The Siren Call Of Churning

Every few months, I jump in waist-deep into the world of credit card bonuses. It’s a hobby of mine and a decently lucrative one at that.

From about a year before I bought our condo about a year after when we refinanced, I signed up for no credit cards at all. I absconded from the delicious travel rewards and fancy free hotel rooms in favor for a 3.25% rate 30-year fixed.

But since? Oh, since, I’ve been like a mad woman. According to my master spreadsheet I’ve applied to 26 credit cards in the past year. Of those applications, I’ve been declined for 11. I estimate the value I’ve gotten or will get from the sign up bonuses for these cards to be around $5,750, mostly in the form of free flights, cash back, and gift cards.

Yet, despite all this activity, my credit score is still 780+.

I am not an extreme churner, relatively speaking. I don’t get into manufactured spending. I don’t get my fiancé to sign up for bonuses with me. I don’t hawk referral codes on my blog for $25 bonuses.

But I do apply for a lot of cards. Enough that it is starting to get difficult to find cards to continue getting sign up bonuses for. I’m way above the 5/24 rule at Chase and pretty sure I’m perma-denied at Capital One. Plus after the Experian breach I froze all my credit reports, which makes the paperwork of it all a pretty big hassle (with a $5 thawing fee to boot).

And so, in my most recent bout of sign-ups, I only signed up for credit cards which met the following constraints:

  1. Have not had before (guaranteed to qualify for bonus if accepted)
  2. Only pulls Experian credit report (which I temporarily thawed)
  3. At least 20% bonus on minimum spend
  4. High spend preferred

Here’s what I came up with:

churning

Note that the minimum spend for this round is $12k. You’ll know from my monthly roundups that I don’t spend anywhere near $4k/month on my card. But I have a big $10k spend coming up in December, which I’ll detail further in a later post. And so, adding churning on top allows me to best capitalize on my already-planned spending.

I’m saving up most of the hotel and airfare points to be used on my travel to my brother’s graduation, typical family visiting, and a pre-wedding honeymoon with fiancé to Northern Europe in 2018. With just a few hours work I’ll be able to knock off ~$5k I’d otherwise have to spend next year.

Do you churn credit cards? Any fun travel coming up?

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4 thoughts on “The Siren Call Of Churning

  1. I’m with you. I apply for cards and my credit score is still 780+. And I’ve convinced myself that part of the reason is because I don’t have a variety of credit (like mortgages or loans). I’m really curious what your points portfolio if you’ve applied for so many cards in the past year! I apply for maybe 3-4 per year, so I’m not a churner or anything. But still it’s enough points for me to get from point A to B without any major issue. We’re going to NZ in a few weeks and next year I’m trying to plan to go to Peru. Peru costs $1k, even though it’s not that far, so I think that will be a pretty decent redemption.

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    1. I have a mortgage and haven’t seen it make much of a difference on my credit score. From the free credit monitoring sites I’ve seen, the biggest boons have been low % of credit use, number of accounts, and length of history. I have a pretty long average credit history in spite of churning since Amex backdates all cards to my first CC opened with them.

      I usually avoid airline cards since I find miles such a PITA to redeem. I mostly target cash back and generic travel credit bonuses. So there’s definitely room for me to up my game there.

      Hope you have a great time traveling to NZ and Peru!

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  2. Counterpoint to Luxe’s theory: I have 2 mortgages, 3-4 regular use cards, and churn several cards a year. My credit score is still 800+. My theory is that usage ratio remains a much higher impact item.

    I remain a slow churner, though. More cards than 6 or 7 and I’d have to manufacture spending and I don’t want to because that takes more brain power than I have currently available.

    We don’t have specific plans yet but we have been stacking up miles and points in advance of a future big vacation. It’ll be fun figuring that out, or so I hope.

    Will you be stretching your points for value or enjoying a bit of luxury with the redemptions when you travel?

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    1. Yeah, the only reason I’m able to churn through so many is because I put charitable donations on my cards and I do a “secular tithe.” Manufactured spending is where I draw the line.

      I plan to mostly use as many of my saved up points for my usual transcontinental flights to visit family + our honeymoon next year as I can. I don’t value upgrades that much, but if we have any leftover points after tickets / hotel reservations, I’d consider it.

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