Million Mile Madness: The big churn story

Update: Club Carlson business card was approved!

438,000 525,000 points earned. 562,000 475,000 left to go.

Background: Million Mile Madness is the fun and foolish quest to earn a million points in one month. Throughout March, I’ll do everything I can to earn as many points as I can while keeping within my ethical boundaries. I don’t expect that a million points will have been credited to my account by March 31st: points often take quite a while to get credited. Instead, I’ll track all of the points that I expect, and I’ll declare victory if the expected total is over a million. To keep things challenging, I will try to keep my net costs below $1,000.

All points earned and expenses incurred will be tracked via this Google Docs spreadsheet.

See all Million Mile Madness posts (in reverse order), by clicking here.

The story of the churn

On Friday I signed up for 11 credit cards in the hopes of earning over half a million points through signup bonuses.  I systematically went through my list of planned applications and signed up for the cards one bank at a time.  I started with what I thought would be the hardest approvals, and then moved up the list from there, in this order: Barclays, US Bank, Amex, Citi, and then Chase.  Once I was done with all of the applications, only two had been automatically approved.  So, I called each bank in turn.  My mistake was that I should have called Barclays before proceeding to the next applications.  I’ll get to that momentarily…


I started by calling Chase’s business reconsideration line about two Ink Plus cards I had applied for.  The analyst told me that one of the two had been automatically denied as a duplicate application.  I explained that it was for a separate business, and she was able to reopen the application.  She asked many questions about my businesses and eventually moved some credit from a personal card.  The call took about an hour, but the result was that both cards were approved!  I asked that the cards be rushed to me.  They agreed.

Next, I called Chase’s personal card reconsideration line about the United MileagePlus card I had signed up for.  The analyst said “I see you are applying for a lot of cards today. You have six inquiries already”.  I agreed that that was true and told her that I didn’t need additional credit.  I said that I would be happy to cancel an existing card or move credit from one.  She suggested moving credit from my British Airways card.  I agreed, and she approved my application.  I then asked to talk with customer service so as to confirm the sign-up bonus.  Yep, 50K bonus plus 5K bonus for adding a registered user. $1K spend requirement.  Sweet.  I asked for the card to be rushed to me.  Agreed.

American Express

I signed up for both the Premier Rewards Gold card and the Platinum Mercedes card.  The Premier Rewards Gold card had been approved automatically, so I just needed to call about the Platinum card.  Apparently this card is handled by a different department than most because I was shuffled around a bit, but once I found the right person to talk to I was approved instantly.  There was no mention of any other inquiries.  They happily agreed to rush the card to me.


This was interesting.  I had applied for both the American Airlines business card and the personal ThankYou Preferred card.  I asked first about the AA card, which was quickly approved without fuss.  For the personal card, though, I was told that they cannot approve two cards in one day.  Huh?  This is apparently a new Citibank rule as of a week or so ago.  Anyway, she said to call back in a day or two.  I called back on Sunday and was approved.  They also confirmed the 6K bonus and 5X points on certain purchases.  Sweet!  Citi never mentioned other inquiries.


I applied for both the personal and business US Airways cards.  I already had a personal US Airways card, so this one would be my second active one.  And, the personal card was automatically approved.  The business card, though, was pending when I called on Friday.  They told me that they saw that I had 8 inquiries in one day and that that was a risk factor.  They also mentioned that I didn’t have much history with them.  The application was denied.  I called again later and asked to speak to a supervisor, but all conversations resulted the same way: no dice.  Its possible that had I called immediately after applying for just the Barclays’ cards I could have gotten this one approved, but I don’t know that for sure.

US Bank

I applied for both the personal and business versions of the Club Carlson cards.  I called US Bank and asked if I could get an instant decision over the phone.  No luck.  I was told that the process is automatic and there was nothing that could be done other than to wait for a decision.  On Saturday I received an email saying I was approved for the personal card!  As of Sunday, I still hadn’t heard about the business card so I called.  An automated system said that I was approved!  I was skeptical, though, that the system might have been reporting my personal card approval so I tried speaking with a person.  Unfortunately the application status department isn’t open on the weekends.  So, I’m still waiting to hear for certain about this one!  Until I hear for certain, I’ll continue to consider it “pending”.

Result Summary

I applied for 11 cards and was approved for 9.  One is still pending. One was denied. Here are the detailed results:



Spend Req

First Yr Fee (ongoing)


Barclays US Airways 35K First Use Free ($89) Approved instantly.
Barclays US Airways business 25K First Use $79 Denied. Initially pending. I called twice and spoke to supervisor. No luck. Too many recent inquiries.
US Bank Club Carlson Personal 85K $2500 $75 Approved. I received an email approval on Saturday.
US Bank Club Carlson Business 85K $2500 $60 Pending. Automated system says that it is approved, but I’m not sure whether it is referring to this card or the personal one.
American Express Platinum Mercedes 50K $1000 $475 Approved after calling (initially pending). Will recoup $400 in airline fees in 2013 and early 2014, so net cost is $75.
American Express Premier Rewards Gold 50K $1K Free ($175) Approved instantly
Citi AA business 50K $3K Free ($85) Approved after calling (initially pending). Card include $150 statement credit after first use with AA.
Citi ThankYou Preferred 6K $300 Free Approved. I had to call over the weekend as they were not able to approve two cards in one day (seems to be a new rule)
Chase Ink Plus 50K $5K Free ($95) Approved after calling. Had to move some credit from another card.
Chase Ink Plus 50K $5K Free ($95) Approved after calling. Initially this was denied as a duplicate application. Told agent that I have 2 different businesses (which is true).
Chase United MileagePlus 55K $1K Free ($95) Approved after calling. Had to move some credit from another card.


Here are the totals by application status (as of Sunday evening):


Bonus Total

Required Spend Total

First Year fees


Approved (9) 431K $18,800 $550 I expect to get $550 in statement credits to more than offset first year fees
Pending (1) 85K $2,500 $60 May be approved already?
Denied (1) 25K $0 $79  

Links to all of the offers I applied for can be found on my Best Credit Card Offers page.  Reconsideration numbers can be found in this Million Mile Secrets post.

Churn Planning

If you have questions about why I chose the cards I did, please see the corresponding posts:


Reader Participation

If you’re brave and/or crazy enough to want to play along with this game, first consider the risks: if you’re not careful you could spiral into debt, damage your credit score, get targeted for a financial review, have credit card accounts closed against your will, etc. Please only do this if you understand the risks and how to avoid them.

If you still want to play along, here’s what to do:  Open this Google docs spreadsheet.  Go to the tab labeled “How to participate”. Follow the directions shown there. 

I will setup my spreadsheet to automatically show the summary information from each of your spreadsheets. Make sure not to include any personal identifiable information in the spreadsheet since it will be viewable to anyone who cares to look. If you have questions about the process, or about filling out your copy of the spreadsheet, email me and I’ll add the question and answer to the Q&A tab of my spreadsheet.


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  1. This is a well-written, informative post with tons of helpful information. Thanks for taking the time to play this one out.

    • Mike B: Thanks!
      christina: According to Equifax alerts I had TransUnion inquiries as follows: US Bank X 2, Chase X 2, Barclay X 2. And, Credit Sesame checks Experian (I think) and it reported: Amex X 1, Citi CBNA, CBNA (another Citi?), First USA (US Bank?), Barclays. So, it looks like Barclays pulled from both bureaus (and maybe all 3). I’m not sure why Barclays didn’t see 11 pulls. Strange about Chase. When I look into my history I only see one pull on the days where I applied for 2 cards.

  2. Barclay pulls Transunion. And most of your application pulls Experian. Chase said you have six inquires. That is normal. How did Barclay find you have 8 inquires? They can read your Experian report when they pull your Transunion? It is very strange.

    And you mentioned before chase will combine all the inquiries into one if it happened in one day. That is untrue based on my experience. I applied chase two, and three cards many times and never had this kind of luck.

  3. Per reports on FT, if you are approved for the business Club Carlson card, they will set up a second Club Carlson account for you. For some reason, Club Carlson cannot have 2 credit cards depositing in the same account.

    • Katherine: Yes, thanks. I purposely didn’t even put my Club Carlson number in the business app. I’m OK with them setting up a second account for me. Luckily they allow points to be moved from person to person for free.

      LK: Good question! For me, I needed to do all the apps March 1 because my goal is to hit min spend before the end of the month, so I need as much time as possible. Whether doing all apps in one day is good advice in general I’m no longer sure about. It did seem as if neither Amex nor Citi noticed my other pulls, so it might have been helpful with them. It also helps with record keeping.

  4. I thought the whole point of multiple credit card apps on the same day was that the bank wouldn’t see all of the day’s credit inquiries. If this is not true, why do them all at once?

  5. I thought that with Chase you could not get a bonus again for the same product? So if I have three business, I can get 3 Ink Plus cards(not on the same day) and will get the 50K bonus for each?

    • Dan: Experience shows us that with Chase Ink cards, you can get multiple bonuses as long as you have separate businesses. So, yes, with 3 businesses you could theoretically get 3 Ink Plus cards AND 3 Ink Bold cards and get the bonuses on all 6. I would definitely spread out the apps if I were you though!

  6. Interesting on the comment about club carlson only allowing one card per account. I bet that is true in our crazy world of CC churning and points/miles :)

  7. i am careful about the ” too many inquiries” and many apps.

    recent reports from various blogs says, that CHASE would close your card account for having too many new inquiries in your credit report, and also for closing another and opening another one for bonus points offers. These are all after you already got the new cards and or approved.

  8. I was looking at your spreadsheet. Either you hit on a BIG moneymaker yesterday, or you have a typo
    3/3/2013 Staples / TCB / 5.5% Kaspersky 1 user + $15 off coupon $284.90 $284.90 1,425 $415.67 Ultimate Rewards Paid with Ink Bold. Went thru TopCashBack for 5.5% back. EasyRebates for $300 back

    you paid 284.90 and you’re gettin 415.67 back? i.e. profit of $130? Did you actually do that? Or do you mean 315.67 back?

    • Steve: Yeah, I didn’t notice it when I wrote up yesterday’s post about the FAR deals, but one of them was a money maker. Paid just under $30 per download, but expect $40 per download back. Plus TCB 5.5%!

  9. @Dan, yes. Separate tax IDs can be used with you as the owner.

    When I applied for my second active US Air MC, Barclays pulled Transunion AND Experian. I was a little discouraged by it but at least it got approved.

  10. Dear FM, thank you for your quick response. AME always pull Experian. Most citi pulls experian. Chase usually pulls experian and equifax. This is the first time I heard that chase pulls transunion. If it is true, I need to update all my credit pull information. I still cannot believe chase combine two inquiries Have you ever order your free credit report? You can check all the inquiries there. And now First USA is part of chase.

  11. @LK – The inquiries are instant. However, they will be linked to whichever bureau they pulled. A few days (sometimes a few weeks) later all the bureau’s will see the the new LINES of credit show up. This will likely decrease utilization (good), and average age of accounts (bad).

    So grouping the apps gets a slight benefit if they pull different bureaus, if you do multi-cards from an issuer you get a benefit of the credit bureau’s potentially combining the hard pull, the issuers won’t see the new lines and finally it bundles your inquiries so they will fall off the report in lockstep in a year or two.

  12. I later called and got my Club Carlson business card to point to my original account. We’ll see when the statement closes if it worked, but the CSR confirmed she changed it.

    • Wow, that was painful, but after getting sent back and forth to different departments over and over, I finally spoke to someone at US Bank would could check the status of my application. Approved! Both the personal and business Club Carlson cards were approved. Sweet. They charge extra for expedited handling, so I’ll just wait. Just FYI, the phone number that eventually worked was: 800-947-1444

  13. If I have targeted offer for Amex through 3/31 when logging in for 50k points for Business Gold rewards that says “Apply Now – you are pre-appoved”, will this generate a hard pull if I apply?

    If it matters, I already have 3 personal amex cards (SPG- just approved, Delta Gold ~2years, and Green 15 yrs). I also was just received Chase Sapphire Preferred last month and have about 8 total inquires in last 2 yrs.

    I would like to get a Ink bold but don’t know if I need to space it out from the personal approval and might get the Amex first if no hard pull. Thoughts?

    • Calvin: Yes, it will generate a hard pull. If you have a business and high credit scores and a long history of responsible credit then you should be OK to get approved for both the Business Gold and the Ink Bold. I can never say for sure, but it sounds likely to me.

  14. FM: I think you should meet the spend on you US Airways card ASAP so that the bonus points post ASAP. I’ve seen many reports that Barclays closed account after doing a soft pull 7-10 days after your approved application if they see you have lots of inquiries. Some people were able to get the bonus points before they closed their accounts, but some weren’t.

  15. @FM: 525k points not earned until you finish the minimum spending. I say this because you have almost $20K to spend to meet the minimum requirements! Great churn on CCs, congrats!

  16. Curious how you got the 55k united explorer bonus. I’ve tried 100 different times with all the known links and while I got it to work in late Jan early Feb. When I went to do my application in late Feb I couldn’t get the links to work for anything more than 30k.
    That included having recent activity on my UE account.

    Email me if you have a way to get this to work as I’m still interested.

  17. I am impressed that you got the Club Carlson personal card. When was your previous churn? I have been holding off this one, thinking a six month break is required.

  18. @Newbie, I think he said he will count the points after the minimum spend is charged to the card, regardless of when the points actually do post. Most cards take 1-2 billing cycles to post the points and we don’t want this to stretch into April and May…

  19. @Grant: Thanks, I missed that point from FM! I understand that most if not all of the points will not be posted by the end of March!

  20. Hi FM,

    You mentioned here applying for a US airways personal card inspite of having another personal US card open? Is it possible? I’ve had a US airways card for 18 months so was looking to cancel it and reapply in next 3 months before the merger. Thanks

  21. @frequentmiler, do you mind sharing the # you used to deal with Citi? I have issues in the past and always end up talking to foreign CR who have basically no authority. one time I tracked down a south/north dakota # and it worked perfectly but I lost it. THanks.

  22. Wow! Congrats! You still have another 500k to go, FM. If you get 5x, you will need to purchase something for $100k. Is this number right?

  23. @Grant, I am sure FM is more creative than that. I am just curious what sort of things he is going to buy. Maybe he’s getting 7+x so he might not need to buy as much as 100k.

  24. FM
    How many hard inquiries did you have in the last 6 months? and if you can please tell me when was your last churn? i want to apply for the Club Carlson personal and business and i have been holding off, next week it,ll be 6 months since my last apps. Thanks

  25. Whoa, an approval on the business AND personal Carlson cards? I have the business one for my company, but I’d love the personal one too. I’ll look forward to the update.

  26. Am I right that Citi now do not approve 2 cards (any type) on the single day? FM, when you called Citi next day – did they reconsider your app or it was automatically approved next day? I’m wondering what should I do – I applied today for Citi TYP Preferred card (6K bonus) and was instantly approved. I am thinking to apply for Hilton Reserve Card. Should I apply today or tomorrow? If I apply today, probably pulls will be merged, I think

    • Sergey: Its strange, but it seems that some people still succeed with two whereas others are told they can only do one per day. Maybe the difference is whether both are auto approved? I’m not sure. Anyway, in my case, they had to reopen the application for reconsideration. I don’t think there is any harm in trying today, but chances are good that you’ll have to call for recon.

  27. FM: I’m curious to know how big of a hit your credit score took with all these apps.

    I recently did a small churn with Citi AA Visa/Amex, US Airways MC, and Chase Freedom. I also signed up for a Bluebird card, but I am pretty sure that they don’t do a hard inquiry. I was approved for everything besides the AA Amex (this was right after Citi started cracking down on the double apps). I also opened a Chase checking account a few weeks prior to the churn.

    I was surprised to see that my credit score took about a 20 point hit. I’m pretty new to the churn, and this was my first time doing more than 2 cards. I don’t carry balances on any of my point-earning cards and actually recently paid down the balance of an old wells fargo CC and a small student loan. Is there something I’m doing wrong or is this to be expected, and can I expect the score to slowly climb back up as the age on my accounts grow?

  28. I applied for 8 cards and scored 410K miles. Was denied the US Airways personal card (2nd app)
    Here are the cards I applied:
    USB Club Carlson Personal(85k(
    USB Club Carlson Business (85k)
    Barclays US Airways personal (Denied)
    Citi AA Business (50k)
    BOFA Alaska(25K, 2nd app)
    Chase Southwest(50K)
    Chase Sapphire pre MC (40K)
    Amex Business Gold (75K)

    Only BOFA Alaska and Club Carlson Personal cards were approved instantly and rest I had to call in. Looks like I have to spend 23k in 4 months …

    FYI: My credit karma score was 746 before I started app. Its 743 now mostly because I closed a 3 cards with annual fees due in Feb and I have about $8k in 0% in CC and about $8-10k monthly spend.

    Warning: This is for people who do not have a legit business (I have a small one). This was my 3rd business app and the reconsideration rep was concerned that I was extended way more credit that my business was generating. I was worried she might close down all my business cards but in the end all was good.

  29. FM, I applied for the Citi AA Amex and Citi Thank You Preferred through your link on the same day. Got approved for Citi Amex but as expected, got a denial for TU Preferred. I called the recon line twice already and they said they couldn’t do anything. They didn’t seem to even know how to “reopen” applications and insisted that wasn’t possible. What number did you call? I used 800-695-5171. Also what did you tell them? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

    • Thanh P.: I think that’s the same number I called. I wish I could give you advice here, but I don’t think I did anything special. I guess I just got very lucky and got someone both nice and knowledgeable. I called on Sunday after my Friday churn.

  30. Just curious how many hard pulls you had in the year prior to applying for the 11 cards? Congrats on getting the Club Carlson cards. You have my envy. They cited too many inquiries as reason for denying me (I had 5 in past year).

  31. Finally, I just got my first US Bank card! Though, I applied for it on March 8, so it looks like it takes them quite a period of time to process it, not to mention the fact that my version is for 65K points ONLY with $1.5 minimum spending requirement. What a joke. Of course the business version was rejected due to “numerous historic applications using ssn”. Another joke! What else was I supposed to use: my US or foreign driver license number :)

    ps. 8 card applications = 8 pulls.

  32. Hello – I think you wrote a blog about how you monitor your credit (exactly which services you use from which vendors/websites etc when, which you pay for etc). Dizzying array of offerings on credit stuff is hard for my brain to sift through and i keep trying. LOL. Could you link me to that if I am remembering it correctly?

  33. This is freakin awesome! You da man
    I am new into the underground travel hacking world. Its so exciting. I recently applied for 4 credit cards and got approved for all of them. My problem is the required spending amounts. After doing more research I will be able to pull it off, but its a lot of work. It will def be worth it in the long run when I am traveling for free drinking wine in first class on the way to some exotic location. Ohh Yaaa!

  34. Did you apply for other Barclays cards such as the NFL and World Arrival card? In your ‘Credit card planning: Barclays’ you had mentioned you will apply for those too.
    If you did not apply for those then what made you change your mind?

  35. Donna: I usually use CreditSesame and CreditKarma to monitor my credit scores and to alert me to changes. Both services are free.

    weevinweaver: Keep reading my blog :) There are plenty of ways to increase spend and get your money back.

    cyclotron: No, I ultimately decided not to go for the other Barclays cards simply because I thought 11 cards at once was as aggressive as I was willing to go. It was probably the right decision since they only approved me for one of the two cards I applied for.

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