Choosing Credit Cards with Patience and Moderation

I’m sure everyone has heard by now about the new 50,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus on the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. For those who haven’t, head over to The Points Guy, where I first heard about it on Wednesday.

Megan and I don’t stick to a very rigorous system when we apply for credit cards. First, we’re not heavy spenders. We do put everything we can on a card to avoid missing on out points and miles, but at the same time we don’t have a lot of disposable income or large savings that we can draw on to participate in things like “manufactured spend” (ringing up purchases for gift cards that can be cashed out) or even just buying expensive things. Our rent is under $1,000. We buy groceries and travel. That’s about it.

The benefit is that because we don’t stretch ourselves to the limit, we usually have some freedom to apply for whatever good, limited-time offers come along. Megan just applied for the British Airways Visa card in January since we expected some heavy spending for our wedding that will help us reach the spending bonuses at $10,000 and $20,000 to earn a total of 100,000 Avios points (actually, 125,000 including those earned from spend). I applied for the American Express Business Platinum Card in December thanks to a generous 100,000-point offer forwarded by The Mr. Pickles.

I can’t think of anything much else in the last few months, but I do keep my eyes out for new prospects. Sometimes everything just comes together — Wednesday night was a great example.

American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card

We had both been considering the Premier Rewards Gold card because of the generous 3X points on flights and 2X points on groceries, plus we’re angling for any opportunity to transfer Membership Rewards points to KrisFlyer and get ourselves back on another Singapore Airlines flight ;) The 100,000-point bonus for the Platinum Card last month was tempting, but we weren’t willing to fork out two $450 annual fees. The Premier Rewards Gold card, by contrast, waives the $175 annual fee the first year, and for a limited time there is an offer for 50,000 points instead of the usual 25,000 after spending $1,000 in three months.

AmEx Gold Offer

Link to TPG’s description of the offer

Verdict: Both applications approved!

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card

Also last night, I was booking a flight on Alaska Airlines and noticed that it was offering me a $100 credit if I applied for a new credit card. Well, I just submitted my information for a status match last week with the expectation of flying more on Alaska this year. I had already been planning on getting this card for the 25,000 bonus miles and a $110 companion fare (for Megan). Rather than put it off longer, I applied for it along with the AmEx above. I suggest you wait until you book a flight to get a similar deal since I haven’t seen that on any publicly available offers.

Non-affiliate link to the standard offer (25K miles, no $100 credit)

Verdict: Application approved!

Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard

Amol made a good case for getting this card last week. You get 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days, good for a $200 travel credit. Plus, all purchases earn 2 points per dollar, making this an effective 2% cash back card. The annual fee of $89 is waived the first year, and you get a free subscription to TripIt Pro! I figured it made perfect sense. Although Amol pointed out that you can apply for multiple Barclays cards at once, I got a pending application on the first one, so I stopped there.

Affiliate link (thanks for your support!)

Verdict: Application pending

Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature® Card

With the merger between US Airways and American Airlines all but certain, I realized I have never applied for an American Airlines card and should get one before new products are rolled out for a combined company. There are lots offers out there for 30,000 to 50,000 points, not just on this card but for others, too.

Airline Credit Cards page (pick your own compromise between miles and minimum spend)

Verdict: Application approved

Williams-Sonoma Visa® Signature Card

Megan applied for only two cards, the Premier Rewards Gold Card above and this one, a Barclays-issued card for Williams-Sonoma. You can use it elsewhere, too, but the point was to link it to our wedding registry. It offers a measly $25 gift card sign-up bonus but has no annual fee. You earn 3% back at Williams-Sonoma and 1% back elsewhere in the form of more gift cards. But on top of that, by linking it to our registry we also get 3% of everyone else’s purchases. Williams-Sonoma has a lot of pricey bling, too, and for every $2,500 you spend you get a 10% off coupon. Hey, it’s not travel related, but it made sense for us and perhaps for a few other young couples out there planning a wedding. ;) And since Megan is a little more risk averse, she stopped at one Barclays card, too, despite the instant approval.

Verdict: Application approved

Conclusion

Only one application is pending, and I expect it to go through. What surprised me is how little trouble I had even though my occupation is now listed as “self-employed.” At least I have an income and my credit score remains high. Like the Frugal Travel Guy always says, “Your credit is your most important asset.”

Some of you are probably wondering what Chase cards we applied for. Well, since Megan just applied for the British Airways Visa card about a month ago, I figured that was off the table. I have had no problem applying for cards as little as three months apart, but there were no cards that we see a pressing need for. Even if I wanted to apply for one just for the heck of it (I haven’t had an application there in six months), I am holding off for now since Chase closed my Sapphire Preferred card. They invited me to reapply in the future, but I want to let my profile with them cool off for a while.

So there you have it: nothing too exciting, but overall a very valuable set of applications for cards we want, points and miles we can use, and all without breaking the bank. Our overall spend requirements to reach these bonuses are easily covered by daily expenses, and the total amount of annual fees is relatively small. Thinking big and applying for five or six cards every three months is not necessary to do well at this game.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may provide me an affiliate fee when you click on them. I try to disclose which at the time this post is published, but that can change without notice. As always, I appreciate your support.

My New Hilton Strategy
A Week of Amazing Customer Service

Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
Email // Twitter // Facebook // Google+ // Subscribe by RSS

  • Elizabeth

    Was there a minimum spend requirement on the Alaska card to get the 25k miles or $100 statement credit?

    • Scottrick

      My recollection is that there is still a $1,000 requirement within 90 days. It was the same as the public offer, just with the addition of the $100 credit.

  • Deals We Like

    You are better off applying for the Pottery Barn Kids credit card where you get 10% back for all your purchases. Since Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma are the same parent company you can purchase gift cards at Pottery Barn Kids (which will go towards your 10% back) and then use those gift cards at Williams-Sonoma.

    • Scottrick

      For most people. But I think we still need a W-S card to link to our registry.

      • Mommy Points

        I love my PB card – 20% back during double reward times plus $25 off coupons many times per year. Hopefully WS does similar….not as familiar with that card.

        • Scottrick

          I should look into it more. I know Megan doesn’t care for PB, so we’d have to be able to use it at W-S instead.

  • Jessica M

    I love that you put the Williams Sonoma card on here. I’m in a similar situation as you–not too much disposable income, casual traveler and casual accumulation of high bonus cards, wedding this fall. After Amol’s great article I applied for the US airways and then the Arrival card (approved, pending), and then the next day was adding things to our WS registry and saw that the WS card was barclays, too, and kicked myself for the my hasty barclays spree! I may have to convince my fiance to apply for that one, I’m sure he will be happy to be earning us a “bridal bonus” =) Earning points on other people’s spend is weirdly thrilling! I also just convinced the fiance to get the Chase freedom since we think the 0% apr for 15 months might be a good insurance/free short loan just in case the wedding costs get too out of hand for a bit, and when married he can transfer the points to my sapphire account. ‘Best credit cards for wedding spend’ post, might be fun, perhaps? ;)

  • harvson3

    I was with you until you recommended people head over to the plagiarist’s blog. Blergh.

    • Scottrick

      He was the first person who alerted me to the deal. I think it’s fair to cite him.

  • disqust101

    I don’t get it. Making spend for bonuses on any card/cards is easy these days. And you can repay your CC bill long before your statement closes. With the right set of cards, your spend should be free and show a slight profit.

    • Scottrick

      It’s certainly possible. I’ve had a lot of discussions with Amol about this because he has more experience, and he is a better choice to write a post on this topic if he chooses to reveal some details.

      The main issues for me are that I worry the policies could change, leaving me stuck with $2,500 on a Bluebird and no way to get it off, or I’ll make a mistake (like some have, who should know better) and buy $2,000 of VanillaOne cards instead of Vanilla Reloads. I can’t and don’t want to float a couple grand for the three or four months it takes to spend that down.

      Most of my friends and relatives are one- or two-card people who still buy groceries with a debit card and are skeptical of annual fees regardless of the sign-up bonus. My dad completely swore off American Express after an issue 20 years ago. Getting them to apply for four cards in a year, let alone four cards every three months, would be difficult, and I try to write from experience.

  • Joel

    Scott, I did get the Amex Plat last month. Should I hold off on the Premier Reward Gold app?

    • Scottrick

      Yes, wait. You can’t get the bonus if you’ve held a personal card that earns Membership Rewards points in the last 90 days. That means you have to cancel the Platinum Card and wait 90 days before you could apply for an offer like this one.