalk also has a thread with a link to what people say is an 80K bonus, and that’s as high as it’s been so I wanted to jump on it.
But besides that, the real value of this card is the annual free night certificate that you get for renewing your card. For just a $45 annual fee, you get a free night at any Priority Club hotel, including the upscale InterContinental hotels. You can easily get $400+ value from this certificate, whether you make use of it in Tokyo or Times Square, or any of the other locations. You also get automatic top-tier status with Priority Club, which isn’t worth too much but is good enough for free internet. This is a card I plan to keep.
Final Result: Approved with a $2K limit.
4. American Express Mercedes Benz Platinum Card (direct link)
Anyone that reads Travel Summary is aware of the 100K bonus on the personal Amex Platinum card and 50K bonuses for the Premier Rewards Gold cards from January. There haven’t really been too many other chances to earn American Membership Rewards points, which I find to be very valuable. I love that I can transfer my points to British Airways Avios for flights on American Airlines (and others in the Oneworld Alliance) and Singapore Airlines to gain access to the best airline in the world plus the rest of Star Alliance.
Beyond that, the benefits of the Mercedes Benz Platinum card is the same as the personal Platinum card, so you get the $200 airline credit (I’ll use it to get American Airlines gift cards), lounge access, and other perks. There are extra perks if you own/lease a Mercedes as well. All this comes with a hefty $475 fee ($25 more than the personal Platinum), but I’ll use my $200 airline credit this year and again next year before cancelling the card, for a total cost of only $75.
Final Result: Approved.
This is one of those deals that is not publicly available. Bloggers don’t discuss it much because it’s not official (and no referral link of course), but tons of people in this FlyerTalk thread can vouch for the validity of the link. The bonus is 50K points after $2.5K spend in 4 months, and I found this attractive because right now I have fewer AA miles than any other mileage currency. This is only my second card with Citi at the moment (I have the HHonors Reserve Card as well), so I was hoping and assuming there would be no issues.
Sure enough, I confirmed the 50K bonus miles during my activation call. FlyerTalk comes through once again!
Final Result: Approved with a $10K limit.
6. US Bank Club Carlson Visa (direct link)
This is my first card with US Bank. Club Carlson hotels (Radisson and Park Plaza/Inn hotels) has put together some strong benefits for credit card members, and the 85K points bonus would be good for a minimum of two free nights at one of their top hotels. Given all the other approvals, I had nothing to lose.
Like my application for the Barclays Arrival card, this application said pending. I gave the reconsideration line a call and they told me everything looked good, and that it was just a matter of the system approving me after a few days. Sure enough, I was notified by email after 4 days that I’d been approved.
Final Result: Approved with a $5K limit.
7. Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Amex
This one was probably the most unusual card of the bunch. Virgin Atlantic isn’t generally considered to have a very strong loyalty program, but they do happen to be a transfer partner of both American Express and Chase. Before Hilton’s massive program devaluation, Virgin Atlantic was actually a useful program since you could transfer Amex to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio, and then transfer those miles to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio. This was great since just 25K Amex points could get you a night at a top-end Hilton. But not anymore.
The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program isn’t that great either since they charge heavy taxes and fuel surcharges on award tickets (100K points plus ~$1,300 in taxes from LAX to LHR round trip Upper Class). But that doesn’t mean it’s useless, either. It can be a cost savings in many instances, whether you book in coach or Upper Class, but you’ll need to do the calculations for your particular flights. Since I knew I could transfer from Amex and Chase if needed and since I didn’t really have a specific use of this card in mind, it was more of a case of “why not just add one more card” than anything else.
The bonus through this link is 20K points on first purchase, 25K after $2.5K spend, 5K for adding an authorized user, and up to an additional 15K if you hit spending thresholds of $25K in a year. Each dollar spent on the card earns 1.5 points as well.
Final Result: Approved with a $5K limit.
Although I started off with a pending application, I got more and more approvals as the day went on. I’m an addict, so I went for 7 (I could have done more). I’m not worried about the minimum spend requirements at all, because I luckily still have access to Vanilla Reload, Green Dot MoneyPak Reloads, and PayPal reloads. Even if I didn’t there are tons of other ways to hit your spend requirements and bonus thresholds. It might be time consuming, but I’ll be able to get all the bonus points.
And why not – just meeting the minimum spend requirements on these cards will net me a combined 350K points. Yes, I recognize that not all points are created equally, but I’m still earning a ton of value.
Again – people might call me and others crazy for applying for these cards. Even my dad, when I told him I applied and was approved for 7 new cards, said I’m going to ruin my credit. The thing is, these people (including my dad) simply don’t understand how credit scores work. I’ve carefully watched my credit scores over the past few years and always made sure to keep them high. I was approved for a mortgage with the best interest rate a few years back as well, indicating the strength of my credit. That doesn’t mean that I apply for cards every 91 days like clockwork – I don’t. I definitely make adjustments as necessary based on where my score is.
So once again, do not apply for credit cards if you can’t pay them off in full every month, because it will defeat the purpose. Don’t spend more money than you normally would to meet minimum spend requirements, because again you’ll just end up spending money, which is the opposite of what we want to do.
Save your money, use your credit wisely, and travel cheap or free!