Most of us in the miles and points hobby suffer from a condition known as FOMO (fear of missing out). I didn’t come up with the term, but it definitely describes how I feel about sign-up bonus offers. After all, we can all only apply for a finite number of credit cards before the banks will get spooked and will stop approving us.
I don’t know the exact number, my strategy is to simply apply till I get a No for an answer. And the thing is, every bank will have their own criteria of when one becomes a persona non-grata. So if I get rejected, I simply move on to the next offer and hope for the best. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t follow a specific schedule, and simply apply when something strikes my fancy.
The challenge lies in choosing the right card and maximizing the return on spending each and every time. After all, I don’t engage in manufactured spending, so mostly have to rely on regular expenses (about $2,000 per month). Sure, sometimes we are “lucky” to get an unexpected medical emergency which frees us up to pursue additional opportunities. But for the most part, I try not to bite off more than I can comfortably chew.
One door closes, four more open
The plan was to bring my husband to Chase branch in early March, right before the bonus was supposed to be cut in half. Until then, I didn’t want to apply for any new cards in his name in order not to ruin his chances at CSR approval. Mind you, I had no idea if he would even be pre-approved. But I wanted that offer so bad, I was willing to pass on various opportunities for two months.
Well, sometime in January Doctorofcredit blog reported that Chase branches no longer have pre-approvals for CSR, so my hopes were dashed to pieces. What to do? Get a credit card or two, of course! But which ones? Well, I could try again for Merrill+ Signature (RIP) despite the fact that he got denied few months earlier. Success!
I also pulled the trigger on Avianca card. I wouldn’t say it’s a no-brainer for everyone, but I think it’s a decent deal. Buying miles for 0.25 cents apiece is a fairly safe investment. I’m pretty certain that I will be able to come out ahead even if Avianca award chart goes through an apocalypse of sorts.
I’m hoping to use the miles for a trip to Belarus, but may instead utilize them for United flights within US. I’m actually pretty low on miles at the moment and can surely use an emergency stash. I applied and waited patiently while archaic Banco Popular website was trying to determine if my husband is a safe bet. Success again!
You may remember that I also applied for this card few months ago. I never heard anything and to be honest, forgot about it altogether. Well, applying in my husband’s name reminded me that I need to check on it. I dug up the old email confirmation to see if there was a phone number I could call.
Turns out there was a link where I could check the status online (somehow I missed it before). I clicked on it and there were several questions to verify my identity. I answered them and the application was approved. Yay! Very odd that it let me complete it two months after submitting the app. We got the cards and made a small purchase on each one. I’ll update if we both end up getting 60K miles like we are supposed to.
Finally, I ended up applying for Wells Fargo Propel World while dealing with my horrible tooth situation. The following week I got a letter that the card was approved. My original plan was to hold off on any new cards in my name as well, and check pre-approval status for Chase Sapphire Preferred while in branch.
But since my husband was no longer a viable candidate for CSR, I decided to just put it off till August, right after I cancel my Chase Sapphire Reserve. I’ve already burned through most of my UR stash, and currently keeping the card mostly for airline lounge access.
Let’s add up the totals:
1) 50,000 points on Merrill+ Visa Signature. I plan to hang on to the card (no annual fee) and hopefully redeem the points on airline tickets. But getting $500 in cash isn’t too shabby either.
2) 120K Avianca miles for $300 in fees. I think it’s a pretty good deal.
3) $400 cash back from Wells Fargo Propel World, plus potential $100 in airline credits.
The total is at least $900 in cash, plus 120K miles. I wouldn’t speculatively pay more than 0.5 cents per Avianca mile (though I expect to get a much better return), so let’s say we are talking about value of $300 (once you deduct $300 in annual fees). By this logic, we have a conservatively valued haul of $1,200 from these four cards.
The time-sensitive nature of the offers
While Avianca card will probably stick around for few years, it’s unlikely that the offer of 60K miles will be alive indefinitely. Right now you have to put in a special code, and it’s promotional in nature. I can definitely survive without Avianca miles, but this is a good deal, so I wanted in on it. And the only reason I checked on my application was due to the fact that my husband was applying at that time.
Merrill + Visa Signature offer is gone, probably for good. My banker said that Wells Fargo Propel World won’t be around much longer either. So I’m glad I decided to strike while the iron was hot. Not waiting for the elusive pre-approval on CSR, which quite possibly wouldn’t materialize anyway, has opened up some very lucrative opportunities. Yes, it’s more work keeping track of four new credit cards rather than one, but I’ll survive.
Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t going anywhere
Well, not for awhile. Sure, the bonus is slashed in half. But who knows, they may raise it back to 100K points in a year or two, or at least 75K points if people aren’t willing to bite on the current deal. And my guess is that many will be put off by that $450 fee. But either way, there is a decent chance that my husband will be able to get this card down the road, albeit with a lesser sign-up bonus.
But Merrill and Wells Fargo cards aren’t likely to come back, so in reality, we probably came out ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to get me another CSR (loved!), but consolation prize isn’t too bad either.
Cash, then miles, then hotel points
It’s hard to determine when to go after an offer and when to hold out, but I’ll share my strategy. In general, if I see a decent cash back bonus, I jump on it even if I have to prepay some expenses. I view it as interest on a CD that is earning a sky-high rate of return and where I don’t have to pay taxes.
The same principle applies to flexible points, which is why I wanted another CSR so badly. At the minimum, the offer represented $1,000 in cash once you sold the gift cards acquired via annual travel credit.
Things are more tricky when it comes to individual miles. If I have to commit a hefty chunk of spending and don’t have any plans for this particular mileage currency, I will be inclined to pass. But it does depend on what other offers are out there at that time. Don’t get me wrong, I like miles, just not as much as cold hard cash/flexible points.
Hotel points to me are at the bottom of the list. If you told me that all Hilton cards will be discontinued tomorrow, I would respond with #ByeFelicia It’s not that I don’t want Hilton points, in fact I might even apply for Hilton co-branded cards later this year. It’s just that there are all kinds of ways to secure lodging: AirBnB, VRBO and various promos. Not to mention, hotel rooms aren’t a good fit for families anyway. It’s a compromise I make in order to save cash.
But there are only a few ways to get to a destination: flying or driving (we usually do the former). I don’t chase hotel night certificates unless I have a specific use in mind. We have a limited budget and adding an extra vacation just to burn certs is not an option I’m inclined to pursue.
Cash back bonuses are the apple of my eye. There are only few ways I can get cash. One is through my husband’s job, but that’s non-negotiable. There is this blog, of course, but this is no easy/yuuge money, I’ll tell you that. Affiliate credit card marketing is also a very unpredictable income stream that can go away tomorrow.
*Interrupting our regular programming with a short rant to get something off my chest. I know for a fact that there are folks who are offended when we even mention affiliate links, and I respect that. But here is the deal. Blogging isn’t free. As in, I spend real money on this site not counting all the time Nancy and I pour into the posts. Few months ago I had to invest $700 UPFRONT in just one month when we switched the site over to another platform. That amount came out of my savings account, there were no fundraiser-type posts.
Thankfully, we had a good month, but I had no way of knowing that when I made the investment. My point is, don’t be fooled by how cheap and easy this thing looks. It’s a real commitment and very often the juice isn’t worth the squeeze (profit-wise). But we love helping you guys, and hope that the site adds a little bit of value to your life.
This blog is a very personal project for me. I include photos of my kids and bare my soul often (maybe too often). This isn’t just an attempt at a money grab. So, to all those who take the time to find our credit card affiliate links, thanks from the bottom of my heart! To those who read the posts but don’t support us on principle, we are still glad you are here (no sarcasm). End rant.*
But my point is, unless I get another job (ain’t happening unless I dump the blog), my ability to get cash is very limited. I don’t do MS, besides, opportunities are scarce in my area anyway. I don’t have time for reselling since I have two young kids. So lucrative cash back bonuses are extremely appealing for my situation. Excellent ROI as long as you don’t mess up minimum spending requirements. We are a middle-class family with a limited amount in savings. Extra cash is always welcome.
You can’t win them all
You can’t jump on every lucrative credit card opportunity out there. Occasionally, you’ll miss out. We all do. It’s important to remember that this is a hobby. So don’t get too greedy and remember to have fun along the way. Even if you are a grizzled miles and points veteran like me, there are still deals to be had. Chase? We don’t need no stinking Chase!
P.S. Chase, I’m just kidding. Love ya!
Leana is the 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.