New To Military Churning Best Practices 2018

BLUF: If you are a credit card virgin, and are in the military you need to apply for cards in sequence to take full advantage of various bank rules. Establish a credit history with a Discover Card for one whole year. Then start with Chase, then US Bank, then AmEx based of how strict these respective banks are screening for new applications. Take it slow and try to hit the spend bonuses organically. Use Manufactured Spending only in a pinch, and make sure you keep track of the deadlines involved. Focus on high fee cards that are waived for military with renewable annual benefits.

Those service members that do not have any credit history should start here.

Rules of the game:

  1. You need a credit history to get the high annual fee cards (with big benefits), great intro video here (ask sebby).
  2. Always keep cards open that you had before you joined the military, let the banks know and most will waive annual fees for card you had before joining. You can product change these card to higher product and get away from paying the annual fees. For example I had the United Explorer Card before I joined and got the fee waiver. I then upgraded this card to the $450 annual fee United Club card and continued to get the fee waiver. Several people have moved their Chase Freedom from High School to a second CSR!
  3. There are only two players in this game, suckers and maximizers. Suckers are making minimum payments on their cards and thereby fund the credit card companies by paying 15%-19% APR. Maximizers cost the Banks money by not carrying a balance (therefore no interest) and taking full advantage of recurring benefits on each one of their cards. You are one missed payment away from turning from a Maximizer to a Sucker, and we are all subject to the same greed and FOMO that attracts us to use credit cards. If you loose control and become a sucker, time to quit the game!
  4. In general credit card companies make some money on processing fees from retailers, but the bulk of its revenue is on balance carrying suckers. AmEx just loves new accounts as it shows to the shareholders the improving health of a company. Wells Fargo took this too far and made up fake accounts, while AmEx entices you to open multiple accounts. Chase hates new accounts and have been shutting down churners left and right.
  5. You can open cards, close cards, and you can product change cards. Opening cards come with a credit pull and a new account, product change keeps a card alive as a higher or lower product. Closing an account kills the card and shortens your overall credit age. You must wait a year of having a card before any changes can be made due to the 2009 Credit CARD act.
  6. Credit score is determined by account age, credit pulls, and utilization. Use credit Karma to keep track. Never over-utilize a card (over 10% of available credit) or it will tank your credit score. You can pre-pay a balance before the statement closes to get utilization down for the credit report.
  7. For all intents and purposes the only useful banks that waive any annual fees for active duty AFTER they join are: Chase (Per MLA after Sept 2017), AmEx (SCRA for Reservist and AD), and US Bank (Post Sept 2017 MLA). Capitol One waives, but I have no experience in their products.
  8. AmEx will let you have only 5 Credit cards (biz and personal totaled together), but infinite charge cards (Green, Gold, Platinum)
  9. AmEx and Chase will not let you get the same product twice, but will let you product change to another card of a existing product held. For example You can get a Platinum and then a Green, and then upgrade the Green to Platinum. You can move a Slate, Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited to another Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  10. AmEx business cards do not get reported to a credit history thereby a strategy to staying under 5/24.
  11. Chase will look at 24 months of your credit history to determine approvals of new accounts. For most of their cards, any more than 5 cards (at any bank) opened or added as authorized user in a 24 month period means instant denial. This is the “5/24 rule”
  12. Chase will not waive business card fees for military, might be worth it for some UR points on Ink products
  13. American Express WILL waive annual fees for business cards for military, worth hitting business versions of card to double dip points.
  14. The best credit card offers are not presented on this site, you need to seek out the best offers on your own. The referral links are here to support the site and you can use them as you wish.
  15. You can apply for a business card as a sole proprietorship in yourself, just use your SSN as the tax ID number.
  16. Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards are worth 1.5 cents per point minimum, don’t waste them on gift cards or statement credits for less than 1.5 cents per point!
  17. If you ever get an AmEx card bonus, you can never get it again for the same product (7 year drop off de facto)
  18. Must wait 24 months between receiving Chase Bonuses, and 48 months for Sapphire products.
  19. Memorize earn categories by checking merchant codes here. Use the right card for the right transactions to max out earning.
  20. Closing an AmEx card in less than one year from earning the bonus may cause the points to be clawed back.
  21. Take it slow AmEx: Max 1 credit card approval per 5 days and 2 in 90 days, but no known limit for charge cards
  22. Take it even slower for Chase: Usual max 2 new cards per month (but rule seems to vary)
  23. If you try to apply for two Chase cards in a short period of time (2 days) then you will certainly get a manual review.
  24. U.S. Bank monitors the purchsing of gift cards to make spend and will shut you down
  25. U.S. Bank will not issue you a new card if you had gotten too many in a short amount of time
  26. Bust Out Fraud is tracked with a different score, your behavior as a churner (eg: buying only gift cards) may get you shut down!
  27. Adding your spouse as an authorized user will count against their 5/24 count. I just give my wife my card to use and no one has ever stopped her.

Spouse and Dependent Fee Waivers

Per the terms of the MLA, spouses and dependent children (up to age 23 if in full time school) are covered under the MLA. This means Chase will waive annual fees for Military and these dependents. Keep in mind the minimum age of a primary card holder is 18. AmEx is waiving for spouses on a state by state basis, Illinois spouses appear to have the waiver. A spouse of a captain in Florida was denied her waiver. No data points exist on the dependents of military members for AmEx.

Credit History Must Be Established

Chase is very conservative on giving out credit. You will get rejected even for a Chase Freedom if no personal credit history exists. Just being an authorized user is not enough. Per Ask Sebby, you should use this sequence to establish a credit history:

  1. Secure Credit Card from Discover (No AF) for 12 months to establish credit history.
  2. Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, $500 limit, prepay it mid cycle to keep utilization low.

Best Sequence (Chase First) pick 5 of these card that are 5/24 restricted (try to maximize annual fee waiver):

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50k UR on $3k in 90 days ($450 annual Fee Waived)
    1. Do it for the $300 Travel Credit Per Year (spend on airline tickets)
    2. Priority Pass lounge access with 2 guests
    3. UR Points transfer to United and Hyatt
    4. UR Points can be used to book tickets at 1.5 cents per point
    5. Earn 3 points per dollar on dining and travel
    6. Can only apply for Sapphire Card (Reserve, Preferred, or Plain)
    7. Must wait 48 months form earning bonus to get another Sapphire Product
    8. Can upgrade a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited to the CSR
  2. United Club Card: 50k MP on $3k in 90 days ($450 annual Fee Waived)
    1. Gets you into United Clubs and Star Alliance Lounges worldwide
    2. Can get all versions of card (Club, Explorer, Travel Bank, and Business Versions)
  3. United Explorer Card: 40k MP on $2k in 90 days ($95 annual fee waived)
    1. 2 United Club Passes to give away
    2. Can get all versions of card (Club, Explorer, Travel Bank, and Business Versions)
  4. Southwest Priority Card: 40k RR on $1k in 90 days ($149 annual fee waived)
    1. 7.5k RR points each year
    2. 4 priority boardings
    3. $75 annual credit on Southwest flights
    4. Can only have one Southwest card
  5. Southwest Premier Card: 40k RR on $1k in 90 days ($99 annual fee waived)
    1. 6k RR points each year
    2. Can only have one Southwest card
  6. Southwest Plus Card 40k RR on $1k in 90 days ($69 annual fee waived)
    1. 3k RR points each year
    2. Can only have one Southwest card
  7. Chase Freedom $150 (15k UR) bonus with $500 spend in 90 days (Free)
    1. Rotating 5x categories that you can transfer as UR to Chase Sapphire Reserve
    2. Upgrade to another CSR in one year
  8. Chase Freedom Unlimited $150 (15k UR) bonus with $500 spend in 90 days (Free)
    1. 1.5 UR per dollar to transfer Chase Sapphire Reserve
    2. Upgrade to another CSR in one year
  9. Chase Marriott Premier Plus 75k Marriott on $3k spend in 90 days ($95 annual fee)
    1. Free annual night worth 35k points
    2. Will make you ineligible for the AmEx SPG Lux bonus for 24 months
  10. Chase Slate 
    1. No benefits at all (for us), but can be upgraded to CSR

Non 5/24 Restricted Cards From Chase

  1. Hyatt Card 40k on $3k spend, in 90 days then 20k on another $3k in 180 days ($95 waived) (Referral Link)
    1. Free annual night Category 1-4
  2. Chase IHG Card 80k on $2k spend in 90 days ($89 AF Waived) (Referral Link)
    1. Free night worth up to 40k points

The Little Known US Bank Altitude Card Next:

  1. Must establish a relationship with US Bank, check for bank bonuses here.
  2. US Bank Altitude Card 50k points for $4.5k spend in 90 days ($450 annual fee)
    1. 3x points on Apple Pay
    2. Each point worth 1.5 cents in travel
    3. $325 annual credit for travel (includes plane tickets)
    4. Will get denied if too many CC applications at other banks (eg: 2 AmEx in 1 mo, 3 total in 6 mo)
    5. Shut downs due to too many gift card purchases

AmEx for Infinite Bonuses (No Limit on Charge Cards)

  1. AmEx Platinum 60k MR points on $5k spend in 90 days ($550 annual fee waived) Referral Link
    1. $200 a year on Uber @ $15 a month with an extra $20 in December (Use on Uber Eats @ end of month)
    2. $200 annually on American Airlines, Delta Airlines, or Southwest Airlines gift cards (2x $100, 4x $50, 1x $200)
    3. $100 on Saks 5th Ave gift cards bought in person (2X $50 Jan to June, then $50 July to Aug)
    4. 5x points on airline tickets from the airline
    5. Free Airport Lounge Access: Airspace, Centurion, Escape, Delta Sky Club (Flying On Delta), Priority Pass
    6. Non airport lounges: Theme Parks and Las Vegas & NYC Convention Centers
    7. Hilton Gold Status
  2. Charles Schwab AmEx Platinum 60k MR points on $5k spend in 90 days ($550 annual fee waived)
    1. Same as above but different product
    2. Must have Schwab account, use code “refer” for $100 bonus on $1000 deposit
    3. Use Schwab for Roth IRA ($5,500 max per year)
    4. Transfer Membership Rewards Points for 1.25 cents per point (better than gift cards)
  3. Morgan Stanley AmEx Platinum 60k MR points on $5k spend in 90 days ($550 annual fee waived)
    1. Must have Morgan Stanley account ($5,000 minimum)
    2. Can transfer MR to $$$ this way as well but only at 1 cent per point (not worth it)
    3. Same benefits as above
  4. Ameriprise AmEx Platinum (No Point Bonus)
    1. No need for Ameriprise Account
    2. Same Benefits as above
    3. 5,000 MR for every $20k spent, up to 30,000 additional points per year
  5. AmEx Business Platinum 50k MR on $10k spend and an extra 25k MR on another $10k in first 90 days ($450 AF waived)
    1. Referral Link Here, Here & Here
    2. $200 Airline Credit American Airlines, Delta Airlines, or Southwest Airlines gift cards (2x $100, 4x $50, 1x $200)
    3. 35% points back on Points booking (Makes MR points worth 1.5 cents on travel)
    4. 10 GoGo in flight WiFi passes
    5. 1.5 MR on $5,000+ purchases
  6. AmEx Premier Rewards Gold 25k MR on $2k spend in 90 days
    1. $100 airline credit to be spent like AmEx Platinum credit (AA, Delta, Southwest Gift Cards)
    2. Upgrade to another Platinum in 1 year
  7. AmEx Green Card 15k MR for $1k spend in 90 days (referral link here) ($95 AF Waived)
    1. Upgrade to another Platinum in one year
  8. AmEx Ameriprise Gold 25k MR on $1k spend in 90 days ($260 AF Waived)
    1. Upgrade to another AmEx Ameriprise Platinum in 1 year)
  9. AmEx Business Gold 50K MR on $5k spend in 90 days
    1. 3x points on one of these of your choice:
      1. Airfare purchased directly from airlines
      2. U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
      3. U.S. purchases at gas stations
      4. U.S. purchases for shipping
      5. U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers
    2. 2x on the remaining categories
    3. Upgrade to Business Plat in one year

5 Card Limit on AmEx Charge Cards (Pick 5) including Business and Personal Cards

  1. Hilton Aspire Card 100k HHonors on $4k in 90 days ($450 AF Waived) Referral Link Here at bottom
    1. $250 on American Airlines, Delta Airlines, or Southwest Airlines gift cards (2.5x $100, 5x $50, 1x $250 respectively)
    2. $250 on Hiltons Resort Credits
    3. Free Weekend Night every year including first year (Any Hilton but these)
    4. Diamond Status
    5. Can have all 3 hiton cards
  2. Hilton Ascend Card 100k HHonors on $2k spend in 90 days ($95 Yearly Fee Waived) Referral Link Here
    1. Upgrade to another Hilton Aspire in 1 year to repeat benefits
  3. Hilton Card 65k HHonors for $1k spend in 90 days (free) (referral link here at bottom)
    1. Upgrade to another Hilton Aspire in 1 year to repeat benefits
  4. SPG Luxury Card 100k SPG on $5k spend in 90 days ($450 annual fee waived) (referral link here)
    1. $300 for SPG and Marriott hotel incidentals per year
    2. 50k point value free night per year (after first year)
    3. Can’t get bonus if you had the Marriott Card in 24 months
  5. SPG Personal Card 75k SPG on $3k spend in 90 days ($95 fee waived) (Referral link here at bottom)
    1. 35k point value free night per year
    2. Upgrade to another Lux in 1 year
  6. Delta Reserve 40K Sky Miles, 10K MQM on $3k spend in 90 days ($450 AF Waived) (Referral Link Here at bottom)
    1. First Class Delta Companion Pass Every Year
    2. Can have all three Delta Cards
  7. Delta Platinum 70K Sky Miles, 10K MQM on $3k spend in 90 days ($195 AF Waived) (Referral Link Here at bottom)
    1. Main Cabin Delta Companion Pass Every Year
    2. Upgrade after 1 year to another Delta Reserve for another First Class Companion
  8.  Delta Gold 60K Sky Miles, on $3k spend in 120 days ($95 AF Waived) (Referral Link Here at bottom)
    1. Upgrade after 1 year to another Delta Reserve for another First Class Companion
  9. Delta Blue 10k Sky Miles and $50 lyft credit for $500 spend in 90 days (free)
    1. Upgrade after 1 year to another Delta Reserve for another First Class Companion
  10. BLUE Cash Preferred $250 cash back on $1k spend in 90 days ($95 fee waived) (Referral Link Here)
    1. 6% Cash Back on groceries
    2. 3% Cash Back on gas
  11. AmEx Everyday Preferred 20K MR on $1k spend in 90 days ($95 fee waived) (Referral Link Here)
    1. 50% bonus on 30+ uses per month
    2. 3x MR Super Market
    3. 2x Gas

Manufactured Spending

Use plastiq to top off organically spent money for rent and other expenses. Use my referral code – 674873 – or download the app here. Gift card buying and reselling is risky because it will trigger account reviews. Gold coin and bitcoin should be avoided.

Model Card Hands

Hotel Maximizer:

  1. CSR ($300 for travel)
  2. Freedom Upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  3. Freedom Unlimited upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  4. Slate upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  5. Marriott (35k Free Night)
  6. US Bank Altitude ($325 for travel)
  7. Hyatt (Free night)
  8. IHG (Free Night)
  9. Hilton Aspire ($250 Hotel Credit, $250 Flight Credit, Free Night)
  10. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton Ascend)
  11. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton Honors)
  12. SPG Lux ($300 Credit, 50k free night)
  13. SPG Lux from Personal SPGTotal yearly loot: $1,350 Hotel Credit, $750 airline credit, $625 travel credit, 8 free nights

Airline Maximizer:

  1. CSR ($300 for travel)
  2. Freedom Upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  3. Freedom Unlimited upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  4. United Club (United Club Lounge Access for you and 2 guests)
  5. Southwest Priority ($75 credit, 7.5 RR)
  6. US Bank Altitude ($325 for travel)
  7. Hilton Aspire ($250 Hotel Credit, $250 Flight Credit, Free Night)
  8. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton Ascend)
  9. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton No Fee)
  10. Delta Reserve (First Class Companion)
  11. Delta Reserve (Upgraded from Delta Platinum)
  12. AmEx Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  13. AmEx Platinum (Upgrade from Green)
  14. AmEx Platinum (Upgrade from Gold)
  15. AmEx Charles Schwab Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  16. AmEx Morgan Stanley Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  17. AmEx Ameriprise Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  18. AmEx Ameriprise Platinum (Upgraded From Ameriprise Gold)
  19. AmEx Business Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  20. AmEx Business Platinum (Upgraded from Biz Gold)

Balanced Travel Approach:

  1. CSR ($300 for travel)
  2. Freedom Upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  3. Freedom Unlimited upgraded to CSR ($300 for travel)
  4. United Club (United Club Lounge Access for you and 2 guests)
  5. Marriott Plus (35k free night)
  6. Hyatt (Free night)
  7. IHG (Free Night)
  8. US Bank Altitude ($325 for travel)
  9. Hilton Aspire ($250 Hotel Credit, $250 Flight Credit, Free Night)
  10. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton Ascend)
  11. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton No Fee)
  12. Delta Reserve (First Class Companion)
  13. SPG Lux ($300 Credit, 50k free night)
  14. AmEx Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  15. AmEx Platinum (Upgrade from Green)
  16. AmEx Platinum (Upgrade from Gold)
  17. AmEx Charles Schwab Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  18. AmEx Morgan Stanley Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  19. AmEx Ameriprise Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  20. AmEx Ameriprise Platinum (Upgraded From Ameriprise Gold)
  21. AmEx Business Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  22. AmEx Business Platinum (Upgraded from Biz Gold)

Downgrade Strategy

Upon exit from active duty keep in mind these downgrade routes to avoid the annual fee when it hits. A letter from Chase and AmEx will come to give you ample time to make changes before the annual fee hits. Then stagger the closures over months to not have them clustered together. AmEx appears to do an audit every April with DFAS to see who is still in the military. You can sometimes have an entire year before the annual fee hits.

Joining the reserves will keep the AmEx SCRA waivers alive, not sure about Chase. Having your spouse go AD would get your Chase cards waived.

  1. AmEx Platnum to Green ($95 annual fee) then close after MR Points are exhausted (Dump to Charles Schwab at 1.25 cents per MR point)
  2. AmEx Biz Plat to Gold then close ($175) (possible plumb card)
  3. Morgan Stanley Platinum to Morgan Stanley Credit (Free) (Rumored)
  4. Schwab Platinum to Schwab credit (Free) (Rumored)
  5. SPG Lux to Regular SPG ($95)
  6. Delta Reserve to Delta Blue (Free)
  7. AmEx Blue Cash Preferred to Everyday Cash (free)
  8. AmEx Blue Preferred to Blue (free)
  9. Chase Sapphire Reserve to regular Sapphire or Freedom (Free)
  10. United Club to United Travel Bank (Free)
  11. AmEx Ameriprise Platinum to Gold ($160)
  12. Southwest Priority to Plus ($69)
  13. Hilton Aspire to Basic Hilton Honors (Free)

Note: this is a work in progress, updated 14 Sept 2018 08:46

Two Paths Blazed To 2 SPG Lux Cards

My referral link for the SPG Lux Card can be found here.

I got distracted by my travels to apply my wife for the SPG Lux card before the hammer came down Sunday 26 Aug 2018. We were now stuck with option #2 which was to simply call in and Product Change (Upgrade) her SPG Personal Card that she got 15 August 2015 to another Luxury card. I called in with her and there was no offer of points for the upgrade. I was hesitant to upgrade, but with her girl’s trip at the Ritz Toronto looming next month, we decided to go for the upgrade to take advantage of the $300 credit for spa services and in room dining as a data point.

My card arrived today via FedEx only a mere 5 days from calling the reconsideration line. It came in a very similar package to the Hilton Aspire Card, #10 envelope stuffed to the max of literature, placed in a box then another FedEx envelope. There is no indication of “Luxury” on the card, just a website of . I will have 90 days from today to spend the $5,000 to get 100k Starriott points.

On my wife’s side we upgraded Personal SPG to SPG Lux since she has the MLA waived Ritz Card. We would be ineligible for the 100k points since I missed the deadline of 26 Aug 2018 before the new rules kicked in. The applications for both the Personal SPG and the Lux say (respectively):

Effective 8/26, welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, The Marriott Rewards®Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, Marriott Rewards Credit Card from Chase, or The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card from JP Morgan in the last 30 days.

Effective 8/26, welcome offer not available to applicants who (i) have or have had The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card from JP Morgan in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, or The Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a welcome or upgrade offer for The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase, or The Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 24 months

I spoke to the CSR online and they stated her old SPG Personal anniversary night means nothing, and today would be the upgrade anniversary day where her $300 hotel credit and 50k free night will take place. They did say that we got a free 35k night from the old personal card which had this bonus:

Free Night Award

Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.

Still haven’t seen that in her account, yet. In the end I think we made out like a bandit. When my wife come off of her 5/24 fast she can apply for the Marriott Plus card and get 75,000 points since it has these restrictions:

This product is available to you if you do not have the Marriott Rewards Premier or Premier Plus credit card, or have not received a new cardmember bonus for either of these cards within the past 24 months. Please note: You may not be eligible for the bonus if you hold, or have previously held, a Marriott International co-branded card issued by a United States credit card issuer.

Here is our total loot pile for these 4 cards:

  • 2x $300 annual airline credits over two MLA Waived Ritz Carlton Cards (works for $100 AA gift cards)
  • 6x Club Level Upgrades over the same two MLA Waived Ritz Carlton Cards
  • 4x free (up to 50,000 Point) nights over 2 SPG Lux cards and 2 Ritz Cards
  • 2x $300 Annual Marriott Credits

So once a year, if we can time it right, we can have 4 nights of hotels free with $600 to spend to get there, $600 to spend when we stay there!

Phase 2 of this plan is to see if I can apply for an SPG Personal card (forgo the bonus since I had it before) just to upgrade to my 3rd SPG Lux card in a year!


Fly Cape Air on a 1980s Cessna 403 Using Points

On Saturday I got to fly in a 1980 Cessna 402C on Cape Air using points. This may be my last chance to do so since this ancient workhorse will be replaced on January 2019 by the Tecnam P2012 Traveller. I first booked the flight using my US Bank Altitude Card. It cost me only 7,867 points for two one way tickets from ORD Terminal 3 to DEC:

The points were earned at 3 points per dollar on mobile pay transactions. That means a $2,623 spend would net enough points for two tickets valued at $118 making a sweet 4.5% cash back when spent on travel. I got these points I just logged into my US Bank account and booked using their booking engine. The reservation was held by Hahn airlines after the booking. If you have any relationship with US bank, then get this card especially since it pays you $325 a year to spend on travel and they waive the $400 annual fee for Active Duty:

On the day of the flight you can only check in exactly one hour before departure because the check in agent is the same agent as the gate agent. They are incredibly short staffed and each person wears a lot of hats for both airlines. In fact the one ticket agent also handles the check-in for Air Choice One and has to bounce between two difference computers to check in each airlines. This is amazing considering both airlines get a combined $12 million dollars a year from the Department of Transportation to maintain these routes:

State Airport Annual Subsidy Airline
IL Decatur $3,002,731 Cape Air
IA Burlington $2,415,564 Air Choice One
IA Mason City $2,920,405 Air Choice One
MI Ironwood $3,619,229 Air Choice One
Total: $11,957,929

Does it really cost $11,957,929 to fly and operate 4 routes? I think they could spare some coin to hire someone to sit at the front desk all day. So I checked in at 09:40. They weighed all of my carry on luggage and tagged it. I had to give an estimate of my own weight. They gave me a boarding pass which had TSA Pre-Check (which was not a feature of Air Choice one), and was told to get to gate L11b by 10:25 for my 10:40 flight. Naturally I went to American Airlines Admirals Club located in Terminal 3 to load up on snacks. Sure enough, I got a call from the gate agent from 1(508)862-9700 right at 10:25 demanding to know where I was. Boarding had begun and I was the only passenger missing! I ran over to the gate which was a desk all the way at the end of Terminal 3.

When I got to the gate they lead us downstairs to the plane and stripped us of  our luggage. Pro tip: bring a even smaller bag on the plane for your headphones and snacks, there is no overhead or under seat storage! Once inside you can see how much bigger the Cessna Caravan on Air Choice One is compared to the 402c:

Once we were all seated we began our taxi to the runway with the big boys, I got to hear the jet was from a brand new 787:

The plane is so low to the ground that you get a true sense of how giant commercial airliners are. There was zero leg room for my daughter due to the full backing up of the seat for the pilot. They pick seats for all the passengers based on weight, so don’t think you get to choose where you want to sit.

Once you get up in the air you can watch everything that is going on which is fascinating. All of the checklists and settings to change every minute in flight. We never went above 8,000 ft because the cabin was not pressurized and there was no supplemental oxygen. Landing was pretty awesome especially on a windy and cloudy day. Upon arrival it is apparent that this $3,000,000 subsidy from the DoT is the only thing keeping the DEC airport alive:

Everyone had to deplane and grab their luggage. Those that continued on to STL had to re-check into the flight on the secure side of the single gate terminal. I left the airport with a much better appreciation for aviation in general, and I am going to fly Cape Air one more time in November for my Thanksgiving visit. Next year I hope to fly the new Italian plane! Till then, I encourage you all to get your tax refund by flying these EAS routes on points before the whole program is shut down. Denver is one of the hottest hubs for the program:

Hope to visit a lot of these smaller towns via tiny planes before it goes away. Now the change of the EAS route from Air Choice One to Cape Air is a definite downgrade, but I am looking forward to the replacement plane in 2019:

Until then we got these old clunkers that haven’t been made since 1985!


Card Conundrum: 5/24 Abstinence or 100k SPG?

Thank you all for the wonderful Data Points regarding a very successful roll out of the new SPG Lux card! Now what about all of the existing SPG Personal Card Holders? Apparently some people are getting 100k offers to upgrade according to DoC.

Reader Dan writes:

After I was approved for the SPG Luxury card I went ahead and upgraded my SPG basic card to a 2nd luxury card via the below link. In order to get the option upgrade it, I had to remove the SPG basic card from my main amex login and add it to its own login temporarily, similar to what we’ve had to do in the past to upgrade cards into Platinums and enroll in the Saks credit. Sadly, I did not get a promotion offer with my upgrade (ie, spend 5k get 100k points), but it’s still worth it for the $300/year credit and free anniversary night.
Just a mere 12 hours ago I applied and got approved for my own SPG luxury card. Unfortunately I checked and my wife did not get an offer of anything to upgrade her SPG Personal to Lux. As you might have read, I am abstaining from applying for any new cards for my wife so she can finally get under 5/24 in mid to late 2019. I went ahead and logged into her account and sure enough, just like Dan said, I got a very simple one click solution to upgrade her Personal SPG to the Lux version:
But then the FOMO got the best of me, do I say fuck it to the 5/24 fast and just get a new SPG Lux card for her? She is currently at 4 of her 5 card limit: Personal SPG, Delta Platinum, Everyday Preferred, and Hilton Ascend (was Surpass). Her open date on her SPG is September 2015. Her 5/24 drop off dates are as follows:
Card Age (In Mo) Drop Off Month
Chase 12 Jul-19
Chase 12 Jul-19
AmEx 10 Sep-19
Chase 9 Oct-19
Chase 7 Dec-19
Then I thought I was being an idiot here and throw away 100k points with an upgrade, but keep in mind she also had a Ritz card so we would have to get her a new card before 26 Aug 2018, and I would be on the hook for $10,000 spend for both of our cards in a 3 month period. This would require a bit of Manufactured Spending. Perhaps in the form of Bitcoin and Krugerrands (not smart). I decided to click ahead:
The terms were interesting because it spoke of the free annual night as well as the credits. According to the conditions, the $300 credit pays out like so:

$300 SPG/Marriott Rewards Statement Credit

During each year of your Card Membership (“reward year”), you are eligible to receive up to $300 total in statement credits on your Card Account for eligible purchases made directly at participating SPG® or Marriott Rewards® hotels on your Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card during that reward year. Your first reward year begins on your account opening date. Each subsequent reward year begins on the anniversary of your account opening date.
Eligible SPG or Marriott Rewards property purchases must be made directly with the participating SPG or Marriott Rewards property and charged to your Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card account for the benefit to apply. Incidental charges (including charges made at restaurants, spas and other establishments within the hotel property) must be charged to your room and paid for with your Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card at checkout in order to be recognized as SPG or Marriott Rewards purchases.
Visit for the list of participating SPG properties or for the list of participating Marriott Rewards properties. Purchases made by both the Basic and Additional Card Members on the eligible Card Account are eligible for statement credits. However, each Card Account is eligible for up to a total of $300 per renewal year in statement credits across all Cards on the Card Account. Please allow 8-12 weeks after the eligible SPG or Marriott purchase is charged to your Card Account for statement credit(s) to be posted to the Account. Please call the number on the back of your Card if statement credits have not posted after 12 weeks from the date of purchase. Card Members remain responsible for timely payment of all charges.

The terms of the free night read like this:

Free Night Award (up to 50k points)

Each year, after renewal of your Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, you will receive one Free Night Award from Starwood Preferred Guest®. The Free Night Award can be redeemed for a one-night stay inclusive of room rate and applicable taxes at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels with a redemption level at or under 50,000 points.

The Card Member may be responsible for payment of additional mandatory resort fees at properties where resort fees are applicable, and is responsible for all incidental charges. This benefit is only available to the Basic Card Member on the Card Account.

The Free Night Award will be automatically deposited into your loyalty member account within 8-12 weeks after your Card Account anniversary date in the form of an e-certificate. You will receive an email from SPG to the email address listed on your loyalty member account confirming that the Free Night Award e-certificate has been deposited into your loyalty member account. The email will also provide instructions on how to redeem your Free Night Award e-certificate. To redeem the Free Night Award e-certificate, you must log into your loyalty member account and apply the e-certificate during booking. The Free Night Award e-certificate will expire after 1 year from issuance. E-certificates may not be transferred, extended beyond the expiration date, or re-credited for points. To qualify for the Free Night Award, your account must be open and not in default at the time of the Free Night Award e-certificate issuance. Please visit for a list of participating properties.

American Express is not responsible for fulfillment of Free Night Award e-certificate redemptions. Redemptions are subject to the terms and conditions of the loyalty program.

Free Nights – No Blackout Dates

There are no blackout dates for free nights, which apply to standard rooms only as defined by each participating property; contact the property before booking to check availability.

I am not sure if the September date of initial SPG Personal opening or if the upgrade date would be considered the anniversary date upon reset. This would mean I could squeeze out $300 credit from today till September, and then another $300 and the 50k free night after the original September anniversary date! That would be more than enough to justify forgoing the 100k bonus, so I clicked along:

Luckily there was one more step, because I now had my doubts about maintaining 5/24 here. Come July 19 she could get the CSR, United Club, Southwest Priority, Marriott Plus, and Freedom. If I got a new SPG Lux card and revived the bonus then according to this Frequent Miler chart:

I would have to wait 90 days and 24 months from the SPG Lux bonus to get the new bonus. If I was to just upgrade today, we could get the Marriott Plus bonus of 75K as well as another 35k free night a year when July 2019 hits. If I get the new SPG Lux Bonus, then no dice on the 75k bonus on the Marriott plus. Net loss would be only 25k Marriott by upgrading today!

So I could not go through with the upgrade without asking the readers out there! What should I do?

  • Upgrade my Wife’s SPG Personal to SPG Lux for $300 and another free night, because I could not hit the spend anyways and I would preserve her 5/24 dreams of having all these Chase Cards: CSR, United Club, Southwest Priority, Marriott Plus, and Freedom.
  • Forgo 5/24 and apply for a new SPG Luxury Card for 100k points, but be on the hook for a total of $10k spend in 3 months.

Let me know your thoughts!


SPG Luxury: Approved After Pending Approval, 5 Card Limit for Most

My referral link is here.

Final Update: As of 11:27 (6.5 hours after application) I received both an email and a change to approval on the status website:

The email had the last 4 of my new number, but not the temporary card for online use:

My O-6 Select friend was not as lucky, when he applied for the SPG Lux today, he had 5 cards open: Delta Platinum, Hilton Aspire, Hilton Ascend, Hilton No Fee, and Blue Preferred. He was sent to pending as well. When he called in he was asked to close one account. This datapoint should be a sign that the 5 card rule is still in effect for most people.

Looks like some people are getting approvals when applying by NOT logging into their AmEx accounts, and applying with a new browser window. People have also noticed a brand new Marriott Number found by logging into Marriott after 18 June 2018. I had no change in my Marriott number and my SPG and Marriott accounts were unlinked (despite being linked in the past). I signed in to my Marriott account and noted I have Platinum Elite status from my Ritz Card. I hope in the future I can use my AmEx platnum to get Platinum status like we had gotten gold in the past.

I called in earlier today they said the application looked good, and they were just waiting for another department for the final approval. As of 1127 they approved me. The delay could be due to my recent SPG Biz closure that drove me under the 5 card limit.

Continue reading

No more 5 card rule for AmEx?

UPDATE: Looks like they were not counting the Hilton Citi card that became the Hilton AmEx.

I thought I was being proactive when I closed my SPG Biz card to get under the 5 card limit for the new SPG Luxury Card coming out on the 23rd. Today I found out that move might have not have been necessary. Dang it, there goes my annual free night at a 35k points property!

On the upside, this will be big if this is more than a fluke! I am planning on getting another SPG card after getting the lux to upgrade to another SPG card! Infinite Hilton Aspire cards and infinite Delta Reserves to the moon!

More to come,


SPG Luxury Opens Aug 23, Apply Before the 26 Aug Rules Apply

SPG Lux referral link here

Here are the three dates that are important for the SPG & Marriott Merger:

This means you can get the 125k Marriott point bonus with $5k spend despite having the Ritz card, if you get the SPG Lux card between the days of 23 and 26 Aug 2018!

This is great news for me, and here is my new plan:

  • Close my SPG Biz Card ASAP to open up a slot (I have Delta Plat & Reserve, Blue Cash Preferred, and HHonors)
  • Apply for SPG Lux on 23 Aug
  • Make the $5k spend in 90 days for 125k Marriott
  • Upgrade My Wife’s SPG personal since she would be ineleigible for the bonus (i’m keeping her under 5/24)
  • Enjoy $600 in hotel credits as well as 2 free nights at a 50k hotel (Ritz Chicago) every year over two cards.

If you are in a situation where you have the Ritz card or any of these rules:

Then you only got three days to get the SPG Lux between 23 and 26 Aug to get the bonus before these draconian anti-churn rules take place!



Using The First Class Delta Companion Pass From Amex SkyMiles Reserve

Every year on my card anniversary (when my waived annual fee should have been charged), my AmEx Delta Reserve and Platinum card give me a companion pass each, which I can use for a free RT ticket when I buy a ticket (essentially fly for 50% off). These 2 tickets do not have to be for yourself, and you can buy a pair of tickets for any two people to fly anywhere CONUS that Delta has a route, connecting flights included.

The one added benefit from the Delta Reserve card is you can use the companion pass for a pair of first class tickets vice the Platinum SkyMiles card only does it for Main Cabin (bitch normie class). So if you fly a lot of delta, you should get every delta card in this order (note this will take up 4 of your 5 slots):

  1. Delta Reserve (40K Public Offer Currently) <– Use my link here if you want to support the site
  2. Delta Platinum (70K Public Offer Currently) <–Use these links if you want to support the site
  3. Delta Gold (60K Public Offer Currently) <– Davey’s Link
  4. Delta Blue (10K Public Offer Currently)<– your link here, just post it below if you want to me host

Then after one year you should upgrade each and every one that is not a Reserve card, to the reserve card, space it out by 3 months and get the SCRA waive to make an annual companion pass machine with 4 companion passes from 4 Reserve cards a year:

Booking is easy, the cert will show up in your Delta account wallet after one year of membership:

Select it and use the booking engine to select a flight:

Note that these prices are for two tickets, I can fly ORD to SEA RT for $144.20 Main, $188.20 Comfort+, or $348.20 First per person. You end up on the hook for tax for your companion:

And the strangest thing is you must use an AmEx card to pay for the flight, no Visa, no gift cards or credits. I chose my personal AmEx Platinum to get 5x points on the $724.80 for 3,624 MR points worth $45.30 as a Schwab brokerage deposit or $54.36 in airfare. This can be seen as 7.5% cash-back so we are looking at $669.64 for this flight.

Two tickets RT to Seattle from Chicago would run you about $724.80 which is $181.20 a segment. If we run the numbers for basic bitch economy we end up with a total of $316.80 for two round trip tickets costing $79.20 a segment. The $102 premium per segment over the 4 hour flight would mean you are paying about $25.50 an hour per person for this first class service.

Looking at it from a redemption standpoint, we could have used 88,000 skymiles and $22.40 for the same pair of tickets instead of $724.80 making these sky pesos worth 8/10th of a cent each in this case.

What exactly does Delta First Class buy you anyways? I used my companion pass from last year to fly ORD to SLC in Delta First, and I have to say the experience feels like what coach was in 1988; wider recliner sized seats, free booze, real food, and friendly service without a beverage cart.

The check in experience was meh at ORD because of the undermanned SkyPriority counter, and the TSA line was shorter but much slower than the Pre-check line. You already get the luggage and this priority line for military. I got into the lounge with just my boarding pass because it was linked to my SkyMiles number which had my Reserve card on file. A guest would have cost me $28, but my wife got in with her AmEx Platinum card. They had Chicago style hot dogs instead of mac and cheese. At the gate you get to board early, but military in and out of uniform get to board even earlier. There really is no benefit from check in to gate between first class and military members.

Once seated on the plane and while at the gate you get a drink served in plastic, and in the air you get one of those hot towels to freshen up as well as another drink with dinner, and an after dinner drink. The dinner was pretty decent on my flight:

Pesto Chicken salad

some sort of meat ball and salad.

However, the biggest benefit of first is the attentive staff that can make any drink that you want and not waiting to get off the damn plane when you get there. With the extra time not waiting in the back of the plane you can visit the SkyClub one more time on arrival so you wont have th face the indignity of waiting with normies at the baggage carousel. This trip I went to the Sky Club at SLC and they had Dom for 12,500 sky miles worth 2 cents a mile.

This price of $250 is consistent with the price you find at a restaurant, but Costco has bottles for about $133 and Binny’s we are looking at $160:

Naturally I had to order as a datapoint for the blog. I asked if I could take it out of th elounge and they siad they didnt care what I did with it, but it had to be open in the bar per their liquor license. They gave me an iPad and using my full name and Sky Miles number it deducted the 12,500 Skymiles from my account. I left a cash tip, but you can tip with points on the iPad. They sent a manager over and they had a big to do about opening it and asking what we were celebrating.

We had our two glasses and they were good, but not $250 good. I poured the rest into a water bottle. And we took the empty bottle with us. By the time we got to the bag claim our luggage was already there.

In summary if you want to have dinner in a flying restaurant at $25 an hour then fist class with the companion pass is perfect for you. I certainly can take it or leave it for myself, but first class is like Dom Perigion, it is there to impress someone else in my book. Probably going to use the companion pass to send my in-laws somewhere and I won’t tell them how i did it.


Existing SPG Card Holders: Check Your Anniversary Date

It’s a bummer that SPG and AmEx is restricting the sign up bonus for their new SPG Luxury Card for any existing user of their Chase Marriott, Chase Ritz or AmEx SPG Cards according to this chart:

The bonus is not small potatoes either, it is rumored to be 75k for the personal and business SPG products and 125k fo the SPG Lux according to DoC, and the release date has been push back to after 18 August 2018 as well! The only saving grace is the fact that we are all going to get the conus night for our existing SPG cards according to this email received today:

Annual Free Night Award: Card Members whose Card account anniversary dates are on or after August 1 will be eligible to receive their annual Free Night Award (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.

I went ahead and checked my existing SPG personal account and it was opened on September of 2015. If I can upgrade the SPG card to the Luxury on 18 Aug 2018, then I can get $300 Marriott Cash, and a 50k free night without a hard pull on my credit. This would also save me from my route to 0/24 in 2019!

Now on the Chase Marriott Side, here are my dates of opening:

  1. My card opened June 2015 (As Ritz)
  2. Wife’s card opened July 2015
  3. Mom’s card opened Dec 2016

Since I held back from upgrading to the Marriott Premier plus, I am eligible to get the bonus on the SPG Biz card for my wife (since she never had the card before). On the back side since it has been 24 months since my mom’s last Marriott card bonus, she can close her Marriott card and get the bonus for the Marriott Premier Plus after she opens her own SPG cards from AmEx. This has become a very intracate game of chess with two banks!

On a side note, all of this drama has incentivized me to consider trying to get back to 0/24 myself.

I made it an entire quarter without getting a new card! If I can make it to January of 2020 I should be prime to get a Chase card such as my own CSR, then wait a month to get my own Southwest, then Marriott Premier Plus (closing out my Marriott Premier in the process), Freedom, and another Southwest card for the companion pass. More ideas found here (keep in mind no MLA waivers for business cards).

How are you guys going ot manage these new SPG Marriott Chase AmEx rules? Comment below!