Sunday Reader Question: Can I Open a Credit Card for the Bonus and Then Cancel?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Mike writes:
"I recently got the Citi Thank You Premier Mastercard, spent $2500, and got the 50,000 thank you points (update: bonus has been reduced to 30,000 points). If I were to cancel the card (after utilizing all of the points), would I be blocked from applying for the Citi Thank You Rewards?"
Technically you are only eligible for one Citi bonus per card per lifetime. Citi has several ThankYou cards, including the Citi Premier® Card and Citi ThankYou Preferred Card, so you would be eligible for the Preferred at a later time and date (wait at least 2 months between applications). However, unofficially many people have been able to apply for the same cards in the past multiple times and received multiple bonuses. All of the card companies have cracked down on this practice (known as churning), but my understanding is the following:
Citi: After 18 months
American Express: At least 2 years
Chase: Never. In fact, they take it a step further and lump some products together- so for example if you have the Sapphire Preferred card, you can't get the bonus for the Sapphire card (FYI the Sapphire Preferred is way, way better than the regular card). The same goes for United MileagePlus Explorer Card and Continental OnePass Plus cards - they will only give you 25,000 miles if you apply for both. However, they will let you have multiple cards and you can maximize your points by also getting business card versions, like the Ink Bold.
(Note: these are unofficial estimates - if you have a different experience please comment below).
Citi also allows two applications to be processed in the same day and they will only count as one inquiry. This is known as the two-browser trick, even though you don't actually need to use two separate browsers- check out how you can score 100,000 American miles using this method.
In terms of deciding when to cancel a card, I'd wait at least 6 months. Check out this post on Deciding When to Cancel a Credit Card.
While credit card bonuses are extremely lucrative, the credit card companies don't give them out to be nice. They want to lure in profitable, long-term customers, so if you identify yourself as someone who will only open a card for the bonus and then cancel, you then put yourself at risk of being declined for future bonuses. If you want to create a long-term, sustainable credit card strategy, I'd personally recommend keeping relationships with each of the main credit card issuers. This way you have more bargaining power in case you are declined or need them to bend the rules for you. Most issuers have no annual fee cards so it doesn't have to be expensive to keep accounts open.