Sunday, July 1, 2012

It's Credit Card Time Again!

For the longest time, I had just one credit card - the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex. I love this card, mostly because I love Starwood, and I couldn't imagine wanting to earn anything but SPG points for every dollar I was spending on a daily basis.

A little over a year ago, I was debating the merits of the Starwood card vs. other cards out on the market with a friend of mine. He was thinking about signing up for the Continental OnePass Plus card, which was offering 50,000 OnePass miles after first purchase. I decided that I needed to have a non-Amex card, for those places that don't accept it, and the sign-up bonus sounded great (50,000 miles for a single purchase!). As I started to research different options, I came across The Frugal Travel Guy blog, and a number of other blogs written by seasoned frequent-flying miles-mavens (see the list I keep down the right side of the page). I'd been eager and enthusiastic about "points" for some time, but I'd stumbled onto the mother load. The tips, tricks, and hacks I found on these blogs and on FlyerTalk were beyond my wildest imagination. I was (even more) hooked!

While many tricks have gone the way of the dodo, credit card sign-up bonuses have exploded, and are often the primary way many points pros pad their balances. I ended up getting that OnePass card and the 50,000 miles that came with it - and then 50,000 more Marriott points soon thereafter. And then the floodgates opened...

In the past ~15 months, our joint frequent flyer balances have ballooned by over 1,000,000 assorted points and miles due to credit card sign-up bonuses alone. Here's the running tally:

  • 225,000 AA
  • 200,000 United/Continental
  • 120,000 Marriott
  • 100,000 Citi Thank You
  • 100,000 British Airways
  • 85,000 Amex Membership Rewards
  • 80,000 USAir
  • 60,000 Hilton
  • 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 45,000 Delta
  • 30,000 Starwood

Now - I realize that applying for so many credit cards probably makes most people anxious, but the reality is that each application has a negligible impact on your credit score. We monitor our credit very closely, and have seen minimal impact, despite a pretty hefty number of applications. Rick ("The Frugal Travel Guy")'s primer on credit cards and sign-up bonuses is what gave me the confidence to dip my toe in the water, and I haven't looked back since.

The sites I like to use to monitor my credit (all free) are CreditKarma.com, CreditSesame.com, and of course AnnualCreditReport.com.

Which brings us to today.

I look to apply for a few new credit cards every few months or so (minimum of 90 days between applications, unless something big is out there). My last applications were in mid-March, so I was actually a little overdue.

My targets this time around were:
  • Chase British Airways Visa
    • The public offer is for 50,000 Avios after first purchase, 25,000 more after spending $10,000, and another 25,000 for spending another $10,000 = 100,000 total Avios
    • However, as noted in this thread on Flyertalk, there's a much better offer available that requires a little finagling with the BA website. It also yields 50,000 miles after first purchase, but the 2nd 50,000 comes after your first purchase after your 1st anniversary of card membership (though the annual fee isn't waived). No $20,000 in total spend required to get your 100,000 Avios. This is the offer I went with.
    • Million Mile Secrets has a great series on getting value out of British Airways Avios, and I think they're a really useful compliment to other programs - providing maximum value on some routes where other miles offer a poor value.
  • Bank of American Hawaiian Air Visa & Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Air Visa
    • These are basically the same card, just issued by different banks (though the Bank of Hawaii is affiliated with Bank of America, so it's really all BofA at the end of the day)
    • The offer is 20,000 miles after first purchase, and then another 15,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 4 months of card membership = 35,000 miles (per card)
    • What really makes these cards interesting is that Hawaiian Air miles can be transferred to Hilton in a 1:2 ratio. So what we're looking here is actually 35,000 miles (per card) x 2 cards = 70,000 Hawaiian Air miles = 140,000 Hilton points
    • The annual fee isn't waived, so that means $79 x 2 = $158 for the two cards, but since I have a Hilton Amex, 140,000 Hilton points is only 5,000 short of a 4-night stay at a Category-7 hotel like the Hilton Bora Bora Nui or the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island!
Hilton Bora Bora Nui
Conrad Maldives Rangali Isaland

I submitted the applications earlier today, and was instantly approved for the BA card. Unfortunately, the two Hawaiian Air cards are pending, so it may be a bit premature to start planning a trip to the south pacific or Indian Ocean :)

1 comment:

  1. I know people on-line who have stayed at the Bora Bora site. It is HIGHLY recommended.

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