If you are like me and are used to applying for multiple credit cards each year, you’ve probably noticed that getting approved is tough these days. I’ve had a ton of rejections lately, even from obscure banks.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. For example, few months ago, I got approved for business version of Amex Delta Gold card. My husband also got a lucrative upgrade offer to Amex Aspire. But those wins are rare and tend to be an exception.
Just the other day, I applied for Best Western Rewards Premium MasterCard (non-affiliate link). I was primarily interested in it after learning that Best Western has a property on Fort Myers beach, and that all rooms face the ocean
I’m a serious beach bum at heart, and was salivating at the prospect of getting two nights covered via the signup bonus (the cost varies between 32k and 36k points, depending on the season). Alas, it was not meant to be. Rejected! The reason for denial: too many recently opened accounts, a familiar theme. It’s my understanding that calling First Bank for reconsideration is a hopeless case, so I didn’t bother.
None of it is a surprise, of course. After Chase instituted the 5/24 rule, we knew that other banks would eventually follow suit. I’ve also made a big mistake by adding myself as an authorized user to my husband’s credit cards, and vice versa. As a result, we each have 17 new accounts opened in the last 2 years, and won’t be under 5/24 limit until December 2020.
I never really planned to wait to be under 5/24 limit, but looks like the decision has been made for me. It doesn’t mean I won’t try applying for some obscure (and crazy lucrative) offer that pops up out of nowhere. My motto is “you won’t know unless you try.”
I was shocked when I got approved for the Jet Blue credit card a year and a half ago. I haven’t had much success with Barclay’s for a while and assumed it would be yet another denial. To my amazement, the app was approved. Ditto for my husband. And that’s how I covered 7 tickets from Orlando to Salt Lake City so we could visit Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, since then, most major banks have tightened their approval criteria further, with emphasis on newly opened accounts. That takes me out of the running for most cards that I want. It’s not just Chase anymore.
By applying (and getting rejections) I further damage my chances of approval because of the new credit inquiries. So, the logical choice is to put the brakes on, at least for six months or so, possibly a year. Of course, if I wait that long, I might as well hold out until December 1st so I could get my hands on fresh bonus on Chase Sapphire Preferred X2.
In the meantime, I need to figure out how to maximize points on my puny everyday spending. I don’t do MS aside from occasionally using PayPal (which is allowed to the best of my knowledge), so I’m not expecting to earn a whole lot. Still, every little bit counts.
Topping up accounts and taking advantage of targeted spending bonuses
Occasionally, banks send an offer via email or regular mail encouraging you to spend a certain amount in a specific category. In exchange, you will get extra points per dollar. Not long ago I got one of those offers on my Hyatt card where I could get 5 points per dollar (on up to $2k) in several categories, including utilities. I prepaid my power bill, and was able to collect 10k Hyatt points, which isn’t too shabby.
Normally, I don’t really pay much attention to these type of offers because I’m laser-focused on meeting my minimum spending requirements. But times have changed, and I’m definitely not in a position to turn down 10k Hyatt points. I should note that I could have used my US Bank Cash Plus card instead in order to collect 5% cashback. But due to some upcoming travel plans, Hyatt points are more valuable to me (at this time). Normally, it would probably be a wash.
One of my regrets is not taking advantage of the threshold signup bonus on Chase British Airways Signature Visa (more info here). Current offer is broken down in two parts, where you get 50k Avios after spending $3k in 3 months and an additional 50k Avios after spending $20k in the first 12 months.
When I signed up for it last year, you could get an extra 25k Avios after spending $10k. I decided to stop at 50k Avios, but probably shouldn’t have. If I spent $7k necessary to reach the next threshold, I would have earned an extra 32k Avios.
It would actually make sense to use PayPal and pay a fee of 3%. But hindsight is 20/20. My point is, do the math and don’t discard various points-earning opportunities, even if they require some effort/expense.
Another thing I’ve done recently is take a look at my balances. I don’t believe in speculatively accumulating miles and hotel points unless there is clear incentive (like with Avios offer I’ve highlighted above). However, sometimes it makes sense to top up an account, and Wyndham program is an excellent example.
Right now I have 9k points and most relatively decent properties in Florida require at least 15k points. Also, Wyndham vacation resorts have a 2-night minimum. Despite recent devaluation, I’ve decided to renew mine and my husband’s Wyndham cards (the old version), so every year we each get 15,000 points.
If I wanted to book a vacation resort stay, I would need at least 30k points. The card earns 2 points per dollar on everything, so it makes sense to put $3k on it in order to earn 6k points since I’m not working on meeting any minimum spending at the moment.
That way I can reserve a weekend stay once my renewal Wyndham points post next June. Obviously, I’m talking about unbonused spend. I don’t have a 2% cashback card, so Wyndham card seems like the best option in this particular case.
Maximizing bonus categories
I also happen to have quite a few cards that are on my “keeper” list. Here are the ones I have in my wallet right now:
1) Chase Freedom
2) Discover It
3) US Bank Cash Plus
4) Amex Blue Cash Preferred
5) Wyndham Signature Visa (I’ve explained why earlier)
Obviously, when Chase Freedom is giving 5 points per dollar on gas, that’s the one I will use. As I’ve mentioned few months ago, I’ve recently converted Chase Freedom Unlimited to Chase Sapphire Reserve. So, 5 points earned via Freedom can be turned into 7.5 cents (or close to it) redeemed towards travel purchases.
While I try to buy dining gift cards on Raise.com and other sites, that’s not always possible. So, I use a credit card that has restaurants as a bonus category. Last month it was Discover, and this month it’s US Bank Cash Plus that gives 5% cashback towards fast food.
I also have Amex Blue Cash Preferred for groceries and gas (when it’s not a bonus category on another card). Eventually, my plan is to convert my Amex Everyday to Everyday Preferred version. Why? The ability to earn 4.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on grocery purchases and 3 MR points on gas.
Once I do that, I will downgrade Amex Blue Cash Preferred card to the no-fee version because it would otherwise cannibalize my Amex Everyday Preferred. I have to wait until March since I’ve accepted an upgrade offer with $250 bonus and could risk a clawback before that time. No sense in paying $95 fee X2 since I don’t spend more than $500 per month on groceries and don’t participate in MS. If you are new to this hobby, please reach out to me for clarification if all of this sounds like gibberish.
I’m also planning to convert my Citi AAdvantage card to Citi Double Cash in a few months. This card has recently become very attractive to me due to newly added ability of transfer to miles when paired up with a premium Citi card (read Nancy’s post for more on the subject).
I don’t value Citi Thank You points as highly as MR or UR currency. Still, it’s hard to argue with 2 points per dollar on everything, especially on a no-fee product. I would probably make Citi Double Cash my go-to card for un-bonused spend and hoard the points until I have the chance to apply for Citi Premier or Prestige.
What my husband has in his wallet (for now)
I debated on what to give him. He refuses to juggle multiple cards and likes to keep it simple, unlike me. It couldn’t be Amex since it’s not accepted everywhere, and it had to be a card that would fit best with his spending patterns. Drum roll, please… Chase Sapphire Reserve was the winner.
Why? Well, it earns 3 points per dollar on dining, so that’s a plus. But honestly, the biggest reason was the fact that my husband likes the looks of it. He commented that it’s fancy and that he gets complimented on it a lot. SAD! Hmm, I sure hope CSR card doesn’t cause an affair in my household…
Anyway, UR points are valuable and it helps his self-esteem. A win-win, for sure. Of course, I don’t like it enough to renew it, but we have until next June to worry about that. By then, I will hopefully be back to my old routine of switching credit cards on a regular basis. Fingers crossed.
Readers, how are you dealing with application drought?
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.