Category Archives: Citi

Tighter Rules for Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

I’ve been using the credit card tactic to earn points and miles for about 5 years now.  This tactic has earned me thousands of dollars in cash and tens of thousands of dollars worth of free travel.  I’ve had a good run!  The vast majority of the points and miles I have earned were not from regular spending, but from the credit card’s sign-up bonus.  But the rules for credit card sign-up bonuses are getting tighter all the time.

Each credit card has its own requirement in order to get the sign-up bonus.  The most common requirement is a certain amount of spending on the card in a given time period, typically the first 3 months of card membership.  The bonus on each card can change periodically and is advertised on whatever page you click through when you apply for the card.  However, just because you’re approved for the card and make the required spending doesn’t mean you’ll get the bonus!

Tighter rules on chase cards

An example of a card’s “splash page,” listing the bonus and other benefits of the card.  Chase’s rules only allow you to get the bonus on their Hyatt card every 24 months.  The 2 free night deal seen here has been replaced with a 40,000 point bonus, and the $50 statement credit comes and goes.

Most of the following rules only apply to someone who has already earned the bonus on a particular card once before.  Getting a repeat bonus on a particular card is called card churning.

Current rules for sign-up bonuses

Each issuing bank has their own set of rules for if and how often you can get a sign-up bonus.  These rules for credit card sign-up bonuses have changed a lot in the 5 years I have been in this game.  I can’t think of a single example of a rule loosening up!  Like most complex systems, things only tend to get more restricted and more narrowly defined.

Chase

Chase is a points and miles powerhouse, with co-branded cards with United Airlines, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, and International Hotel Group.  Chase also has their own transfer points, Ultimate Rewards, which are highly valuable due to their transferability.  Even getting approved for a Chase card has its own extremely limiting rule called the 5/24 rule.  If you can get approved for a Chase card, here are the rules on getting the sign-up bonus:

  • You cannot get the bonus if you already have that card (i.e. you can’t have two copies of the same card).
  • You won’t get the bonus if you have earned a sign-up bonus on the same card in the past 24 months.  Keep in mind this 24 month timer starts when you received the bonus, not when your account was approved.
  • Only one Sapphire product at a time.  This is more of a card approval rule, but I’ll include it anyway since the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve are both popular cards for their 50k Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonuses.  If you apply for any Chase card with the word “Sapphire” in the card title and you already have any Sapphire card, your application will be denied.

Citi

Citi is another golden goose of sign-up bonuses.  As of this summer they no longer have Hilton co-branded cards but they still have American Airlines cards with 40-60k mile bonuses.  Citi also has their own transfer points called the Citi Thank-You points.  While Citi used to have very lax rules regarding sign-up bonus illegibility, they now have some of the most restrictive:

  • Like Chase, Citi has a 24 month timer between bonuses on the same card.
  • A few months ago Citi added some new fine print to their applications that pretty much makes the above-mentioned timer a moot point.  The 24 month timer is now shared among all cards within the same point species.  (For example:  if you earned a bonus on the Citi Thank You Premier, you are not eligible for the bonus on the Citi Thank You Prestige for 24 months since they both earn Thank-You points.)  The same goes for their American Airlines earning cards.

But wait, there’s more. . .  The new language also changed the triggers that activate the timer.  The timer is no longer started by earning a sign-up bonus.  Instead, the 24 months start when you open, close, or downgrade an account.  This is asinine because it offers extra motivation to close an account right after earning the sign-up bonus.  The one saving grace is that business cards are given their own separate timer.

Citi Title

American Express

Amex has a horribly harsh, yet refreshingly simple rule for bonus eligibility:

  • One sign-up bonus per card, per person, per lifetime.

If you have ever earned the sign-up bonus on a particular card, you are permanently ineligible to receive a bonus on that card again.  For example, if you had the Amex Delta Gold card 8 years ago and cancelled it 7 years ago, you might be approved again for the card today, but you would not get the sign-up bonus.

If the sign-up bonus changes (like when the Amex Delta Gold goes up to 50k, as it does periodically) it is still the same card so you will still be ineligible.  It’s different if they release a different version of a card with a different name.  For example, if they stopped making the Delta Gold and instead created a new card called the “Delta 24 Carat Gold Card” then you could earn that card’s bonus even if you earned one for the old version.

Most points and miles earning cards periodically come with elevated bonuses. Since Amex sign-up bonuses are once-in-a-lifetime, wait for the best known offer on a given card before applying for it.

Most points and miles earning cards periodically come with elevated bonuses. Since Amex sign-up bonuses are once-in-a-lifetime, wait for the best known offer on a given card before applying for it.

Bank of America

BoA is famous for it’s Alaska Airlines card, which has been the go-to card for compulsive churners for years.  There are reports of people getting a new card every 2 months and earning the sign-up bonus each time.  Bank of America just released it’s new Premium Rewards card, which indicates they may be making a foray into the more competitive group of banks issuing premium travel cards.

  • Some Bank of America cards have no specific fine print related to repeat bonus earning.
  • The brand new BoA Premium Rewards card fine print says you can’t earn the sign-up bonus if you have earned it within the past 24 months.

There is evidence that BoA is starting to get wise about abusive card churning, and several recent reports indicate a general clamping down, like the 24 month timer on the new Premium Rewards card.  It’s still fair to say that Bank of America cards are more churnable than not, but let common sense be your guide on when to try for a repeat bonus on cards without specific language.

Barclay

Barclay has several good points and miles cards including the Arrival Plus and the American Airlines Aviator series.  Barclay has no publicly defined policy on bonus eligibility for many of their cards  However, Barclay seems to have more of a human touch when it comes to approving new accounts.  Unless you leave some evidence of regular and legitimate card use, it may be difficult to get approved for a new card, especially if you appear to be doing it just for the sign-up bonus.



Is the situation getting worse?

Yes.  It’s not the Wild West anymore.  Many value tacticians who have been around longer than I have remember the days when you could get 4 different versions of an American Airlines card from Citi every 6 months, racking up 300-400k miles a year just from bonuses!  And of course there are the ancient heroes like Pudding Guy, who found a pretty big loophole that earned him over 1.25 million miles by buying and donating $3k worth of pudding!

In my 5 years in this game I have seen a lot of new restrictions come into play.  The most drastic of which have been from Chase and Citi.  This makes sense since these banks have some of the most lucrative bonuses out there.  They need some way of limiting people like us who pay attention to the details and want to maximize these offers.  Limiting bonus earning is a key way they can do that.  The other method banks use to limit churning is with rules on card approvals.  I’ll address this closely-related issue in another post.

How you can still beat the game

Credit card bonuses are an incredibly valuable resource.  But like all resources, they become harder and harder to extract as time goes by.

Signal Hill CA active oil field 2011

Signal Hill CA active oil field 2011. CC Image courtesy of haymarketrebel on Flickr.

Tighter rules on getting sign-up bonuses are just one factor.  Getting approved for some cards is becoming more difficult all the time as well.  Points and miles, like currency, are in a constant state of inflation.  Mileage devaluations and new award charts decrease the value of the points you’ve already earned.  Loopholes are closing across the board at a pretty steady rate.

The solution to all this is to adapt and update your strategy.  Speaking for myself, every card application for me or my wife is very carefully considered.  I have a long term schedule of cards we would like to get, but it’s also flexible.  Elevated bonuses come and go, rules change, and the value of particular points and miles change.

  • If you’re already playing the credit card game, pay attention.  If you got away with willy-nilly card applications in the past, you can’t anymore.
  • If you’re still sitting on the sidelines, get in the game.  I sound like a broken record but I can’t stress this enough.  The crazy world of credit cards, points, and miles is getting more complicated all the time.  But the opportunity is still there and still awesome!  Get in while the gettin’ is good!

🙂  For those of you still on the fence about the credit card game, here’s some general motivation to get your blood pumping: 🙂

Here are some other resources with similar information (minus the awesome motivational video):





Some images in this post made available through a Creative Commons license. Click here for info.

Keep or Cancel: Some Examples

Keep or cancel?  It’s the perennial question that comes up every time your credit card’s annual fee is due.  Should I pay the fee and keep the card?  Should I cancel it?  Or should I fish for a retention offer and base my decision on that offer?  All these questions can really be boiled down to one:  Will keeping this card another year be more valuable than the annual fee?




The answer to that question can be determined with some simple math, although assigning a dollar value to some card benefits gets a little subjective.  For example, the impact of cancelling a card on your credit score is hard to quantify.  Likewise, banks have different rules on how often you can get a sign-up bonus.  Keeping a card too long could hinder your future points-earning potential.  You need to consider these and many other factors when you calculate the value in each scenario.

Discussing all the different ways a card can provide value is beyond the scope of this post.  Instead, I will use a few recent examples of keep/cancel decisions that Nicoleen and I made to highlight some of the thought processes involved.

Credit cards on the chopping block.

All credit cards eventually end up on the chopping block.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard

Recent action: CANCEL

The annual fee for Nicoleen’s Citi AAdvantage Platinum was charged on the May statement.  She’s had this card for 3 years and has never paid the annual fee.  The previous two times the fee was due she called and fished for a retention offer.  Both times she was successful in getting the fee waived or reimbursed.  We even got a few bonus miles out of the deal.

chaos pool

Citi phone reps are pretty easy to deal with, in general.  But I would still recommend finding a quiet place to make these phone calls!  This was not ideal, but it all worked out in the end.

This time she wasn’t fishing for a retention offer.  She just needed to cancel.  One main factor dominated this decision.  Before I explain that factor, here are the basics of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard:

  • This card earns American Airline miles; 1 point per dollar on regular purchases and 2 points per dollar on American Airlines purchases.
  • The standard sign-up bonus is 30k miles with a $3k spend in the first 3 months.  The fairly frequent increased sign-up bonus is 50k miles (and rarely 60k).
  • Annual fee is $95 but is waived the first year.  Historically it’s been a very easy card to get the annual fee waived just by calling.
  • The most noteworthy fringe benefit is free checked baggage on American Airlines flights.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard

Long before my time, this card was one of the most churnable miles cards out there.  There were several card versions and each had their own sign-up bonus.  Some people would open multiple cards in a year and have several accounts of the same card at once.  Citi was very lax with the rules on opening accounts and getting sign-up bonuses.  It was the Wild West!

By the time I got in the game, a more typical strategy for these cards was thus:  String along annual fee waivers in order to keep the account open for free.  Doing so helps your credit score by adding to both your average account length and your credit-to-debt ratio.  Some time after 24 months (Citi’s old minimum time limit between sign-up bonuses for a given card), close the account and open a new one for another 50k American Airlines miles.

But recent changes have made that strategy invalid. . .

The main factor

Late last year Citi dropped a bomb on credit card churners.  It wasn’t quite the MOAB that Chase dropped with their 5/24 rule, but it was disruptive enough to change my strategy on Citi cards.

The minimum time between sign-up bonuses is still 24 months, but it no longer applies to each specific card.  The 24 month timer is now shared among all cards of a given point type.  For example getting any Hilton sign-up bonus with Citi precludes you from getting the bonus on any other Citi Hilton card.

What’s worse is that the 24 month timer isn’t only reset by earning a sign-up bonus as it previously was.  It now also resets any time a card is cancelled or downgraded.  This is nonsensical to me because it incentivizes people to cancel their cards right after getting the sign-up bonus instead of continuing to use it for the following year(s).

The fact that it will be at least 2 years before Nicoleen can get any American Airlines co-branded card from Citi dominates all the other factors.  Any value she would get from keeping the card, even if Citi waived the annual fee, would pale in comparison to getting that timer going ASAP.  With Citi’s new bonus policy, cancelling this card was an easy decision.

NOTE: One silver lining of cancelling the Citi AAdvantage Platinum was that Nicoleen was able to transfer the credit to one of her no-fee Citi cards.  Therefore there will be no impact on her credit to debt ratio, which helps maintain a good credit score.





Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator Red

Recent action: CANCEL

Another American Airlines card and another history of having annual fees waived.  Like Nicoleen’s Citi card, I have successfully had the annual fee waived twice on my Barclaycard Aviator Red.  Usually my retention offers also came with some nice bonus miles for easy spending requirements.  Last year they waived my fee, gave me 5k miles, and bonus miles on my upcoming spending.

Barclay’s generosity with this card seems to be coming to an end, however.  According to reports on Flyertalk, retention offers are gradually drying up.  Nicoleen found this out first hand when she was offered nothing late last year.

A little about the Barclaycard Aviator Red:

  • The Aviator was originally the result of the American Airlines / U.S. Airways merger.  Barclay had a U.S. Airways card which was converted to the Aviator after the merger.
  • Until recently, the only Aviator Reds that existed were grandfathered U.S. Airways cards.  Now Barclay is taking new applications for the Aviator line of American Airlines cards.
  • Current offer is for 50k miles with no minimum spend, but the $95 annual fee is not waived the first year.
  • Notable fringe benefits are free checked bags on American, and 10% of redeemed miles refunded back every year.

Barclaycard Aviator Red

Other than the usual benefits of keeping a card open (credit score maintenance) the most compelling reason I had to keep this card was the frequent and generous bonus mile offers that came around.  –Read about some of these in this post.–  But without the annual fee waiver, the possibility of bonus offers definitely wouldn’t be enough incentive to keep this account open.

As expected, when I called I got no retention offers and decided to cancel.  I moved my credit to my Arrival card to minimize the impact on my credit score.  Now that the Aviator Red is available for new accounts, I may end up getting the card again sometime soon.  After all, I technically never got the bonus on this card, since my bonus was on the U.S. Airways card before the conversion.




More examples

Stay tuned for Keep or Cancel: Part II where I’ll show examples of cards we recently decided to keep.  I will explain what went into the decision and I’ll show just how much value we reaped from these cards to make them worth the annual fee.

An AAvalanche of Bonus Miles Offers

American Airlines miles (AAdvantage miles) are some of my favorite points and miles. American typically has very good award seat availability, including premium cabins. AAdvantage miles are also easy to come by, partly because of some good credit card sign-up bonuses, and partly because of the frequent bonus offers promoted by American’s co-branded cards. I’m currently drowning in a flood of these bonus offers from the 4 AAdvantage earning cards that Nicoleen and I have open. (I know I just mixed metaphors – avalanches and floods – but I couldn’t resist the “AAvalanche” pun for this post’s title!)

Whenever I get e-mails or mailers for these bonus offers, I always weigh the benefits with the effort.  Not all bonus offers are worth pursuing.

Barclay Aviator’s 3×500/15k Bonus Offer

I’ve noticed that the Barclay Aviator card tends to have the best offers on a consistent basis.  The best type is their 3×500/10k, 3×750/15k, and 3×500/15k bonuses.  These are all variations of the same offer, whereby you spend at least $500 or $750 in three specific consecutive months and get either 10k or 15k American Airlines miles as the bonus.  The best is obviously the 3×500/15k bonus because for $1500 in spending you end up with 16,500 miles.  That’s close to the return you get on some sign-up bonuses!
3x500-15k
Despite needing to spend $8,500 to meet the minimum spends on my current card sign-up bonuses, I’ve decided to fit this bonus offer in.  It’s that lucrative.

Barclay Aviator’s Category Bonus

The second Aviator deal I got a mailer for was a category bonus.  After activating the promotion, I will earn 3x miles on gas, restaurant, and home improvement store purchases.  This is pretty good, as far as category bonuses go; gas and restaurants are very common purchases.  Nicoleen got the same offer for her Aviator card.  And the best part is that purchases in these bonus categories also count toward the 3×500/15k offer I just mentioned.
3x AA
…but wait, there’s more!

Barclay Aviator’s 1k/5k [retention] Bonus Offer

Now, for the triple dip…
In late May, in the middle of my 3×500/15k spending, I realized it was time to either cancel my card or have the annual fee waived/reimbursed.  When I called Barclay to try for a retention offer I was pleasantly surprised to be offered not only an annual fee waiver, but also an additional miles bonus offer!  The rep said if I spend $1k in the next 90 days I will get an additional 5,000 miles.  This will be easy since I’ll be automatically meeting that spend by taking advantage of the other offer.  That makes 21.5k miles for $1500 in spending (PLUS whatever extra I get from the 3x categories)!

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Category Bonus

Nicoleen and I both have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, our other American Airlines miles earning cards.  We both got a mailer with a category bonus through June.  Any spending at home improvement stores, home furnishing stores, computer & electronics stores, and department stores, will earn us 3 miles per dollar spent.  With the spending requirement on the aforementioned Barclay offers, plus all the spending we have to do for my last round of card apps’ bonuses, we probably won’t be taking aadvantage of this offer.

One thing to note however, is that my last retention offer on this card last June is still in effect.  Any month I spend $1,000 or more on this card, I get a 1k mile bonus.  If I were in a different position and was going to actually put some spending on this card, the two offers would stack.  This means my month could look like this:

$400 normal spending = 400 miles
$600 spending in bonus categories = 1,800 miles
>$1000/month = 1,000 mile bonus
Total for month: 3,200 miles

When it rains, it pours.

aavalanche
It’s inconvenient to get bonus offers when you’re in the middle of making some sign-up bonus spending requirements.  But if the offer is good enough (the Barclay 3×500/15k deal) it might be worth the hassle to work it in to your strategy.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll be looking for ways in the near future to start burning my wellspring of American Airlines miles. 

Possibilities, possibilities! 🙂

A New Way to Cancel Credit Cards

…new to me, at least.  I recently cancelled my CitiBusiness AAdvantage card online, via secure message.  The annual fee was coming due and I didn’t think it was worth it for me to keep the card and pay the fee.  I have always wanted to try this method and it worked like a charm.

Cancelling cards by phone is usually pretty simple, but sometimes the rep will try to harangue you into keeping the card by reminding you of the card’s benefits, offering you some bonus points, or waiving your annual fee.  In some cases, this is what you want.  Having a few cards with long account histories helps your credit score, but many cards come with an annual fee after the first year and keeping them around may not be worth the fee.  Often, calling to cancel will trigger a retention offer.  Flyertalk keeps an updated record of reports by bank on what kind of offers people are getting:

(Be sure to click “click here to display Full Wiki” for the list of recent offers people have received)
American Express
Barclay
Chase
Citi

But if you simply want to cancel the card and aren’t interested in retention offers, the phone call to the rep can be annoying.  They understandably want to keep you as a customer, but if you can avoid a pitchy phone call where you have to say “no” 50 times to get your point across, why not jump at that opportunity!

For some guidance, I found this MommyPoints post which gives some simple instructions.

I sent a brief message to Citi when logged into my account.  It said that my business expenses ended up being less than anticipated, and the amount of spending I would be able to put on the card would not warrant keeping the card, and I would like to close the account effective immediately.  I’m sure not even that much explanation is necessary.  “Please close this account effective immediately,” is probably good enough.

A few days later I logged on the account and it showed it as closed:
onlinecancel
Keep in mind this was a Citi account and so was the example in  the MommyPoints blog post, but every issuing bank has a similar secure messaging system on their websites.

Have you closed a card via online message?  Which bank was it with?  I’d love to hear of any similar experiences, successful or unsuccessful.

Bonus Redemption Plans for our New Cards

In the previous post I explained our recent round of credit card apps and why we chose those particular cards.  The main purpose of our choice was to end up with 4 free nights at any Hyatt property and 2 free weekend nights at any Hilton property.

The Possibilities

Finding Hilton and Hyatt luxury resorts nearby one another is pretty easy.  But with 6 free nights between the two, I want to get a good bang for the buck (or absence of bucks, as it were).  Two of the locations that show up in every list of where to use these certificates are Hawaii and the Maldives.  Both Hyatt and Hilton have amazing properties on both island chains.  The Maldives is home to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, both of which are ridiculously awesome.

Park Hyatt Hadahaa in The Maldives

Park Hyatt Hadahaa in The Maldives

A land room with pool at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa

A land room with pool at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa

Ithaa underwater restaurant at Hilton's Conrad Maldives - Rangali Island

Ithaa underwater restaurant at Hilton’s Conrad Maldives – Rangali Island

Deluxe water villa with private deck and whirlpool at the Conrad Maldives - Rangali Island

Deluxe water villa with private deck and pool at the Conrad Maldives – Rangali Island

However, although stays at ridiculously awesome resorts can be free, they come with another kind of price: travel time.  The Maldives is almost as far from Minnesota as you can get on this planet.  The average travel time to Male is 32 hours, plus the required seaplane flight to the resorts themselves.  The jet lag from that kind of flight time would severely reduce the enjoyment of the trip, so a night or two at a stop-over city like Hong Kong would be necessary.  With five kids, a dog, and two full time jobs it’s hard to get away for any amount of time, so this trip will probably have to stay on the ValueTactics bucket list for a while.

The Plan

So we’re not willing to make the Maldives work just yet.  What does that leave us with?  A whole lot.  Remember, these free night certificates are good for any Hilton and Hyatt properties so we have a few thousand to choose from.  Well, not really thousands since we’re not going to waste the certificates on the local Hampton Inn!

There’s another redemption opportunity including two resorts, one Hyatt and one Hilton, which are close to each other and which are both highly regarded properties in their respective luxury brands.  I’m talking about Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea and Hyatt’s Andaz at Wailea.  The rate for a standard room during peak season at the Grand Wailea runs $654/night + a $30 per day resort fee.  The Andaz runs $589/night + a $40 per day resort fee during peak season.  Resort fees are included when redeeming free night certificates so if we booked our 6 night vacation for late March we’d be getting a $3884 value for FREE!  (Or, for $95 if you want to count the Hilton Reserve’s $95 up-front annual fee.)

The Grotto Bar at the Grand Wailea

The Grotto Bar at the Grand Wailea

The three cascading infinity pools at the Hyatt Andaz on Maui

The three cascading infinity pools at the Hyatt Andaz on Maui

It’s hard to fathom that resorts like these are within our reach simply for signing up for a couple credit cards.  But that’s the beauty of being informed, and acting tactically!  You too can benefit from these and other credit card sign-up bonuses by staying informed: like ValueTactics on facebook and follow us on twitter. We’ll see you in Hawaii next year! 🙂

Our Fall 2015 Credit Card Applications

In the past few months we’ve added more new babies to our household than credit cards.  While babies are cute and cuddly, they tend to increase household costs.  Credit cards, on the other hand, are hard and plastic, but they can be worth hundreds of dollars in value.  A few days ago we got 4 new arrivals at the house and none of them was cuddly…but they were all valuable.  Here’s a breakdown of our latest round of card apps:

Nicoleen:
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

  • $95 annual fee due up-front
  • Two free weekend night certificates for any Hilton property worldwide after spending $2.5k in the first 4 months
  • 10x points earned on Hilton properties purchases, 5x on travel, 3x on all other purchases
  • HHonors gold status when card account is active

Ross:
Citi Thank-You Premier

  • $95 annual fee waived the first year
  • 50,000 Thank-You points after spending $3k in the first 3 months (worth a minimum of $500)
  • 3x points earned on travel and gas, 2x on dining and entertainment, 1x on all other purchases

And we each got:
Chase Hyatt Visa

  • $75 annual fee waived the first year
  • Two free night certificates for any Hyatt property worldwide after spending $1k in the first 3 months
  • 5,000 Gold Passport points for adding an authorized user
  • 3x points earned on Hyatt properties purchases, 2x on dining, airfare and car rental, 1x on all other purchases
  • Anniversary free night certificate good at any Hyatt property, category 1-4.

The Rationale:

The Chase Hyatt card was the driving force behind our choice of cards for this round of apps.  The Hyatt card has been on my radar for a while because of the incredible value potential in the two free night certificates per card.  A pair of these cards could potentially be worth almost $4,000 in lodging.  Two nights at a fancy hotel hardly constitutes vacation though, so the obvious tactic to maximize this card is for both of us each get our own card; then we’d have 4 free nights.

We have always planned on both getting the Chase Hyatt card at the same time, but it’s still a stretch to call 4 free nights a vacation.  The other major card offering free nights is the Citi Hilton Reserve, with its two free weekend night initial spend bonus.  If we could find a vacation-worthy Hyatt property in close proximity to a vacation-worthy Hilton property, we could get a 6 night vacation split between two luxury properties, for the $95 annual fee paid one credit card!  I earned the bonus on the Citi Hilton Reserve last year so I was ineligible for the bonus again.  (Furthermore, the most I would have been able to add to the proposed vacation would be one free Hilton night, since the certificates are only good for Fri/Sat/Sun nights.)

I always try to apply for only one card per issuing bank per app-o-rama.  We both had the Chase slot filled with the Hyatt card.  Nicoleen filled the Citi slot with the Hilton Reserve.  But I still needed a second application, and Citi had some good card options.  I settled on the Thank-You Premier with it’s 50,000 point bonus.

It seems like a pretty good plan.  We have a specific redemption idea in mind for the hotel free nights, all three hotel cards compliment each other, and the Citi Thank-You will add some points to the general pool for when it comes time to find airfare.  So this was a hybrid of both basic strategies I wrote about in this post.

Application set-up and results

Chase has been getting stingy and seemingly capricious about approving credit card applications lately.  This is concretely seen in their Ultimate Rewards earning cards, which they will now outright deny to anyone who has had 5+ new accounts with any issuer in the past 24 months.  But there have also been an increasing number of denial reports with co-branded Chase cards.  i didn’t want to take any chances because the Hyatt free night certificates are only good for a year, so it was crucial that Nicoleen and I have as much time overlap in certificates as possible.

To prepare for the Chase application I requested credit line decreases in two of my Chase cards: my Sapphire Preferred from $11.1k to $5k; and my IHG card from $9k to $4k.  I made both requests via Secure Message a few days apart, and both credit lines were lowered within a day of the request.  I had closed my United Mileage Plus Explorer account with a $9k credit limit back in April, so I figured between the 3 credit line decreases I would have plenty of overhead left with Chase.  The thought was to remove “maxed out credit limit” as a possible reason for denial.  It worked!
hyatt approved 3

Nicoleen had also recently cancelled her United card and she has fewer Chase accounts than I, so we didn’t do anything in particular before her application.  Our luck continued as she was instantly approved too!

In my experience applying for Citi cards is much more of a push-over.  The only time I was not instantly approved for a Citi card was when I got “pending” with a business card.  The call to the reconsideration line for that card was quick and painless.

So with nothing more than fingers crossed we applied for our respective Citi cards and experienced the always welcome instant approval notices!
citi hilton reserve approved
citi thank you premier approved

Within a week we had all 4 cards in our possession:
november card round

Minimum Spend and Redemption Plans

With a specific goal to use 3 cards’ worth of hotel certificates on a single trip, some tactics need to be employed to maximize the probability of everything lining up correctly.  Number one is to get all the hotel certificates ASAP.  This means getting the spends on the Hyatt cards and Hilton card taken care of.

The Chase Hyatt cards’ spends are easy, with only $1000 per card to get the certificates issued.  AND they are issued as soon as the minimum spend has been met; not after the statement closes like with the Hilton certificates.  Furthermore, getting these done before the Hilton is tactically important because with 4 contiguous free nights we could still cobble together a vacation.  But if we got the Hilton certificates and booked a room, only to have the nearby Hyatt property become booked while we were still working on the Hyatt card spends, we would have to regroup and make different plans.  So . . . Hyatt cards first.

Since there are many airlines that fly to our destination (Maui) but only one Hilton property we have in mind, Nicoleen’s Hilton Reserve gets the next highest priority for our card usage.  While the 50,000 bonus Thank-You points would be a nice help to our plans, they aren’t as critical as the Hilton free night certificates, so the Citi Thank-You Premier will be the last bonus spend we complete.

In my next post it’s on to the fun part: sign-up bonus bonus redemption plans!

My Last Round of Credit Card Applications – Overview

The last weekly update mentioned I was going to do a mini app-o-rama. I applied online for 2 cards that night: the CitiBusiness Platinum Select American Airlines AAdvantage World MasterCard (what a mouthful!), and the Chase IHG Rewards Club card. I’ll post full reviews of each card later, but for now I’ll just mention each card’s bonus offer.

  • CitiBusiness American Airlines AAdvantage card: 50k miles after $3k in 3 months spend
  • Chase IHG card: 70k IHG points after $1k in 3 months spend

Here’s how my online applications fared:
Citi biz AAdvantage pending_sm
IHG pending_sm
Boooo… No one likes to get the “Application Pending” message. It’s so anticlimactic compared to the “Congratulations! You’re awesome enough to get our great rewards card! Great job, sport!” message you get when you’re instantly approved. Alas, I got two ‘pendings’ so I called both reconsideration lines the next day.

I got through to a live person with Chase after 1 ring. After I asked about the application he quickly put me on hold so he could find someone to review my app. When he came back after 3 minutes and told me to hold again I asked him if my total credit limit with Chase was the reason my application was pending. He said it was over the limit he’s authorized to approve, but he had recommended a credit increase (meaning I would get the new card) based on my credit report. Before he could get me on hold again I asked him if he could just transfer some credit limit for the new card from one of my existing Chase cards. He quickly told me that it would work, he asked which card I wanted the credit limit transferred from and how much, and put me on hold to finalize it.

When he came back after another 3-4 minutes the application was approved, pending identity confirmation. He added Rachel to the call (same person I talked to last time I needed to verify my ID) and after a few questions she verified that it was really me. Everything went quickly, smoothly, and most importantly, the way I wanted it. I’ll chalk this call up to another example of Chase’s excellent customer service.

The next call was to Citi’s application status hotline. After hearing that my app was still in process, I followed the prompts to speak to customer service. This may have been a mistake since I already had a direct phone number to the CitiBusiness recon line. I think all I got for my laziness was an extra 20 minutes on hold. When I finally got a real person on the line, it went very smoothly. He checked on my application and verified my income and identity. After 2-3 minutes on hold he informed me I was approved and would get the card in the mail within 5-7 business days. It arrived a week later (today). Overall the Citi customer service was good, but the hold time was annoying.

Why only 2 card applications, bro?
Good question. A friend of mine questioned my choice and number of cards for this latest round, and I don’t blame him. Conventional wisdom says “App 3 cards; make each app-o-rama count, son!” While I usually agree with that wisdom, there are several reasons for my decision to only get 2 cards this time around.

  1. We may be applying for a mortgage or mortgage pre-approval within the next few months.  While my high 700s credit score probably won’t suffer enough to make a difference on a loan application, I don’t want to push it.  My logic may be a bit off, but it makes me feel better to tone it down a bit for the time being.
  2. There are no *spectacular* offers out there at the moment.  All the standard “good” offers that are available right now are already in my wallet or in my safe.  And the really good cards I still have yet to get (Chase Hyatt, Southwest Rapid Rewards to name a few) don’t fit into my timing strategy at this point.

Overall, this nice little app round gets me 50k AAdvantage miles (currently my favorite airline miles) and [at least] 70k IHG points, which fills a weak point in my overall points and miles portfolio.  Stay tuned for more details on the offers, as well as full reviews on my new cards!

In the meantime, here are the links to the flyertalk wikis for the cards in this post.  The wikis contain links to the card offers; and the most recent forum posts contain data and reports on people’s recent applications and bonus offers.
Flyertalk IHG Card wiki
Citi American Airlines cards/offers