Although I don’t apply for credit cards quite to the degree of some people (I think last year only saw five applications), I do try to use them as a way to boost my pool of miles and points. I already have lots of miles with United Airlines and am getting there with Hyatt. Having elite status helps not only because of bonus points but also because I’m just flying/staying with them so often that I can’t help but earn more. Applying for cards from other loyalty programs is also a way to give me some diversity when my preferred programs may not be the best means of redeeming an award.
I jumped on the offer for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card back in January when the first reports came out about the sign-up bonus being reduced from 50K to 40K Ultimate Rewards points. Since then the number has fluctuated as high as 60K, but 40K is pretty much the limit now. I also got the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express in December when there was a temporary 30K bonus instead of the usual 25K. So I was a bit concerned when I started this latest round of applications. In the past I’ve tried to limit my applications to every five to six months, and now I was cutting that down to three months. Other people do that all the time, but it’s unfamiliar territory for me.
Note: Check out this page for more up-to-date offers on the credit cards mentioned here.
My April Card Strategy
Chase Ink Bold Business MasterCard
Mommy Points and several others have been warning about a similar decrease in the sign-up bonus for the Ink Bold business MasterCard from Chase. (I originally called this a Visa, but looking back now I think it may actually be a World Elite MasterCard.) Not an actual decrease in the 50K Ultimate Rewards points, but an increase in the minimum spending threshold from $5,000 to $10,000 in the same three-month period. There is no way I can spend $10,000 in three months, so I decided to bite the bullet and apply now even though I would have preferred to wait until I had a slightly longer history of ad revenue from this blog.
Update: The 50K bonus has remained, and the spending threshold is still $5,000. Use this link to get the current best offer. Also consider the Ink Plus if you want to carry a balance.
Chase United Club Visa
Normally you can apply for one new Chase card at a time, but the exception is that you can apply for a personal and a business card on the same day and usually get approved. I was a bit indecisive about the personal card I wanted. I was originally thinking of the Priority Club Visa, but since I just bought 60K points as part of a status-matching exercise with Hyatt, I decided to look at something else.
The new United Club Visa product was just released, with an annual fee of $395 that includes membership at the United Club (about the same price if bought separately). There are some other minor benefits, but none that were compelling on their own. Although most people can get a $95 statement credit there is a targeted offer for elites that will waive the ENTIRE fee for the first year. Open a new browser window first, or an incognito window if you’re using Chrome. Sign into United.com. Then click on this link or copy it directly into your browser. You might have to try it once or twice since it sometimes still refers you to the $95 credit offer. [Update: this offer is no longer available. The link above is the current best offer I am aware of.]
Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa
In an effort to distribute my applications, I also applied for Hawaiian Airlines Visa cards. There are two of these, each providing 20K miles after first purchase and another 15K miles after spending $1,000 in four months, offered by Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii. In theory you’re only supposed to apply for the BofH card if you live in Hawaii, but I have read that there are few problems getting both at once. We’ll see. In any case, I don’t actually want Hawaiian Airlines miles because I strongly believe that there are enough sales to Hawaii to just buy a ticket with cash. Instead, I plan to exchange the miles for Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2 ratio, giving me 140K Hilton HHonors points instead of 70K Hawaiian Airlines miles.
Barclays US Airways Premier World MasterCard
There are several offers for this card out there, but not all of them are equal. Many require you to make huge balance transfers in order to get the full number of bonus miles. Instead, I found a link that offers 40K miles after the first purchase, first year’s fee waived, two discounted companion tickets, and an additional 10K miles with each anniversary. I believe it is the best offer out there for this card. Although Barclays has a poor reputation for customer service (and in the process of the application they automatically signed me up for stupid magazines I don’t want and tried to get me to pay for a bunch of other stuff), there are reports that you can apply for this card over and over for the same bonus. Plus, cardholders get a 5K discount on award redemptions, and US Airways is well known for having discounted tickets to Europe during off-peak seasons.
American Express Hilton HHonors
My final card was for a measly 40K bonus Hilton HHonors points from the entry-level American Express Hilton card. I already have Gold status through a (mis-)targeted offer and can hold off until next year on the Surpass card. I also wanted to cool down a bit because I have $7,000 in spending to take care of in the next four months. This one only requires $750 in four months to earn the bonus. Here’s a link to the offer at American Express.
My Wife’s Card Strategy
I’m thinking that Megan should apply for the same Hawaiian Airlines cards and the US Airways card. Beyond that, well, she doesn’t have a business, and maybe there’s no real need for the Hilton HHonors Amex. But she does have temporary Hyatt Platinum status, so I think the Hyatt Visa should be her semi-annual Chase application. The benefits have been changed so that you now get both free nights at any Hyatt after first use instead of having to spend $1,000 to get the second night. And because she has Platinum status, she’ll also get two free suite upgrade certificates to use on paid stays.
For whatever reason, the United Club application was the first time I’ve ever been automatically approved for a Chase credit card. Usually they think about it and approve me after a week. Only a measly $5K “preliminary” credit limit, but as I said, there’s no real reason to use this card for anything. Maybe the benefits will be revised in the future, but for now I just want to try out the United Club for a year. If I like it, I’ll pay for a membership next year.
The Ink Bold is probably going to require a call in to the reconsideration line. I have a young business characterized as a sole proprietorship under my SSN instead of an EIN. Yeah, that doesn’t raise any red flags. But I’ve heard Chase is pretty forgiving, and as long as I can give them some evidence the business really exists and am willing to give up some of my credit line from another card, I should be fine. The Frequent Miler has a walkthrough of how to apply for a business card in a situation like mine.
I have no idea what’s going on with the Hawaiian Airlines cards. I expect at least one will be approved. I hate Bank of America due to past issues with them (they used to be my primary bank before I switched to Wells Fargo), but points are points.
The US Airways card was approved right away with a $7,500 credit line. That’s fine with me. I don’t think the card offers very promising benefits, so I’ll use it mostly for buying award tickets with US Airways miles on Star Alliance partners. US Airways has improved in recent years, but it is still an airline I try to avoid. But who knows? Maybe I’ll get a job on the East Coast and will be flying with them more regularly.
And American Express? Well, I got some kind of system error message that told me don’t worry, your application will be processed and you will be notified in two weeks. There was a link to check on the application status, but it didn’t show the application, only my old one for SPG. Maybe it didn’t go through. I don’t really care. If all five of the other applications get approved, I’ll be happy enough and will still have plenty of spending to get through in the coming months. Update: The link now works, and this card has been approved.