Churning miles the old fashioned way

On Tuesday, I earned 240K miles the old fashioned way: credit card churning. 

I love dreaming up creative new ways to earning points and miles other than signing up for credit cards.  For some examples, please see “How I earned over 1 million points and miles in 6 months”.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m against credit card churning!  It is still one of the best perpetual point machines out there.  It’s been a while since I’ve signed up for any cards, so I finally decided it was time… 

Choosing cards

I started with my “Best credit card offers” page.  My approach is to simply pick one or two cards from each table on that page: Chase, Amex, Citi, and Other.   Usually, if I want two cards from one bank I would pick one personal card and one business card (yes you can get business cards even if you don’t have a business).  With Citibank, though, you can get two personal cards at once (and I did so).  Here’s what I chose from each section:

Chase: British Airways Visa

This was, by far, the toughest decision to make.  Chase has so many great offers and so many great cards that I really just want them all!  The decision came down to two things: 1) July 18th is the last day to get in on the publicly available British Airways 100K offer; and 2) I’ll be in Europe next month and again in November so I’d really like to have a smart-chip card. 

I applied online and received a pending decision, so I called the reconsideration line.  The agent wanted to move credit from my other Chase cards in order to setup a credit line for this one.  He was very accommodating: based on my suggestions, he moved bits of credit from 3 different cards in order to setup a $15K line on the BA card.  Result: SUCCESS!  50K BA points after first purchase and another 50K after $20K spend.

American Express: None

I already have both personal and business SPG cards and Delta cards.  And, I have the Amex Business Platinum card.  At some point I’ll get the Premier Rewards Gold and the Hilton Surpass, but I’m not in a hurry to get either (I’m flush with MR and Hilton points right now).  Instead, I’ll wait to see if Amex sends me any more great targeted offers.

Citi: Aadvantage Two Browser Trick

When booking award flights, I tend to look mostly to United and Delta because I have ready access to miles in both programs.  Sometimes, though, the best availability is through American Airlines and their One World partners.  Sadly I have only 13000 AA miles (queue the sad violins).  Luckily there’s an easy way to get lots of AA miles quickly: the famous two browser trick.  There are two 50K AA bonus offers available from Citibank, but you’re only supposed to be able to get one of them.  With the two-browser trick, you can apply for both at the same time (in two separate browsers) and qualify for the 50K bonus for each card. 

I did the two browser trick using Chrome and Firefox.  I wasn’t instantly approved, but one browser popped up a chat window and the other gave me a number to call.  So, I chatted in an on-screen window while I talked on the phone and answered the same simple questions in each.  Result: SUCCESS!  100K AA miles are mine once I spend $3K on each card in 4 months.

Other: Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard

This one was an easy choice.  The card offers a 40K sign-up bonus after first purchase, 10K bonus miles each anniversary, $99 companion passes, and more.  I don’t currently have many US Airways miles to build from, but I’m hoping the Grand Slam promotion comes back this fall.  This card will provide an easy Grand Slam “hit” and the sign-up bonus will give me a great start towards racking up valuable US Airways miles. 

When I applied, I received instant approval (yay!).  Result: SUCCESS!  40k US Airways miles are mine after first purchase!

Totals

I was approved for all 4 cards.  Once I meet the minimum spend requirements, I’ll earn 240K miles.  That’s a respectable 60K per card average. 

Have you churned lately?  How did you do?

Terminology

It used to be the case that the term “credit card churning” referred to signing up for the same cards over and over and receiving the sign-up bonus each time.  This has become more and more difficult to pull off as banks have learned how to stop that practice.  Many people now use the term “credit card churning” to refer to the act of signing up for a bunch of (mostly different) cards every 3 months or so.  It is the latter definition that I use in this post.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Regarding the BA card, I’m considering going with the faux booking version to dodge the spend, I’m a light weight. However BA doesn’t even barely connect out of my home port of BWI. I read the card is as good for AA bookings however. I’m due a churn this week. For Chase it’s BA,Hyatt or Freedom. What say you? I hold Ink, Sapphire Pref and SWA.
    Best, Mike

  2. Mike H: all 3 are great choices. If your goal is to earn more for daily spend, then the Freedom card (combined with a Chase checking account) is a great option. If you need more free hotel nights then Hyatt is great. With BA there are great values for short non stop flights on partner airlines. From BWI you can use BA miles on AA to get to Chicago, JFK, Dallas, or Miami all very cheaply (but only when the lowest level awards are available). From Miami you can get to multiple places in south America on AA or LAN. From JFK or Chicago, you can get to Dublin on Aer Lingus (or better yet, find a way to get to Boston and go from there). Those are just some examples of good uses of BA.

  3. I know for most people this would seem like a counter-intuitive question, as they like to keep “junk mail” far away…but is there a way to get your name on the list for targeted credit card offers? I NEVER receive any, but as far as I know, I’ve never opted out of any lists or know of any reason I wouldn’t receive some/any of these mailings.

    • Dave: A while ago a reader who goes by “Kroozer” wrote the following:

      You can OPT IN again to the junk mail offers by going to https://www.optoutprescreen.com/. This is an official joint venture between the major credit bureaus.

      No guarantee this will get you the desired targeted offers. Also note that banks or companies of which you are an existing customer and not bound by your OPT OUT preferences, they can always send you marketing offers of their other services.

  4. My wife’s aor last month was the BA 100k card, Delta Platinum AMEX Biz (35k+10k mqm), and Chase Ink Bold 50k (used your link, thanks!). So that’ll be 185k points/miles
    NOTE: the BA card received was not chip+pin – you need to call and make a special request for it. You may want to do that now so it gets to you before you travel to Europe.

    I’m also planning an aor prior to July 18th BA deadline to get:
    Chase BA 100k, Citi TY Premier 50k (assuming the 50k offer is still around), AMEX mercedes Platinum 50k, Barclay’s NFL 20k (need to throw in a cash equivalent card to make my wife happy). so that’ll be 220k for me. Unless I decide to add another one or two to mine.

    • Steve: Sounds like a good plan! I have a question about your chip and pin comment: my understanding is that the BA card comes automatically with a chip & signature (not pin). Are you saying that your wife initially didn’t get a chip at all or that you were able to upgrade to an actual chip and pin (from the chip and signature)?

  5. so you just cancel the card and sign up again at some point in the future? what is the typical amount of time you wait in between sign ups?

    • chris: some cards are worth keeping even with the annual fee because of the perks they provide (like the US Airways card which gives 10K miles each year — the $85 annual fee is like buying miles for .85 cents each which is really good). If a card isn’t worth keeping, I wait until the annual fee comes due and then call to cancel. often you’ll be offered a good incentive to keep the card another year. Otherwise I would go ahead and cancel.

  6. I blogged about my latest app-o-rama here: http://milesabound.com/my-latest-credit-card-app-o-rama/. I ended up netting 410k points once minimum spend was reached. And shortly after I jumped on the Amex Biz Gold 75k one-day offer, boosting it up to 485k. Prior to that my last was just under 3 months prior and netted me around 250k points IIRC. I think I used your Ink Bold link on that one. I learned a lot on this round… was able to get two personal Chase cards in one round with a bit of coercion, that Amex seems to limit you to four *credit* cards (biz or personal), and that you can basically continuously print Hilton points via Bank of America and Citigroup. God bless TARP! lol. To be honest I consider four apps in one round pretty timid 🙂 I would have certainly added in an Amex and a Bank of America card there too. I actually should have done a Barclays one with this round too. Next time I am going to try some more obscure stuff… like US Bank has a Korean Air no-spend 10k sign up. While it is small I bet it is churnable so could probably add an easy 40k per year with something like that without dinging the major players

    • Phil: Nice haul! Yes, I agree that my churn is quite modest. I’ve made a deliberate decision to go slow and steady with credit card sign-ups — four new cards at a time is about all I can handle mentally. Especially now that I keep acquiring new prepaid cards too 🙂 (I finally got the Mio card…)

  7. When I apply for cc’s I’m more interested in buying gift cards or exchanging my miles for cash. It might be a popular post to talk about what you can do with the miles beyond using them for airline miles. For example, the British Airways card offers a lot of miles but what if I have no plans to fly for a while? What else can I do with the miles?

    Thanks for all that you do. Your blog is a revelation–I look forward to reading it every morning.

    • Joe: Thanks! That is a good suggestion. Of course as “Frequent Miler” I’m personally more interested in using points and miles for flights and lodging, but I know lot’s of people who prefer cash as you do. I think you’ll find it hard to get much cash / gift card value from BA miles. Southwest points offer good gift card options (at 1 penny per point value). Most banks have programs that will let you cash out directly. My favorite of those is Chase’s Ultimate Rewards since they can be used either for cash or for transfers to airline and hotel programs — you get the best of both worlds.

  8. I don’t have a regularly scheduled application process but mostly jump to offers. My last credit card application was April (chase freedom). We recently refinanced (May-June) and I have 3 credit pulls from it and the freedom application. I’d like to apply to a bunch of Hilton credit cards soon. Will the 3 pulls in the last 3 months be a problem? I know it depends on the credit bureau so I should find that out and see where the new credit cards will be getting info from…

  9. Why is it, that, unlike other bloggers, you dont put any active links and ask people to apply using your links so that you can earn commision. May be you’re more subtle than others?

    I love all your posts.

  10. For the cards outside of the US Airways (or others that you keep and pay the annual fee), I assume you just close the card/account prior to annual fee, unless you obtain a retention “bonus” for it. If you are constantly signing up for cards and closing them down with the same banks, it would seem that the banks are going to note it and decrease the number of approvals for you over time (more reconsideration line calls). Is this correct? Or is this the “beauty” of it all, the fact that they continue to let you churn them out almost unbridled?

    • Crash: Credit card companies don’t like it if you cancel immediately after getting the sign-up bonus (that’s why I wait a year before canceling), but aside from that, the banks do let you keep signing up for new ones. Most banks have stopped allowing the same card to get a signup bonus over and over, but there are some exceptions.

  11. On a totally unrelated note it looks like Staples FAR is back starting this Sunday!! It appears modest but lets hope things ramp in the coming weeks.

  12. I was approved for 6 cards back in May; my wife was just approved for 6 cards this week. We both got the Citi AA duo, Amex Hilton, Chase Fairmont and Barclays USAir. I also got the Chase Ink Bold; my wife got the Chase BA.

    I have received the Hilton 50K points, Fairmont free night certs, USAir 40K miles and Bold 50K UR points. I’m waiting for statements to close on the Citi AA duo. I still have a USAir card from a year ago; I had the Citi AA duo back in 2010.

    My wife had the Citi AA duo in 2010; still has one card open (oops, we lost track of that one until it was brought up on the recent recon phone call). She had the BA card back in 2009; applied for the new one using the same FF number.

  13. @Mike — the Citi AA duo is applying for both the Citi AA Amex and Visa using the 2-browser method. The two card links for 50K miles and a $100 credit after an AA purchase are available on Flyertalk.

      • Mike: Here is the text from the FlyerTalk post. Click on Amex in one browser and click on Visa in the other:

        2. $100 statement credit for the first eligible AA purchase made within 12 months of cardmembership, 50k AA miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 4 months, 1 Companion Certificate after you become a cardmember. Fare classes are H, V, M, L, K, W, G, S, N, Q, or O per this post

        Links:

        AMEX
        VISA


        Terms & Conditions

        • Thanks!

          I can’t do the Visa since I just signed up for a Citi Visa in June and only got 30K AA miles.

  14. What’s the AA links you clicked? I applied two using links from FT, both pending, with no chat windows or phone number to call.

  15. @Max — I had immediate approval on my Citi apps, but my wife called a number that showed on her Pending Approval page. I’m not positive, but it may have been 866-606-2787.

  16. @pianodude. Thank you! Could you and @FrequentMiler guide me the link? I can telly family to apply through that. A live chat was also amazing!

  17. @Grant Thomas-I do believe that card has a 3% foreign transaction fee with it. I remember reading something about that before but could not find it on the website.
    @FM-I too am wondering why you did not go for the easier BA card through the BA booking trick? I tried to sign up for the dou AA cards and was denied for the visa, even after calling. They told me I had too many recent apps. I lucked out and got a contact from Million Miler. Sent an email to the contact and got a call the next day and was instantly approved.

    • Max: The first post of the FlyerTalk thread I referenced has the links to the AA cards.

      Dave: Normally I probably would have done the BA booking trick, but I have a lot of spend coming up in which I’ll be able to hit the $20K requirement and I have a potential use for the points that I’ll get sooner that way. Normally, I agree that the booking trick is a better way to go.

  18. Just did my 2nd AOR this month, a reasonable 4 cards. Got 2xCiti Premier 50k(one Visa, on MC), BOA Alaska and Chase United Explorer 55+10k. I didn’t throw an Amex in the mix either, I did 6 cards from Jan-Feb so I wanted to cool my heels a bit. With this AOR I’m at 400k+ miles and points for the year–not a bad start for a noob.

    I went with those cards because I like that I only have to worry about spend for the Citi Premiers(one Visa and MC)because the United card is on first spend and the Alaska is on approval, and also that the Citi’s have no ForEx fee as I plan some Asia travel.On my activation call for the Citi MC I also requested the Chip and Pin version be sent out, so it’ll be good to have one of those. The google doc on chip and pin cards on Flyertalk tells me that it will actually be chip and signature, but close enough I guess.
    I’ll probably snag an Amex in the fall when I’m done with Citi spend, maybe the Virgin Atlantic if they bring back the 65k offer that ended in June, otherwise Amex’s offers aren’t doing much for me.

  19. @Steve: Where can you see the 65k (50+15) offer? Virgins cite is only showing 20+15, and I haven’t seen any of the bloggers promo links promote the 65k version.

  20. my last apps were in mid april 2012 for chase IB, chase united & citi AA visa biz. i already have chase SP and freedom. canceled 2 amex cards last month= premier reward & gold biz due to annual fee and I only have the amex simply cash card. Might I get approved from an amex card from amex?

    my wife applied in april 2012 for chase PC card, boa virgin atlantic, citi thank you & citi AA visa biz card.

    too early or time for her to apply for IB and something from amex?

    we both have the personal citi AA visa and citi AA amex from last year and cancelling soon due to annual fee very near.
    thanks

  21. For travel in Europe you really don’t need chip and pin (or even chip and signature. It is helpful, but all you need to do at any point of payment is just tell the person yours is a signature card. (even the little portable hand units they use widely actually have a swipe and sign option).

    The except is automated machines, such as in the London underground. French toll booths however work fine. A 2 week tour (France, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium) in June for me was a pretty good test. I paid for virtually everything with a standard US signature card. Only the London Tube screwed me (and you can bypass that by using the ticket counters).

    • robin: Make sure your previous applications were more than 90 days ago and you should be fine as long as you have a good credit score and history

      russell: You’re probably right, but it’s a definite nice to have

      Steve: Thanks! Where did you find that link?

  22. I read about it in a forum 🙂 I try to stay on top of these things. The citi TY premier 50k bonus dropped to 25k today, so I’m trying to find a good replacement for it.

  23. i wish there was a trick to remove some of the hard inquiries cos even if everything is right with very high school, too many inquiries destroys any chance

    • Mow: Thanks! Sadly (for me) the US Airways links don’t mean any money for me, but it is definitely a great card. I try to publish the best links I can find regardless of whether I get anything out of it.

  24. Hi, I did the citi 2 browser trick wasn’t instantly approve for the visa card. I chatted in the window chat box and was approved for the visa. While On the other browser I finished applying for the mx and I thought I was instantly approved, I received my citi visa card this past Monday, but I still haven’t received my mx citi. I havent’t called yet…but do you think I’m pretty much out of luck for getting the mx with the 50k points? I seriously thought I was approved for the mx, so I didn’t really do a follow up. Should I call them? Will I now not be qualify for the 50k since I have the visa card?
    I applied for 6 cards in one day and I thought I got approved for all 6. I have received 5 cards in the mail, but I never received the citi mx. I am a total newbie. Thanks

    • DC: it can’t hurt to call them to get the status of your application. As long as your application was submitted successfully, you should still qualify for the Amex 50k.

      • Got a letter in the mail saturday 6/14 from citi mx stating that I was approved for the citi mx. It should be arriving in 7-10 business days. I hope I still get the points since my citi visa arrived last monday 6/9 and I have used it to make purchase.- Thanks for you replied.

  25. Did a quasi churn this past 3 weeks. 2 Citi HH and Amex HH in late June. Beginning of July, the B of A virgin Atlantic HH and then yesterday the Priority Club 80k card.

    All instant approval except for Chase which I had to call in. Would it have been better if I applied for all 5 the same day?

  26. sil: It is generally considered better to do all of the apps in one day (or 1 week), but since you were approved for all of them it clearly didn’t really matter in your case.

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