My wife’s 305K churn

In November I described my latest credit card churn in which I focused not on getting hundreds of thousands of points and miles, but on getting credit cards that can be used as tools towards earning points and cash back.  At the time, I said it would be my final big credit card churn.  The idea was that I would focus more on research for this blog than on collecting miles through credit card sign-ups.  Of course, I didn’t know at that time that I would soon be planning a mad million mile challenge in which a big chunk of my earnings will necessarily be through credit card signups (see “A crazy million mile idea. Should I do it?” and “Million Mile Madness, it’s on“).  I also didn’t mention that my wife might continue to churn credit cards…

Note: If you’re not familiar with the idea of credit card churning, see “Churning 101” at the bottom of this post.


My wife doesn’t like dealing with new credit cards so I do most of the work for her.  With her permission, I fill out the online applications and, where possible, I complete the minimum spend requirements.  What I won’t do for her, though, is pretend to be her on the phone.  Reconsideration and card cancellation calls, when necessary, are up to her.  As a result, I try to avoid those situations like the plague… to keep her happy.

So, when planning this churn, I looked for cards where instant approval was likely and where either the card has no annual fee or the card’s annual fee is worth the perks the card provides.  The one exception was that I luckily began the sign-ups Tuesday morning when a 100K Amex offer was still alive (see “Amazing Deal! Possible 100K Points Offer for Personal Platinum Card!“)

I chose the following cards and applied in the following order:

  • American Express Platinum Card: 100K points after $3K spend
  • US Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature: 85K points after $2500 spend
  • Barclay’s US Airways Premier World MasterCard: 40K miles after first use
  • Chase Priority Club Visa: 80K points after $1K spend
  • Kohl’s charge card: No signup bonus other than a worthless coupon (what?!!!  Yes, more on this below)

Amazingly, every single one of the above applications were approved instantly!  So, once we reach the minimum spend on these cards, my wife will earn 305,000 bonus points!

Now let me explain why I chose this set of cards…

American Express Platinum Card

On Monday evening, Travel-Summary posted this deal that had previously appeared on FlyerTalk, but was then taken down.  This was a trick that made it easy to get a targeted offer for the personal Amex Platinum card with 100,000 bonus points after $3K spend.  I was incredibly lucky that the deal was still available on Tuesday morning when I began the online applications (the deal died shortly afterwards).  Of course, I checked with my wife first to see if she would be OK with this one cancellation call a year from now.  The card has a $450 annual fee that is not waived the first year, but thanks to the $200 per calendar year airline fee reimbursement benefit and the $100 Global Entry application reimbursement, we will be able to get at least $500 value out of the card in the first year without counting the signup bonus!

Key benefits: 100K bonus points, airport lounge access, $200 per year airline fee credit, SPG gold status, rental car elite status, reimbursed Global Entry application.

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa

Note: The Bonus Award Night feature of this card was discontinued on June 1, 2015.

I’ve written about the new Club Carlson cards before (see “Club Carlson rocks our world… Again“).  The best of these cards offer an 85K signup bonus and another 40K points each year to easily offset the annual fee.  This was a no-brainer for me.  No cancellation call would be required.  The only tough decision here was whether to go for the personal card with the $75 annual fee, or the business card with a $60 annual fee (yes, my wife has a real business).  Since they have nearly identical benefits it seems like the business card is clearly the way to go.  There are two reasons, though, that I picked the personal card: 1) I was worried that the business card would require a follow up phone call for approval; and 2) If my wife ends up using this card for day to day spend, it would be good to have the extra consumer protections that the personal card offers.  That being said, when I get around to getting a Club Carlson card for myself, I will surely go for the business card.

Key benefits: 85K bonus points, bonus award nights, gold status, 40K bonus points per year.

US Airways MasterCard

There are two different 40K signup offers for this card.  Both offer 40,000 miles after first use, but only one (this one) offers the first year free and a bonus of 10,000 miles every year upon account approval.  For my wife, the bonus 10K miles per year was the key.  I will gladly pay the $85 annual fee each year for 10,000 US Airways miles!

Key benefits: 40K bonus miles, preferred check-in and boarding, 1 US Airways Club pass, 5K discount off award tickets, $99 companion ticket, 10K bonus miles per year.

Priority Club Visa

Chase used to aggressively market this card with a widely targeted 80K signup bonus offer.  I haven’t seen that in quite a while, but this FlyerTalk thread details how its still possible to get the offer.  I followed the suggested links, filled out the application, and received instant approval.  This is probably my favorite card to have and to hold, but not to use.  For a mere $49 annual fee, this card gives the cardholder a free night every year (starting with year 2) at any Priority Club property.  Keep in mind that Intercontinental Hotels are part of the Priority Club program.  In expensive cities, these hotels can run $800 or more per night.  Since my wife and I now both have the card, this means that we will be able to stay two nights per year in swanky hotels like these for a combined cost of $98 dollars.

Key benefits: 80K bonus points, annual free night certificate, Priority Club platinum status, 10% rebate on award redemptions

Kohl’s charge card

As a general rule, I don’t recommend signing up for store credit cards.  Each time you sign up for a credit card, the issuing bank runs a hard inquiry that shows up on your credit report which can temporarily reduce your credit score by a few points.  Because of this, it rarely makes sense to sign up for a card with a bonus worth less than $300 or so (different people set different targets).  The only signup bonus the Kohl’s card offered was a 15% off coupon.  Since 15% and 20% off coupons are almost always readily available, this “bonus” is worthless.  So why did I bother?

Even though Kohl’s tends to have fairly high prices, they are one of the most dependable stores that I have found for stacking multiple discount and point earning opportunities.  Unlike most other stores, when Kohl’s coupons say you get X% off everything, they mean nearly everything including electronics and clearance items.  Plus, it is often possible to buy Kohl’s gift cards at a heavy discount (but not through the aforementioned coupons).  Plus, Kohl’s frequently offers “Kohl’s bucks” for additional future savings.  And, finally, Kohl’s has consistently offered 10 points per dollar through the Ultimate Rewards Mall for the past two years or so.  In my experience, all of these discounts and point earnings can be combined (except when using Kohl’s bucks, but that’s another story…).  In the end, these combined discounts usually add up to almost 50% in savings!

So back to the charge card.  While Kohl’s regularly offers 20% off coupons to the general public, they often offer 30% off coupons for cardholders only.  I want in on that.  In future posts, I’ll show in more detail how to turn this into a big points earning opportunity.

Key benefits: access to 30% off coupons


On my wife’s behalf I signed her up for 5 credit cards.  Thanks to this, my wife will earn 305,000 bonus points, airport lounge access, elite status with multiple car rental agencies, SPG gold status, Priority Club Platinum status, Club Carlson gold status, extra bonus points and miles each year, a free Priority Club night per year, and larger discounts at Kohl’s.  Not bad!

Churning 101

One of the best ways to accumulate points and miles quickly is through credit card sign-ups.  Many in the points & miles community have turned this art into a science:  every 91 days, pick 4 to 8 cards, apply for all in a single day, reap the rewards, and repeat.  People call this “credit card churning.”  And, the process of applying for lots of cards in one day is referred to as an “app-o-rama.”  For some reason I hate that term so I simply refer to it as a “churn”. 

In general, I recommend that for each churn people choose one card from each major player: Chase, American Express, and Citibank; and throw in a card or two from the lesser players: Barclays, Bank of America, etc.  That’s why I setup my “Best credit card offers” page with a separate table for each bank.  A number of the links on that page are my affiliate links for which I get paid for successful applications, but many are not. I try to list only the best offers available regardless of whether I get paid for them.

There are exceptions to the rule of applying for only one card at a time from each bank.  With each bank you could apply for both a personal and a business account at once.  And, with Citibank you can often get double the sign-up bonus in one churn by opening separate browsers and applying at roughly the same time for the same offer in both browsers.  This is usually referred to as the “two browser trick“.  Most people do the two browser trick with Citi AA cards, but it is known to work with some other cards as well.  If you want to know if the trick works with a particular offer, your best bet is to search Flyertalk for a thread dedicated to that credit card.

Many worry that churning will hurt their credit scores.  And, it will, temporarily.  If you are responsible with your credit, though, churning can actually help improve your score.  For details about this, please subscribe to my weekly newsletter (it’s free).  Note, though, that if you tend to run a balance on your credit cards or you’re otherwise in financial distress, this technique is not for you. 

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  1. Once you cancel a card after getting the bonus pts, how long do you have to wait before you can apply for the same card again?

    • Amanda: That’s a tough question to answer! When you can reapply for the same card to get a signup bonus again varies by credit card issuer and even sometimes by specific card. I would have to write a whole post about that. Yet, I’m still on the fence about whether that would cross my ethical line… I’ve never done it and I’m not sure I ever will, but of course many, many people do it all the time.

  2. Be very careful of Kohl’s Tricky Math!!!

    Do not count Kohl’s cash as true cash back in any calculations!
    Kohl’s Cash is deducted from the pre-discounted item price, so it is really only worth 1-coupon amount (so 70 cents on the dollar if you’re getting a 30% discount).

    So if you buy a $100 item at 30% off and plan to pay in part with $50 in Kohl’s Cash, you don’t pay $20, you pay $35. ($100-50 = 50 * .7 = 35; NOT 100*.7 = $70 – 50)

    Weird things also happen if you return any item for which Kohls cash was earned or redeemed. Their policy on this changed recently. I don’t have the paperwork anymore to recreate their math, but I was getting screwed. What I recall is that they were giving me back the discounted price less any Kohls Cash I spent. So if you return the $70 (after discount) item above, you’re only gonna get $35 back because they do not refund Kohls Cash.

    And if you happen to have earned $10 KC on the purchase (say you had something else that put you over the $50 to earn KC), they’ll also subtract the earned KC from your return so you’ll only get $25. (Keep in mind that $10 is only worth 1-discount when you spend it, so it isn’t really worth the full $10 they are taking back.)


    • Anita: Thanks for the cautions about Kohl’s bucks. I knew some, but not all of what you wrote. I generally value them at half their face value, but now I’m wondering if even that is too generous!

  3. I agree about the weird way that Kohl does refunds. I returned something and it didn’t affect the amount of Kohl’s cash I had but they still did their weird math. i spent $135 and had 2 $10 Kohl cash back dollar ($10 after spending $50), I was returning something for $25 yet they still did their funky math even though their return didn’t affect the thresh hold for the Kohls dollars. I now use my Sapphire card when purchasing.

  4. Anita, I had a little different experience with my Kohls cash. I used my Kohl’s cash a couple of weeks ago to buy an skirt for $8 clearance price (originally priced $20). I had to grab a roll of wrapping paper for $2 so the Kohl’s cash would add up $10.

  5. Hey FM, I successfully used my kohls cash to buy gift cards. I wanted to test if I could buy them right out with fifty dollars in kohls cash… couldn’t. So I bought a george foreman instead with the kohls cash and paid credit for my gift cards. My wife didnt want the george foreman so I took it back. I needed to buy a friend a gift anyway and planed to return the cooker. But to my surprise I forgot the receipt!!! They looked up my purchse because I paid with a cc for my gift cards and to even more of my surprise they refunded the card. Now I ended up spending more money but you can see the loop from there.

  6. Hi FM,

    One important thing about the Ultimate Rewards and Kohls charge card. It specifically states in Ultimate rewards page that combining other cards and a coupon greater than 15% will not give rewards! 30% off coupon can only be used with Kohls charge and if you use that coupon and Kohls charge you cannot use Ultimate Rewards Mall but you can still use other CB sites. This is the rule on the UR Mall but you may have found some loopholes in it, I never use UR Mall when using 30% off coupon (just to be safe)!

    • newbie008: Fortunately Kohl’s doesn’t enforce the Ultimate Rewards T&C about >15% coupons. I’ve used 20% off coupons many times and have always received points. Others have reported success with 30% off.

  7. FM – Now that I read the whole post, your wife and I are very similar. She doesn’t like dealing with the credit card companies. I usually get her some no annual fee no hassle cards with the AMEX Platinum 100K as an exception. I’m thinking about getting her US airways, Hilton AMEX, Chase PC on the next churn.

  8. One more good thing about Kohls charge is most of the times the free shipping code can only be used with the Kohls charge – whenver there is a 30% off sale. For the record, there is a 30% off sale starting today at 12 AM CST and you can try your new Kohls charge today!

  9. I always enjoy your blog. When was your wife’s last churn? I could really use that Club Carlson card, but I churn about every 3 or 4 months. If I found some other churners have been approve, I’d like to include it in my next round , later this month.

  10. Sales at Kohls drive us nuts because of the thinking involved in figuring out the savings and because the discounts are so huge you wonder what the items are really worth in the first place. Nonetheless, it is useful also to know that if you are at the store and charge only part on a Kohls credit card (even just $5), you will be able to apply a 30% coupon to the entire purchase even if the balance is put on a Visa/MC/AMEX points card. This made particular sense if you used the Freedom card in 4Q 2012.

  11. I always cancel credit cards through secure message (or sometimes 2 when they object). I miss out on retention bonuses, but I hate making those phone calls. Also, I can close my husband’s accounts when an annual fee is upcoming by secure message also (I have his permission to manage and pay his accounts, and he hates having to deal with more than an Amex and a backup visa at one time. He prefers serial monogamy for credit cards).

  12. @BeachMiles My wife and I churn credit cards every 3-4 mos about 3-5 cards each time and we were both approved for the US Bank Club Carlson cards. We both have around 750 average credit score on the Big 3.

  13. I applied for the Amex Plat, Club Carlson, Hilton Reserve and Hyatt (had to hurry and get my status challenge to Diamond going and had it by evening).

    Everything was instantly approved except for the Club Carlson, which I thought was weird….

  14. Discounting the fact that I dislike Kohls as they are always the highest place to buy anything. Even with 50% off, etc. stupid coupon, Kohls cash, etc. they come in close to what you can buy it for at other stores or online without the pain. I think you make a mistake by having retail store accounts on your credit report. It’s kinda weighted to the negative with store accounts and any second tier lenders like American General, HFC or whoever these days. Maybe things have changed recently but these historically are always a negative on your overall FICO.

    • DaninSTL: That would be unfortunate if the card hurts my wife’s credit score! I would be very surprised if it does. Regarding Kohl’s prices, all of that is true for some things, but I’ve managed in the past to find items that sold at Kohl’s for less than the best Amazon price. I then used all of the discounts mentioned to buy the items and then resold them on Amazon for a profit (plus I got points!). It’s not easy to find those items, but it can pay off when you do!

  15. the key ingredient to the Kohls card, IMO, is the free shipping you normally get when ordering online. that’s rarely available for nonmembers, it seems

  16. @anita reason you have to pay $35 and not $20 is because they first deduct the kohls cash amount and later they apply 30%. Math goes like this $100-$50(KC) = $50.
    30% of $50 is $15 so remaining amount you have to pay is $35.

    Regarding return on kohls cash you will get full amount if you take store credit . But if you ask for credit card refund they will deduct kohls cash amount.

    • Enigma: Thanks for clearing that up!
      MZ3: I don’t yet know what the impact on my wife’s credit score will be. I don’t plan to actually charge things to the Kohl’s card if I can help it. I believe that as long as we have the card we can get the better discounts even if we don’t use the card. I believe that their coupons can be used online or in person, but I don’t plan to use the 15% off coupon at all since better coupons are almost always readily available.

  17. Hey FM love the blog, just have a few questions for you (or anyone else who might know),

    I’ve been thinking about applying for a Kohl’s card recently for basically the same reasons you signed up your wife (all the exclusive coupons and discounts).

    However, a couple things I’ve been reading online have kept me from applying.

    First, is the low credit lines that are gave out even if you have an excellent credit score. Being that it’s a charge card, is the limit actually reported to the bureaus? I think it would be awkward to have a lot of high limit cards, and then one Kohl’s Charge at like $500 reporting.

    Also, every time I search for info on this card online, I see a higher than normal amount of people posting that they have been reported late by Kohl’s to the credit bureaus without any notification. I’m just kind of curious what’s different with the Kohl’s card that makes that more common.

    Final question, since you applied online, how will they handle your 15% sign up coupon? Is it good in store, or only online?

  18. Good Read and Info.I have a question for you? I have always just applied for credit card promos as they come along and that has worked well. My question is would I be better off if I did credit card apps all in the same day. I’m ready to apply for a few. Thanks in advance

  19. Hi FM,

    The “US Airways Dividend Miles Premier World MasterCard” is only for “Chairman’s Preferred Members” can a non-Chairman’s Preferred Member can apply and get the bonus, do they verify, would it be “ethical”?
    thanks for the great post

  20. Hi FrequentMiler, thanks for sharing your churning strategy. I have tried applying some of the cards mentioned here, but was rejected by US Bank and Barclay. Both saying that I have opened more than 6 new accounts within the last year. Hence I wonder how was it possible for anyone to get the Club Carlson and US Airways card approved if he/she has been actively churning 4 or more cards every 91 days. I am not an aggressive player (applying one from each three to four banks every 120 days) and got flagged by both US Bank and Barclay! I have a credit score above 760 and good staple income job. Wonder if there’s any insight to share as I look for way to fix this and churn Barclay or US Bank cards like you and others! Thanks again for this excellent blog, keep up the great work and have a wonderful day :)

    • Docomo: Yes, I’ve heard similar stories from others. I don’t know why, but my wife and I have not had any problems with US Bank or Barclay applications (yet). If anyone else knows what the secret it, it would be great to share it.
      Piecerate: 185K for 2 apps isn’t bad!

  21. As fate would have I did a churn for my wife on Tuesday as well. She got an instant approval for the Am Ex Plat 100,000 K and the Club Carlson Card. That seemed like enough action for this round. I usually pick a couple of cards for her to go for every 4 months. Pretty conservative but it lets her cherry pick the very best offers.

  22. Just did an app-o-rama yesterday, and never considered the Kohls charge card, so after reading your post, I applied and got a whopping 1K credit limit. At least this card has no annual fee and will build my avg credit history.

    And you’re right, I saw some toys back around BF that was cheaper than Ebay, etc. I looked around and noticed that card members had a 30% off coupon and free shipping, and I didn’t. Decided not to bite but now I’m equipped. Ever since Sears dropped from 10X to 3X, Kohls may be the one of the last points earning double dip frontiers.

  23. While it is generally easy to find 15 and 20% off coupons for online use at Kohls, you usually must have and use their credit card to get the discounts for in store use.

    I would also take issue with the comment that Kohls has “fairly high prices”. If you read the financial pages you will find that Kohls is considered to be the lowest cost retail store in their class for the brands and quality level they carry. One data point, $120 Keurig coffee maker, my net price after all discount $60. The next lowest price I could find taking into account all discounts, $85. This was verified on Brads Deals a website that sends daily low prices on about 10 items per day.

    To answer another post, after you get the Kohls card you will receive sale catalogs and coupons on a regular, more than once a month, basis. Those coupons can be used both instore and online. They generally, but not always require use of the Kohls creidt card and you will not get the discount if you use another credit card. The discounts are 15,20 and 30% determined by their artificial intelligence software. Generally, if you don’t use the credit card for about 4-6 weeks you will get 30%. But its different everytime. Anyone who shops in store should have a Kohls credit card as you will pay much more for the merchandise. We never shop with less than 20 percent off as my wife always has a pile of coupons.

  24. Always find your posts full of info, and, being new to this “game”, appreciated the Churning 101 feature. One thing I find missing from the discussion of applying for these card every 3-4 months is what do you do with all the open cards that you accumulate by doing so. For instance, I’ve heard that it’s not good for your credit score to close out your older accounts, so I still have a card from BofA that was the very first credit card I ever got. (Anyone remember BankAmericard?) Anyway, could you possibly add some comments/advice along the lines of closing accounts as it pertains to churning?

  25. Re Kohls – if you have to return anything that was bought with or earned Kohl’s cash, just get a merchandise credit instead and you will not lose out to their funky math. They are only concerned about keeping the money in their system. Unless it’s a high priced item, easier to take the merchandise credit and use it later than lose out on their math.

  26. Sharon and Enigma,

    I believe Kohls will no longer give you merchandise credit for used Kohls Cash. We asked (politely) to speak with a manager and were told this is new policy as of October.

  27. This is probably a YMMV situation. I got a merchandise credit for an item I bought over the holidays so it was definitely after October. The item was not bought WITH Kohls cash but it did EARN Kohls cash so I didn’t want the partial credit to my charge that this would have been if processed as a straight return (I had already spent the Kohls cash). They offered the merchandise credit instead (for the amount I paid for the item). Additionally, I was able to use the merchandise credit when I bought something through the Chase UR Mall and it recently posted with the 10X pts. This was a surprise as I had already gotten 10X pts. on the original purchase which earned the Kohls cash. So I spent $50 and got 1000 UR pts.

  28. My wife had a Kohl’s charge before we got married, so I have been looking in to ways to maximize its usefulness. I recently tried paying it off via Bluebird and it worked perfectly. You add your account number with dashes included. Took about two days to post. Thanks!

  29. Wow, this churn is almost identical to the churn I did the very same day. I got all of the first 4 CCs you listed (sorry, I don’t do Kohl’s), with the exception that I saved the $15 in annual fees and got the Carlson Biz instead of personal. I also got 3 additional CCs too boot (SPG Amex Biz, Citi TYP, & Barclays Priceline 2%). I went 7 for 7 on my churn(yay), and even better my churn only required 2 calls to the reconsideration lines between all 7 applications.

    Anyways, I came here cuz I used a Priceline affiliate link of yours but I can no longer find the link. Did you remove it in the last 4 days? I was looking for it cuz I didn’t write down the spend requirements for all the CCs I applied for and am now trying to get that documented so I know how much to spend on each card now that they are starting to arrive in the mail.

  30. Nevermind, I Googled and found the Barclays Priceline 2% CC gets a 5k pt bonus upon first purchase. This will be a perfect CC to use instead of the CapOne Venture 2% CC, and I can save the $59 annual fee on that going forward. Still not sure why I can’t find the Barclay’s link on your page though, I’m positive it was there when I applied for it a few days ago!!!

  31. I don’t stay in Carlson hotels. Is it still worthwhile applying for this card on the basis of transferring to airline miles? Thx

  32. gregorygrady: Sorry about my Priceline link disappearing. You must have found it on my Credit Cards page that lists all of my affiliate links. The table on that page is a direct upload from FlexOffers, so when FlexOffers stopped providing links for Priceline it disappeared from that page the next time I refreshed the upload.

    Al: No, I don’t think it’s worth it just for the miles. 100K Club Carlson points gets you 18000 airline miles, so the 85K offer is less than a 18K signup offer if you’re only interested in miles.

  33. @FM: Ahhh got it. Yep, I applied via that link in your CC page that lists all of your affiliate links. Hopefully you still get credit/$$$ for it even though they pulled the affiliate link soon after I applied.

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