Credit Card Roulette

So I thought some people might appreciate the breakdown of how Joann and I came into over half a million frequent flyer miles. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart and the young of credit history. And a major factor, to me at least, is to have a goal. Do not collect miles just because you like to see balances go up. If you’re into that, start an IRA. Create a goal, work towards it, complete it. Then rinse and repeat if necessary.

First of all, approval is not a problem for me thanks to reckless spending in my younger days (stupid car) so I was instantly approved for all the cards listed. As for Joann, she was denied for the Chase Continental card last year for lack of credit history but was 2 for 2 this year with the Amex PR Gold & the Chase BA Visa.

Also, understand that you MUST pay your balance in full each month. Any savings or mileage accrual is negated when you incur a finance charge.

My strategy was fairly simple – go for alliances that we frequented (CO & Star Alliance) and/or go for the biggest bonuses. There are plenty of bonuses out there from 30k miles to 100k points on airlines and even hotels, but pick and choose wisely. We don’t often stay at one hotel over another so hotel points aren’t really of interest for me (note: One strategy involving a property in Bora Bora interests me, but in a few years).

Mike

CHASE – British Airways Visa Signature

100,000 miles after $1,000 in spending

CHASE – Continental OnePass Plus MasterCard

30,000 miles after first purchase + adding an authorized user

First year annual fee waived

AMEX – Platinum

100,000 Membership Rewards points after $1,000 in spending

First year annual fee waived

CITI – American Airlines Select American Express

75,000 miles after $1,500 in spending

First year annual fee waived

CITI – American Airlines Platinum Visa

75,000 miles after $1,500 in spending

First year annual fee waived

Jo Ann

CHASE – British Airways Visa Signature

100,000 miles after $1,000 in spending

AMEX – Premier Rewards Gold

50,000 Membership Rewards points after $1,000 in spending

First 2 years annual fee waived

Let me go through the highlights.

The Chase British Airways Visa. This was a “THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL WE’RE PASSING THIS UP” kind of deal. Mainly because of the amount of miles but a huge bonus is British Airways allows “Household Accounts” in which you can combine accounts to pool your miles. That is HUGE, especially for the two of us. So as you can see, right off the bat, the household that Joann and I have is stocked with 200,000 miles.

Combine the above with my Amex Platinum 100,000 MR points and the current promo that is going on – 50% bonus on Amex transfers to British Airways. I will transfer 60k (of the 100k) to BA and that will turn into an extra 30k thanks to the promo bonus. So just like that, our BA household account will have 290k miles. With miscellaneous spending, we’ll surpass our goal in a few months. If you’re wondering, our goal is to fly to/through Asia in First Class on Cathay Pacific. It’s 150k miles each and CX is in the oneworld alliance with BA. Remember, always have a goal.

The Chase Continental MC was a card that had a pretty good bonus but I applied for it because over the years, I find myself gravitating towards flying CO. We’ll see what happens after the merger but CO has treated me nicely and I’ll take an upgrade or 3 as a Silver Elite any day!

The American Airlines Citi cards were another set of cards that was hard to pass up. Huge bonus + no first year annual fee is always a good combo. I don’t plan on keeping these; merely in it for the bonus. With 150k miles, this sets us up nicely to tour South America in Business Class (60k miles each) on AA’s partner LAN Chile.

Here’s some more details the American Express cards, both Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold. I got the Platinum because the first year annual fee ($450!) was waived so might as well give it a try with that big a bonus, no? To me, the fee is really $250 since one of the perks is $200 in airline incidentals credit. What an incidental may be to Amex is very vague and that is a good thing in my opinion when trying to get things credited. As for its continued value, we’ll see how much traveling we do but it sure is nice to have access to so many clubs and lounges with the Plat. For more details on the Platinum card, hit up TPG’s review of it.

The PR Gold card is a damn good card, especially since we got the first 2 yearly fees ($175) waived. One of its bonuses is 3x points on airline purchases (pro tip: Orbitz, Priceline, and I’m sure other 3rd party booking sites are categorized as “Airline”). The other bonus is 2x points on gas & groceries – you can never go wrong there. That will be an everyday card for sure. The great thing about the Amex MR program is its flexibility of transfers and constant transfer bonuses. The partners that interest me are BA, Delta, Virgin America, Starwood (hotel), and Priority Club (hotel). The sad part is that Continental and Amex are divorcing come September’s merger so if you are a “COmothug“, look into the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which is basically Chase’s clone of the Amex Membership Rewards program. I know I’ll be looking into that one with its 50k signup bonus.

So that should about wrap it up. Whew that was a lengthy post, but it was a lengthy process to get us in the position we’re in today. Can’t wait till after we get married and get a damn house so the world traveling can commence!

One thing to note is that because of my strong credit history, all these new accounts and hard inquiries never really dinged my credit score. I’m still soaring at over 780 and my average age of accounts only went down to 6 years old, from around 7. My advice, if you’re interested in this, is to do a lot of research on your own credit history and how credit works in general. Start by cashing in on your free credit reports every year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Like I said, it’s not for the everyday newb and you have to act with purpose and passion.