Credit Cards

Welcome to MMM Credit Card HQ!

Split, Croatia - jpeg

Unlike certain beginner personal finance gurus, Mr. Money Mustache is a big fan of cash-back credit cards. Not for borrowing, of course, but as a means of channeling through your standard spending and collecting significant rewards (for most of us, over $1000 per year).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy travel-hacking, part-time-mechanical-engineering, credit card afficionado friend Brandon Cronan keeps his eye on the changing and competitive credit card landscape and keeps his latest recommendation on the following page, which we host on the “cardratings” website. (click to open in a new tab):

Mr. Money Mustache Credit Card Recommendations now at

On that page, you’ll find a list of our favorite credit cards for travel hacking, as well as Brandon’s commentary on strategies.

If you’re new to the game and find the whole thing a bit overwhelming you can ask questions in the comment section below or reach out to Brandon via his blog at

You can also follow Brandon on Twitter for the latest credit card updates and other thoughts. Link here.
  • 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?

    • Will October 13, 2014, 12:22 pm

      Because of the signup bonus.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • Sue November 17, 2014, 3:34 pm

          Which Amex card do you have? I haven’t seen any of those offers ans statement credits. Just put $4000 for new ovens on it and no benefit seen

          • Diane November 20, 2014, 11:49 pm

            Hi Sue, I just saw your question. I have the Starwood amex. When you are looking at your account online you should see an OFFERS FOR YOU tab click
            it. You should see several offers. Save the ones you are likely to use to your card. Every time you redeem an offer you will receive an email from amex. There also Twitter offers. You link your card to your Twitter account. I have my son handle any Twitter offers I am interested in, I text him the information on the offer.

            • Sue November 21, 2014, 1:04 pm

              Thank you. After reading all the posts, I did see that my Amex (and Discover) have all sorts of ‘offers’ that I wasn’t aware of. Most are not for places I shop, but good to know they are there and change often. (Most for Amex are for shopping on-line)

            • Diane November 21, 2014, 10:41 pm

              Hi Sue, In many cases for Amex offers you can purchase gift cards that way you can use your cheap or free gift card with a sale.

              I use Discover card partner gift cards for discounts on wedding gifts. Many brides register at BBB. Between buying BBB cards with my cash back and using BBB 20% off coupon I can save 40% on wedding gifts. And both the gift cards and 20% off coupons can be used at Bye Bye Baby for baby gifts.

  • 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 (
    Form: statement credits (any increment); >$100 redeemed at once, $25 Visa card (one per year)

    === Chase Freedom
    5% on quarterly categories (
    Form: statement credit (any increment)

    === Discover It
    5% on quarterly categories (
    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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

  • 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.

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

      Great catch! this has been fixed. Muchas Gracias.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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 this 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!

  • Nik K October 13, 2014, 1:19 pm

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

    • 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.

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!”

        • 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.

        • 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.

          • Brad October 14, 2014, 8:49 pm

            Here is a 50k Citi AA Platinum offer:

            This post has sign-up details for the Old Blue Amex cash with unlimited 5%:

            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.

            • 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?

            • 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).

        • 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.

          • 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.

  • 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.

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

      Thanks for the catch, this has been fixed.

      • 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.

  • 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.

    • Bob Werner December 3, 2014, 2:54 pm

      Thanks for that tid bit. It is like adding 7% discount to the purchase. Nice! Add that to the 2%, then buy it through for another 5% and pay not sales tax = 7% and get it on a hot special day for 10% off and we’re talking 31% savings. On a $1000 item that is real money.

      But this shit still hurts my head!

  • Ribs October 14, 2014, 6:07 am

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

    • 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!!

      • Goldielocks October 19, 2014, 1:11 pm


        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”.

  • Huck October 14, 2014, 7:33 am

    Where do you see that the Chase Ink Plus has waived the fee the first year?
    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

    • Brad October 14, 2014, 9:52 am


      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…

      • 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.

  • 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, this? 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!

    • 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.

      • 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!

        • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • John October 14, 2014, 1:13 pm

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

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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 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.

    • Mike November 19, 2014, 10:18 pm

      Identity theft generally costs you nothing but a few hours of clearing up the issue by disputing it with the credit bureaus. If it happened at an inconvenient time like just before applying for a loan then it might delay the loan or cost you a few percentage points in interest. If you are applying the advice in this blog, the only time you should be taking out a loan is for a mortgage, and it’s simple to check your credit beforehand.

      Use CreditKarma to get alerts when a card appears in your name and you’ll avoid 99% of the problems. If something does happen, you’ll know almost immediately and can begin the fraud/dispute process.

      As an example, someone took a car loan out using my SSN when I was 18, which prevented me from getting approved for a Best Buy credit card. It took all of 15 minutes to dispute it and a few months later the problem was resolved.

  • 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 – 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!

    • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • gpisabela October 22, 2014, 11:42 am

      What do you mean? If you book early and a better price comes up, can you get money back? Can you elaborate?

      Sorry for stupid question, but I paid full price so many times to see my family back in Europe…

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • Brad October 16, 2014, 12:57 pm


      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.

  • 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!

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

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

      • 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.”

  • 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 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.

    Thanks for the blog, good stuff here.

    • 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.

    • 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 spending enough to meet these bonus requirements in a month or two.

    • 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 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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

      • 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.

        • 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.

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

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

          • Hayley April 20, 2015, 4:45 pm

            Brad, what’s your travel coaching website. There seems to be lots of strategies between pts, domestic and international airlines in play.

      • 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?

        • 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!

      • Jon Jovi October 24, 2014, 2:15 am

        While Brad has already recommended focusing on the cards that are part of the Chase UR program. I would like to add that your options are not only limited to Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. You may focus on getting American Express Membership Reward cards as well. Since British Airways and Singapore Airlines are also transfer partners of Membership Rewards.

        Sadly, Korean Air is not a transfer partner of AMEX MR. So for those of you that are not located on the west coast. I would like to emphasize your best option is definitely Chase UR points. The reason being is because as what Brad said round trip will cost 25,000 Korean miles on any delta flights within the North America. So for those of you living on the East Coast it means you can book a round-trip ticket to Hawaii on any Delta award flights for 25,000 miles in coach.

  • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • Brad October 19, 2014, 7:18 pm

      The Ink Plus is currently a Visa

      • Jon Jovi October 24, 2014, 2:24 am

        Not to confuse you but there may be some MasterCard versions of the Ink Plus floating around because they use to issue them under MasterCard before switching to Visa last year.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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)…


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

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • Jon Jovi October 24, 2014, 3:54 am

      If you’re only looking for cash back sign up bonuses. Besides the Freedom, I would recommend either Capital One Quicksilver or BankAmericard Cash Rewards. Both receive $100 back after spending $500 within 3 months.

  • 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.

  • Ryan October 21, 2014, 11:14 am

    Damn, I think we overloaded the credit card websites.. Chase Ink Plus Business no longer has the 70,000 bonus points, reduced to 50,000. Additionally, I tried to apply and the link from their own website is broke. Think us Mustachians hugged too tightly.

    • Brandon Cronan October 23, 2014, 9:38 am

      Yeah it’s a bummer but these deals are cyclical. It’s good to be patient and watch the CC market for a bit – you’ll see big bonuses crop up from time to time. We’ll keep you posted!

  • Keith Ellis October 23, 2014, 9:19 am

    I’m thinking to give this a try but not sure what the best cards are to start with. I already have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard and the Fidelity AmericanExpress card. The Citi card gives American Airlines miles dollar for dollar that I charge and is my primary card while the Fidelity card used to be my go to and gives 2% cash back.

    One thing I need to consider here is that on my credit report, while the score is good, my age of credit is not that long. Around 10yrs ago I went through a couple year stretch where I wasn’t actively using credit cards. This negatively impacted my credit score and while the score is now back over 700, increasing my “average age of credit” is one of the goals I have with this exercise. To that end, I think I should be looking for cards where there’s no fee or where I could easily move the account to a no-fee card once I get whatever bonus comes with the new cards.

    • Brandon Cronan October 23, 2014, 9:36 am


      Since you’ve already accrued a bunch of American Airlines AAdvantage points you might try the US Airways MasterCard. Us Airways will soon be merging with American and your US Airways Dividend Miles will be transferred at that time. Also, there is no minimum spend on that card.

      I’d also recommend the AMEX SPG as a good all around card that you might consider keeping open year after year, even though there is a fee. SPG points are transferrable to many airlines programs including US Airways and American Airlines. If you’d like to avoid the fee after the first year, AMEX will transfer that credit line to a no-fee card, however, you’ll loose the ability to accrue SPG points.

      • Jon Jovi October 24, 2014, 3:46 am

        As what Brandon said since you’ve already started to collect AA miles then I would also recommend the US Airways MasterCard. Early 2015, US Airway miles will merge with AA and those are just additional points in your AA account. Additionally, I know right now they are having a promotion and sending out targeted offers for 50K points sign up bonus instead of the usual 40K points. So check your snail mail to see if you’ve been targeted. Additionally, I would I highly recommend getting the Chase Freedom card in combination with Chase Sapphire Preferred (SP) card to satisfy your no fee situation.

        Chase Freedom earns 10K sign up bonus points and the Sapphire Preferred earns 40K bonus points. The Chase Freedom is a no annual fee card. While the SP card has an annual fee but is waived in the first year. Both cards have great benefits and the SP card is actually my daily driver card. I recommend keeping it beyond the yearly annual fee as the benefits outweigh the annual fee to me. However, if you do decide to cancel your SP after 11 months I would suggest either applying or keep open your Chase Freedom card. Since your points will not expire as long as you have the freedom card. You shouldn’t be canceling any no annual fee cards in the first place as it helps your average age of credit.

        However, I would caution you though if you do end up canceling the SP card with points that haven’t been used. You cannot transfer those points directly to a partner airlines/hotels. The reason being is you need to have at least one of their premium cards active which is the SP or Chase Ink plus/bold business cards. So this strategy would be great for your no fee situation but transfer the points before you cancel the SP.

        In the end, it personally depends on your preferences. In order to develop the best strategy for earning points you should definitely try to figure out:
        1) What is your main goal in travel hacking? Such as getting your family to Disney World, lowering your travel costs for that destination trip to Hawaii, or redeem points for those high peak flights/hotels on a short notice, etc.

        • Brandon Cronan October 26, 2014, 8:41 am

          Jon Jovi/ Keith,

          One thing to note with the Chase Freedom (I have that card as well) – the Ultimate Rewards points you accrue in your Chase Freedom account are not transferable to any airline programs.

  • BrandonC October 24, 2014, 10:00 am

    I have been looking into this for some time and am still figuring it all out. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the MileagePlus Explorer cards, both of which I’ve had for nearly one year and would like to transfer/cancel before being charged the $95 respective fees.

    My question is–should I transfer the rewards from these cards to an airline and cancel/reapply later? I live overseas and enjoy the no-foreign-transaction-fee benefits, but I’d like to start cashing in some of the miles to pay for a ticket for a visiting relative. If that’s the case, should I also apply to one (or two) more cards (with synergy, as my current ones have) to replace these two and restart the rewards process so that I can re-apply to my current ones in 6 months?

    Thanks! This site is great!

    My issue is that I live overseas (work for govt) and

    • Brandon Cronan October 26, 2014, 8:56 am

      Since you have the United MileagePlus Explorer Rewards card you should have a bucket of points already in your United account. Depending on the cost of the ticket you are trying to get, you can move just enough points from your Sapphire Preferred account to your United Mileage Plus account to pay for your visiting relative.

      With the points you have left over you can begin to think about another travel goal and pick another card that will help you build points towards that goal. Depends on which part of the world you’re living in and where you want to travel, but the Chase Ink Business Plus card has no foreign transaction fees and those points have synergy with your Chase Sapphire and Chase United cards.

      The Barclay Arrival Plus is another great card with no foreign transaction fee. That card offers a lot of flexibility.

      • BrandonC October 28, 2014, 3:32 pm

        Thanks for the tips! I’m going to do just that and transfer miles to my MileagePlus, cancel the Sapphire, and apply for the Ink Plus bold.

        Although I would like to keep with the Chase banks and keep using those two cards, it doesn’t sound like it’s possible (you can only get the reward mileage once with the Chase Sapphire), so what would you suggest for a next card? I live overseas and would like to use the miles for Star Alliance flights in Africa and Europe. I’m leaning toward Visa/Mastercard since AMEX isn’t widely accepted overseas.

        Finally, would you suggest I keep the MileagePlus card and take the hit on the yearly fee? It’s got good travel benefits (free checked bag, 2 Club Pass tickets, etc.) and it doesn’t seem like many other cards offer that. What do you think?


        • Brandon Cronan October 28, 2014, 9:50 pm

          If you’re out of country I can understand why you’d avoid the AMEX. I think the Barclay Arrival Plus is a sweet deal as a next card.

          Regarding the MileagePlus, it totally depends on how much you’ll be flying United within the next year and if you can get the value out of the free checked bag and club pass. Personally I travel light and don’t check bags so I don’t see the benefit, however your situation might be different.

  • Ryan October 27, 2014, 11:39 am

    Just FYI – I applied to both Chase Ink Plus Business Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card at the same time… and got declined for both because I was trying to apply for too many lines of credit at once from Chase.

    Oops. I have pretty damn good credit > 760 so I thought I was a shoe-in. Is this common practice? Did I make a noob mistake?

    Is there an appropriate amount of time to wait before applying to same company cards? Additionally, how long should I wait before attempting to reapply? (if at all)


    • Brandon Cronan October 27, 2014, 1:06 pm

      Yeah I wouldn’t try signing up for more than one card per bank per application cycle. For example, you can probably get approved for one card from Chase, one card from Barclay and one card from AMEX all in one cycle.

      If you’re denied for a card you want you can always call up the bank and petition. You might want to try calling Chase and seeing if they’ll approve you for one of the cards now.

      All of the cards have different requirements of varying time frames for reapplication. I believe Chase is typically two years. US Airways dividend miles is 3 months. Some card bonuses you’re only allowed to receive once in your lifetime. Check the fine print, these things are always changing.

      • Ryan October 27, 2014, 1:22 pm

        Hi Brandon, Thanks for the tips. I will try to call and see if I can at least be approved for one card. As a suggestion maybe have a “Helpful Tips” section above and tell people not to do what I just did, ha!

  • dean October 27, 2014, 2:25 pm

    When you say Barclays US Air card is every 3 months, does that mean you get the card, cancel it after a few months than apply in another month? I assume they don’t let you have 2 cards open at the same time??

  • KochamPolske October 27, 2014, 9:43 pm

    Complete n00b here. I’d like to start using rewards cards to get flights for myself and my wife to Poland. We will be traveling there throughout our lives, mostly for the beer, but she also happens to be from there.

    So, um, what would be the best strategy? Start with the Chase SP? I average about 800-900/mo in credit card spending. I could time it so that I get $3k in 3 months though.

    Then transfer to United MileagePlus (to get STAR alliance and hopefully a LOT flight) and go for a United card? Or would it be beneficial to then have my wife apply for another Chase SP? Can we combine Chase points from 2 different accounts? Or maybe it’s better just to add her as an authorized user (easier/safer)?

    Is it true that you can get 2 adults over and back for about 120,000 points?

    Thank you so much guys. Really appreciate this resource.

    • Brad November 4, 2014, 12:03 pm

      I like your strategy a lot! The most important thing is to be able to hit the minimum spending requirements, so only open the card when you are 100% sure that’s possible.

      I would start with a CSP for you, add your wife as an authorized user and that will get you to 48,000 UR points. Then open an account in your wife’s name with you as an authorized user. Another 48k for a total of 96k UR points.

      Then you just need one United card even at the normal 30,000 bonus to get you to the necessary 120,000 for two round-trip economy flights on United/Star Alliance partners.

      Spouses can send Ultimate Rewards points to the other spouse’s frequent flyer mile account, so in the scenario I described, whoever opened the United card would be the one you sent the UR points to so you’d have 120k in that United account.

      You can even get a “free stopover” with United miles, which is essentially a completely free flight in your itinerary, so you could stop two places in Europe for instance.

      • Ryan November 4, 2014, 2:11 pm

        Hi Brad, Thanks for all your comments – Extremely helpful. Just to clarify/reiterate…So it’s OK to open a card and add your spouse as an authorized user and then turn around and have your spouse open the same card and add you as an authorized user? That would certainly make it easier to hit the minimums.

        Thanks again,

        • Brad November 5, 2014, 9:38 am

          Hi Ryan,

          Sure thing, happy to help!

          Yes, it absolutely 100% is OK to open a card and add your spouse as an authorized user. This has zero impact on their ability to open the same card in their name and social security number. So it does not in any way preclude them from doing that and getting the bonus.

          My wife and I add each other as authorized users on each account and we are always able to each open up the same card in our names and each get the bonuses.

          You are definitely safe (and smart) to do this if the minimum spends are hard to get alone (same deal for us and probably most Mustachians).

      • KochamBrada November 5, 2014, 6:06 pm

        Brad, thanks for the great replies. Nice to know that adding a spouse as an authorized user doesn’t preclude said spouse from later opening an account. Excellent.

        Also had no idea about the transfer between spousal FF accounts! Or the free stopover! Excellent II.

  • Susan October 28, 2014, 12:58 pm

    It would be super helpful if you could update the page with detailed information and tips about canceling and reapplying for the same card (e.g., when to cancel, how long before you can reapply, fine prints, etc) Bits and pieces are scattered in the comments section.

    • Aaron October 31, 2014, 10:16 am

      just a heads up – the fine details for some cards bonus (specifically the hilton honors surpass card that gives you 60k bonus points) is ONLY available if you’ve NEVER had the card before. I’m sure some other card companies/offers are going to go this route.

  • Mary October 30, 2014, 1:29 pm

    I searched the comments but I didn’t see where anyone had posted about jumping through a few more hoops with Southwest to get a Companion Pass. This is worth quite a bit of money depending on how much you travel. It requires 110,000 points in one calendar year. As far as I know, they have not closed this loophole where credit card bonuses count towards this requirement. But the basics of this is signing up for two of their credit cards and qualifying for the bonuses. They have 50,000 bonuses frequently, so by doing this, you would have 100,000 in points already, plus about 6k in spend that you needed to get the bonuses and then you would only need to accrue an additional 4k. Basically most of your travel will be covered by points and your designated companion will fly for free whenever you do except for the 9/11 security fee. The trick is to qualify early in the year since it is valid for the remainder of the year you qualified and the following year. I did this almost 2 years ago and my pass was effectively valid for about 21 months. We have saved thousands of dollars in airfare doing this. Although it is a little bit harder these days since SW has devalued their points and it is a lot harder to create manufactured spend since they changed Amazon Payments and Vanilla Reload cards. We will have to do this process again in a few months to get another Companion Pass once mine expires.

  • Aaron October 31, 2014, 10:15 am


    I usually use my costco amex for the cashback reward but the recent CC article inspired me to put in a little extra work to make the money go a bit further. I stay with the Hilton brand and use USAIR (for business) so i’ve recently signed up for both of their cards. Just a heads up though, make sure you get you qualify to even get your bonus. I’ve had to call amex support and show them the links i used to sign up for the card and they need to open a case and it takes so many days to figure it out. I will need to march forward with the 3K to qualify for the 60k bonus points in 3 months and hope everything works itsself out. I can imagine some will get months into it and either realize something is wrong at that point in time or even worse, forget they got the card for the bonus itsself. =)

  • Fdeanw November 1, 2014, 2:33 pm

    I have seen a lot of references to using Avios points for non-British Airways fights. Do you have to have enough Avios points to qualify for the award flight on one of their partner airlines, or is there a way to transfer Avios points to another reward program, like you can do with Amex membership reward or SPG points?

    • Brandon Cronan November 3, 2014, 7:39 pm

      Avios points are an airline specific type of point so they would be non-transferable to other airlines.

  • Trevor November 2, 2014, 11:21 pm

    As property tax season is upon us I thought I would mention that a lot of Counties accept credit cards, my County in California charges a 2.25% charge for this but with the 2.00% cash back the net cost is 0.25% My Wife and I will be splitting our $12,000 tax bill over 4 cards mentioned above this season and collecting $1600 for a net cost of $30, not a bad hours work! ;)

  • DrFunk November 3, 2014, 12:23 pm

    If you like Marriott hotels specifically, right now you can get 70k points when you sign up for their card (usually 50k).

    Non referral link.


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets