Why Amtrak? Alaska? Virgin Atlantic? The reasons behind my application spree.

In my recent posts “My end of year App-No-Rama application spree. 147K and counting.” and the follow-ups “Chase IHG was the +1 at my application spree party” and “Results of my end of year application spree,” I described applying for 10 Bank of America cards and one Chase card.  The Chase card and seven of the BOA cards were approved.  In response to these posts, a number of readers asked why I chose those particular cards.  Here’s the answer…

application-spree-why

My son is a senior in high school and has been actively applying to colleges for Fall 2017 admission.  He is very interested in one that has already accepted him, Kalamazoo College.  He even went on his own via Amtrak to visit friends who are currently freshmen there.  If he ultimately decides to attend, I thought it would be great to have a healthy stash of Amtrak points in hand, both for him to use and for my wife and I to visit him.

I thought the 30K offer for the Amtrak card was going to expire at the end of December (the usual offer is 20K).  Otherwise, I probably would have waited.  But, it turns out that the 30K Amtrak offer is still alive at the time of this writing.  That’s OK.  If my son attends a different college, we’ll still use the Amtrak points for weekend trips to Chicago or beyond.

Bank of America

To some extent, the rest of the Bank of America cards were simply add-ons to the Amtrak application.  I know from experience that multiple Bank of America applications within a short period of time result in only one hard inquiry.  So, why not apply for more?  The Bank of America section of my Best Offers page lists cards in order of estimated first year value (to see the estimated values, visit my Top 10+ Credit Card Offers page).  So, I mostly applied from top to bottom, but stopped when I felt like I had done enough.  Here’s a look at each card I applied for, and how I expect to (or hoped to) use the signup bonus….

  • Amtrak 30K after $1K spend: As described above, we plan to use the points for Amtrak rides.  30,000 points are worth about $870 in rides.  That will go a long way!
  • Amtrak 12K after $1K spend; Same as above. (Note: a 15K offer is now available).  I plan to keep this card long term since it has no annual fee, but provides the same 5% point rebate as the other Amtrak card.  See: Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card review.
  • Virgin Atlantic 75K after $12K spend + add 2 authorized users: I plan to use Virgin Atlantic miles to visit additional Virgin Limited Edition properties as described here: The Hunt for Virgin Duckies.  Saner people than me may get more value by using Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta flights.
  • Alaska personal card 30K + $100 after $1K spend: We’re considering using Alaska miles for travel to Africa on Cathay Pacific with a layover in Hong Kong (Alaska charges only 70,000 one-way for Cathay first class, with a stop-over allowed). Yes it would be a long way around, but if we can snag first class it should be worth it.
  • Alaska Business card 30K after $1K spend: Same as above.
  • Travel Rewards for Business 25K after $1K spend: I don’t have specific plans for these points, but I believe I can use them to reimburse $250 worth of travel.
  • Cash Rewards for Business $200 after $500 spend: I’ll use the $200 to offset the first year annual fees on many of the above cards.
  • Merrill+ 50K after $3K spend: This one wasn’t approved, but I would have loved to use the 50,000 points for up to $1,000 in flights.  Miles Per Day has a great post with details about maximizing these points.

Chase

I previously described my reasons for applying for this card here: Chase IHG was the +1 at my application spree party.  The short version is that I was able to get the 80K offer with $50 statement credit, and the timing was such that the annual free night would line up nicely with my wife’s IHG card.  That way, each year when we realize that our free nights are about to expire, we can book an entire weekend at an Intercontinental Hotel rather than a single night.

Why not other cards?

There are many cards that arguably offer much more first year value than the cards I chose.  With many, I wouldn’t qualify since I had opened the same card in the past (Amex), or received the bonus within the past 24 months (Chase), or it has been within 24 months that I opened or closed an account within the same brand (Citi).  If I had a desire to open more cards at once, I would have gone for the 50K Citi AA Platinum card that doesn’t have the 24 month language, or the Avianca Vuela Visa card with its awesome bonus: 60K miles after first purchase.

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. Must you keep going to the same well (BoA) and telling the world about it? It was interesting for the Necker Island advertisement job you did, but the novelty has worn off.

  2. Great idea on the Africa trip on Cathay. How do you get 2 first class seats together? With a trip like that, you obviously have to plan months ahead, and I can’t find 2 award seats in first for next fall, even with huge flexibility, and I’ve been checking for months.

    • With only 6 seats, Cathay only releases one in advance.

      HKG to South Africa has zero first class seats, highest is business after they retired the 747

    • My intent was to book business and then look to move to first class when they release space a few days in advance of the flight.

      Andy: thanks for that info. I didn’t realize that they had dropped 1st class from that route.

  3. I am pretty new to this game, so we are starting off “slow” with Chase, since we aren’t yet at 5/24. (two Reserve cards is a nice way to start between a married couple). However, I wonder if I was further along, why I wouldn’t also add the American Airlines card plus the Avianca card? I mean, if you are approved and doing MS, why not “bank” the miles for a future, unspecified, “spec” trip? Right now, I am not sure what we are going to use our UR points for, but I know we will find a way to use them.

    • In general, that is exactly what I would suggest doing. One caveat: if you apply for other cards now, it will make it harder to get approved for new Chase cards. So, if you want to go that route, first apply for all of the Chase cards that you want (which are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule), then go to town with other cards.

  4. I’m stocking up on Amtrak miles to take the family to Disney on the Auto train. Virginia to Florida on a family sleeper car + we can transport our car along for around 94,000 RT.

  5. JC

    I’ve applied for many,many cards through your links over the years, but after this post not anymore.

    The abuse and constant posts about BOA will lead to bad things for all of us.

  6. The question on the other posts wasn’t “why did you pick these cards” the question was, how/what are you going to MS all of the spend on? This article fails to answer the question.

    • Actually, both questions were asked both in comments and via email.
      The bulk of the ms so far has been:
      1) Buying Gift of College gift cards at Toys R Us (not really MS, but a way to fund my son’s college); and
      2) Buying Visa gift cards from the mall

      • If you didn’t want to use those funds for college, you could set up a 529 plan with yourself as the beneficiary, and immediately withdraw the funds. There is no tax or penalty on principal from these accounts. I assume you are already maxing out the MI state tax deduction, so you need not even contribute to a MI plan. I am in the Iowa plan (since there is no state tax benefit in TN, no state income tax), which is very easy to use and, without a state tax deduction, it doesn’t really matter what plan you use.

  7. It’s been my experience with BOA that if you already qualify for their Preferred Rewards program, you will receive the extra cashback on their new card cash signup bonuses but not on new card points signup bonuses.

  8. You should just bike the bullet and use 200k to fly FC on Emirates using those Alaska miles. Those seats you will find if you are flexible and plan ahead. Too many points laying around are of little value.

  9. Great post as always! My daughter is also a senior who will be attending college in Sept 2017. Since she just turned 18, can you suggest the best cc’s that she can apply for, given her lack of credit history (although she is an AUbon our cards) & the 5/24 rule.

    I’d be curious to know about what strategy you’ve planned for your son…

    Thank you!!

  10. Greg–Not sure if you discussed this before but is it possible for a husband and wife to combine or use Flying Club miles from different accounts to book a destination like the Africa lodge or Necker island? Thanks.

  11. I know from first hand experience that Greg is upfront, forthright and scrupulously honest.
    He had a good strategy for BOA credit cards and shared it with us.
    He is always loaded with great ideas and info. If u don’t like some of his suggestions, don’t use them, and use the ideas you do like.
    I find Greg, along with Doctor of Credit, my best credit card sources.
    (Let’s be honest, nobody can top Doctor of Credit)

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