Before I get to the “meat course” of the post, here is a ranty appetizer. So, occasionally, finance blogs will have an article on a credit card sign-up bonus, like current $550 incentive on Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you read the comments, invariably, there will be someone saying that it’s a conspiracy and banks are out to get you. Guess what? They are right!
It is a conspiracy and they are out to get you.
Why else would they give a stranger $550? Because they want to share profits with an average American Joe? Nope, that ain’t it. The fees they collect from merchants on $4,000 minimum spending will not cover it, not even close. Hmm, there has to be another reason… Oh, I know! They badly want you to charge everything on CSP and keep this card forever while paying $95 annual renewal fee. And some will do just that. But it doesn’t mean you have to be part of the statistic.
By the same token, if you feel uneasy using credit cards and they cause you to overspend, then you should probably avoid them or pick offers with lower requirements, such as $1,000 in 3 months. Or not. I talked to one of my husband’s relatives the other day and the conversation turned to Chase IHG MasterCard. I think for most traveling families, especially those who live in Florida this offer is a no-braner.
The problem is, that person said that he doesn’t feel comfortable with credit cards because he got in debt in the past and had a hard time managing it. Even though $1,000/3 months threshold is very modest, I told him there is nothing wrong with skipping this offer for now. So, the point is, only you know your spending patterns and comfort level. When it comes to this hobby, it’s better to overestimate the risks than to underestimate them. End rant.
On to my churning plans: cash is the name of the game for 2016 (mostly). I’ve mentioned my reasons as to why in this post. To clarify, when I say cash, I also include travel credits and bonuses that can be redeemed for gift cards at a decent rate. So, here are some offers I’m considering in a near future. See this page which lists the best credit card deals as well as secondary list of bonuses:
1) Capital One Venture Rewards Visa
I plan to apply in my husband’s name only. Two of my applications for this card got denied, and I don’t feel like wasting 3 hard pulls only to get rejected again. Oh yes, Capital One pulls all three agencies, which is a deal breaker for some.
Why I plan to apply: You get 40,000 points which can be redeemed for $400 travel credit or $400 gift card to one of popular retailers, like Target. This card is supposedly churnable, which means you can get the bonus again even if you’ve received it in the past.
2) Southwest Airlines Premier Rewards credit card
While most people get these points for Southwest flights, there is a good chance that I might end up redeeming them on gift cards. As unsexy as it is, it would be practical for my family. A $500 Amazon gift card can buy a lot of Costa Rican coffee (highly recommended) that I drink daily. Sure, it’s not the same as flying to Costa Rica, but it’s pretty darn close!
I can also redeem the points on cruise gift cards, and my family loves cruises. That $500 can pay for a good chunk of a short Bahamas sailing. I always say that you should forget what others are doing with their miles and points. Do what works for you and ignore the noise.
I might apply for this card as soon as I’m done with Barclaycard Arrival Plus offer. I’m afraid that Chase is on a war path with churners, and the window for getting a co-branded card might be closing soon. I plan to get this offer in both mine and my husband’s names. A reminder: There are working non-affiliate links for 50K points’ bonus. Check my referenced list on best sign-up offers and make sure to read the post on Companion pass.
3) Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
Ok, so this isn’t exactly cash, not even close. And I did mention how disappointed I currently am with AAdvantage and all the latest negative developments in that program. Still, AA miles can be useful when you are strategic about your award redemptions. Once again, I hope to double dip. I do plan to apply for this card only when (or if) I am able to use my current AA stash for 4 one-way tickets to Europe. I’ll know for sure in 6 months.
Otherwise, I don’t see much point in collecting currency that I can’t cash out when needed. We are not frequent travelers and I feel it’s silly to have millions or even hundreds of thousands of unused miles just sitting around, though some disagree. So far, most of what I have was collected via sign-up bonuses. There was one case of temporary insanity when I bought 50K US Airways miles (now AA miles) for 1.1 cent each. Hopefully, in the long run, it will pay off after all.
Other possible candidates (check my secondary list):
The sign-up bonus on these cards is a bit low, but if I can’t find any better offers, I will consider them.
2) Citi Thank You Preferred
The bonus at this time is only 20,000 points, and you have to spend $1,500 in 3 months in order to get it. Still, it can be redeemed for a $200 Walmart gift card, not too shabby. I have to wait a bit on this one because one of the requirements for eligibility is that your previous Citi Thank You Preferred card has been closed for at least 18 months (see my post on rules for various banks). I’m hoping that this bonus will be increased to 30,000 points (happens now and again), which will make it a no-brainer.
If you have Citi Thank You Premier or Citi Prestige, you can combine the points with those earned on Preferred card. So for you, this offer might be worth more than $200 if you redeem for travel.
3) Bank Americard Travel Rewards credit card
You get 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. Bank of America isn’t known for huge sign-up bonuses, and this one isn’t half bad.
We put around $24,000 on cards per year, so I’m hoping for some amazing deals to pop up in 2016. To be honest, I’m not hugely excited about the current list of candidates, nor am I super confident that we will get approved for all of these cards. Banks are getting really smart about recognizing freeloaders and one of these days The Hobby will be dead for realz. But I’ll keep on riding the gravy train and record the journey along the way. Come join me!
Your thoughts? What are your plans for next year? Please, share.
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.