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The miles game really is a very simple series of  steps. No more skills are required to get this outsized value than the ability to do a little bit of Internet research, a smattering of computer data entry, and a touch of organization.

In my last post in this series we discussed planning for your first churn.

At this point you should have chosen a travel goal and figured out which points are the most valuable to you. You should have sifted through the best available credit card bonuses out there and selected 6 to 8 cards that are the object of your desire.

So where are we now?

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(Time to fish or cut bait)

That’s right, this post is all about execution. It is about taking the fleeting concepts floating around the credit card arbitrage conceptual universe and turning them into cold hard miles (that will eventually place you in a nearly free but soft airline seat, flying somewhere exciting.)

If I were to break down the execution of a credit card churn into a little flowchart, it would look something like this:

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So let’s start at the beginning.

Filling out applications.

Nothing magical here. In the old days you could get approval for multiple cards from the same bank by simultaneously filing applications in different browsers at the exact same time  But now you can’t.  (So just serially fill out the applications you are interested in and click “submit.”)

After filling out the applications you will probably get instant approval on 1 to 2 cards, and  “pending” messages on the remaining ones.  Don’t despair.

Calling reconsideration lines.

Rejection is part of the game.  Don’t wait. Call the reconsideration departments and do it right away.

Here is a post I wrote with tips on calling the reconsideration lines, complete with useful phone numbers.

( Cliff’s Notes: call in, be cordial and offer to move some credit line around, and if the agent on the other end of the line is unhelpful, politely hang up and call back again.)

Activating your cards.

Aside from just calling the number to activate the card, it is wise to talk to an agent and do all of the following when your card arrives.

  • Set the cash advance limit to zero. (this is a way to avoid fees when “creatively” spending money on your new credit cards.)
  • Set up automatic monthly payments. (This is a way to avoid ever paying late fees or interest.)
  • Confirm the timeframe and the amount of the signing bonus and the required spending to reach it.
  • Set up your online account for the new card (or add the new card to an existing online account.)

Get organized.

(Any of my family members or former teachers would find it hilarious that I’m writing about how to get organized, but I do do this each time I complete a churn.

If you like pen and paper use that, if you like your smart phone use that, if Excel spreadsheets are your weapons of choice, by all means…

  • Record the date of your applications.
  • List all of the cards you have applied for.
  • List the card bonus requirements and bonus amounts
  • List the yearly fees.
  • File your account passwords in a cryptic manner  (instead of “Miles”  I use “M1l3s” as my login.  Hint: “1” looks like an “i” and 3 looks like an “e”  Pretty clever no?*

And that’s pretty much it. At that point it is time to go out and earn some miles…

But that’s a story for another day.

*My mom was alarmed that I divulged my login info on the internet.  I didn’t…..  It was a joke, Mom.


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6 Responses to “Execution”

  1. Matt November 1, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Hi Alexi,

    I just complete my first churn (5 cards between my wife and I) and cancelled my cards this week. My question is how long you wait before starting a new churn. For example, since I just cancelled my Chase Southwest card this week (I opened it in May), when should I apply for the Chase Ink card? Also, should I want to apply for the Chase Southwest again in the future how long would you wait to repeat a card?


    • Miles Dividend M.D. November 2, 2014 at 11:14 pm #


      I usually wait 10-12 months to cancel my cards.

      Southwest has 2 flavors of cards so you should still be able to get another personal and 2 business cards in subsequent churns.

      I am not sure if they are “churnable”.

      Don’t forget the companion pass! (see my posthttp://www.milesdividendmd.com/blue-ribbon-prize/.)


  2. John November 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm #


    How often do you apply for a new batch of CC? I’ve read some say every 91 days other say twice a year. What is your rule of thumb?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. November 5, 2014 at 11:21 pm #


      thanks for the question.

      Every 91 days is as often as I would recommend. I average about 3 churns a year for both me and my wife.


  3. Michael November 7, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Hi Alexi,

    Here’s a question: I’m interested in bringing a group of college students on a two-week volunteer trip to Zimbabwe. 80% of the cost of the trip is the plane ticket…

    The good news is that we’re looking at doing this trip two years from now. There’s definitely enough time to play the miles game and get free tickets.

    What would a timeline for pulling this off look like? I’d hate for the students to get into debt problems while they accumulate miles.


    • Miles Dividend M.D. November 8, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      In general it should be pretty easy to book a round trip 3 months after starting.

      Trips can generally be booked 10-11 months in advance.

      So if you and your students start now you will be ready to book your trip by February.

      It’s never too soon to start. And the more miles and variety of miles you have the better.

      Using this hobby to volunteer in Africa is a perfect application of its power.

      Good luck and let me know how to help!


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