Credit Cards

Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this blog receives compensation. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear on the page, including, for example, the order in which they appear. We’ve highlighted those by noting “sponsored link” next to the title to provide transparency. The list below does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace, but we welcome suggestions – this is an ongoing search for the best.

Author Bio:This page is curated by Brandon Cronan. When Brandon is not working as a project engineer he uses the principals of badassity combined with credit card bonuses and other travel hacks to enjoy extended mini-retirements in exotic locations around the world. On his most recent ten-month hiatus he used frequent flyer miles to visit Central America, South America and Indonesia, flying over 35,000 actual miles, paying only the fuel surcharge and miscellaneous taxes. He writes about minimalism, optimism, frugality, travel and freedom over at lifereengineeredblog.com.

 

 

Rewards Credit Cards for Travel

spg-191x120Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express (Sponsored Link): A travel hacker favorite. Earn 10,000 points after your first spend and 15,000 additional points after spending $5k in 6 months. The minimum spend is a bit steep, but it’s spread over 6 months. AMEX SPG points transfer at a rate of 1:1 to most airlines, except United where they transfer at a rate of 2:1 and Air New Zealand where they transfer at a rate of 65:1 (Why even bother?) The magic of this card is realized when you transfer 20,000 points to participating airlines, as they gift you a bonus 5,000 miles for each 20,000 transferred. Miles can also be used to book stays at Starwood properties worldwide, if staying in fancypants resorts is your thing. I’ve seen the bonus as high as 30,000 points (it’s currently at 25,000 points) so this may be one to wait on as these things are cyclical. Terms and restrictions apply.

Synergies:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from AMEX
  • US Airways Premier World Mastercard
  • Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World Mastercard
  • Citi Business AAdvantage World Mastercard

US AirwaysUS Airways Premier World MasterCard (sponsored link): Sign-up bonus of 40,000 US Airways Dividend Miles with no minimum spend. You’ll have to pay the $89 yearly fee, however, according to the US Airways Award chart you can get a round trip-ticket from anywhere in North America to South America for 60,000 points if your travel dates are flexible (Chataqua in Ecuador, anyone?). Combine this deal with the AMEX SPG, which transfers to US Airways 1:1 and you’ll have enough miles to make it. That flight normally costs approximately $1,000 so you could potentially use your points at a rate of 1.7 pennies per point. That means those 40,000 points are potentially worth $680. Think that’s worth the $89 yearly fee? Also, considering the upcoming merger between US Airways and American Airlines, those US Airways points will soon be pooled with your American Airlines AAdvantage points. You should be able to re-apply for this card every three months, until the merger. I have two of these in my quiver.

Synergies:

  • AMEX SPG
  • Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World Mastercard
  • Citi Business AAdvantage World Mastercard

Barclay ArrivalBarclay Arrival World Elite MasterCard (sponsored link): This is a great all purpose card. Get $400 in cash back after spending $3k in 3 months. Annual fee of $89 is waived for the first year. No foreign transaction fee. The cash back comes in the form of statement credits for travel expenses. That means that if you charge Air, Bus, Taxi or Hotel expenses to this card you can submit a request for those expenses to be credited back to your account. Each dollar you spend is worth 2 points, and upon redemption you are awarded 10% of your points back which essentially means you get 2.2% cash back on all purchases. For that reason, this card has become my go to card for everyday purchases.


Capital One VentureCapital One Venture
: Almost identical to the Barclay Arrival Plus. Get $400 in cash back after spending $3k in 3 months. Annual fee of $59  is waived for the first year. No foreign transaction fee. The cash back comes in the form of statement credits for travel expenses. That means that if you charge Air, Bus, Taxi or Hotel expenses to this card you can submit a request for those expenses to be credited back to your account. Each dollar you spend is worth 2 points, which essentially means you get 2% cash back on all purchases.


More Cards

 

ChaseSP-NewChase Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3k in 3 months. No Foreign Transaction fees. Get an additional 5000 points for adding an authorized account user within the first 3 months after they make a purchase. Yearly fee is waived the first year. Points transfer at a rate of 1:1 to Southwest and United Mileage Plus, among others. United is part of the Star Alliance which means you can book award travel through United on their sister airlines, which include Air Canada, Copa, Lufthansa, Singapore Air and many more.

Synergies:

  • Chase Ink Bold Business Card
  • Chase Ink Plus Business Card
  • United Mileage Plus Explorer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward Premier

InkPlus-191x120 Chase Ink Plus Business Card:  For a limited time – this one offer a 70,000-point bonus after spending $5k in 3 months (this is a killer bonus). $95 annual fee is NOT waived. No foreign transaction fees. These Ultimate Rewards points are the same points earned on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which can be transferred to Southwest and United Mileage Plus, among others. Don’t have a business? Are you thinking of starting of one? Do you have a blog or any hobbies that you hope to one day make money off of? These credit companies want to give you credit cards so their standards of what a business is are pretty lax. If you don’t have a business ID, simply enter your social security number in the business ID box. I’ve never been denied. Non affiliate link here.

Synergies:

  • Chase Sapphire
  • United Mileage Plus Explorer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward Premier

united-191x120United Mileage Plus Explorer: 30,000 United Mileage Plus points after spending $1k in 3 months. I’ve seen this bonus as high as 50,000 points before so it may be prudent to wait for that offer to come back as these things are cyclical.

 

Synergies:

  • Chase Sapphire
  • United Mileage Plus Explorer
  • Chase Ink Bold Business Card
  • Chase Ink Plus Business Card

chasesouthwest_bigSouthwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier: 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2k in 3 months. $99 yearly fee is not waived for the first year. Southwest makes redeeming award travel super user-friendly as you can view the cost of any flight in either dollars or points. Non affiliate link here.

Synergies:

  • Chase Sapphire
  • Chase Ink Bold Business Card
  • Chase Ink Plus Business Card

cccitibank211_bigCiti Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage points after spending $3k in 3 months. $95 fee is waived for the first year. American Airlines is part of the One World Alliance, which means you can book award travel through American Airlines on their sister airlines which include British Airways, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and many more. Non-affiliate link here.

Synergies:

  • AMEX SPG
  • US Airways Premier World Mastercard
  • Citi Business AAdvantage World Mastercard

AACitiBusiness-191x120Citi Business / AAdvantage World MasterCard: The Business version of the Citi AAdvantage World Mastercard. Earn 30,000 AAdvantage points after spending $1k in 3 months. $95 fee is waived the first year.

 

Synergies:

  • AMEX SPG
  • US Airways Premier World Mastercard
  • Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World Mastercard

AMEX SPGStarwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express: The business version of the AMEX SPG mentioned above. Earn 10,000 points after your first spend and 20,000 additional points after spending $5k in 6 months. $65 annual fee is waived for the first year. These points will accrue in the same account as the non-business version. You can have both cards. Terms and restrictions apply.

Synergies:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from AMEX
  • US Airways Premier World Mastercard
  • Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World Mastercard
  • Citi Business AAdvantage World Mastercard

AmExDelta-191x120Gold Delta Skymiles® Credit Card from American Express (sponsored link): Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1k in 3 months. Also available is a $50 statement credit when you make a purchase through Delta within the first 3 months. $95 fee is waived for the first year. Obviously a good card if you plan to fly Delta soon. Check your first bag free on every Delta flight. Terms and restrictions apply.

Synergies:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from AMEX
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from AMEX

Rewards Cash Back Cards from American Express

blue cashBlue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (sponsored link): Get $150 back as a statement credit after spending $1k in 3 months. $75 yearly fee. Earn 6% on US Supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 3% US gas stations and select dept. stores, 1% on all other purchases.  Terms and restrictions apply.

AMEX CostcoTrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express (sponsored link): No annual fee with your paid Costco Membership. Earn 3% cash back at US gas stations up to $4,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 2% cash back at US restaurants, 2% cash back on eligible travel purchases, including at Costco, and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash back is provided annually as a reward coupon redeemable for cash or merchandise at US Costco Warehouses. Terms and restrictions apply.

ca_DoubleCash (1)

Citi Double Cash: This seems like a pretty sweet no fee cash back card. Earn 1% on all purchases then another 1% cash back when you pay the card off. Seems to incentivize you to pay it off, which is a nice change of pace in the credit card industry. Non affiliate link here.

 

 

 

Editorial Note: Please note that any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which this blog receives compensation. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear on the page, including, for example, the order in which they appear. We’ve highlighted those by noting “sponsored link” next to the title to provide transparency. The list below does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace, but we welcome suggestions – this is an ongoing search for the best.

  • JNEW October 13, 2014, 11:30 am

    So if the better cards essentially give you 2% back like Capital One Venture that you mentioned– why not just get a card that simply gives you 2% cash back? Like the Fidelity Amex or the new Citi double cash?

    Reply
    • Will October 13, 2014, 12:22 pm

      Because of the signup bonus.

      Reply
    • Brent October 13, 2014, 12:25 pm

      You can get *more* than 2% back (I think of it as $.02 per dollar spent) depending on how efficiently you redeem the points. Using simple numbers: suppose a flight retails for $800. However, you instead spend 15,000 points on that same flight. The points spent on that flight are therefore “worth” $.053 cents per point. If you had just redeemed those point for cash back, (assuming a 10,000 gets you $100) you’d only end up with $150 worth of value for those same points. I’m just a beginner at this type of thing, but that’s how the points arbitrage game has worked for me so far.

      Reply
      • Diane October 19, 2014, 6:27 pm

        I have used my sign up bonuses to fly myself, daughter and infant grandson twice from the east coast to the west coast twice when her husband accepted a job for less than 25.00 total taxes and airport fees.
        I would also like to add that many of the Amex cards are eligible for offers that give you statement credits for single purchases. For instance I received a 25.00 statement credit on a 25.00 or more Costco purchase. In the fall of 2013 I received a 5.00 statement credit for every 25.00 gas purchase at BP. In the last 12 months I have received 250.00 in statement credits and there were many I didn’t take advance of because they were for places I don’ t shop.

        Reply
  • Brandon Curtis October 13, 2014, 11:51 am

    Other solid options with good cashback and no fees:

    === US Bank Cash+
    5% on two categories and 2% on one, chosen quarterly from a list (http://goo.gl/FmUeo)
    Form: statement credits (any increment); >$100 redeemed at once, $25 Visa card (one per year)

    === Chase Freedom
    5% on quarterly categories (http://goo.gl/4qPuWo)
    Form: statement credit (any increment)

    === Discover It
    5% on quarterly categories (http://goo.gl/AOKmha)
    Form: statement credit ($50 increments)

    === Amex Fidelity Rewards
    2% on all purchases
    Form: deposits into a Fidelity brokerage account ($50 increments; can be cashed out)

    === Citi Forward
    5% on restaurants, bars, Amazon, book stores, record and video stores, movie theaters
    Form: select gift cards in $50-100 increments

    An underappreciated strategy to increase cashback is to add trusted people as authorized users on your account: it’ll boost their credit score and your rewards. This is especially beneficial on cards that charge an annual fee, like the Amex Blue Cash Preferred.

    Reply
  • Mike P October 13, 2014, 11:51 am

    Hey Brandon, I’ve got a question about preparing for my 3rd round of card applications. In my first 2 rounds I got the Chase Sapphire preferred, Hilton AMEX, Hilton Visa Signature (the no annual fee version), US Airways Premier World MasterCard, and the United Mileage Plus Explorer. What should be my strategy in my 3rd round? Do I need to cancel any cards before I apply to new ones? Should I avoid certain banks? Or will I be okay to carry on as usual and apply for 2-3 new cards?
    Thanks
    -Mike

    Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 13, 2014, 9:40 pm

      Mike you’re a pro already. I’d definitely recommend that Chase Ink Plus at 70k bonus for $5k spent in 3 months if you can swing it. That has pretty good synergy with your Chase Sapphire preferred as you can transfer those points to Southwest and United among others. You might give the US Airways Premier card another shot, I have two of them and I believe you can reapply every 3 months. Otherwise I think the Barclay Arrival Plus is pretty badass.

      Depends on your travel goals.

      Reply
      • Scott October 14, 2014, 8:32 am

        Brandon, I have the same question as Mike… “Do I need to cancel any cards before I apply to new ones?” What do you recommend?

        Thanks for the tips.

        Reply
        • Brandon Cronan October 14, 2014, 7:35 pm

          No you do not need to cancel old cards in order to sign up for new ones.

          Reply
  • FrugalTravelGal October 13, 2014, 11:54 am

    Regarding the Barclay Arrival World Elite MasterCard: You said, “Each dollar you spend is worth 2 points, and upon redemption you are awarded 20% of your points back which essentially means you get 2.2% cash back on all purchases.” The correct amount is 10% of your miles back. From that web site’s FAQ:

    How do I earn 10% of my miles back?

    You earn 10% of your miles back as a travel redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits. For example, if you redeem 25,000 miles for travel, you will receive 2,500 miles as a bonus to use towards your next redemption. Travel redemption bonus miles are added to your account within one business day after your travel redemption is processed.

    Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 13, 2014, 9:42 pm

      Great catch! this has been fixed. Muchas Gracias.

      Reply
  • Che October 13, 2014, 11:57 am

    Let’s say I have a large purchase of $10k coming up. Assuming the vendor allows multiple forms of payment, do you know if I can split that $10k transaction up between multiple cards and claim various sign-up bonuses? Or does the entire transaction need to be on one card in order to qualify for the bonus?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 13, 2014, 12:33 pm

      You can split, as long as the retailer is willing to do the work. I’ve done exactly this before when buying a $30k window/door order for a new house build years ago.

      Reply
  • Logan October 13, 2014, 12:25 pm

    How do you cycle out credit cards after you’ve used up the initial bonus points? Do you cancel them after a certain amount of time? If so, doesn’t that hurt your credit?

    Reply
    • Tuli October 13, 2014, 12:48 pm

      You can keep them open if they have no annual fee. Most of the big rewards cards have an annual fee after the first year though, so you can try to get it waived, cancel before it is due, or ask to have the credit line moved to a no fee card. The small hit your credit score may take is not worth paying an annual fee in my opinion.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 13, 2014, 6:25 pm

      Yeah, I cancel mine after just under one year as I sign up for new ones. The long run effect on credit seems to be nothing, and I like to keep life simpler when possible.

      Reply
      • Brandon Cronan October 13, 2014, 9:45 pm

        On my newer cards I’ve been doing the same. On the older ones I had the credit line moved to a no-fee card in order to keep my oldest credit lines active.

        Reply
      • Max Schneider October 17, 2014, 1:37 pm

        I do that as well (cancel them just short of one year) BUT I do that already TODAY (not nearly a year from now).

        Therefore I *cannot* forget to cancel the card in a year’s time.

        I won’t get hit with a fee for the second year because I forgot to cancel.

        I also cannot miss a cancellation period buried somewhere in the fine print (“customer must cancel at least 30 days before or the card will automatically renew”.

        Example: I applied last week and got the card in the mail today. Then I immediatlely cancel it (i.e. today) *effective next year* (“I cancel this credit card with effect from 15.0.2015″). Usually I ask them for a confirmation of receipt of cancellation of the card and I am done.

        Reply
  • Tuli October 13, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Occasionally, the affiliate/sponsored sign-up bonuses are not the best offers out there. Will you be calling this out and offering both links?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 13, 2014, 6:27 pm

      That sounds good to me – if anyone finds better ones, call them out in the comments and we can update the main page. It will then be our job (and by ours I mean Brandon’s ;-) ) to point this out to our affiliate buddies and request that they update our offer as well.

      Reply
      • Brandon Cronan October 13, 2014, 9:47 pm

        Yes, thanks. I hope that we can capture all the best offers wether they are through MMM’s affiliate network or not.

        Reply
  • Bristles to Stache October 13, 2014, 1:15 pm

    Really excited to see what you do with this Brandon. The MRS and I have been looking into the churning game for some time now and it would be great to have a place to go for answers/ experiences from others.

    Good call on this addition Mr. Money Mustache. You the man!

    Reply
  • Nik K October 13, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Can you pay your mortgage with cc to get rewards to fly free?

    Reply
    • pope October 13, 2014, 3:01 pm

      Most banks won’t take payment via CC for a mortgage, but if yours does than that is sweet.

      Reply
    • Jacob October 15, 2014, 10:31 am

      You can technically do this, but it requires an AMEX Bluebird card that you load with vanilla reload cards that are purchased with your rewards credit card. But most companies have closed this loophole. It used to be a sweet spot to buy these at Office Max for 5x points on your Chase Ink Plus/Bold.

      I’m sure there are some other hacks that have come up for this, but you would need to check Flyertalk.com

      Reply
  • pope October 13, 2014, 2:47 pm

    Just got the United Mileage Plus Explorer when is was 50,000 miles + $50 bonus when doing $3k in first 3 months. It will be back like that again so I’d wait. There are sites similar to this one that will probably be updated more often that could help alert you.

    Reply
  • Nick W October 13, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Do you ever cancel these cards? I seem to remember that cancelling cards can hurt your credit score. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Reply
  • Joan October 13, 2014, 8:47 pm

    An underappreciated strategy to increase cashback is to add trusted people as authorized users on your account: it’ll boost their credit score and your rewards. This is especially beneficial on cards that charge an annual fee, like the Amex Blue Cash Preferred.

    +1 to that comment. College son with no credit score because he had no debt and could not get a CC. Was an engineering student with solid internships. Added him as a user to our Amex cards(never gave him the cards). Bingo he applied nine months later and got a card no problem.

    Reply
  • Brad October 13, 2014, 9:24 pm

    Say it isnt so MMM!!!!! I can’t believe my eyes! How is that the one that used to mock the banks and their pawns that pushed their bullsh*t cards has now joined them?! I have been in the points and miles game pretty serious for a few years and you are now just like the other credit card bloggers who pump whatever cards give you the best affiliate commission. I hope that everyone can read this and learn that you are no longer acting in their best interest. You are making up to $200 off of each of your reader’s successful applications. Some of these cards even have better bonuses out there! They just aren’t the ones that pay you the most. I seriously hope you let this post go un-deleted or I will respect you even less.
    P.S. you are giving HORRIBLE advice. Yes there is money to be made from this, but it is VERY complicated. And bottom line, even a large portion of your ‘wise and frugal’ readers will end up in debt. This is NOT the place to hint about manufactured spending! After all most people are here because they want to learn how to get their finances in order! Credit cards shouldn’t even be in their wallets right now.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 14, 2014, 10:15 am

      A welcome criticism, Brad! Just note that this card page has been here for about three years, and I have ALWAYS been a fan of credit card use for all possible spending. They shouldn’t be in the wallets of people who get themselves into credit card debt, but this is an advanced personal finance blog – the one where you save up $800,000 by the time you reach your 30s and then retire early.

      Also note that many of the cards listed here pay no commission at all to the blog, because they don’t like us. That doesn’t affect the card recommendations – Brandon is here to share his expertise on the cards, and the money this page generates is a happy side-effect, much like the income of the whole blog.

      Reply
      • Brad October 14, 2014, 11:26 am

        I remember when Chase canned you. That’s when I thought “this guy must be different, he really doesnt give a fuck about affiliate commissions even though he is missing out on a lot of extra money” But now I see that you are pimping the 30,000 AA Platinum offer for example, when there’s a valid 50k offer out RIGHT now. What about the Old Blue Amex cash that offers UNLIMITED 5% cashback at grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations, instead of 6% capped at $6k in grocery? At least disclose to your readers which of the credit card issuers you are an affiliate of so they know why links can be trusted to be the best offer.

        And for the love of god man, please give the comment below a swift MMM punch in the face:
        “My husband and I just paid off all of our CC debt about a month ago. I love the idea of learning how to do this. One question I have is, should I first close out some of the open credit cards I currently have? Also, as you are doing this, do you usually just keep multiple cards open or close some out along the way?? Thanks!”

        Reply
        • Laurie October 14, 2014, 7:04 pm

          Thanks Brad… I actually don’t intend to jump into this any time soon because we JUST paid off our debt and are in the process of paying off a remaining car payment and our mortgage before becoming completely debt free. I simply want to learn the process – last time I checked it wasn’t irresponsible to learn and do research on a topic. I’m not in the business of getting back into CC debt (and frankly, I don’t yet trust myself to play this game) and I can tell that this is a complicated process. I just want to gather information to learn more about it. But hey, I’m sure that if I wasn’t being logical about it, a punch in the face would set me straight.

          Reply
        • Brandon Cronan October 14, 2014, 7:59 pm

          Brad, the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage deal I have listed is the best I could find online. Do you have a link to the 50,000 point offer? Would love to share that one with the readers. I see an offer for the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard with a 50,000 mile bonus but that one comes with a $450 yearly fee which is not waived for the year. I’m not sure that that’s a very sweet deal. We’ve tried to clarify which cards are affiliate links by stating next to the title of the card “sponsored link”. You’ll see the Citi AAdvantage card is not one of those links.

          I also don’t see the AMEX Blue Cash offer you describe. These things are always in flux. The AMEX links are affiliate links so those are the card offers our affiliate provides us and everyone should definitely be aware of that.

          Reply
          • Brad October 14, 2014, 8:49 pm

            Here is a 50k Citi AA Platinum offer:
            http://www.aa.com/pubcontent/en_US/disclaimers/BP-PLATHV.jsp

            This post has sign-up details for the Old Blue Amex cash with unlimited 5%: http://freequentflyerbook.com/blog/2014/1/3/5-cash-back-is-back-for-now

            Look, it seems like you guys didn’t knowingly publish shitty links so thats legit. There is a LOT of that going on right now though, and I thought that because MMM is so thorough he would have made sure he was advertising the best offer, but it sounds like an honest mistake. Affiliate commissions are a slippery slope, but I’m sure you will manage it carefully.

            A final word before I delete my subscription to this thread: if you rake in over $10k a year from credit cards like I do then you know, this is very hard. I consider myself an extremely disciplined person and I have never paid a cent of interest but there have been plenty of times when I have been close to being over my head! Manufactured spending is dangerous! I have had to float serious amounts of cash at certain points when I bought hacked gift cards or had money tied up in some of those criminal prepaid companies that sometimes shut you down and refuse to pay out. All I’m saying is that even with the VERY disciplined mustachian readership, some will fail at this and fall into debt. It shouldn’t be advertised to the masses, and especially not with the tempting headline that “you can make over $10k a year doing this”. This shit is the forbidden fruit to most. I don’t think anyone who has ever had any credit card debt should play period. But thats just my two cents.

            Reply
            • Judi October 15, 2014, 11:04 am

              Reading this blog, I can’t help feeling worried too….A LOT about those who are desperate and willing to take BIG RISK for $10,000. Not everyone who follows MMM is a young retiree. My best guess is that a large percentage probably are not.

              Sooooo, while I love each and every new MMM blog post, the common sense approach,the simplicity…this one makes me think……has MMM been HACKED?

              Reply
            • Marla October 15, 2014, 3:28 pm

              FYI – for anyone reading through the comments, the “old blue amex” is not as good for Mustachians, much more interesting for Manufactured Spend (not recommended by MMM nor by me without loads of research). It requires $6000 of spending before you get any bonus cash back, vs. the “new blue Amex” offers 6% cash back for groceries and 3% for gas UP TO $6000 annually (much better for frugal spenders).

              Reply
        • Huck October 15, 2014, 10:56 am

          Oh buhu. There’s a slightly better deal out there? Well, I appreciate any info I can get. They don’t have the bestest-awesomest cards that smartypants like you know of? ohnoes.

          And as for the 5% unlimited Amex? Who the hell here spends more than $6k on groceries anyway? I went with that card with no regrets, the extra % is well worth it.

          I understand this is so hard that only a pro can do it, but chill out. If people want ot get themselves into debt that’s their problem. Don’t worry about it. This blog is just putting info out there. If anything more people falling into that trap is more sweet CC deals for the rest of is.

          Reply
          • Jeremy E. October 15, 2014, 3:28 pm

            I agree with Huck. If people want to try to win with credit cards let them. Personally I used to have “stupid” car loan debt, however I still enjoy getting rewards from credit cards. I’ve only gotten $250 from 2 different credit card rewards so far, but it hardly took any time, it was very simple, and I haven’t had to pay any interst. If you are smart enough to not put money into things like “hackable gift cards” and “criminal prepaid companies,” then it’s really not that dificult. Luckily with the guiding knowledge of MMM and Brandon, there probably won’t be any of those types of credit cards on here.

            Reply
  • Ludger October 13, 2014, 10:40 pm

    “Chase Ink Plus Business Card: For a limited time – this one offer a 70,000-point bonus after spending $5k in 3 months (this is a killer bonus). Fee is waived for the first year. ”
    Careful here as the fee is NOT waived for the first year! You need to check the small print.

    Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 14, 2014, 7:37 pm

      Thanks for the catch, this has been fixed.

      Reply
      • Math Ninja October 16, 2014, 6:54 am

        As a note on this… if you click the link and then choose to look at the “Business Bold” offer, it is a 50,000 point bonus for $5K spending in 3 months with the first year annual fee waived.

        Reply
  • Mike G October 13, 2014, 10:49 pm

    Awesome! I’ve been trying to benefit from these this type of thing for a few years now (just the cash back rewards though, haven’t gotten into the miles game yet)

    One tactic I use that I haven’t seen mentioned yet is using a new card as a “free” loan. Any time I have a large purchase I am planning on making (and already have the money for of course!), I look for a card with a high cash back reward, no fee, and 0% APR for 12-18 months.
    I make the purchase with it, get the reward money, set up the auto pay to have the full balance paid off in less time than the 0% APR period (as long as you make the minimum payment you don’t lose the 0% APR). Typically if it’s 12 months I divide the balance by 11 and make that my monthly payment.
    That way I get free money on a purchase I’m already making, but also I am paying it off over a year or more with no interest. I’ve found it to be a nice way to keep as much money working for me as I can (like in my Credit Union account that pays me 7% interest up to $2000 :) ), instead of handing it over to a credit card company after the first month.

    Important things to remember:
    1. Have the money to spend before the purchase (obviously)
    2. Make sure you set up the monthly payments so that the balance is paid off before the 0% APR ends)
    3. Double check that there is not a yearly fee, or try to have it waived, if the 0% APR lasts longer than 1 year.

    Reply
  • Ribs October 14, 2014, 6:07 am

    It appears that all these cards are US-based. How well would that work for Canadians?

    Reply
    • Sally October 15, 2014, 7:42 am

      Works well with Amex Gold, Aerogold, Gold Business and Platinum. We have been turning for 1.5 years now and have over 600k Aeroplan points:) You can self refer and get referral bonus points as well. I love it!!

      Reply
      • Goldielocks October 19, 2014, 1:11 pm

        Sally,

        I took a short look around the internet today, and only found AMEX with a large travel reward with waived first year annual fee. Have you found any others?

        The best I am finding are cards giving a bonus that is similar to the annual fee in value.

        Can you push your earned points onto aeroplan, then cancel your card before you use them?

        Also, I have been having trouble booking with Aeroplan. Even when I get a seat, the final cost to me is about 20%+ of the full seat ticket (assuming no seat sales are available.).. e.g., $150 on a $600 fare ticket due to taxes and airport fees.

        Nice feature though, that with so many points, (600k) you can book with market fare or priority seats for far, far, better selection (no layovers in Ft MacMurray), but you lose points due to increased “cost”. e.g., 600k aeroplan points would work out to 6 Hawaii RT tickets, booked 3 months in advance for Christmas, with a total cost out of pocket for taxes of $1200.

        600k would also require turning approximately 20 cards, assuming 30k bonus and earned points on the minimum spend, on average.

        The travel benefits only seem to work as a savings against a pre-planned travel, not as “free travel”.

        Reply
  • Huck October 14, 2014, 7:33 am

    Where do you see that the Chase Ink Plus has waived the fee the first year?
    https://creditcards.chase.com/ink-business-credit-cards/compare-cards?CELL=63WS
    The ink BOLD says “$0 first year”, but ink PLUS just says $95/year with no mention of first year. This would add another $95 for those 70K points. Certainly not a bad deal but not as great.

    A flight to Europe with United came out to 120K points for two peiple. I could get there with two, maybe three card bonuses. Plus fees of $250. Not a bad price for round trip Europe!

    edit: the Bold only has a 50K signup bonus, but cost zero dollars. And since the card require $5k spending I guess after 3 months I’d really have 75K points

    Reply
    • Brad October 14, 2014, 9:52 am

      Huck,

      The $95 annual fee on the current limited-time increase 70k offer on the Ink Plus is NOT waived. I’m sure Brandon will update this shortly.

      The Ink Plus has always had the annual fee waived until Chase increased the bonus from 50k to 70k a few weeks ago. The current word is that this offer ends 10/20/14, so this would be a solid time to jump on this.

      I personally would gladly pay the $95 for 20k Chase UR points. If you don’t want to lay out the $95 then just wait a few weeks…

      Reply
      • Huck October 15, 2014, 8:47 am

        I noticed. Or like I mentioned you can apply for the Ink Bold and get 50K points with not fee.

        Thanks for the warning about offer needing. I jumped on it and got approved fir the Plus now! I have family in europe so anything that can save us on travel there is great. Just need to find a way to spend the $5k on 3 months. That’s close to our total family spending for that timeframe.

        I had to call and loved the Indian guys phrasing: “Well Mr H it’s time to put on your shopping boots and jump up and down screaming yippie! You’re approved!” For $20K no less. Holy crap.

        Reply
  • Laurie October 14, 2014, 8:10 am

    This is the first I’ve heard of doing this! I mean, I’d heard snippets from friends who use their credit cards for all purchases for the travel awards but, credit card churning? Nope! My husband and I just paid off all of our CC debt about a month ago. I love the idea of learning how to do this. One question I have is, should I first close out some of the open credit cards I currently have? Also, as you are doing this, do you usually just keep multiple cards open or close some out along the way?? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Brad October 14, 2014, 11:18 am

      If you just paid off all of your credit debt, you should not be doing this. You need to put some years of responsible spending and credit use before you apply for more cards.

      Reply
      • Brad October 14, 2014, 8:54 pm

        Laurie, there was no offense intended by my statement. A MMM punch in the face is playful jargon around here. On the contrary, I am legitimately concerned for you. I am afraid you have been tempted by the articles you’ve read here to start applying for credit cards again. You are the reason the credit card companies make money and unfortunately have actually been the one funding the people that ‘bend over to pull a $100 bill out of the leaves.” There’s no way if everyone started doing this the banks would lose. The banks love that people think they can game them, and this is why they are offering MMM $50-$200 per credit card referral from the links above to send them potential victims. Best to leave it be. It takes a LOT of credit card rewards to make up for lost interest, damaged credit, and the stress that comes with it!

        Reply
        • Laurie October 15, 2014, 9:16 am

          Once again, thanks, but tempted isn’t the right word – more like curious. It’s clever and interesting. I’m not running out to apply for more cards, on the contrary, we haven’t used our credit cards for over a year now and won’t be using them any time soon. The debt that accrued was the result of a loss of jobs at different times a few years ago, and a move to acquire a new job for my husband, not gallavanting through shopping malls and buying extravagant things because the credit was available. We may be at the beginning of our journey to becoming completely debt free, but we are motivated and have set goals to stay on track. I think the concern is legit, and I appreciate it, but what you imagine is not what is happening here.

          Reply
  • 5inatrailer October 14, 2014, 8:50 am

    Any Canadian MMM’s out there have similar advice? Going to Hawaii this winter and already spent 4k on air fare (face punch here)

    I have a 3% ATB Mastercard thast I get about 1400$ back annually. I thought I was doing pretty good…but with 3 kids, even a trip to phoenix is 2500 airfare alone.

    Reply
  • Michael October 14, 2014, 11:44 am

    Hey, Brandon! Thanks for helping out with this. You should definitely check the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa card out, and add it to your repertoire. This one is getting my wife and I 16 days of free, really nice hotels in central Europe. Two cards meeting the spending limit for the bonus is ~200,000 points. The $75 fee is NOT waived, but it’s well worth it. Cheers! http://www.richmondsavers.com/best-hotel-rewards-club-carlson-hotels/

    Reply
  • John October 14, 2014, 1:13 pm

    What does it mean that cards have synergies? Can you explain that a little more?

    Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 14, 2014, 8:18 pm

      Good question. One thing to realize in this game is that if your goal is to eventually book airline travel then you’re going to be merging points into a specific airline mileage program at some point. If you sign up for a card like the US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard then the points you accrue go directly to your US Airways Dividend Miles account. Those points are not transferable to any other airline.

      However, if you’re accruing points in your AMEX SPG account those points can be transferred to many different airlines, including US Airways. So I’d say those two cards have a synergy – since your SPG points could potentially transfer to your US Airways Dividend Miles account.

      Put another way, if you were to sign up for the United Mileage Plus and the US Airways Mastercard you would be accruing points in your United and US Airways accounts independently and those miles would never have a chance to be combined. Those cards offer no synergy.

      It’s nice to have a large chunk of airline miles in one airline account as it opens the door for higher quality rewards, like round the world (RTW) trips.

      Reply
  • Jeremy E. October 14, 2014, 3:29 pm

    Hello Brandon,
    A lot of the readers here probably aren’t able to spend enough money to spend 3k-5k in 3 months, personally I don’t even spend enough to spend 1k with my credit card in 3 months(my grocery store Winco only accepts debit cards and I can’t pay my mortgage with my credit card). I know of 1 card that only requires you to spend $500 in 3 months for a $100 bonus and that is the capital one quicksilver which I already received a bonus for. Are there any other cards with a lower than $1000 in 3 month limit before receiving a bonus?
    Hello MMM,
    I wonder if you could promise to donate part of your earnings from your credit cards to a good cause, people like Brad might stop being such complainy pants. I remember reading somewhere in an article that you said you were going to try to think of something good to do with all of your unneeded money, but don’t think you elaborated. I’ve only read your articles up to august of 2012, with the exception of a few others and your new articles. So maybe you have already covered this, but I figured I’d throw it out there anyhow. In the end it is your money to do whatever you want with, I’m just making a suggestion.

    Reply
    • Jeremy E. October 15, 2014, 3:19 pm

      Just read Weekend Edition: where do we go now, and read about the money moustache foundation. I should of finished all your posts before wasting your time with my question, sorry. Sounds sweet, I guess brad is just being a complainy pants for even smaller reasons.

      Reply
  • Reader of the Rockies October 14, 2014, 6:55 pm

    As a great precaution to reduce the risk of identity theft, I have frozen my credit reports at the 3 major credit reporting agencies. The safety is great, but it costs money every time you have to open your account for an inquiry, such as for a credit card application. Since my reports are frozen, I get virtually no CC offers in the mail. I like this because CC offers stolen from mailboxes are another source of identity theft. Is nobody else here concerned about this?

    In order to be constantly applying for credit cards, I would need to unfreeze my credit reports. That would open me to possible ID theft, which would cost far more than I could ever hope to receive from all these credit card deals. Maybe the possibility of ID theft should be considered in the risk/cost/benefit analysis of churning.

    Reply
  • Joan October 14, 2014, 8:34 pm

    Synergy? Can you explain a bit further? So I get the US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard and I merge those points onto US Airways Miles account? Can I cancel the card then? Or do the miles stay with the card? Sorry if this is a stupid question – I do some minor churning but am taking it up a notch using some of the cards listed here. Applied for and got all of the ones I wanted except the Chase Ink – a no decision on that one. Mostly interested in Hotels and airfare. Thanks for sharing your info!

    Reply
    • Marla October 15, 2014, 3:44 pm

      Just jumping in with an answer. Certain rewards programs are not tied to one particular airline or hotel program (these are Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest/AMEX, AMEX Membership Rewards and Citi Thank You Rewards); if you get credit cards with these programs and combine them with the credit cards for the airline/hotel, then you can increase your earnings. Eg. Get 40,000 US Airways miles with the Barclay’s card, then get 25,000 SPG points with the SPG AMEX and transfer them to US Airways (SPG offers 5,000 bonus points for each 20k transferred to an airline, so you would have 65k-70k US airways miles for 2 credit card sign-ups – there is your synergy. Take the time to read up on the different transfer partners each program offers and you’ll see all the many available synergies. Collecting miles is a fun hobby, maximizing your redemptions is an art form!

      Reply
  • Chris October 15, 2014, 5:56 am

    I’m not sure I understand about applying for the US Airways card every three months. Do you mean that you apply, use the card, cancel the card after 3 months, and then reapply? Or do you literally apply for the exact same card every three months and have 2+ active cards that are not cancelled?

    Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 15, 2014, 9:26 pm

      You can apply for the exact same card every 3 months without canceling your old cards. Results may vary here. I think Barclay’s is a bit conservative. I have applied for the US Airways Mastercard four times and been approved twice. I was probably denied because I also applied for the Barclay’s Arrival plus within the same time frame.

      Reply
  • Orbitor October 15, 2014, 9:42 am

    TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express – is no longer valid in Canada starting January 1 2015. Costco Canada is moving from Amex to Mastercard. People with this card will be offered the option of signing up with a different Amex (IIRC).
    Still valid in the States.

    MMM, do you think you can have a Canadian section in the credit card page? (Seeing as you have Canadian roots and all…. :) ). Maybe one of your Cdn readers has the time and will.

    FWIW, where we want to travel in the past several years to see family, are not locations with good points deals, e.g. FYROM. We were better off just booking very early, as in 6 months in advance, to capture any deals offered that year.

    Reply
  • Chris October 15, 2014, 12:22 pm

    If we cancel the credit card before using the reward points will we also be throwing away the reward points we worked hard to get?

    Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 15, 2014, 9:31 pm

      Depends. I always make sure to ask whenever I am canceling a card. For the most part, especially with the airline specific cards like the US Airways Mastercard this is not a problem. I also did not have a problem with the AMEX SPG points when I canceled. However, when I recently canceled my Chase Ink I had to transfer the Ultimate Rewards to a specific airline account or I would have lost them. Chase informed me of this when I called to cancel.

      Reply
      • Brad October 16, 2014, 7:01 am

        To add to Brandon’s answer, it definitely does depend and in general terms there are 3 broad categories of cards with different policies:

        1) Airline or hotel branded credit cards: Examples are Starwood Amex, Citi AA, Chase United, etc. At the end of each credit card statement the points are automatically transferred to your airline/hotel rewards account and they are no longer related to the credit card at that point as they reside in your rewards account. If you close your credit card you would not lose these points (I’d wait at least a month since the T&C do discuss a claw-back of one month; best practice is to call right before your first year is up) .

        2) Transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards. These points reside in your credit card account, so if you closed the account while the points are still there, you would lose them. As Brandon described perfectly, the simple way is to just transfer them out to a partner airline/hotel before you close the card. There are other ways to combine the points with other cards from the same bank, but the simple way is to just transfer them.

        3) What I call “fixed value” cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and the Capital One Venture. These points reside in your credit card and you must use them before you close the card. No transfer options. I’d suggest opening these only if you were close to 100% sure you could utilize the points in the first 12 months.

        Reply
  • David October 15, 2014, 4:53 pm

    I’m curious what you think about the Upromise rewards card from Sallie Mae. I have about $30k in student loans through SM and they offer this credit card that provides cash back rewards that go toward student loans. Everything gets 1% cash back, but certain retailers offer special deals if you go through the Upromise website (up to 5%) and a smattering of in-store deals.

    It seems to me that the rewards will be fairly piddling. If I use the card to the tune of $1,000/month and I’m diligent about using the rewards website, I’ll probably be looking at no more than $13/month. But, even just that amount will end up saving me $250-300 in interest and 3 months of loan payments.

    I know that the rational choice would be to skip this and find the highest-paying rewards card so I can funnel those savings into student loans. But I don’t manage my money so tightly that I can allocate the extra $20 monthly to student loans, and I know myself well enough to say with some certainty that I wouldn’t do it anyway.

    So, please let me know what you think. I’ve activated the card and will be trying it out to see how I can maximize rewards.

    Reply
  • Richard October 15, 2014, 7:30 pm

    I had and canceled the Delta card about 6 months ago. Does anyone know how long I need to wait to sign up for it again?

    Reply
    • Brad October 16, 2014, 12:57 pm

      Richard,

      Delta is an American Express card. As of 5/1/14 they changed their T&C to say that you can only get the bonus on each card once in a lifetime.

      There are a few different Delta cards (and a business and personal, etc.) so you could open each product once and get the bonus on each.

      Reply
  • Dan October 15, 2014, 8:33 pm

    Chris, if the points you’ve earned are affiliated with or transferred to a particular loyalty program, then you would keep the points even after cancelling the card.

    Brandon, I too would like some clarification on re-applying for the US Airways MasterCard. I banked 55k+ miles through that card over a year ago (in addition to the sign-up bonus they ran another 15k spend bonus for cardholders), but the T&C seem to indicate that it’s a one-time deal. Is that not actually the case? If not, how would I verify? I’d love to grab some more and in the process postpone expiration of the miles I have until they’re merged with American. Thanks!

    Reply
    • brandon cronan October 16, 2014, 1:33 pm

      Dan, if you don’t mind the credit inquiry, simply apply again and see what happens.

      Reply
      • Dan October 16, 2014, 8:21 pm

        Thanks. Was hesitant to simply apply because I didn’t want to get saddled with the annual fee and no bonus miles. So I called instead and got confirmation that I will get the bonus miles. Their canned response: “This is our offer Sir, and if you qualify and pay the annual fee you will get the miles.”

        Reply
  • Jon October 15, 2014, 10:26 pm

    Two questions:

    I am single and live alone and make roughly 22k a year and have taken advantage of some nice credit card sign up bonuses (e.g. 100 K miles on British airways a couple years ago, $800 at travelocity via the Olympics bonus us bank card) but I had to work hard to meet the spending requirements. How can you take advantage of so many of these deals without having to manufacture spending, or how can I safely manufacture spending?

    Number two, almost all the deals I’ve taken advantage of have a disclaimer that the offer is only for first time customers. This churning terminology seems to indicate that this isn’t the case, and I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere in the blog. For someone with as little spending power as I have, it’s a big risk to take to sign up for a previously redeemed card/offer that requires $xk/y months, because if i’m ineligible for rewards, I’ve essentially wasted that large amount of spending. Usually with these rewards there’s always a feeling of uncertainty until you see them in your account, regardless of what customer service tells you. Could you make it a little more explicit which cards you can continuously apply for and cancel?

    Thanks for the blog, good stuff here.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 16, 2014, 10:07 am

      Personally, I’m not a fan of the idea of manufactured spending. So I get the high-reward cards only when I have real expenses coming up that will let me meet the requirements. For example, this year was building a new house, where over $60k went onto the credit card for materials (and then I was repaid when I sold the previous house for much more).

      Then there’s business shopping.. once you have your own business (which I recommend for everyone at some point in life), its expenses will go on the official business cards, which makes record keeping easy. My construction and blog businesses both have substantial expenses – this blog’s bills are especially large nowadays.

      Another trick is becoming your extended family’s travel shopping expert: you buy all their plane tickets for them (when they come visit you, or go on vacations of their own) in exchange for being the expert deal shopper, and they pay you back with regular checks or bank transfers. This has worked well for my wife, who enjoys travel shopping anyway.

      Reply
    • Paul October 16, 2014, 10:28 am

      I had never heard the term manufactured spending until I saw this blog post, but I guess I have been unknowingly doing it with my business expenses. Start a little business that requires buying inventory every month and put it all on the credit card. Pay off the card with the sales. It takes a few years to ramp up but eventually you will be churning enough to meet these bonus requirements in a month or two.

      Reply
    • Brandon Cronan October 16, 2014, 1:43 pm

      Jon, I agree with MMM here, you’re probably not in a great position to take advantage of the high-reward deals since your income (and I assume your spending) is low. I also live a pretty frugal lifestyle and the limits are hard for me to make as well, but I am in a career where I have to travel from time to time and my company requires that I book hotels, rental cars and flights myself for later reimbursement. If I know I have some company expenses like that coming up its a great time to grab a new card that I know I can make the minimum spend on.

      I’ve done a wee bit of manufactured spending but I don’t typically rely on that to hit the minimums. I also like MMM’s ideas of buying things for others for later reimbursement.

      The US Airways mastercard has no minimum spend, so that might be a good option for you. It does have a yearly fee which is not waived for the first year, tho.

      Reply
  • Matt October 16, 2014, 11:45 am

    So I’m planning a trip to Hawaii in 2015 from the SF Bay area. 2 adults and 2 kids. Can anyone offer any suggestions? My wife has limited consulting income, so I’m not sure she could qualify for a card on her own. I am trying to decide if one or more of the more general travel cards is better than a Hawaiian Air or Alaskan Air card. thanks.

    Reply
    • Brad October 17, 2014, 6:50 am

      Hi Matt,

      You have some really great options from SFO/OAK to get to Hawaii, but I wouldn’t suggest either the Hawaiian Air or Alaska Air cards. I would focus on the Chase Ultimate Rewards points as 3 of the top ‘sweet spot’ redemption options to Hawaii are available from SFO/OAK by taking advantage of Chase UR transfers to 3 of their partners. This will give you options to fly either United, Alaska or Delta.

      1) Transfer the points to British Airways for use on Alaska Airlines planes direct to Hawaii from OAK. This will allow you to book each round-trip economy flight for only 25,000 British Airways Avios (transferred from Chase UR), which is an amazing deal.

      2) Transfer the points to Singapore Airlines for use on United planes direct to Hawaii from SFO. Each round-trip will cost 35,000 Singapore miles (from Chase UR).

      3) Transfer the points to Korean Air for use on Delta planes from SFO direct to Honolulu. Each RT will cost 25,000 Korean miles (from Chase UR). It looks like Delta only goes to Honolulu and they are notoriously difficult to book with at the lowest level ‘saver’ tickets, so this will likely be an unrealistic option, but you never know!

      The great part about Chase UR points is that they reside in your Chase account until you need them and they transfer instantly (in most cases) to their partners. So instead of locking yourself into Hawaiian or Alaska, this gives you options aplenty! Find the award availability, transfer the points and book the flights.

      You can Google each of the above strategies to walk you through mechanically how to book. I think going after these UR points (from Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus) will give you the most options, so hopefully this response helps.

      Hotels in Hawaii are really straightforward as well as there are a lot of Hyatt and Starwood hotels to take advantage of; I see no reason why you can’t get 4 flights and hotels for nearly free.

      Reply
      • Matt October 17, 2014, 9:53 am

        Thanks Brad! You provided the missing pieces in my initial research. I found option #1 yesterday, thinking that the British Airways 50K card was the best option. Now I can go for the Chase Ink Plus (today) and try to lock in that 70K sweet bonus plus added flexibility with those UR points.

        Cheers – Matt

        Reply
      • Paul October 17, 2014, 10:15 am

        Hey Brad you have been really helpful on this comment section, this little comment cleared up so much for me about Chase UR which I have had for so long, but never transferred out of, just used the point on Amazon which I think is a bad rate of redemption.

        Reply
        • Brad October 17, 2014, 12:16 pm

          Matt: Great, glad to help! You have some wonderful options from the SF area, so you should definitely be able to put that trip together. The BA card is nice (and you’ll eventually open it anyway), but you always want to have options, so the Chase UR points will serve you well.

          Paul: Thanks, I’m really glad to hear it! I hope MMM and Brandon don’t mind me chiming in so much, but I’m a huge fan of this community and a longtime Mustachian, so if I can help out in any way I’ll continue to respond on this page.

          I work with this stuff all the time through the (free) travel rewards coaching program I offer through my site, and I try to put the concept within reach of people just starting out.

          Chase UR: You’re almost always going to get the best redemption rates from transferring them to one of the 11 partner airlines/hotels (I like United, Hyatt, British Airways and Southwest the best in general). The 2nd option would be to book travel through the Chase UR portal at 1.25 cents per point (40,000 points = $500) and the least attractive would be to get gift cards or statement credits at 1 cent per point.

          Reply
          • brandon cronan October 17, 2014, 4:36 pm

            Awesome feedback Brad, great analysis. Thanks for the input.

            Reply
      • Ryan October 17, 2014, 1:29 pm

        Hi Brad,

        Thanks for this great information. I am attempting to get to Hawaii in July from Alabama. Per your guidance I am looking at getting the Chase card for both me and my wife. I was also considering getting the United Airlines card as well to get some cumulative points. I was playing around on the United website using airline miles to book flights and having some confusion. Using the mileage rewards they say the only seats available are first class. Whereas, if I book the flight in the normal method, I have no problem getting economy seats. Any ways around this?

        Reply
        • Brad October 19, 2014, 6:59 pm

          Hi Ryan,

          Glad I could help a bit and I’d certainly like to assist with your Hawaii trip if I can. A few thoughts:

          Hawaii in the summer is generally a very difficult one with award flights as that is a hugely popular destination that time of year. So award availability is going to be limited, and that’s especially true when you’re adding on additional flights to get from Alabama since there aren’t direct flights.

          General search strategy: From the United homepage, you want to type in the airports right there in the normal flight search box, but be sure to click “My dates are flexible” and “award travel” and then hit search. You’ll see a two month calendar around the month you selected and you’re hoping to see green and yellow colors which denote “saver award economy” flights.

          If you see that color, click through the dates until you find something you’re happy with. You should see a blue “select” button in the left-most column of the flights to show you what flights are available at that saver level.

          I just mocked up some flights to Honolulu from a few cities in Alabama and there is essentially zero availability in July from what I can see today. There’s much more in August.

          The name of the game is always flexibility with travel rewards as there are limits to these award seats. Flexibility with dates is important; could you possibly try a different month or time of year, as that could make a huge difference.

          Sometimes it also requires you to take “positioning flights” where you get yourself to a larger airport that might have more award availability, so consider that if there are cheap options (you could use a Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Cap One Venture to ‘erase’ that expense too). Southwest can be great for that, and you can use Chase UR points for them.

          This concept can work wonders, but there absolutely are limitations to it, and award availability is a major one.

          I can almost guarantee you that you’ll get great value out of the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, so that’s a solid choice to start out for certain!

          Reply
  • Paul October 16, 2014, 7:39 pm

    I need some clarification. I think others have wanted this info and the answer just seems so good I need to ask again. I have already opened, spent, got my reward and closed the most obvious personal and business cards. I realize there is no guarantee but in your experience can I just reapply and get another $400 or whatever the case may be in cash like I haven’t ever done it before? If so, it would be extremely helpful to know which cards you think I can double or triple dip on and how frequently I can reapply. If you can’t provide this info because of your affiliate relationships that would be good to know as I’ll just go try on my own. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ace October 17, 2014, 3:03 pm

      Had the same question! I read all of the above comments, but was still unsure. 13 months ago, I opened Chase Sapph Preferred at MMM recommendation. Earned bonus, paid off card in full with zero interest, waited until a month before my 1 year card anniversary, and closed the card. Have you actually been successful in reopening the same card with the same company and earning the same bonus? I actually loved the card, if not for the annual fee that was looming.

      Reply
    • Marla October 17, 2014, 5:08 pm

      A couple of pieces of advice: when cancelling cards, don’t do so until you’ve held them for 11 months (ie. Right before the annual fee hits). If you cancel right after you receive the sign-up bonus you may be red flagged. Other than the Alaska Airlines card (or any Bank of America card ) and Citi cards, I think most cards require a 2 year waiting period after cancelling to get the bonus again. I personally make applications every 3-6 months, choosing the cards based on limited time offers, my planned expenses to hit minimum spends and never more than one per issuer (usually 2 or 3 applications at a time). I find there is no need to be greedy – your good credit is important and not worth risking.

      Reply
  • Ryan October 17, 2014, 12:37 pm

    So, this may be a silly question.. but what “kind” of credit card is the Chase Ink Plus? (Visa, Mastercard, Amex)

    Reason being, I can easily hit the $5,000 if I can use it to pay my tuition, however they only accept certain cards.

    Reply
    • Brad October 19, 2014, 7:18 pm

      The Ink Plus is currently a Visa

      Reply
  • Ryan October 18, 2014, 10:05 am

    It seems like most of the rewards are geared towards traveling. How can those of us in the travel industry capitalize on credit card hacking…since we can already get flights for little or no cost?

    Reply
    • Brad October 19, 2014, 7:23 pm

      Hotels too I assume? That could be an option if you’re just getting low-cost flights.

      Even though it isn’t the optimal redemption, you could always turn points like the Chase Ultimate Rewards into actual cash. Open the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and Ink Plus and after you hit the minimums you’d have approximately 150,000 UR points which you could turn into $1,500 of real cash. My wife and I each opened these 3 and we could have turned that into $3,000 in cash if we hadn’t redeemed them for other travel.

      Reply
  • Michael October 18, 2014, 6:27 pm

    Do you usually get accepted for all the cards immediately or do some of them take longer? I make 110k, have no debt other than my house and I applied for chase ink (delayed decision), citi hhhonrs (accepted), amex hilton (accepted), chase marriott (delayed decision), and amex delta (delayed decision)…

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 19, 2014, 5:16 pm

      I have seen those delays frequently too. They almost always come through eventually though.

      Reply
  • Fiveoh October 19, 2014, 5:58 am

    Most of these card links seem to be for Travel bonuses. Which ones would you recommend if I’m just interested in cash signup bonuses? I already have recently done the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire cards.

    Reply
    • Debbie October 19, 2014, 9:20 pm

      Fidelity has great cash-back cards. My husband has a small business and several years ago he used credit cards to pay his business and our household bills with a Fidelity 529 Plan card. To date, I have paid for all books/fees for my twins for 3 years of college, not covered by the pre-paid tuition plan. Their funds are almost spent down now…we had something like $10-$12k accrued over a period of years. Since we did pre-paid tuition, and they did their first two years at community college…we have not spent ANYTHING out-of-pocket yet for their college. My husband just got a new Fidelity AmEx that is paying out 2% cash-back also. Great company….no fees, no strings, good customer service.

      Reply
  • Andy October 20, 2014, 10:42 am

    Can I recommend adding a note on this post with the date that the offers and information was updated. That way when we come back to this page we can know if things might be a little bit out of date or if they were just updated and we should reread the recommendations.

    Reply

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