January 22, 2014

My Latest Round of Credit Card Applications - January 2014

As I discussed in this post, I apply for a new round of credit cards every 90 days.  Remember, this is not for you if you are a) working on improving your credit b) planning on applying for a loan such as a mortgage in the near future or c) if you periodically carry a balance on your cards.  The rewards that you'll gain in these cases will be heavily offset by either not being able to qualify for the lowest lending rate (due to recent inquiries on your credit report) or actually paying interest if you carry a balance.  Each application will typically ding your credit 2-5 points (those inquiries fall off over time and your score will go back up) thus the reasoning for applying for cards every 90 days on the same day.  The inquiries fall off roughly at the same time and on the day you apply, the other banks don't see that you applied for a card earlier in the day.  My FICO score has only approved over two years of doing this every quarter.  Before this round of applications, my score ranged from 765 - 780.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way...My quarterly "churn" happened to be this past weekend so here's an overview of the cards I applied for and why.  I'll provide an update on the results later in the week.

1)  Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature(R) Card

This card offers 25,000 miles upon approval.  Meaning no minimum spend required.  The card does offer an annual fee of $75 which is not waived for the first year.  I've been meaning to start stocking up on Alaska Miles since they introduced their partnership and award chart with Emirates.  For 100,000 miles, you can fly (one-way) from the US to the Middle East in First Class on the Emirates A380.  Not a bad way to travel especially when you know you can shower on-board.  I value Alaska miles at $.02 each making the sign-up bonus worth $500.

2)  Hilton Honors(TM) Surpass(R) Card from American Express

This was actually an upgrade offer from my no-fee Hilton Amex card which I've already earned a bonus on.  So this is a double dip.  50,000 Hilton points after spending $3,000 in 90 days.  The public offer (linked above) provides 60,000 Hilton points after meeting the $3,000 threshold in 90 days.  Hilton points went through a major devaluation last year but this "upgrade" enabled me to add another 50,000 points without a new application.  I value Hilton Honors points at .5 cents each so this bonus is worth $250.  The card does offer 6x points on dining spend so if I was to spend the entire $3,000 across the 90 day period, I would rack up 68,000 total points.  For context, the highest end Hilton properties (think Conrad in Maldives, Hong Kong) run for 80,000 - 95,000 per night and retail for $500 - $2,000 so there is definitely value in this bonus.  The upgrade will cost me an annual fee of $75 but given the fact that I didn't have to apply for a new card and was able to double dip (essentially get two bonuses) on this one, I think it was worth it.  This card also offers Hilton Honors Gold status which is Hilton's mid tier.  You'll get free internet, free breakfast and a good chance at an upgrade.

We stayed at the Conrad Singapore last year and were upgraded and received complimentary lounge access.  We spent each evening drinking complimentary champagne and even skipped dinner a couple nights because the food spread was unbelievable.  This probably saved us close to $100 USD per day given that alcohol in Singapore is so pricey.

View from the lounge - Conrad Singapore

3)  Barclay Arrival(TM) World MasterCard(R)

I just wrote about the value of miles/points earnings cards vs. cashback.  I finally decided to pull the trigger on this card as we have some airfare we're going to need to purchase vs. using miles.  The card comes with an $89 annual fee which is waived for the first year.  After spending $1,000 in 90 days, I'll earn cashback points worth $440 which I can redeem for a statement credit against the previously purchased airfare.  This is the best cashback card on the market and getting $440 back in actual cash is definitely welcome.

All in, I value the points/cashback earned on these cards at $1,190.  Not my best haul but after a couple years of doing this, there aren't unlimited earning opportunities.  I am looking forward to diversifying my point mix a bit and earning Alaska miles definitely plays into that strategy.  I hope to be riding on the Emirates A380 one day soon!!

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