Churning Tricks

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Enough philosophical handwringing.

Enough ethical self inspection.

Enough of the world and it’s large problems. (And my piddly solutions.)

Tonight, for a change of pace, for something simple and escapist.


Philosophy is for losers…

Tonight I will check in on the status of my recent round of credit card applications, and detail how I will meet my minimum spend requirements in another week or so.  (Flow chart here)

To recap, the cards I applied for were:

1. The Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

50,000 miles for $2000 spend in three months. With a $69 annual fee, not waived.

Verdict : Instantly approved.

2. The Chase Southwest Airlines Business Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

50,000 miles for $2000 spent in three months with a $69 annual fee, not waived.

Verdict : Approved after one reconsideration call.

3. Citi Hilton Hhonors Reserve.

Two free weekend nights at any Hilton for $2500 spent in four months. $95 fee not waived.

Verdict: Instant approval.

4. Citi Aadvantage American Airlines Business Card

50,000 miles for $3000 spend in three months. $95 first year fee waved.

Verdict: approved after reconsideration call.

5. Us Bank Club Carlson Business Card.

85,000 points for $2500 spent in three months. $60 first year fee not waived

Verdict: automatic approval delivered by mail five days later.

6. Barclays Bank Us Air Card.

40,000 miles after first purchase. First year fee of $89 not waived.

Verdict: denied.

7. The old American Express blue cash card.

No annual fee. One cent per dollar rewards for The first $6500 spent, Then five cents per dollar at drug stores, grocery stores, and gas stations for the remainder of each card year.

Verdict: approved after calling in.

So there you have it. Six for seven. 4 personal cards and 2 business cards.  3 Airline cards, 2 Hotel cards, and 1 manufactured spending card.  Not bad.

But what of the US Air card? Why was I not approved for that one?

One possibility is that I was denied because I already own a USAir Barclays card. While this card was once said to be “Churnable,”perhaps this isn’t the case any longer?

Another possibility is that Barclays is more stringent with a no recent credit card applications policy. (I found mention of just such a policy here.) So maybe I should’ve applied for this card first?

In any case I ended up getting a pretty decent haul:

The southwest applications will net me the companion pass.  (Big, big value.)

The Citi Card will add 50,000 miles to my current 130,000 American Airlines Aadvantage mile balance.

The club Carlson card should add great value for domestic and international hotel bookings.

And the city Hilton card will net me over a thousand dollars in luxury hotel value, if used correctly.

And all I need to do is (appear) to spend $12,000 for all of this goodness.

How will I do this?

Yesterday I went to Rite Aid and bought $4000 worth of Visa gift cards with my new credit cards.

Last night I went to Walmart at 8:45 PM and loaded $1000 on my and my wife’s Bluebird. Then I waited until 9:01 (when the bluebird day rolls over on the west coast) and repeated.

I then paid the credit cards companies back, with automatic bill pay from my bluebird account.

One day next week I will repeat.

And I will also make $1000 of payments using my credit cards and Amazon payments.

And on March first I will do one more Bluebird round for $4000.

And then I will be done.

And I will be the proud owner of 235,000 more miles/points +2 weekend nights at just about any Hilton worldwide.

I value this haul conservatively at $3500 at a cost of $120 in Visa gift card fees and $293 in annual credit card fees.

So that’s a net gain of $3087 not including the Southwest companion pass which adds a minimum of another thousand dollars value to the churn (since it doubles the value of the Southwest miles.)

And when I invest it at an assumed 7% annual rate of return over the next 10 years that $4087 will be represent $8400 worth of financial independence.

(Which should pay for quite a few espressos to sip while playing Bocci in the park.  Care to join me?)

chron1The end result of a good churn…


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16 Responses to “Churning Tricks”

  1. Maverick February 22, 2014 at 3:05 am #

    Now that I am FI, would I still be able to apply for cards without a paycheck?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. February 22, 2014 at 10:13 am #


      First off, great job reaching financial independence!

      Though I can’t speak from first-hand experience, as I’m still a working stiff, my thought is that Financial independence should be no obstacle to completing credit card turns. The income that you report on your applications will just be investment income, instead of earned income.

      Good luck, and please check back in with your experiences.


  2. Nagi February 22, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    I am wondering, since I gather that you are a professional how is it that you are able to apply for a business credit card?

  3. Miles Dividend M.D. February 22, 2014 at 11:03 am #


    Good question. Click on the hyperlink “business cards” in the first paragraph following the list of cards applied for in the above post.

    It will take you to a post entitled “business time.”

    My business was this blog. With a declared earnings to date of 0 dollars.


  4. Jeremy February 22, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I applied for the USAir Barclays card in Sept and got instant approval. I applied for it again a few weeks ago and got instant approval again. Each time I made sure it was the first card I applied for. Maybe it makes a difference?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. February 22, 2014 at 12:02 pm #


      Thanks for the report.

      It’s good to know that the US air card is still Churnable.

      I will try again with my wife’s churn in a few weeks using the first application trick.


  5. Brad @ February 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Great report Alexi — keep these coming! I got a lot of value out of this, as you know I’m psychologically gearing myself up to increase my number of cards.

    And thanks for the link to the Club Carlson post. Definitely get that 2nd card so you can get tons of value out of it…

  6. Miles Dividend MD February 25, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Glad you liked it Brad.

    You can do it! Have you scoped the local CVS yet?

    My wife’s churn will come up soon! 2 Club Carlson cards here we go.


    • Brad @ March 3, 2014 at 6:11 am #

      Went to CVS over the weekend and they were all out of the Vanilla Reloads! The manager saw me checking the display out and she came over to chat.

      Evidently about 7 people just in the immediate area (we have a CVS every 2 miles it seems) come in “every week” to buy the VR cards! So there are at least that many travel hackers just in a small radius of me.

      The woman actually recognized me from our NBC segment last week and put 2 and 2 together as to what I was doing.

      You can check out the video here:

  7. Miles Dividend M.D. March 3, 2014 at 8:34 pm #


    That’s a great interview. Very, very, cool.

    It seems that being famous has its challenges too. That’s pretty funny that you were ID’d by the CVS manager.

    It sounds like the vanilla reloads rain down like manna in your neck of the woods. Which is great.

    Maybe with all of your manufactured spend they will be interviewing you on how to get a family of four to paris disney in first class next year.


    • Brad @ March 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

      I like the sound of Paris by way of first class!!

      Thanks for watching the video — I’m glad you liked it. I am amazed at how she was able to put together a coherent and interesting story on a fairly complex topic in only 2 minutes. Very cool…

      Bought my first VR card today and it was amazingly easy. We have 7 CVS stores within ~5 miles, so they are easy to come by. This store had dozens of them.

      Now I just need to determine how best to spend them; probably will pay the mortgage for now, which seems incredibly easy to do.

      • Miles Dividend M.D. March 6, 2014 at 10:11 am #

        Might I suggest the middle box on the flowchart (ie pay the credit card company back) it is by far the easiest.


  8. glo March 9, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    First… great blog has helped me see retirement and expenses in a very different light… for me your interview with million mile secret was the gateway to all other great posts about expenses and retirement so thanks a bunch.

    Can you shed some more light on how to use the Visa gift card options with the bluebird card and which ones can you really use. I looked at millionmilesecret postings and others but it s not entirely clear in my head yet. These Visa gift cards cost more than 3.95 ( 4.95/5.95) from what I could see my local CVS store. Any experience with Myvanilla debit cards.


    • Miles Dividend M.D. March 9, 2014 at 12:22 pm #


      Thank you for the message. I’m so glad you got value out of the blog.

      In terms of Visa gift cards in general the drill is this:

      1. Buy gift card with credit card.

      2. Go to Walmart money Center or customer service and load visa card onto your Bluebird card using a pin.

      (some Visa gift cards require that you set the PIN prior to using them, while others allow you to set the pin when you load them onto the Bluebird card.)

      I have had good luck with onevanilla visa as well as vanilla visa with the purple ribbon on the front in terms of not needing to set the pin beforehand.

      To figure out the specifics of the my vanilla card I would search for the specific name of the card plus “FlyerTalk.”

      Since you have CVS stores locally, it’s probably worth it to just search out one that will sell you vanilla reload cards and avoid Walmart altogether(And pay one dollar less in fees per $500 loaded)

      Good luck,

  9. Glo March 10, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    Thanks Alexi, this is helpful. I was also able to locate a CVS that had the vanilla reload cards so looking forward to adding some miles…. :)

  10. Miles Dividend M.D. March 10, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    manufactured spending with VRs is like shooting fish in a barrel. That’s great news.


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