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Five New Cards and 315,000 Miles/Points Later: The Results of My Latest Round of Credit Card Applications

by on March 21, 2013 · 125 comments

in American, American Express, Bank of America, Carlson, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards, United, Virgin Atlantic

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This is the third post in a series on my most recent round of credit card applications and will focus on how to conduct a personal credit card inventory and decide which cards to keep and those to cancel. The first post covered the basics of credit and how to perform a personal check to make sure everything is healthy before a round of applications. Post 2 talked about evaluating your current credit cards and deciding which to close.  Post 4 will relate my experience with reconsideration lines.

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

After I took my inventory of current cards, I came to the conclusion that I would cancel or change five of them. I then set out to choose the best offer from the major credit card companies with which to replace them:

American Express
My decision here was pretty easy since I had already decided during my inventory to replace my current American Express Platinum card with the Mercedes-Benz version. Instead of switching and foregoing the sign-up bonus, my plan was to apply for the Mercedes card as a new applicant since the rules state “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months.” I confirmed on this Flyertalk thread that those with a regular Platinum have been getting the bonus with no issues.

While I have no plans to get a Mercedes anytime soon, if I ever do I’ll get $1,000 a year in lease/purchase credit, 5 points per dollar on eligible Mercedes-Benz purchases and up to 2,000 excess miles waived at lease end.

In addition to the Mercedes perks, this special co-branded version of the Platinum card comes with all of the same benefits that I value (American, Delta, US Airways and Priority Pass Select lounge access and $200 yearly airline credit) and also a 50,000-point bonus when you spend $3,000 within the first three months. Easy as pie. The annual fee is $475, which is $25 more than the regular Platinum card, but I value the 50,000-point sign-up bonus alone at $900 (I’ll transfer those points to airline partners like British Airways, Singapore Airlines and Delta – hopefully during a transfer bonus and then book premium international travel). I’ll also get another $200 to use as my airline reimbursement and I’ll select American and buy four $50 gift cards and get immediately reimbursed like I did in January already. All together I value the lounge access at $350 conservatively, points at $900 and $200 travel rebates for a total of $1,450 – $475 annual fee = coming out ahead $975. I feel good about that!
Application Result: Approved

Chase
I value United miles higher than any other mileage because the fees are low, the website is pretty good for searching and booking partner awards, they allow one-way flights and they are a member of the Star Alliance, which is the largest alliance and gives a lot of options when it comes time to redeem. I rarely fly United, but usually bolster my account by transferring in points from my Ultimate Rewards account, which I replenish by spending on my Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Ink Exclusives and Freedom cards.

When I got matched to United Platinum in the fall I noticed that I was targeted for a special United Explorer card offer of: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus 5,000 bonus miles when you add an authorized user to your account during the first 3 months as a cardmember. And you earn 10,000 bonus miles every calendar year you spend at least $25,000 on your card. Other notable benefits that I don’t already get as an elite member: 2 lounge passes a year and primary auto insurance on rental cars, which most credit card do not offer

Essentially it is a 55,000-mile sign-up bonus (since I can add anyone as an authorized user) with a 10,000-mile bonus at $25,000 in spending with the $95 annual fee waived the first year. I value United miles at 2 cents apiece (100,000 mile roundtrips in business class to Europe are easily worth $2,000 to me) so the 65,000 miles that I’ll end up getting = $1,300 + 2 lounge passes (which I’ll actually use since United clubs are no longer a part of the Amex Platinum lounge program) valued conservatively at $25 a piece ($50)  + the primary insurance/piece of mind worth at least $100 = $1,450, with the $95 annual fee waived the first year = I’m happy.
Application Result: “Application pending.” After a quick call to the reconsideration line at 1-888-245-0625, the super friendly rep said I just needed t shift credit around from another line since I’ve reached the max Chase wants to lend me, so I shifted $10,000 from my Ink Plus (which I plan to close soon anyway) and I was approved (more details in my last post in this series).

Bank of America (Late Addition!)
A couple days after my round of applications, I noticed that Bank of America was offering up to 65,000 miles for the Virgin Atlantic American Express card. I have never gotten this card and I actually have quite a few Virgin Atlantic miles that I was going to transfer to Hilton, but now I’m not thanks to the imminent HHonors program devaluation, so I figured I’d get the card.

Virgin Atlantic Amex 65k

Offer: 20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase, 25,000 additional bonus miles after you spend at least $2,500 in qualifying purchases in the first 90 days, 5,000 bonus miles when adding two additional Cardmembers and up to 15,000 Anniversary bonus miles after qualifying purchases–you get 7,500 miles by spending $15,000 within the year, and 7,500 more if you hit a threshold of $25,000 in spend. Other key benefits include 1.5 miles for every $1 spent on purchases, 3 miles per $1 spent directly with Virgin Atlantic, and spend-based Tier points that help you achieve or maintain Silver or Gold status (note: you can only earn two Tier points per month). $90 annual fee, not waived.
So basically it is a 50,000-point sign-up bonus with an annual spend bonus of 15,000 miles for spending $25,000. Virgin Atlantic charges huge fuel surcharges/fees, but there are other ways to use them that I’ll be covering in a post.  I value them at about 1.4 cents apiece, so the full 65,000 = $910 – $90 annual fee = $820.
Application result: Pending decision. 4 days letter I checked online and saw that I was automatically approved!

Citi
I value American Airlines miles highly and I recently redeemed a lot of miles, so I wanted to boost my balances again. I’m also focusing most of my flying on American these days and am eager to maintain my Executive Platinum this year, so I was also interested in getting the Citi Executive AAdvantage card, which awards 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after $40,000 in spend.

However, the most lucrative Citi offers are “unofficial” 50,000-mile offers that have been active in various forms, for the past 3 years on this Flyertalk thread. I had applied for the Citi AA cards back in 2011 when the bonuses were 75,000 each and you could get two in one day (those were the days!) and had no issues getting the bonuses.  The big issue is that the offer doesn’t populate on the application page, but if you read the comments from numerous past past blog posts and in the hundreds of comments on that thread, people are still reporting success getting the sign-up bonuses so I went ahead and applied for the Visa CitiBusiness AAdvantage card offer of 50,000 miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 4 months, 2 Admirals Club passes,$150 statement credit for the first eligible AA purchase made within 12 months of cardmembership. I value AA miles at 1.8 cents a piece, so 50,000 = $900 + $150 + $50 in lounge passes = $1,100. Annual fee of $75 is waived for the first year.

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 10.58.47 PM
Application result: Pending decision. I called the reconsideration line at 1-800-763-9795 an hour later and after 20 minutes I got approved.

Historically you could always get two Citi cards on the same day and it would count as one hard inquiry (and you’d get approved for identical credit lines – it was a system glitch of sorts), I also applied for the Citi Executive AAdvantage card with a 30,000-mile sign-up bonus and the ability to get 10,000 EQMs at $40,000 in spend, which I value at $600 conservatively. So $900 in miles + $600 in elite miles – $450 annual fee = $1,050

Application result: Pending decision. I called the reconsideration line at 1-800-763-9795 an hour later to get both of my applications approved and after 20 minutes I could only score an approval for one or the other and I chose to get the 50,000-mile offer.  The rep said that Citi’s new policy is only one application a day and there was nothing he could do. He said that he would put in notes for it to be reviewed again, but that I’d have to wait a couple days. I thanked him and waited. In the meantime a 50,000-mile offer surfaced, so I was a little annoyed I had only applied for 30,000. Oh well. That’s how the cookie crumbles. When I called back 3 days later a super-friendly North Dakota phone rep said that there was no way she could approve me, so I asked her to just delete the entire application, which she said she could do so that I could get the card in the future (she recommended waiting at least 60 days). I checked my credit report and I only have one hard inquiry from Citi, so I’m glad that I can save the Executive AAdvantage approval for the future- hopefully at 50,000!

US Bank
The Club Carlson Visa is one of the hottest new credit cards on the market. The sign-up bonus seems amazing at up to 85,000 points, but that isn’t really that lucrative compared to other hotel credit cards like the Citi Hilton Reserve that gives two free weekend nights at almost any Hilton considering you can’t even get two nights at a top tier Radisson Blu. Here are the terms of the card: Up to 85,000 Bonus Gold Points - receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase, plus 35,000 points after you spend $2,500 on your card within the first 90 days; 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide and 5 points per dollar everywhere else; 40,000 bonus points each year  after you renew your card and pay the annual fee; Bonus Award Nights – when Gold Points are redeemed for two or more consecutive award nights, the last night is free – exclusively for cardmembers; Automatic Gold Elite Status once the card is used. Existing Gold Elite members receive 15 qualifying nights toward Concierge Elite Status; Annual Fee: $75.

Carlson feat

So though the 85,000 points is a good start (and I value Club Carlson 0.5 cents each, so that would make it worth $425), it’s the other perks like the annual 40,000-point bonus that more than makes up for the annual fee, and the potentially super-lucrative Bonus Award Night which amounts to half-price awards on two-night stays that make this card a real eye-catcher. Just with the sign-up bonus and two award stays of 50,000 points each where I save a total of 100,000 points, I’d put the value of this card around $925.

Application Result: Pending result. I then logged on and it said the application couldn’t be approved, so I called the reconsideration line at 1-800-947-1444 and the rep said they needed to verify my identity. I provided the details of my drivers license and a couple other small facts and she sent it off for approval. I tried to give her any info that could help her approve, but she simply stated I needed to wait for a decision. Two days later I was automatically approved! I’m looking forward to exploring Club Carlson some more…as I plot my next round of credit card applications.

To Sum It Up
I’m happy with my new additions- not only do I feel like I got lucrative sign-up bonuses, but a lot of these cards offer valuable perks so I’ll keep them all for a year or so, before they get put on the chopping block!I do need to spend $10,000 over the next several months to get all of the sign-up bonuses and then another $50,000 if I want the full spend threshold bonuses on the United and Virgin Atlantic cards, but even if I don’t hit those I’ll be a happy camper.

Has anyone gotten any of these cards recently and have any tips? What cards do you have on your list for your next round of applications?

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