My revised approach to earning miles through credit card bonuses

No more App-O-Ramas for me.

The term “App-O-Rama” (also known as AOR) is a name many people use for the process of applying for a bunch of credit cards in one day, earning huge piles of rewards, and then repeating every 91 or so days.

The original reason for bunching up applications in this way was that it increased your chance of approval since banks wouldn’t be able to see your other inquiries for a few days.  And, the reason for waiting 91 days was that the impact of recent inquiries on new approvals seemed to go down after 90 days.  Technology has progressed since the dawn of the App-O-Rama process.  Today, credit inquiries are available to credit card issuers immediately.  In fact, the last few times that I applied for cards, both Credit Sesame and Credit Karma sent me new inquiry alerts while I was still watching the hourglass spin after pressing the apply button.  It is effectively instantaneous.

Credit card companies are less likely to approve people who have recently made many requests for new credit.  The primary reason is that people who do so appear to be financially desperate.  They appear to need access to more credit and therefore they’re a bad risk for the bank.  Today, most credit card companies understand the other reason that a person may apply for lots of credit cards: for the rewards.  In this case, the people applying might not be a bad risk, but they’re almost certainly unprofitable customers for the bank.

So, today, I’d argue that App-O-Ramas reduce chances for approval.  Banks can see that you applied for other cards that same day and that will count against your chances for approval.

I’m far from the first to question the old approach.  In fact, Julian, the Devil’s Advocate, argued against the wisdom of App-O-Ramas in April 2014: App-O-Ramas Are Your Father’s Oldsmobile.  That happened to be one of the posts that led me to ask Julian to contribute to this blog in the first place!  He now publishes a series called “Bet You Didn’t Know” every other Friday, right here on Frequent Miler.

I introduced readers to Julian in the post “Devil’s Advocate stolen and unmasked,” where I wrote:

Julian’s second post, App-O-Ramas Are Your Father’s Oldsmobile, was another great one.  There’s no doubt that applying for credit cards with big signup bonuses is the fastest way to earn points and miles.  However, “Julian” calls into question the idea of bunching up your credit card applications into “app-o-ramas”.  Regardless of the fact that I’ve always hated the term “app-o-rama,” I think that Julian makes several good points here.  It could very well be that applying for credit cards sequentially is the better way to go. What do you think?

App-No-Rama

Sequential App ProcessEven though I agreed with Julian’s argument in 2014, I continued with the general App-O-Rama approach, but not for any particularly good reason.  Now, I’ve finally come around.  I now think that a better process is to sign up for a single card (with some exceptions that I’ll discuss below), meet the spend requirements, then sign up for another card.  The spacing between the signups can be one to three months or even longer, depending upon how aggressive you want to be.  In this way, when you sign up for new cards, you’ll never have more than one or two recent (90 days or less) inquiries on your report.

Julian pointed out that this sequential approach to credit card applications has a great benefit: sometimes great new offers come along but are available for only a very short amount of time.  In those cases, it would be a shame if you had just applied for 5 or 6 cards a few weeks earlier since your chance of approval would then be lower and meeting the minimum spend requirements, if approved, would be harder.

The validity of Julian’s argument hasn’t changed over time, but recent events have finally pushed me over the edge…

  • Diminishing Manufactured Spend Opportunities:  With big App-O-Ramas comes great spend requirements (with apologies to Spider Man’s Uncle Ben and others).  As opportunities to manufacture spend dry up, it will become harder and harder to take on tens of thousands of dollars in required spend.  With a sequential approach, it is easier to avoid taking on more than you can handle.
  • Amex once in a lifetime rule: Now that Amex will only let you get a signup bonus for a given card once, it’s now more important than ever that you signup for the best Amex signup bonuses when they come around.  With App-O-Ramas you can easily miss out on those best of the best limited time offers.
  • Chase tightening up on approvals: Chase has recently made it difficult to get approved for new cards if you’ve opened 5 or more accounts in the past 24 months.  At first, this “5/24 rule” was limited to a few cards, but it now looks like the rule will soon expand to include business cards and co-branded cards.  As a result, it makes sense right now for many people to focus only on acquiring Chase cards before it’s too late.  It makes sense, for example, to sign up for a business card now and then a co-branded card (or two) a month from now.  In other words, start the sequential app process now, with a focus on Chase cards, before it’s too late.  For details, please see: Chase calls an end to the game. Should we seek quick wins or long term benefits?

Multi-Card Exception

Astute readers may be thinking “Greg, just last week you applied for 3 cards in one day, and now you say that it’s better to just do one at a time!  What gives?”

The idea behind the Sequential App Process (for lack of a better term) an App-No-Rama is to continue to earn signup bonuses while minimizing the number of recent inquiries that are on your credit reports at any given time.  So, when there’s an opportunity to earn more rewards without increasing recent inquiries, it’s worth looking into.

Often, when multiple inquiries are made to the same credit bureau, from the same bank, and on the same day, the inquiries are combined into one.  In my case, Chase has an irritating habit of making hard pulls from two credit bureaus when I apply for a single card: Experian and TransUnion.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that when I apply for more than one Chase card on the same day, any additional hard pulls are combined.  Whether I apply for one, two, or three Chase cards in one day, history tells me that I’ll end up with just one inquiry on each report: Experian and TransUnion.

Note: Credit issuers may use different credit bureaus for different cards and in different locations and for different reasons.  My experience with Chase is unlikely to match your own.

No more than 2: In response to last week’s post where I wrote about applying for 3 Chase cards in one day (see: Chasing 395,000 points), a couple of readers mentioned reports in which people had their Chase accounts shut down for applying for 3 or more cards in one day.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any way of verifying those reports.  Until we learn more, I’ll declare that it’s safer to limit apps to 1 or 2 at a time.

To find out whether or not it makes sense to apply for two cards from a particular bank, use the “Jump To:” links on my Best Offers page to view the App Tips for each bank.  There you’ll find information about what is known about applying for more than one card in one day.

Jump to: Amex, BOA, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, TD Bank, US Bank, Wells, Other

To summarize the multi-card exception: if you believe you can sign up for more than one card without adding extra inquiries to your report, then go for it.

Multi-Card Credit Score Impact

When credit inquiries for multiple applications are combined, applying for multiple cards has no impact on your recent inquiries vs. applying for just one.  However, it can have both positive and negative effects on your credit score.  If your new accounts led to you having additional credit with the bank, then your credit score may be improved since this will help with your credit utilization ratio.  On the other hand, the average age of your accounts will likely decrease even more with two new accounts instead of one.  This will most likely have a slight negative impact on your score.

Process Name?

UPDATE: After a Twitter poll, we decided on the name “App-No-Rama”. 

Readers, is there already a commonly used name for what I’m calling the Sequential App Process (SAP)?  Or, can you think of a better name?  I spent some time Googling synonyms for words like “sequential”, “methodical”, etc.  For fun, I was hoping to come up with a name that sounded similar to App-O-Rama, but one that conveyed a slower, sequential, and/or methodical approach. I came up with a few ideas, but I don’t like/love any of them:

  • App-Meander
  • App-O-Shamble
  • App-O-Waddle
  • App-O-Matic

“App-O-Matic” is probably my favorite (or least disliked), but it wrongly conveys the suggestion that it is somehow automatic even though the idea was driven by the word “systematic”.

Oh well.  I never liked the term App-O-Rama anyway.  It’s too sensational and salesman-ish.  Perhaps, its better to have a staid term like “Sequential App Process”.  And, Google tells me that “staid” means “sedate, respectable, and unadventurous.”  That sounds like the opposite of “App-O-Rama” to me.  Perfect.

Not for everyone

I have no doubt that many readers have done App-O-Ramas for years and are happy with the results.  Some will no doubt argue persuasively that App-O-Ramas are objectively better than the App-No-Rama.  And, that’s fine.  I’m not arguing that everyone should ditch App-O-Ramas, just that it’s my current plan to do so.

Last updated on September 3rd, 2018

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

39
Leave a Reply

avatar
26 Comment threads
13 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
27 Comment authors
My painful pursuit of 135,000 miles - Frequent Miler8 cards due for renewal. Keep, cancel, or product change? - Frequent MilerApp-No-Rama in action: Over 700K and counting - Frequent MilerFrequentMilera$]-[u Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
JEM
Guest
JEM

System-app-ic?
App-ortunistic?

Josh
Guest
Josh

Since MS opportunities are starting to run dry, or at least the ones I am comfortable doing, I’ve taken this approach. Does it mean I miss an opportunity to grab multiple offers sometimes, sure, but I’d rather not bite off too much and be faced with choosing which card to meet spend on and which card I can’t meet spend on if I had limited manufacturing capabilities/opportunities.

escot
Guest
escot

Thanks for reminding us of Devil’s Advocate posts here. Glad you welcome a contrarian to the fold. Such willingness to question “received wisdom” from the mass migration, the pack….. ’tis good for checking our assumptions. (and keeping us sharp too.)

Your post reminded me of the classic Aesop fable…. re. the tortoise and the hare, even before seeing your question. Suggestion then:

Turtle-app

“slower, sequential, and/or methodical”

Grant
Guest

Maybe SCORE: Sequential Card O Rama Exercise, or something along those lines.

JD
Guest
JD

I question whether banks are immediately aware of other credit pulls. Last month, I applied for the Chase United card. Fifteen minutes later, I applied for the Chase BA card and received the SAME credit limit ($33K). My wife had the same experience. This would suggest that Chase was unaware of my application for the United card when it issued approval for the BA card.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

If Chase’s 5/24 rule does spread to all their products (and in light of Amex’s “once per lifetime” rule, then I disagree with this approach. It prevents you from ever picking up a Chase bonus again.

My current approach is to get as many Chase cards as I can right now. I picked up one in early January, two in mid-Feb, and will go for two more in late March. When I do those last two, that will be part of big blowout AOR, with 1-2 cards from every major issuer.

Then I’ll wait 24 months to be eligible for Chase again. If a great Amex offer comes up in the interim, I’ll take it. March 2018 I’ll go for the 2 most desirable Chase cards. 30+ days later, try for 2 more Chase cards, plus another huge AOR.

I’ll still be averaging about 2 Chase bonuses per year that way. I won’t be losing out on any Amex opportunities, since there’s no rush there with the “once per lifetime” rule. I’ll be losing out on a few extra Citi/Barclay’s/BoA/Cap1 opportunities that I might otherwise have jumped on, but I can live with that. Plus, it’ll be nice not juggling CCs for the next two years, and all MS opportunities can be re-directed to maxing out the 5% on my OBC.

Gaurav
Guest
Gaurav

Curious what OBC means?

a$]-[u
Guest
a$]-[u

Old Blue Cash 🙂

Dave
Guest
Dave

Does this really need an acronym? Just call it applying for a new card every few months.

MrDioji
Guest
MrDioji

I’ve never really been the App-o-tama type. For the past 18+ months I pretty much just sign up for one card every 31 days. If something great comes along, I’ll hop on it and wait another 31 days for the next. I tried to keep my wife’s cycle ~15 days off of mine. So we’re always ready to pounce.

After my mortgage refinance funds this week I plan on applying for 2 chase cards for each of us. Maybe a business card for my wife.

Daniel Gordon
Guest
Daniel Gordon

I have a friend who just applied for the Amex SPG and the Amex PRG in one day. He got approved for both – and they both combined into one credit card pulsee how that isn’t beneficial. He got both cards, with great signup bonuses, and one pull.

AOR shouldn’t be used every time, but you also shouldn’t avoid it. Use it wisely, and when it makes sense.

One thing that might make sense is to apply for a Citi/Chase card on the same day. I found that Citi pulls from Equifax, whereas Chase has been pulling from Experian and Transunion. So it doesn’t hurt to have both pulls on the same day – obviously they don’t combine. However, in the long run it’s better to have 2 accounts that start on day 1, instead of them starting 1 month apart. It will actually *increase* your average age of accounts in the long term. Not to mention you will hit your signup bonus earlier, which means you can churn that card again earlier.

Chris
Guest
Chris

I like MAP – Metered App Process

Corridor!
Guest
Corridor!

What are your thoughts on applying for 3 cards in one day if you know that each card will be pulled from a different agency. I would assume they don’t show new accounts that fast?

a$]~[u
Guest
a$]~[u

How about ‘app-mo-rama’ where mo is for month

Or app-no-rama

knick1959
Guest
knick1959

Without reading anyone elses’ ideas first:

App-O-cassional

Apperiodic

OK216
Guest
OK216

Gotta say, I love app-o-ccasional.

Dan
Guest
Dan

DoC uses the term AAT – app anytime.

asdfasdf
Guest
asdfasdf

reducing credit limit before closing accounts and in general, closing accounts promptly increase chances of cpu approval, increase chances of targeted offers that are amex rulebreakers….and decrease time with some banks to when you can get the bonus again (citi).

Skyy
Guest
Skyy

Not sure I follow this “reducing credit limit before closing accounts.” Does that mean you call to reduce your credit line before you cancel it? If so, how long before do you do it? Also do you know of any strategy to move your credit line from one card to another within the same bank when closing a card? When I have tried, the bank will not usually not let me get in on signing bonus.

ed
Guest
ed

We still adhere to doing one large apparama per year due to when our insurance renews. Insurance companies rate customers for risk in a number of ways including credit score and inquiries. We renew auto and home in the same month ever year and therefore time an apparama for immediately after the time they’ve look at our reports and set a new rate. We’ve experimented over the years we’ve been churning and saw a rate benefit when timing cc applications this way. We also apply for special bonus cards throughout the year, but keep the main apparama right after the insurance rates have been determined. This way we still do an apparama, but also can take advantage of special deals the rest of the year. You can have it both ways. Remember, there are other things being affected by inquiries and score.

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

If I already have a Southwest personal card and a business card, is it possible to get more? For another business for example?

Vic
Guest
Vic

App-in-Sequence?

Has the original structure, and also pronounceable.

Skor
Guest
Skor

I vote for system-app-ic!

trackback

[…] My revised approach to earning miles through credit card bonuses – A new strategy for getting credit cards that doesn’t involve “app-o-ramas”. […]

trackback

[…] this year, I suggested an alternative to App-O-Ramas for earning huge credit card signup bonuses.  The alternative process, eventually named […]

trackback

[…] this giant all-in-one-day app-o-rama approach in favor of a more incremental approach. See: My revised approach to earning miles through credit card bonuses and App-No-Rama in action: Over 700K and counting.  But, clearly we did well with the old approach […]

trackback

[…] is known that Amex will make only one credit inquiry for multiple applications made in one day, my App-No-Rama process suggests that I should apply for at least one more Amex card at the same time.  My best bet would […]