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How Do I Figure Out a Good Credit Card Application Strategy?

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TPG reader Thomas sent me a message on Facebook to ask:

“Love all your info. I’m learning a lot, but have lots more to learn. I’m interested in trying a credit card app-o-rama. I have 780+ credit, pay my balances each month, and 20 years of credit history. I’ll be shifting over from several cash rewards cards. My wife has the same credit.

What’s the best (achievable) app-o-rama strategy using my credit, my wife’s credit, and our brand new business with an EIN?”

Today I’m coming to you from Park City Utah, where I’m enjoying the Sundance Film Festival (thanks to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card).

Thomas has what I call the trinity of success. He has 20 years of history with great credit, he pays his bills off every month, and his spouse also has excellent credit; plus they have a brand new small business with an Employer ID Number (EIN). Thomas, you’re in good shape. Now, about your strategy:

I’m practically frothing at the mouth here, because this is truly an ideal way to team up with your spouse and your business and leverage a ton of sign-up bonuses. There’s a lot to consider.

There are so many options you have for getting credit cards. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
There no shortage of credit card options. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Some people do new credit card applications every three or six months, but generally what I do is get several cards at once every few months—sometimes two, three, four, or even five if there are really good bonuses available. First, figure out how you plan to use your points and miles. Are you itching for some domestic travel that you could do on Southwest? If so, you and your spouse could get a lot out of the Southwest Companion Pass. With the sign-up bonuses from the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business, you’d be well on your way toward earning the pass.

Credit card companies have been cracking down on applicants getting the same card and sign-up bonus several times. Chase usually allows you to do so once every two years, while Amex will generally only allow you to get a bonus once EVER. Bank of America is sometimes more lenient here, but in any case, do research first and get the highest sign-up bonus possible in case you can’t get that particular card again. Using the TPG Hot Deals page (which is updated daily) you can see the best deals, and a Google search is always helpful too.

Another piece of advice is to not bite off more than you can chew. The minimum spending requirements to earn sign-up bonuses have been increasing, though there are still cards out there like the US Airways Premier World MasterCard that offer you a 50,000 mile bonus after your first purchase. A good plan could be to get a card with a low spend threshold like this one, and complement that with a card that has a higher spending requirement like the Chase Ink Plus (which has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months).

I don’t recommend applying for numerous cards with one issuer. You can do two cards in one day, especially if one is a personal card and one is a business card, but I like to limit my applications to one juicy offer per issuer. If you get a really good targeted offer that expires soon, make sure to jump on it.

Chart a long-term strategy with your spouse on where you want to go, which airlines you like to fly, and which hotels you prefer to stay in. Consider where you live and decide which airline alliance serves you best, and that may help you determine which cards to go with. There are a lot of factors to consider, and I know I’m not giving you an exact answer, but that’s because it depends so much on your situation. There is no exact answer!

The best advice I can give is that slow and steady wins the race. Pick up two or three personal cards every three to six months (both you and your spouse) along with some business cards, and you’ll soon be traveling well for pennies on the dollar.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.
Ink Plus® Business Credit Card