I like to apply for credit cards about every 3-4 months or when there is a great, limited time offer. I generally apply for all my cards in one day as long as I am comfortable that I can meet the spending requirement on all of them. Before I go any further, I want to point out that what I applied for is not recommend for everyone and certainly not beginners. If you are new to this hobby, there are many cards you should get before even sniffing some of these (except for maybe the Arrival plus). I did what works for me, as I’ve already had almost every big travel credit card there is in this game, so this round of applications was about cleaning up and getting cards I haven’t had. Without further ado, here is what I applied for, my thoughts behind each card and how I will earn 322,500 points & miles in the next few months.
I will list them in the order I applied for them, in the order of most important to me to least.
1) Barclays Arrival Plus – I actually first applied for this card in back in August 2013 and until this day, it was the only credit card I have ever been denied for. No matter how many times I tried a reconsideration phone call, Barclays would not approve me back in 2013 as they were concerned about too many recent inquiries. A new year though, brought better luck as I was approved instantly for this card.
This is actually a cash back card but its the most useful for travel hackers as you earn 2% back on all spending every day, all day. It offers 40,000 points for spending $3,000 in 3 months but the perk to this card is that when redeeming for travel, you get 10% of the points back in your account! So if I redeem 20,000 points to cover a $200 flight I don’t want to pay for, my net point cost is actually 18,000 as 2,000 points will be placed back into my account immediately to use on a future travel expense.
This card is good for times where it doesn’t make sense to use traditional points or miles to pay for a flight or hotel but you still want a “free trip”. You can simply put the charge on this card, reimburse yourself with points (up to 120 days later) and you get 10% of the points used back in your account. You also get chip & pin capability, no foreign transaction fees and access to your real FICO credit score included. Not too shabby for a cashback card.
Summary: 40,000 points (worth up to $440 in free travel, factoring in 10% rebate). $89 annual fee waived for first year.
2) Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card – As stated above, I like to apply for cards every 3-4 months or when there is a limited time offer and this card qualifies as a limited time offer as it offers 140,000 Ritz Carlton points for spending $2,000 in 3 months. This offer is only available by applying via phone at 1-888-846-7004 and you must give them this offer code “F5BP” to get this offer. There is also an offer for 70,000 points but with the annual fee waived using offer code “F53K”. I was not instantly approved, it was marked as “pending” but after a call to the reconsideration line, I was approved.
In addition to the 140k Ritz Carlton points, which could be used for several free nights at Ritz Carlton or Marriott hotels (since they are partners), you will also receive $300 in airline travel credits each calendar year, Ritz Carlton Gold Status for the 1st year, Lounge club access in airports and 3 Ritz Carlton upgrade certificates. The biggest perk is the $300 airline travel credit, which is meant to cover baggage fees, seat upgrades among other fees but can unofficially be used to buy airline gift cards. It is not meant to cover airline gift cards (just like the Amex Platinum card) but this thread on Flyertalk suggests its possible. I’ll consider this $600 in airline gift cards for me in the first year of membership since it will span two calendar years.
Summary: 140,000 points + $600 in airline gift cards + other small benefits mentioned above. $395 annual fee NOT waived for first year (but with the points and $600 in gift cards I obviously come out way ahead).
3) Bank of America Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard – I broke the news on the increased offer on this card two weeks ago and the increased signup bonus timed well with my round of applications so I added it to my applications. Even though the offer posted is for 90,000 miles, it requires you to spend $25k in one year on the card which I won’t do. I broke down the details of this offer here and it requires you to spend $12,000 in 6 months for 75,000 miles (assuming you add 2 authorized users) or you can get 82,500 miles if you spend an additional $3,000 in the first year. This is what I plan on doing, so I considered this a 82,500 signup bonus. I was actually denied for this card but after a call to the reconsideration line, I was approved (there will be a future post with more about this).
Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t the most useful since they are have a limited route network to/from London and they tack on fuel surcharges which can be several hundred dollars . However, the miles are useful for going to London in economy (only 17,500 miles + $98 in taxes/fuel surcharge) but don’t use this option for departing London since the taxes are much higher. Other useful redemptions include using them for flights on Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines and transferring to Hilton at a ratio of 1 Virgin Atlantic mile to 1.5 Hilton HHonors points).
Summary: 82,500 miles. $90 annual fee NOT waived for first year.
4) Citibank Hilton HHonors Visa Signature – I will fully admit this card is far from great and is probably one of the weakest cards I’ve ever signed up for. It offers only 60,000 Hilton HHonors points which may sound like a lot of points but with Hilton’s devaluation last year, that isn’t worth much. The upside is there is no annual fee on this card, so I can keep for it forever to help with the average age of my credit accounts, and it gives Hilton Silver status. That doesn’t help me since I already have Gold status from the Hilton Reserve credit card but its a nice fallback in case I ever cancel the Reserve card. I was actually denied for this card but after a call to the reconsideration line, I was approved (there will be a future post with more about this).
The reason I don’t recommend this card to many of you is 60,000 Hilton HHonors points don’t even cover a free night at a high end Hilton hotel (it will only cover one free night a mid-tier hotel or several nights at a low-tier hotel). There are so many better hotels cards and even Hilton cards to apply for before this one. The reasons I applied for this card is I have had pretty much every other Hilton credit card and these 60,000 points will push me up to about 240,000 HHonors points so I should be able to do something decent with those points. Additionally, this was a limited time offer that expired on 9/1 so if I ever was going to apply for it, it might as well be when the signup bonus is at its highest.
Summary: 60,000 points. NO annual fee.
Total Summary: 322,500 points + $600 in airline gifts cards for annual fees of $485 in the first year for signing up for four credit cards.
In closing, this was a very successful round of credit card applications as I got to acquire a few of the “second tier” credit cards that I never had and I timed it right that I ended up with the highest ever offers on 3 of the cards. It gives me some traditional points and miles but also the flexibility of points from a cashback card that will cover my travel expenses when it doesn’t make sense to use traditional points and miles.