Help Me Travel Cheap focuses on accumulating miles through credit card sign up bonuses.
When building up your mileage accounts through credit card sign ups, it’s important to know when to pull the trigger and when to pass on a credit card application. In this post, I’ll introduce you to some of the questions I ask myself and also to my personal strategy for knowing when to apply for more plastic.
While people have different approaches and philosophies, my current approach is to wait and only sign up for cards when they’re having a mega sign up bonus. Otherwise, the danger is that you’ll apply for several cards and then a big bonus comes around that you’ll be forced to pass over or get denied because of too many recent credit card applications. Under more ‘normal’ credit card environments, it may make sense to have a churn schedule (i.e. applying for a block of cards every 90 – 180 days).
Questions to Ask When Considering a New Credit Card Application
1. Is the offer a limited time offer? Of course, it makes sense to give priority to offers that have an end date attached to the promotion. While the credit company might extend the promotion or bring it back in the future, you might also miss a perfect opportunity to supercharge your accounts.
2. Is there a higher than normal bonus offer? Since the credit industry is really competitive right now, companies have been rolling out amazing bonus after amazing bonus. In the last year or so, there’s been the British Airways 100,000 miles bonus, Capital One 100,000, and the American Airlines 75,000 (personal and business) offer. There are still some really lucrative sign up bonuses like the ongoing American Airlines 75,000 mile offer, 50,000 Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and the Southwest 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Last week (and I can’t remember the source), I saw that the Delta American Express is one of the most applied for travel credit cards. However, it doesn’t have nearly the sign up value as any of the ones mentioned above.
3. Are you in need of the miles to complete an upcoming reservation? Of course, one reason to go ahead and get plastic without a big bonus is because the miles will complete what you need to earn to book an upcoming trip with rewards.
4. Have you recently applied for a card with the same issuer? When following the offers, it’s important to make note of the issuing bank. For example, is it from Chase, American Express, CitiCards, Bank of America, and such? If Chase just had a promotion and you signed up for a Chase card then it would be advisable to try and put 30-45 days between each application (if possible). In the case of the Chase British Airways promotion, I had recently signed up for the Continental OnePass card and the Southwest card. In order to put as much distance as possible between applications, I waited until the last day of the promotion to apply. Be sure you’re aware of who issues the credit card.
Thus, my strategy right now is quite simple – wait and see whoever will offer me the biggest incentive for getting a card, and then take my business to the highest bidder. Again, there may come a time when a more cyclical churning approach with will work better. But for now, that’s my strategy and I’m sticking to it.