(Video) Sunday Reader Questions: What Is The Best Way To Apply For Multiple Credit Card Promotions?

by on March 25, 2012 · 33 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here

We all want to get in on as many lucrative credit card bonuses as possible, but in order to do so, you’ve got to be smart and strategic about your applications. You need to understand how multiple credit inquiries affect your FICO score, and how each major bank handles multiple credit card applications.

On this point, TPG reader Nick asks:

I was wondering if there are any tradeoffs to “credit card promotion hopping.”  I have good credit, so I think I could take advantage of this, but I do know that multiple applications can hurt your overall credit.  So my question is what is an optimal frequency for switching credit cards to take advantage of all the promotions they offer?

Great question, Nick, and for the quick answer, you can just watch this video.

For more detailed information on how applying for multiple credit cards affects your credit, and the policies of the three major credit card banks are on multiple applications, read on below.

Credit Inquiries

In its own words, FICO says “opening several credit accounts in a short period of time represents greater credit risk.” That’s because you’re applying for multiple lines of new credit rather than submitting several inquiries for a single new line, such as a mortgage.

So how much will credit inquiries affect your score? Generally a short term 2-5 point hit.This handy page on the FICO website shows how your credit score is calculated. In general, the impact on your score from multiple inquiries is small—and remember that new credit counts only 10% toward determining your overall FICO score. So as long as you are strong in the other areas like payment history and amounts owed, you should be fine to apply for new cards. That being said, I personally wouldn’t recommend applying for multiple cards from the same bank (ex. American Express, Chase, Citi) within the same month—and ideally you should space your applications at least three months apart.

Here is a handy rundown of the time frames for each of the major banks behind points-earning cards:

Amex is a little more flexible than the other two banks because they have two types of cards: charge cards (Platinum, Premier Rewards, Gold and Green), and credit cards (Blue Sky, Delta and Starwood). It is absolutely possible to have multiple cards—I know people who carry Platinum, Gold and Delta cards, for instance. As with all card companies, however, American Express uses a lot of factors to decide how many cards you can have at one time, and there are ways to work within the system so you get the ones that make the most sense for your points strategy.

Just to note: if you have a charge card, your available credit reported from that card will only be the highest amount your balance has ever gotten up to. This can have a temporary negative effect on your credit if you charge $10,000 and once your statement closes, it looks like you have $10,000 in available credit and you are using up 100% of it until the bill is reported as paid in full. So, with charge cards, it may benefit you to have a huge month and pay the bill off so it reports your available credit as a large number, and then continue to pay your bill off monthly then apply for a new card.

Chase usually mandates that credit card applications come at least one month apart and even then you might get declined at first. However, in my experience, Chase has been very flexible with reconsiderations when you call them and there’s a handy trick where you can get them to swap or split your lines of credit. So, say you have a Chase Hyatt Visa that you’re not using much, but you want the Chase Sapphire Preferred  (one of my personal favorites – and the 50,000 bonus is ending soon so I recommend applying ASAP if you’re interested in this card). If you get declined for the new card, you can call the reconsideration line and ask if it would make a difference to transfer your credit line to the new Sapphire Preferred card, or split your credit on your old card into two lines of credit and get the new card. It’s a bit tricky, but worth the extra effort…especially for 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points!

Citibank has a six-month limit between applications, meaning you shouldn’t apply for more than one card within a six-month period. However, you can usually apply for two cards on the same day without raising any red flags. I recently did that when I applied for a Mastercard and an American Express card that earned me 75,000 American Airlines miles each, and both were approved with identical credit limits.

The US Airways credit card can be “churned” may times.

Very flexible on getting the same card and bonus, like the Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic cards, over and over again.

I would never advise anyone with less than healthy credit to apply for multiple cards at once. For one thing, you probably won’t get approved. For another, you should first concentrate on fixing your credit so that you can then take full advantage of the lucrative credit card deals that are out there. For those with balances, I recommend the Chase Slate card with 0% interest and no balance transfer fees. That said, don’t be afraid to apply for multiple cards at once your credit is good since credit inquiries have a minimal effect on healthy credit reports, and if you stay within each major bank’s guidelines for application timeframes, you can really start raking in points. Heck, I got over 600k last year from 8 apps and my credit score is stronger than ever!


Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Peter T

    Thanks for the details TPG! One question – does it hurt your credit score more than the 2-5pts if you are declined instead if accepted?

  • guest

    Do you have to cancel the us airways, virgin, and Alaskan airlines cards before reapplying or can you be approved with them still open? Thanks!

  • Sam

    No, if you are declined, there is absolutely no effect on your credit score other than the credit pull (and most banks only pull one of the 3 credit bureaus so the effect could be nothing at all depending which credit score you look at). If you are accepted then your credit score will probably drop a bit at first, because your average age of accounts will be lower, but depending on your situation it could actually improve your score because you will also have more available credit which is a good thing.

  • Sam

    If you read the US Airways thread in flyertalk, there are reports of people that have applied for a second US Airways card. They usually are declined initially but have been accepted when they call the reconsideration line and they say need a second card to separate expenses.

  • thepointsguy

    What Sam said :-)

  • Neal

    I have another follow up question. My next churn date is April 10th. Last time I applied for a UA Explorer (Chase), another AA Citi, and a US Airway Barclay. I am looking to go for at least the Chase Sapphire and 1 AMEX. However, I know the Chase Sapphire offer is ending quickly but I still have 2 weeks before my next churn date. Should I go for it? Is that risking too much activity? Or should I wait (risk losing the 10k of the Chase Sapphire points) and stay on schedule for my churns? When I last looked (pre last churn) my credit score was 750-770.

  • R-info

    I was declined for the Chase Southwest card in October–too many recent requests for credit (mostly with other companies). Do you think I could get it if I apply now? Or do I need to wait 6 months?

  • PJ

    Amex has been wacky with my wife’s applications: last September instant online approval on her GOLD Premier, about 2 months later flat decline on her SPG for POOR credit per one( dont know which one) agency while Experian still showed her score at 740 which was also seen by Chase to give her Southwest card on Reconsideration ; the initial denial was due to the reported billing dispute ( delinquency) with Verizon. Now she is targeted by Amex for Skymiles 40K signon bonus ( tiny better than 30K everyday offer) WOuld this mean she has been preapproved to received the card ? What has caused Amex to see credit as better credit risk ?

  • Arf

    Brian is it possible to apply for two BofA cards on the same day? I’m looking to get the Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic cards (along with the Bank of Hawaii one as well). How should I space them out?

  • PJ

    I was not struck by Citi on the 6 months rule ; my CIti Visa AA and CIti AMEX AA came in around 6 months apart ‘ I was not sure when I first got on Chase AA I should have hopped on the CITI AA and CITI AMEX on the same day for the 150K payout for with SPEND 1500/6months each ; I had to spend 4500 (?) on the last CITIAMEX deal thought it was still a very cool deal

  • PJ

    isnt Virgain America sign on bonus a bit too low ?

  • PJ

    sorry i mixed up VIRGIN ATLANTIC with Virgin AMecica do wonder how how good VIRGIN ATLANTIC club miles are worth when used to fly Virgin America

  • jcmitchell21

    Per most people’s experience, Citi’s application rules are no more than 2 apps every 60 days. A 3rd app will get an auto-denial that cannot be reconsidered. this rule extends across their different affiliate cards they offer.

  • theblakefish

    Brian, when you say that BOA and Barclay’s are “churnable” what exactly do you mean? Meet the spending requirements to get the bonus, cancel, then re-apply, happening multiple times a year?

  • thepointsguy

    You don’t even need to cancel in some cases. They will give you the same card and bonus so you can have multiple at the same time.

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t believe you can get two in one way (at least not without calling and negotiating). It’s probably best to do one every 3 months or so.

  • thepointsguy

    Did you call the reconsideration line at that time and ask them to rethink the app? I can’t really tell you what you should or shouldn’t do because it really depends on your situation. But if your credit score is good and you pay your bills on time, you should be able to get approvals, though sometimes you may have to make a case for them.

  • thepointsguy

    10k Ultimate Rewards points is worth about $200 to me, so it all depends. Is there another Chase card you really want? If not, then maybe you just do a mini-churn with a couple of the cards you want. The 3 months strategy isn’t a hard and fast rule- just a trick experienced churners have come up with as a rule of thumb.

  • thepointsguy

    If Amex is sending her pre-approved offers, I’d she shes good to go to get more cards, but you never know.

  • Benthelefty

    What has been your time frame for doing this? New BOA/Barclay’s, wait (how long), and apply again?

  • LZ

    Where is a 75,000 mile offer these days for American Airlines AMEX or Mastercard?

  • R-info

    I did call and got someone who really grilled me. I think if I had pushed it, I could have cancelled my Continental card and gotten approved for SW, but I started to feel funny ethically about the whole thing, so I let it go. But now I am wondering, 5 months later after having cut back a lot on my applications, if I can go back and get approved.

    I’m thinking I will try soon and see what happens.

  • thepointsguy

    Unfortunately there isn’t one. There is a 50k offer and you can get 2 in one day- see my Top Deals page.

  • Peter T

    Thanks Sam! Very helpful!

  • Bob

    Does it hurt your FICO score if you cancel a card after a year – for example, several cards do not charge an annual fee the first year and I would like to cancel when the annual fee kicks in.

  • thepointsguy

    Nominally because your total available credit shrinks, but it’s not the end of the world. You may want to try downgrading the cards to ones with no fees so you can use that credit line as a negotiation piece when trying to get future cards. See this post for more info on canceling cards

  • pianodude

    I would wait at least 6 months after being denied. Many Chase applications ask if you have been denied by Chase in the last 6 months.

  • Mike-D

    I like that sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire. Currently I have a USAIR debit card that’s linked to my B of A checking account. The miles cap is 8ok a year which is a bit of a pain but it’s kind of a nice perk for a check card. I supplement it with a USAIR MasterCard that I got a sign-up bonus for a few years ago and still use today because they fly on routes that I normally travel for work. Do you recommend switching to a general points card? I’ve heard that it can be a pain on the booking side of things but I’m looking for the flexibility to fly on different airlines as USAIR/partners don’t fly everywhere I need to go, especially since they usually make me stop in Charlotte.

    I also watched your video and it makes sense what you said about applying for multiple cards on the same day. It makes sense as even if detected it could easily be explained as shopping around for deals as you would with a car loan or mortgage.

    Here’s also a good breakdown of how credit scores are calculated. It also shows where you stand from a lending standpoint

  • Valerie G

    How do you reapply for the same card each time; do you literally visit the website and apply for the same card? Also, do you cancel annually so that you don’t have to pay the fees? I’m interested in learning more about churning, so thank you so much!

  • Lanny

    Hi Brian. I’m new to the churning game… I currently have a Sapphire Preferred card that I received in March of this year and met the qualifications and got the bonus… I just applied for the Ink Bold for my small business. I also have a Marriott card as well as a Priority Club card from Chase… Could I potentially swap my Marriott card for a regular, no annual fee card to keep the credit line, and then after a month or so apply with Chase for another Sapphire Preferred card? I’ve read and reread your directions above but just looking for some clarifications. Thanks so much for all your posts and tips, they have been so useful for me!

  • James

    Hi TPG, thanks for the video on credit card applications on the same day. I have been putting off trying to play the points game for a while (from a credit card bonus perspective), but I finally bit the bullet. Carry a 770+ credit score for some time, I gained confidence after reading a number of your posts and related replies centered around minimal dings for inquiries and ability to apply for multiple cards in the same day. Here is my experience from today:

    Chase Sapphire: Approved Immediately (40,000 pt bonus at $10,000 credit limit)

    Starwood Amex: Pending immediately – so called reconsideration number you listed and they approved it immediately over the phone (30,000 pt bonus at $10,000 credit limit)

    Marriott Chase: Pending immediately – so called reconsideration number you listed and they gave me the ‘judgment’ run-around, but I answered their questions and noted specific reasons I applied to two Chase cards in the same day (Chase Sapphire I said will be my day-to-day personal card used for the 7% dividends….and the Marriott Chase will be for my traveling expenses for my job as a consultant at Accenture). After three separate ‘holds’ on the phone, she came back and said I was approved, but Marriott still has to do some required back-end verification before they can send the card out (50,000 pt bonus at $10,000 credit limit)

    After following your posts (and related replies), I was approved for three credit cards (1 Amex, 2 Chase) in one day for a total of 120,000 bonus points and $30,000 of credit limit. Let’s hope I can continue to play the points game successfully. All I need to do is spend $2,000 in the first 3 months and an additional $5,000 in the first 6 months, while paying off bills month-to-month. Easy enough!

    Thanks again,

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