Winter Travel Credit Card Apps and Other Recent Travel Hacking Success!
Elisa and I just had a successful credit card app-o-rama! If you’re not familiar with the term – it’s when you signup for multiple credit cards on the same day in order to avoid application denials due to multiple credit inquiries and to keep a consistent pattern to periodic signups. We both signed up, and were approved, for the British Airways card issued by Chase as well as the Club Carlson card issued by US Bank. I also got the Citi Prestige card in conjunction with setting up a Citigold banking account.
Chase British Airways Card – I’ve only recently started to use British airways points via transfers from Chase Ultimate. For short hauls, the points are mostly unbeatable. For instance, we booked one way flights from LAX to Hawaii for next January for just 12,500 points each. That works out to a value of 3.7 cents/mile which is better even then we get from booking flights with Southwest and the companion pass (3.3 cents/mile). Since the signup bonus of 50k points would equate to two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from the west coast, this card has been on our shortlist for some time. We each have a number of chase cards now, so as expected we were not automatically approved and had to call into the application phone line to get credit moved from existing cards into the new British card. I now have 7 chase cards and it seems they are willing to keep giving them to me as long as I don’t request anymore credit.
Club Carlson Card – when we started this hobby last year I was focused on earning airline miles and did not pay attention to hotel rewards. However, once we broke the 1 million mile mark, I realized that we had more miles than we needed for awhile and I started investigating other sources like hotel points. The beauty of this card is that the last night is free for every single award stay, even on two night stays. That means that if you hit the sweet spot of a two night stay, you’re effectively getting hotels for 50% less points! Since we each got the card, we can book back to back 2 night stays at the same hotel and get a four night stay. The map of Carlson hotels is pretty sparse except for the US and Europe (checkout the awesome series of reward maps on Travelisfree.com here) and like most hotel programs the properties in Europe are on average a better quality then the similar-priced hotels in the states.
Before applying for the Carlson cards we both froze our ARS and IDA credit reports. These are “back-office” credit reporting agencies and US Bank – the issuing bank for the Carlson card – is the only major bank to pull credit reports from these agencies for credit card applications. Evidently US Bank also really hates to see numerous credit inquiries and will deny applications for those accounts. Not sure exactly why this works, but if you freeze the ARS and IDA reports, US Bank doesn’t see all the inquiries and the chances of getting approved are significantly increased for travel hackers with numerous inquiries such as ourselves.
The card comes with a signup bonus of 85,000 points (plus points on the minimum spend needed to get this bonus), as well as an anniversary bonus of 40,000 points which more than offsets the annual fee. We plan to keep these cards indefinitely which will help our credit scores in the long run and give us a perinnial source of free hotel nights.
Citi Prestige – only I applied for and got the Prestige. There’s a standard offer for 30,000 bonus points but I called in and got an “enhanced” offer for 60,000 points only for Citigold account holders. Of course, I had to setup a Citigold account first, but that came with a $400 signup bonus in its own right, so in total I figure we got around $1,200 for the signup along (60k ThankYou points equates to roughly $800 in airfare + $400 Citigold signup). It took a couple of calls back and forth with the friendly customer service reps in North Dakota, and some faxing in of documentation to prove the offer and Citigold account, but I got it to work eventually. The annual fee of $450 was also reduced to $350 for having a Citigold account. There are a ton of great features for this card including:
1 – some of the best travel insurance and misc travel benefits that I have seen (on par with the Chase Sapphire)
2 – the 4th night free on any hotel stay. This makes any hotel effectively 25% off. Another cool part is that the discount comes in the form of a reimbursement, and you pay the hotel directly. This mean that we will still earn a full four nights worth of hotel points for the stay and be eligible for any promotions that happen to be going on.
3 – free lounge access at over 700 lounges around the world (meh)
4 – a $250 credit towards air travel each calendar year (meaning you can get $500 worth of value in the first year of card membership – already covering the annual fee)
5 – $100 to cover the Global entry application fee, which also includes TSA pre-check (will only be useful if Elisa is able to get it as well)
We plan to utilize all of these, and I think we’ll get the most value from the 4th night free hotels and of course the air credit. I’m not a lounge person and don’t care much about the global entry, but we’ll sure as heck take them if the price is free!
Among other travel hacking successes the past couple months, we also snagged a couple Target RedCards, and starting making calls for retention offers on the first cards that we signed up for a year ago. The best retention call I had was with a guy from Barclay bank, who went through every card I had and gave me numerous offers – waiving an annual fee on the US Air card, downgrading the Frontier card to a no annual fee, bonus points on spend, etc. – all because I “seemed like a good guy”.
Now the fun begins again as we start redeeming all these points! Stay tuned..