Planning Your First Credit Card Applications

credit card churn planning

Planning your first applications

One of the most popular ways to earn free travel is by signing up for credit cards. To give you an idea of how lucrative this can be, consider two offers that are commonly available: the Chase United MileagePlus® Explorer and the Chase Sapphire Preferred℠. With the United card, it is periodically possible to get a signup bonus of as much as 55,000 miles, and with the Sapphire Preferred you can get a signup bonus of up to 55,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards points transfer freely and instantly to United Airlines miles so you could sign-up for one card now and the other in 3 months and suddenly have over 110,000 miles available after meeting each card’s minimum spend requirements.

How valuable are 110,000 miles? Consider that you can fly round trip to Europe in international business class for 115,000 miles on United flights. Business class means plush lie flat (or nearly flat) seats, much nicer meals and drinks, and more attentive service. Business class flights to Europe normally cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 or more, yet you would have almost enough to fly round trip from just two cards.

credit card churn planning

How many and how often?

As you saw from my example above, you can get a lot of travel from just one or two credit card sign-ups. If that’s your comfort level, then sign-up for just one or two a year and you’ll do well. Some people, though, like to push this all out and signup for as many as 32 cards a year! I would strongly advise against going that far, but you could reasonably do 9 to 12 cards a year without much trouble.

If you want to stick to just a few cards, then there really isn’t any special science to it. Simply take a look at my Best credit card offers page, sign up for a card or two and you’re good to go. If you’re interested in doing more, follow this step by step guide:

Step by step:

Step 1: Check your credit score

If you haven’t already signed up for a credit monitoring service, this page lists options for monitoring your credit for free. Ideally your credit score would be 750 or higher, but you can still do well with a score of 700 or more. If your score is lower than that, concentrate on improving your score before signing up for any of these cards.

Step 2: Plan your applications

  • Review my Best credit card offers page and pick out a card with a great signup offer.
  • On the Best credit card offers page, read the App Tips section for the bank that issues the card you want. If the card issuer allows multiple applications in 1 day, consider applying for a second card from the same issuer. Often, multiple credit inquiries made from the same bank on the same day are combined into one.  In other words, if you think of the credit inquiry as your cost for applying for a card, then you can get two cards for the price of one.
  • Be mindful of the minimum spend requirements for each card. Some people sign up for too many cards at once and find themselves needing to spend an outrageous amount of money to get their bonus points.

Step 3: Sign up for 1 or 2 cards

Do not sign up for more than you are comfortable with. Make sure that you can handle the minimum spend requirements before signing up.

Step 4: Record the event in a spreadsheet

It is very important to record information about each of your credit card applications.  You will need this information in the future. I recommend keeping all of the following information:

  • Card issuer (bank)
  • Full name of the card
  • Card type (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Amex)
  • The date you applied
  • The offer terms (e.g. 50,000 points after $3K spend)
  • The application result (e.g. approved, pending, denied)
  • The date you received the full signup bonus
  • The date you canceled or product changed to a different card
  • Notes

Step 5: Call the reconsideration line if you get denied

The more you get into this hobby, the higher the chance is that you’ll find some of your applications get denied. Often, though, it is very simple to call their reconsideration number to get approved. I’ve done this many times in the past. See this post from Doctor of Credit for more information.

Step 6: Meet minimum spend requirements

Use the card for all daily spend.  Where possible, use the card to make bill payments.  If necessary, use a service like Plastiq or ChargeSmart to use your credit card to pay bills that can’t normally be paid with a credit card: mortgage, rent, student loans, etc.  These services do charge fees, but signup bonuses are usually far more valuable than the costs you would incur.

Keep in mind that the card’s annual fee, if any, does not count towards the minimum spend requirements.

Step 7: 12 months after signing up, call to cancel or downgrade to no fee card

When the next year’s annual fee comes due, call the card issuer to let them know that you’re thinking of cancelling the card. If they offer you a bonus for keeping the card (a retention bonus) that you value more than the annual fee, then take it.  If not, cancel or product change to a no-fee card.

That’s all there is to it! You do not need to wait until the entire cycle above is finished before applying for another card.  Instead, apply for 1 or 2 cards at a time and then wait until you’ve met the minimum spend requirements before applying for more.

More to come

In other sections, I talk you through the best ways to meet minimum spend requirements; I’ll describe which points and miles are most valuable; I’ll show you how best to use the points you have; I’ll discuss ways to get hotel & airline elite status for free. (free upgrades!); and much more. Let me know if you have particular questions or needs and I’ll see if I can help.

Useful Links

Go to: Table of Contents - Credit Cards - Flexible Points Programs - Airline Programs - Hotel Programs - Earning & Managing Points - Miscellaneous

Last updated on December 31st, 2019

About Shawn Coomer - Senior Editor

Shawn Coomer has spent nearly a decade circling the globe for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

More articles by Shawn Coomer - Senior Editor »

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Hi Shawn… in reply to this..Yes, to be honest, finding award flights to Europe for 115K miles (or 60K miles in coach) can be a challenge. Fortunately, great tricks are available to help you find award seats where there appear to be none. I’ll discuss these in later emails, but if you find yourself needing them now, let me know.

I would love some tips. We are going to Europe in Oct/Nov I got saver business tickets through Houston going and are happy with the flights, but coming back we got them but has several stops and one is Chicago in Nov as we are in PHX would much rather come through LAX or houston due to weather. There is a flight on Ethiopian that goes thru LAX that would be fine but only shows economy…..the other thing is my husband will lose status end of Jan 🙁 so any help or suggestions you can give me would be great. I tried the united expert mode but really dont think I was using or understanding it right, thanks


it said to let you know…….left a comment here but nothing… there an email to email you at or am I missing something sorry kinda new to all this

Greg The Frequent Miler

Hi kj,

Learning how to find the best award seats is extremely complicated (as you’ve discovered!) so we can’t really answer your questions easily here in the comments. One option you have is to hire an award booking service to do the work for you. You can find a list of services here:
You might even have luck simply emailing a few of those services to ask for advice. Some may be willing to give you tips for free.


People new to this should probably consider the Chase cards first… I missed out on getting a CSP because they began enforcing the 5/24 rule after I had already been at this a while.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Yes, definitely. We are working on re-building this newsletter and plan to highlight that as a key first step when signing up for cards.

Chris W.
Chris W.

Help! Having a terrible time trying to find business class from Europe (FLR) back to CVG. I have just enough miles in Delta, United, and American for 2 one way business class awards in early July. Finding space to get to VCE on either Delta or United is easy but can’t find a way to get home!


@Chris W., have you tried other cities? For instance, I’m flying out of FRA next summer even though I’m not spending much time in Germany. It was just the best way to put the flights together.

Alternatively you could book economy now and keep checking for biz. I don’t know about UA and DL, but AA will let you change without a fee as long as you’re moving up in class…


[…] Planning Your First Churn […]


[…] the post “Planning your first credit card applications” I gave an overview of all of the steps required to earn points and miles through credit card […]


Hi Shawn,

I’m relatively new to this and I have a quick sign-up strategy question for you. Earlier this week I was denied a Chase Freedom application (5/24 I’m sure). I am getting married soon, so in the last year I’ve applied for, and received, both Citi TY cards, SPG personal, Citi Hilton Reserve, Chase Ink, and CSP (2 weeks ago and I have met minimum spend already because I am paying for a wedding). Thanks largely to your help and advice – I’ve accumulated a lot of points which will make for a great honeymoon, but there are a few more cards I’d like to take things over the top.

They are: Chase Hyatt, AmEx Hilton Surpass (for points + AxOn awards), and SPG business (to take advantage of the current great offer). The AmEx Hilton is most critical from a honeymoon standpoint, but they’d all be helpful. My question is – what order should I apply and when? I’m worried more cards would make it difficult to get approved for the Hyatt card, but I was also denied on an application from Chase earlier this week. So I don’t know if I should wait or start with this one? Plus as you know – the bonuses on the two AmEx cards won’t be around forever. It’s also possible I am over thinking this, and it doesn’t matter what order I apply. Thanks in advance.


Hi there – isn’t it true that you lose miles / points if you close the credit card? Is there any way around this? Do you have any articles on this?