To Everything: Churn Churn Churn

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If you have decided that you want to take the leap and get into The Miles Game, how should you start?

To begin with make sure you’ve read the post entitled “The Miles Game” to see possible reasons why you shouldn’t get started yet.

If you remain undeterred, the time has come for a credit card churn.

So what are the rules?

1. Have a goal:

What you have in mind for future travel really impacts which cards you apply for.

If you want a vacation with a lux Hotel you will want to mix in some hotel credit cards. (ex. Chase Hyatt, Amex Hilton, US Bank Club Carlson).

If you want to fly a large family far away, focus on airline affiliated miles. (United and American are the most flexible and useful.)

Or better yet focus on flexible miles like Chase ultimate rewards, Amex membership rewards, or Amex starpoints. ) These allow you to transfer to both multiple airline partners, as well as to multiple hotel partners. They thus offer you significant protection against the real risk of loyalty currency devaluation.
cirque_du_soleil_contortionists20

Flexibility:  a virtue in miles

2. Research the best available offers.

Go to FlyerTalk.com and read the most current entries in the credit card forums for offers that you are considering. You will often get an additional 20 to 30,000 miles per application by applying through the best available link.

3. Have some idea in your mind about which points are most valuable so you can do apples to apples comparisons of the various available credit card offers. When you start off, you wont have much experience, so you can pick any one of a number of miles valuation schemes available on the Internet.

(These are as good as any:)

Airline Miles
http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2013/03/14/what-miles-points-are-worth-airline-miles/

Flexible Miles
http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2013/03/14/what-miles-points-are-worth-airline-miles/

Hotel Miles
http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2013/03/15/what-miles-points-are-worth-hotel-points/

4. Decide how many cards you want to apply for.

What is your goal number of miles needed for a specific trip? How much spending can you do in a month? How many cards do you want to keep track of ? How nervous are you about a dip in your credit score? All of these will determine how many credit cards you apply for. It should probably be somewhere between two and eight cards depending on how aggressive you want to be.

4. Don’t apply for more than one business card and one personal card from any one company per one round of applications, unless you’re absolutely sure that the company will allow it, at that particular time.

If I were starting today, my first credit card churn would probably look something like this.

1. Chase United explorer 50,000 miles offer After $1000 of spend in three months. Personal.

2. Chase ink plus: 50,000 ultimate rewards points after $5000 of spend three months. Business.

3. Citi aadvantage Visa: 50,000 American airlines miles After $2000 of spend in three months. Personal.

4. Barclays US Air MasterCard: 35,000 miles with first purchase.Personal.

5. American Express business gold rewards card: 50,000 miles After $5000 of spend in three months. Business.

6. American Express Starwood preferred Guest, 25,000 star points After $5000 spend in six months.  Personal.

This would net 260,000 miles For $17,001 of spend over five months.  (Piece of cake – I’ll show you how in my upcoming post on manufactured spending.)

tmb_2330_480“It got weird….Didn’t it?”

That’s more than enough miles for you and your loved one to be sipping Dom Perignon on a transpacific first-class flight.

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22 Responses to “To Everything: Churn Churn Churn”

  1. Nikki F January 17, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Hi – I love your blog! I read your interview on Million Mile Secrets today and am currently reading through all of your previous posts. Regarding churning, if you average 5-6 applications per churn, how many do you plan each year? Also, have you found there are certain times of the year (or months) that are more beneficial to churn?

    Thanks again!
    Nikki F

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

      Nikki,

      The only real rule here is that you should wait 91 days between churns to minimize the negative effects of the hard credit pull on your application.

      I try to do 3 to 4 churns/year for both me and my wife. But remember we’re a family of 5 it takes a lot of miles to get us anywhere.

      In terms of times of year, I don’t think it really matters. I try to start a churn when I see one really good limited time offer that I want to jump on.

      Thanks for your interest,

      Alexi

  2. Robert January 19, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Is there any reason to do 5-6 cards per churn rather than 1-2 per month (for example)? Is there some latency in the reporting so that it is better to do them all the same day, or what is the rationale?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

      Robert,

      I think in general it’s a good idea to space your churns out 91 days apart.
      There are a couple of good reasons for this.

      1. When Bunching your applications together, often the credit pulls get lumped together so instead of getting six separate credit pulls you get only three or four. This mitigates the negative effects of credit pulls on your credit score.

      2. The second reason, is that the credit card companies cannot see credit pulls that have not not posted yet. This means other applications are not likely to negatively effect your application if the applications are bunched together.

      AZ

  3. Nagi January 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    So do you cancel your credit cards at the end of the churn and apply for the “same” credit card again? I ask this because Chase cards seem to be the most beneficial, both in terms of points and miles so it makes most sense to get Chase cards over and over again.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Nagi,

      Some cards are charitable, (examples being the Alaska airlines card from Bank of America, US air card from Barclaycard) other cards you have to wait a certain amount of time before reapplying (examples being the Starwood preferred Guest, and city American Airlines card.)

      Chase is usually pretty strict and their cards are often not churnable.

      The best place for up to the date information on the churnability of cards is The FlyerTalk forum.

      AZ

  4. ArkyDore April 1, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi, great website! My wife will be interviewing for residency in about 6-7 months. I would love it if you did a post on the best strategy to get air miles for last minute interview travel. I make about 50k a year, rent, have a credit score a little above 700 last time I checked, and minimal student loans if that helps with options. I know most medical students couldn’t take advantage of this since they have no income and no income earning spouse.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. April 1, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      Arkydor,

      Congratulations on wrapping up med school.

      I think the two best values for domestic travel are the Southwest companion pass. (Search my site for “blue ribbon prize.”) as well as British airways Avios. These are all Chase products so you’ll have to do the two SW. cards in one churn and the British Airways card (plus the 50,000 mile United card) in the next churn.

      But the value of the Southwest companion pass cannot be overstated, particularly for a couples match since it doubles the value of your miles.

      Now is a great time to buff up your frugality muscles. If you can put away a good portion of your residency salaries towards your retirement, then it will be very easy for you to avoid the perils of lifestyle inflation when you start making the big bucks.(See my post “blowing up,” for more. )

      I firmly believe that pursuing early financial Independence will make you a better doctor, and one that practices medicine for all the right reasons.

      AZ

      • Chris December 16, 2014 at 9:58 am #

        Love your clear writing style and explanations! I’ll be bookmarking your blog. I’m shooting for the SW Companion Pass early next year, but have run into a bit of a snag. I just wrapped up spending on the Chase Ink Bold Business card for 70k bonus. I applied for two SW Cards both at 50k bonus. One personal and one business. I was approved for the personal but declined for the business. Was this because I already have the Chase Ink Bold business card, as these are all Chase cards? Any recommendations you have on other card(s) to apply for to get 60k more points for the SW companion pass?

        • Miles Dividend M.D. December 16, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

          Chris,

          Make sure you call the reconsideration line and offer to move some credit around. It’s not unusual to be declined, but it is unusual to not be approved upon reconsideration if its been 91 days since your last Chase business app.

          If you get rejected, I would reapply for the business SWA card in 3 months. 60K is a lot of manufactured spending, though definitely possible.

          Also regardless of whether you get approved Try to meet your spending requirements in 2015. That way your bonus points will be awarded in 2015 and you can get the companion pass for all of 2015/2016.

          AZ

  5. Sarah May 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Love this site! I think I’m really going to get in to this. Question….if I churned all of the cards above…while I rack up over 200,000 miles, they are on multiple different airlines….so if my goal is a round trip first class ticket to Europe on American…I’m still very far from that goal after this first churn and I don’t see many other american airline miles/transfer options on other cards?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. May 8, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

      Sarah,

      I’m glad you’re inspired.

      A couple of points. If you see my recent post, déjà vu all over again, you’ll see that you can get 200,000 American miles from a single churn

      1: A round-trip first-class ticket to Europe using American Miles is only 125,000 miles round-trip.

      2: The Starwood points can be transferred to American airlines at a rate of 20,000 star points for 25,000 American Airlines miles. This means that after you spend your additional 10,000 miles to make the bonuses for the starpoints, you will have 60,000 starpoints which will translate to an additional 75,000 American miles.

      3. In other words, you will have 275,000 American miles, more than enough for two round-trip tickets to Europe on a saver fare!

      4. For your next churn three months later, you can collect another 50k American miles in the form of one personal citi advantage card. or perhaps you can apply for a second citi executive card and get another 150,000 miles +50,000 on a business card as reported in my comments section.

      5. Opportunities abound.

      Happy churning,

      Alexi

  6. DT August 11, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Alexi,

    Great blog, thanks for all good advice.

    I have dilemma about my first churning attempt. Could you, please help?

    Planning trip to Germany and found business class round trip ticket on Delta for 125000 skymiles and about $100 in fees.

    Currently have 58000 skymiles and my DW 35193 skymiles.

    I am traveling alone.

    We hold pre-approved offer from Amex for Platinum CC with 100000 Amex points if we spend $3000 in 3 months per card. ($450 annual fee each).

    We also hold pre-approved offer for Amex Delta Gold CC (50000 miles and $50 statement credit, $95 annual fee, waived 1st year).

    Shall we both apply for both offers and cancel CCs next year if not able to cover future annual fees?

    Our FICOs are around 825, and we both have Chase Freedom CC, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa CC, Barclay Arrival +.

    Additionally, I have Chase IHG Master Card (for longer than 91 days) and Brooks Brothers store MC.

    How would you approach this and which other CCs you would obtain in our situation. We don’t have any other vacation plans for the next year and accordingly we are very flexible for our future travel. 2-weeks Hawaii trip next year would be a great idea. Maybe combined with a visit to SF.

    Thanks.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. August 11, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      DT

      Congratulations on your upcoming trip. It sounds like a lot of fun.

      To answer your questions I would definitely get the hundred thousand mile amex platinum card offer. There should also be a $200 statement credit for airline purchases in that offer which you can use for taxes on your business class redemption.

      The Delta offer is okay but it’s not exceptional. If you definitely want to use Delta as your business class carrier and I would get it so you don’t have to waste your membership rewards points on the redemption.

      There are better award redemption offers to Europe however. Consider this one on Aeroplan:

      http://milevalue.com/business-class-to-europe-45k-miles-each-way-with-aeroplan-one-way-awards/

      Aeroplan miles can be obtained by direct transfer from Chase ultimate rewards.

      My favorite card offers out there right now are the Chase ink card, the Chase Sapphire preferred card, the American Airlines citi executive card (75,000 miles now.)

      If you are on the West Coast then using Chase ultimate rewards in transfer to British Airways is a particularly good redemption option for Hawaii trips.

      Good luck.

      Alexi.

  7. Chris Dotson January 25, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    Hey, love your site! This may be old news, but I just got a Chase Ink card and it says:

    Your points don’t expire as long as your account is open, however, you’ll lose all your points if:

    we believe you’ve misused the program in any way, for example:

    by repeatedly opening or otherwise maintaining credit card accounts for the sole purpose of generating rewards.

    Sounds like they may be catching on… That siad, I’m not a lawyer, but “sole purpose” seems to be fairly restrictive.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 28, 2015 at 12:21 am #

      Chris,

      Thanks for the question.

      Credit cards have always had the contractual right to shut users down for perk abuse. And the determination of what constitutes perk abuse is completely at their discretion. Thankfully, at the modest levels at which I play (and describe) the miles game , I have personally never been shut down. But the future is unknowable, and there are no guarantees.

      The way that I have always thought about this issue is that the downside to getting shut down is that you lose your ability to access that bank’s credit cards, so in reality you will be in no worse off shape than if you had never started travel hacking in the first place.

      Hope that helps.

      AZ

  8. Bob January 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    Can you elaborate a bit more on what to do with a card once the bonus has been received? Do you get a card, receive the bonus, use or transfer it, pay the first yearly fee, and finally cancel the card?

    Thanks for detailing out how to do all of this!

    • Miles Dividend M.D. February 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      The first yearly fee is usually waived. I tend to hold the card until the yearly fee comes due, then cancel, or downgrade to a fee free card. Doing this, I have always been credited the whole annual fee back.

      AZ

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