Credit Card Churning 201

Reader Steven wrote me this email yesterday:

“I’m at the point where I’ve almost made it through your entire best cards list…I’m quickly reaching the point where I’m cancelling them in chunks and running out of new cards…Should I just keep plowing through the list or did you reach a point where you were running out of apps?”

I’ve gotten many messages like that over the last few years. I’ve answered similar questions many times before, but I think it would be good to have this post to reference. Assuming you feel comfortable with the basics of credit cards, it’s time for…

(Drumroll please)

Credit Card Churning 201

Ok, you’ve been applying for credit cards, doing pretty well, and earning a bunch of miles and points. That’s great! But are you staying financially responsible – Not carrying a balance? Not missing payments? Not spending extra money just because you have credit?

If you’ve gotten in trouble, this game probably isn’t for you right now. Period. Stop reading. Miles and points aren’t worth making a mess of your finances.

But if you feel like you’re just getting started…if you’re handling things well and want to do more…that means you have a different situation on your hands. I guess you could call it an opportunity.

For me personally, as I’ve gotten deeper into this game, I’ve started to get comfortable with some unusual things. The amount of credit I have…the number of cards I apply for…the crazy amount of time I spend on my fake spending. If you would have told me any of this 10 years ago, it would have seemed scary. And possibly like a huge waste of time. But the rewards have been great. So hitting things hard has become second nature for me. Here are the main ways I’ve stepped it up with credit cards…

  • Like many of you, I’m not locked into the 91-day application cycle anymore. For a long time, I applied for 1 card from each issuer every 91 days. That is no longer the case for me. I don’t follow as strict a schedule.
  • I’ve churned identical credit cards (many times).
  • I don’t take no for an answer as easily.

You just can’t get too far (over a long period of time) in the credit card game without churning a card. So, what exactly is churning?

Churning (verb) – Earning the signup bonus of a specific credit card multiple times.

Translation: Getting the same card (and bonus) more than once.

As always, read the small print. But here’s some  general information when you want to churn a card:

  • American Express – Except when the terms on a specific offer say otherwise, Amex has put us on lockdown recently. It sucks. The bonus on many of their cards is once per lifetime now. Targeted offers can be an exception.
  • Bank of America – Churn city. People have been getting Alaska and Virgin credit cards over and over every few months. I’ve had many of each. Some people have even gotten more than one by applying at the same time on the same day.
  • Barclays – Doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason with these guys. Their cards are highly churnable for some people and hard to get for others.
  • Chase – If you wait 24 months after getting the bonus on a card, you can get it again. Chase is still our friend.
  • Citibank – For a bunch of their cards, you need to have it closed for 24 months to get the bonus again. Not terrible, but it used to be much better. People did VERY well churning Citibank cards for a long time.

As far as “not taking no for an answer” as easily, I’m referring to reconsideration calls. The longer you do this…and the more cards you apply for…sometimes you’re going to get denied. I’ve lost track of how many times making a phone call has turned that decision around. Whether moving a credit line around, closing a card to open another, or just asking nicely…these phone calls often do the trick. Here’s a reference guide to some reconsideration phone numbers:

  • American Express – 877.399.3083
  • Bank of America – 888-593-6092,  866-865-7839, 866-865-7843 (Spanish line that usually works best, believe it or not), 800-481-8277 (Business cards)
  • Barclays – 866-408-4064
  • Chase – 888-245-0625 (Personal), 800-453-9719 (Business)
  • Citibank – 800-695-5171, 800-763-9795

I know this is nothing new for many of you. But for some newbies looking to step things up, hopefully it helps. Stay tuned for Churning 301 in a few months!


milenerdCredit Card Churning 201