If you follow miles and points blogs, you will notice that almost on a weekly basis there is someone out there proclaiming the death of the hobby. More often than not, people are referring to all the recent restrictions put in place by banks. How dare they not want to subsidize our flights in Singapore suites, right? I’m being sarcastic, of course. As I’ve said many times, banks are in it to make a profit, period. It’s up to us to find a way to beat them at their own game.
It was only a matter of time till the big guys caught up to the shenanigans in the ever mushrooming miles and points community. There is now the infamous Chase 5/24 rule, not yet infamous Barclays 6/24 rule (or is it some other number?) and so on. In addition, Amex has recently added a bonus qualification tool meant to determine if you are likely to abuse them based on your prior history.
I got an email from one of my readers and here is a quote: “I’ve just about run out of cards that I’m eligible for, and I’m now giving serious consideration to getting under 5/24.”
Putting things in perspective
Let me cut to the chase. If you’ve been around miles and points hobby for a decade or more, your options right now are probably quite limited. This is the spot I find myself in. But am I at a point where I ran out of cards to apply for? Not yet, not even close.
It certainly helps that my husband and I apply for cards in two-player mode, but I think even those who are single can find something as long as they set reasonable goals. If you are able to apply for business cards, many of them (including those issued by Chase) do not go on your personal report. But in this post I want to focus primarily on personal cards.
These are the offers I got this year (so far):
1)Wells Fargo Propel World (in my husband’s name): worth $500, factoring in $100 airline incidentals credit.
2)PNC Traveler Premier card: worth $300 in travel rebates.
3) Amex Premier Rewards Gold (in my husband’s name): 50,000 Membership Rewards points, which to me are worth at least $550.
4) Amex Everyday card (in my husband’s name): 25,000 MR points, worth at least $275.
5) Amex Hilton Honors card: 75,000 Hilton points, worth to me around $230.
6) Wells Fargo Cash Wise card: $200 bonus.
7) Citi Thank You Premier card (X2): worth at least $1,200 when redeeming points towards cash. I actually redeemed them for $1,500 credit towards a cruise, but let’s ignore that. Update: it appears that it’s no longer possible to cash out the points at a penny each. It was definitely possible few months ago, but perhaps it was a fluke.
I used to aim for $400 in value per card, but recently lowered the number to $200, as long as minimum spending requirements are $1,000 or less. I also pay more attention to offers from obscure banks. Beggars can’t be choosers.
As I wrote in this post, if all goes well, I should soon be getting a 50,000 Avios windfall, plus another $300 offer on PNC Traveler credit card. Our credit scores? In “excellent” range.
I value Avios at around 0.8 cents, so the total haul would represent $3,750 in profit, give or take. And it’s not even the end of the year! Note that I’m not using some crazy valuations of 2 cents per point/mile here.
With this kind of profit, who needs Chase?!
Think about it. You can hold out for Southwest cards so you can get the Companion Pass and skip all the other bonuses in the meantime. Or you can go after decent offers and buy your own Southwest tickets with CASH. I know, I know, it’s painful to think about, but by giving up sign-up bonuses right now, you are leaving real money on the table.
Plus, remember, the rules may change by the time you finally qualify for that glorious Chase card. There may be a 5/48 rule in place. Then what? Also, there is no guarantee of approval. And that coveted Companion Pass may not even come to fruition if bonus points are not considered a qualifying activity at that time.
Loading up on NON 5/24 Chase cards while you still can
Update: it appears that all Chase cards are now subject to 5/24 restriction.
This, in my opinion, is a smart strategy. Chase exec went on record recently saying that they eventually plan to apply 5/24 rule to all of their cards. I have no reason to doubt that statement, which is why I recently applied for Chase British Airways Signature Visa. Eventually, I plan to get it in my husband’s name as well, due to my newly hatched Hawaii trip plan.
The reader I quoted earlier has also asked me what the best non-5/24 Chase cards are at the moment. This will depend on the individual, and his/her goals. But in general, I would rate the cards in this order, assuming you are accumulating points speculatively:
1)World of Hyatt card
Why: the bonus of 60k points is extremely strong, at least in my opinion. Considering the fact that Category 1 Hyatt properties cost only 5k points, you can get a ton of value. Some nice Hyatt resorts cost 15k points per night, which means the bonus would cover a 4-night stay.
2) Chase British Airways Visa Signature card
Avios currency is very quirky, but I was able to get a ton of value out of my points over the years. And no, you don’t have to redeem miles on British Airways operated flights.
The best deals for US residents are flights to Hawaii from the West Coast, and certain Caribbean/Central America routes from Miami. I redeemed just 4,500 Avios+$14 on a ticket from Melbourne to Sydney, where the paid fare was $90. BA program doesn’t charge close-in booking fees and lets you pull points with household members.
3) IHG Rewards Premier card
IHG program can be a nightmare to deal with, but 100k points are nothing to sneeze at. I highly recommend it to those who are thinking about visiting French Polynesia in the next few years.
This is the currency you may want to hoard because IHG has resorts on Bora Bora, Moorea and the main island of Tahiti. They are not cheap (run between 50k-70k points per night), but this is a very expensive area of the world.
IHG program is great for road trips in US because unlike Hyatt, you can find their properties literally everywhere. If you redeem points on four consecutive nights, the last one will be free.
You qualify for bonus on all the cards as long as you haven’t received a welcome offer in the last 24 months. You also have to cancel your existing card in order to get approved. One notable exception is IHG Rewards Premier product because having the old version ($49 annual fee) open will not disqualify you.
There are many reasons to put this hobby on hold, so to speak. Applying for mortgage in the next few years is certainly one of them.
If you feel like switching cards constantly is causing too much stress in your life, then sure, take a break. Come back in a year or two, ready to apply for that coveted Chase offer.
But if you are doing it because you think you will come out ahead somehow, it’s very unlikely. The math simply doesn’t support this theory.
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.