New To Military Churning Best Practices 2019

Updated 19 May 2019: Derpreport has become a bloated archive of products and techniques that have existed or have worked in the past. Currently working on static websites of MLA Travel Club and MLA Vacation Club.

I intend to put the most up to date links and information on these two sites. Please consider the rest of Derp Report to be a historic archive of our wacky churning adventures, and by no means up to date. I will continue to blog on derpreport, but it is no place for you kids just starting out. For a beginner’s guide Check out:


TLDR guide follows this line break:

Service Members who receive the Military Lending Act Protections for high end credit cards ($400+ Annual Fees) should consider holding only these cards as benefit producing assets despite what Dave Ramsey says is a tool for certain financial devastation. Once acquired, all travel expenses will be spread out over this card portfolio to generate perpetual memories and feels for your family that you will cherish the rest of your days, for free.

Chase (5/24 Restricted)

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
Chase Sapphire ReserveAll Travel$300No

Chase FreedomChange to CSR$300Yes
Chase Freedom UnlimitedChange to CSR$300Yes
Chase United Club Card*A Lounge Access$550No
Chase Bonvoy BoundlessChange to Ritz$3001 NightYes
  • 5/24 rule: no more than 5 card opened at ANY BANK in 24 months
    • This includes Authorized Users (AU)
    • Do not make yourself an AU to a spouse card and vice versa
    • Wait until the first day of the 25th month after your fifth account was opened before attempting to apply for a new Chase Card.
  • Due to 5/24 you should always hit Chase first
  • 2/30 rule: two applications every 30 days
  • 24 month bonus rule: Sign Up bonus per 24 months
  • 48 month bonus rule: One Sapphire Bonus per 48 months
  • Active Duty & Spousal Waivers of Fees Per MLA (Post Oct 2017)
    • Submit request via Secure Chat
  • Product change must stay each brand family
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve reimburses $300 in travel expenses
    • Resets every 12 months form open date (Anniversary Date)
    • For airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages
  • The Ritz Carlton Card offers $300 in airline credit, 50K Free anytime night at one year mark.
    • Must product change from one year with any Chase Marriott Card (Bonvoy Boundless is best)
    • Can be used for inflight dining, luggage fees, seat change, and lounge access, but must be called in each time
    • card offers $100 off any pair of domestic round trip tickets
    • $300 credit resets every 01 January

American Express Credit Cards

Product NameDispositionReturnLink:
Hilton Honors AspireAll Hilton$500, 1 nightYes
Hilton Honors AscendUpgrade to Aspire$500, 1 nightYes
Hilton HonorsUpgrade to Aspire$500, 1 nightYes
Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantAll Marriott$300, 1 nightYes
Marriott Bonvoy BusinessReplace W Brilliant35k NightYes
Delta ReserveAll DeltaComp PassYes
  • 5 Credit Card Limit (Unlimited Charge Cards)
  • 1/5 rules: one new card every 5 days
  • 2/90 rule: only 2 cards in a 90 day period
  • Lifetime Bonus Rule: 7 years between receiving bonus again
  • Active Duty Waiver of Annual Fees Always
    • Submit via website link
  • Product change must stay each brand family
  • Hilton Honors Aspire offers these annual benefits:
    • $250 Airline Credit (5x $50 delta gift card, 1x $250 SW Gift Card)
      • Resets 01 January
    • $250 for HIlton Resorts (room rate or room charges)
      • Resets card anniversary
    • 1 free weekend night any Hilton, except these places
      • Resets card anniversary
  • Bonvoy Brilliant has these annual benefits:
    • $300 spend on room rate or charges to room at Marriott
    • One Free 50k night at any Marriott
  • Delta Reserve
    • One free companion pass, up to first class
    • Resets every card holder anniversary

American Express Charge Cards

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500Yes
Gold ChargeGroceries, Upgrade to Pt$500Yes
Green ChargeUpgrade to Pt$500Yes
MS Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500No
CS Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500No
AP Platinum ChargeDirect Airline Booking$500No
Business Platinum$5,000+ Buys, 35% Refund$400Yes
Business Gold$5,000+ Buys, 35% Refund$400Yes
Business Green$5,000+ Buys, 35% Refund$400Yes
  • No Foreseeable card account limits (Infinite charge cards)
  • 1/5 rules: one new card every 5 days
  • 2/90 rule: only 2 cards in a 90 day period
  • Lifetime Bonus Rule: 7 years between receiving bonus again
  • Active Duty Waiver of Annual Fees Always
    • Submit via website link
  • Product change must be similar Biz or Personal charge card
  • Must wait 12 months to upgrade personal cards
  • No wait needed to upgrade business cards (although get the bonus first)
  • The Personal Platinum has the following $500 annual benefits:
    • $100 Saks Fifth Avenue: $50 Jan to Jun, $50 Jul to Dec
    • $200 Uber: $15 a month Jan to Nov, $35 Dec
    • $200 Airlines: Jan to Dec (4 x $50 Delta gift card, 1 x $200 SW)
    • 5x MR points on airline tickets booked directly with airlines
  • The Business Platinum has the following $400 annual benefits:
    • $200 Dell: $100 Jan to Jun, $100 Jul to Dec
    • $200 Airlines: Jan to Dec (4 x $50 Delta gift card, 1 x $200 SW)
    • 1.5x MR points on any charges over $5,000


Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
Citi PrestigeAll Dining$250, 2x 4th night FreeNo
Citi PremierPC to Prestige$250, 2x 4th night FreeNo
AA ExecutiveOW Lounges$650No
AA PlatinumPC to Prestige$250, 2x 4th night FreeNo
  • 1/8 rule: one application every eight days
  • 2/65 rule: two applications every sixty five days
  • 6/6 rule: max six hard inquiries in 6 months
  • Active Duty & Spousal Waivers of Fees Per MLA (Post Oct 2017)
  • Can Product Change from any card to any card (cross family)
  • 24 months between initial family bonuses (not by card, but by brand)
    • AA points earned on Executive will deny points on new platinum
    • TY points on Prestige would deny TY on Premier
    • Use Mailers to get around this language
  • Citi Prestige gives $250 in airline travel credit and 2 free nights:
    • Credit on: airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, and bus lines
    • 4th night free is based on the average of nightly rate of the total 4 consecutive nights stay
    • Can product change any card to prestige after one year

U.S. Bank

Product NameDispositionReturnReferral
AltitudeAll Digital Wallet$325, In Flight WiFiNo
Skypass PremierKorean Airlines$200, KA Lounge PassesNo

The only U.S. Bank that is worthwhile is the U.S. Bank altitude which requires a prior relationship with the bank. The MLA does waive the $400 annual fee, and it offers a $325 travel credit that renews with every card anniversary. The card is hard to get and several readers have been denied because of too many open accounts at other banks. Not sure the actual numbers or rules have been established. The only other card with annual benefits is the Skypass Korean Airlines Select which comes with $200 travel credit and two lounge passes for North American Korean Airline Lounges.

Second “beginners guide” archive continues here (Click to show):

The TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) is here. Read this first!!!

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, do some Citibank in there as well, 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 lose 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 personal card before any changes can be made due to the 2009 Credit CARD act. No wait is needed to product change a business credit card.
  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). Capital One waives, but I have no experience in their products. As of 2019 Citibank now has been waiving for new accounts per the MLA. Citi has always waived for cards obtained before joining the military.
  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 an 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. You can product change any Citi Personal card to any Citi Personal card after one year.
  11. AmEx business cards do not get reported to a credit history thereby a strategy to staying under 5/24.
  12. 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” and it applies to every chase card as of Nov 2018.
  13. Chase will not waive business card fees for military, but it might be worth it for some UR points on Ink products.
  14. American Express WILL waive annual fees for business cards for military, it’s worth hitting business versions of card to double dip points. However these business credit (not charge) cards count against your 5 card max.
  15. 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.
  16. You can apply for a business card as a sole proprietorship in yourself, just use your SSN as the tax ID number.
  17. 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!
  18. If you ever get an AmEx card bonus, you can never get it again for the same product (7 year drop off de facto). You can get the card again if you don’t have it still, but no bonus will be given
  19. Must wait 24 months between receiving Chase Bonuses, and 48 months for Sapphire products. The bonus post date counts, not when the card was opened.
  20. Memorize earn categories by checking merchant codes here. Use the right card for the right transactions to max out earning.
  21. Closing an AmEx card in less than one year from earning the bonus may cause the points to be clawed back.
  22. Take it slow AmEx: Max 1 credit card approval per 5 days and 2 in 90 days, but no known limit for charge cards
  23. U.S. Bank will deny you if you have too many cards in a 6 month period, but no actual number has been determined.
  24. Take it even slower for Chase: Usual max 2 new cards per month (but rule seems to vary)
  25. Citi only allows up to one personal credit card application in any eight-day period. Up to one business credit card application in any 90-day period. But overall only two Citi credit card applications in any 60-day period, which could be two personal cards or one personal and one business card. It is best to wait 65 days to make sure the first application drops off.
  26. 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.
  27. U.S. Bank monitors the purchasing of gift cards to make spend and will shut you down
  28. U.S. Bank will not issue you a new card if you had gotten too many in a short amount of time
  29. Bust Out Fraud is tracked with a different score, your behavior as a churner (eg: buying only gift cards) may get you shut down!
  30. 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 and Citi 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 yet, but please post below.

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 (All 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. Best use is UR Points transfer to United, Southwest 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 one Sapphire Card (Reserve, Preferred, or Plain). If you already haveo ne, the application will be denied.
    7. Must wait 48 months from earning bonus to get another Sapphire Product
    8. Can upgrade a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited to the CSR
    9. Can upgrade Slate to CSR (best for low to no credit history members)
  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. Comes in a huge box
    3. 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:  ($149 annual fee waived)
    1. 7.5k RR points each year
    2. 4 priority boardings
    3. $75 card year 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 Earn Companion Pass and 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening ($69 annual fee waived)
    1. 3k RR points each year
    2. 2x on Southwest spend
    3. 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 (Some Reports of Shutdown)
  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 (Some Reports of Shutdown)
  9. Chase Marriott Premier Plus (Bonvoy Boundless) 3 FREE NIGHTS (35k max) with $3k spend in 90 days ($95 annual fee) (LINK HERE)(2nd Link)(Link 3)
    1. Please read this article regarding the rules of applying for any Marriott/SPG Card if you already have one
    2. Free annual night worth 35k points
    3. Will make you ineligible for the AmEx SPG Lux (Bonvoy Brilliant) bonus for 24 months
    4. Upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Card in 1 year
      1. One free 50K night per year
      2. $100 off a pair of round trip domestic tickets.
      3. $100 hotel credit with any two night stay at RItz
      4. 3 Club Level Upgrades per year (Rack Rate)
      5. $300 Airline Fee Credit per year
  10. Chase Slate 
    1. No benefits at all (for us), but can be upgraded to CSR
  11. Hyatt Card 25k on $3k spend, in 90 days then 25k on another $6k in 180 days ($95 waived)(Link Here)(2nd link)
    1. Free annual night Category 1-4
    2. 4x points on Hyatt Spend and Exhale Locations
    3. 2x on gym memberships
    4. Instant Discoverist Status (2 pm Checkout)
  12. Chase IHG Card 80k on $2k spend in 90 days ($89 AF Waived)(Link Here)(Link 2)
    1. Free annual night worth up to 40k points
  13. Chase Ink Business Preferred $95 a year (No AF Waiver) (Link Here)
    1. 80k UR on $5k spend
    2. 3x UR on Travel, Shipping purchases, internet, cable

Now that you are over 5 new cards in a 24 month period you will be automatically denied for any Chase cards in the future. If you have a player 2 (AD or Civilian spouse) you can have them apply for Chase cards in order for player 1 to get back under 5/24. The MLA generally applies for AD spouses, and I have not seen a datapoint fail this Chase MLA annual fee waiver for a spouse (yet).

Citibank Next

Citi has a strict limit of 2 cards in a 60 day period on top of just one card in an eight day window. If you applied for one card on 01 January 2019 and then another on 09 January 2019 you would be free and clear for another application (waiting a conservative 65 days for good measure) on 07 March 2019, and then 8 days after that. You would then hit a pair of applications again in May, July, Sept, Nov. But keep in mind there are only a few Citi Cards worth getting.

  1. Citi Prestige 50K ThankYou Rewards points after $4K spend in 3 months
    1. 5X airfare, dining, and travel agencies
    2. 3X hotels and cruise line
    3. 1X everywhere else
    4. $250 travel rebate per calendar year
    5. Citi Proprietary Lounges;
    6. 4th night free hotel benefit (twice a year)
  2. Citi Premier
    1.  3X travel and gas
    2. 2X dining and entertainment
    3. Upgrade to another Prestige after one year
  3. Citi® Expedia®+ Voyager Card

    1.  $100 annual air travel fee credit
  4. Citi AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard®

    1. AA Admirals Club Lounge Membership for Primary
    2. Can add 10 AUs that will get AA lounge access on own

The Little Known US Bank Altitude Card Next:

  1. Must establish a relationship with US Bank, check for bank bonuses here.
  2. US Bank Skypass Select Visa Signature Card 15k with $1.5k spend
    1. $200 Travel Credit on airlines, hotels, or car rental companies
    2. Two Korean Airlines Lounge Passes for Seoul and North America
  3. 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. Shutdowns due to too many gift card purchases

AmEx has always been good for us. They are the main reason that I will never be under 5/24!

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 Links: Here
    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 Platinum  60K on $5k spend in 90 days ($550 annual fee waived)
    1. Do not need Ameriprise account
    2. Same benefits as personal Platinum
  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 Links: 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 inflight WiFi passes
    5. 1.5 MR on $5,000+ purchases
    6. $200 Dell credit each year
    7. One year of WeWork Platinum Global Access
  6. AmEx Personal Gold 40k MR on $2k spend in 90 days (Referral Link Here)
    1. $100 airline credit to be spent like AmEx Platinum credit (AA, Delta, Southwest Gift Cards)
    2. $120 for dining ($10 a month) (GrubHub, CheeseCake Factory, and more)
    3. 4x Points on Dining and Groceries
    4. 3x on Airfare
    5. 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 Business Gold 50K MR on $5k spend in 90 days (referral link here)
    1. 4x points on two of your highest spends:
      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
      6. Dining in the United States
    2. 2x on the remaining categories
    3. Upgrade to Business Plat anytime after bonus is earned

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

  1. Hilton Aspire Card 150k HHonors on $4k in 90 days ($450 AF Waived)
    1. $250 on American Airlines, Delta Airlines, or Southwest Airlines gift cards (1x $250, 5x $50, 1x $250 respectively)
    2. $250 on Hiltons Resort Credits (Hilton RESORTS only)
    3. Free Weekend Night every year including first year (Any Hilton but these)
    4. Diamond Status
    5. Can have all 3 Hilton cards
  2. Hilton Ascend Card 150k HHonors on $3k spend in 90 days ($95 Yearly Fee Waived)
    1. Upgrade to another Hilton Aspire in 1 year to repeat benefits
  3. Hilton Honors Card 100k HHonors for $1k spend in 90 days (free)
    1. Upgrade to another Hilton Aspire in 1 year to repeat benefits
  4. Bonvoy Brilliant 100k Marriott on $3k spend in 90 days ($450 annual fee waived)
    1. $300 for SPG and Marriott hotel incidentals per year
    2. Up to a 50k free night per year (after first year)
    3. Can’t get bonus if you had the Marriott Card in 24 months
  5. Personal Delta Reserve 70K Sky Miles, 5k MQM $5k spend in 90 days ($450 AF Waived)
    1. First Class Delta Companion Pass Every Year
    2. Can have all three Delta Cards
  6. Business Delta Reserve 40K Sky Miles, 10K MQM on $3k spend in 90 days ($450 AF Waived)
    1. First Class Delta Companion Pass Every Year
    2. Can have all three Delta Cards
  7. Delta Platinum 75K Sky Miles, 5k MQM, $100 credit on $3k spend in 90 days ($195 AF Waived)
    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, $50 credit on $2k spend in 90 days ($95 AF Waived)
    1. Upgrade after 1 year to another Delta Reserve for another First Class Companion
  9. Delta Blue 10k Sky Miles for $500 spend in 90 days
    1. Upgrade after 1 year to another Delta Reserve for another First Class Companion
  10. AmEx Everyday Preferred 20K MR on $1k spend in 90 days ($95 fee waived)
    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. Bonvoy Boundless (Marriott Premier Plus) (35k Free Night)
    1. Upgrade to Ritz for $300 travel credit and 50K free night
  6. Citi Prestige (5th free night)
  7. Citi Premier to upgrade to another prestige
  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 Honors)
  12. SPG Lux Now Bonvoy Brillant ($300 Credit, 50k free night)
  13. SPG Lux from Personal SPG (Bonvoy Brilliant ends 12 Feb 2019)

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. Citi Prestige ($250 travel credit)
  7. US Bank Altitude ($325 for travel)
  8. Hilton Aspire ($250 Hotel Credit, $250 Flight Credit, Free Night)
  9. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton Ascend)
  10. Hilton Aspire (Upgraded from Hilton No Fee)
  11. Delta Reserve (First Class Companion)
  12. Delta Reserve (Upgraded from Delta Platinum)
  13. AmEx Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  14. AmEx Platinum (Upgrade from Green)
  15. AmEx Platinum (Upgrade from Gold)
  16. AmEx Charles Schwab Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  17. AmEx Morgan Stanley 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. Hyatt (Free night)
  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. SPG Lux (Bonvoy Brillant) ($300 Credit, 50k free night)
  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 (Upgraded From Ameriprise Gold)
  18. AmEx Business Platinum ($200 for airline gift cards)
  19. 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 (Bonvoy Brillant) to Regular SPG (Boundless) ($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 (free) 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)

160 thoughts on “New To Military Churning Best Practices 2019

  1. Christian says:

    great list. I get asked by newbies a lot which card they should get. I’ll start referring them to this post (and then they’ll probably still have a million questions. ).

    Also, good to know that AMEX waives fees for reservists. Do they have to do an active duty stint of more than xdays? (30,45,90?) .

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      My reservist dental friends all are getting their waivers for AmEx as DFAS reports them as being just a reservist without any specification of how many days they are active.

    • Jenn says:

      Wondering, how much time before the AD order starts?
      Would they reject the application of SCrA if it was only a few days before the AD order start?

  2. Alex says:

    I don’t know if you covered it, but Amex has 2/90 rule? Can only be approved for 2 Amex credit cards within 90 days, so not including charge cards. So if I had approved for 2 credit cards last month, I should be able to be approved for the Platinum card?

  3. ArmyGrunt07 says:

    I recently opened an AMEX PRG and Green card to product change in one year. I did the first step of the application for a AMEX Delta Gold and Platinum but when i saw the message that i’m not eligible for either sign up bonuses from having them previously, i cancelled the appliation. About 4 weeks later i attempted to apply for the Charles Schwab Platinum but was rejected for applying for too many cards. Any idea if the two cancelled AMEX Delta cards counted for the 2 credit card apps in 90 days? (they show up in the card application history as “cancelled” just like the rejected recent attempt for the Charles Schwab Platinum). I have $1,000 in a fund, received the $100 bonus, but am not using their Roth IRA listed in this post.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Thank you for the datapoints! It took 7 years for my AmEx green to be forgotten by AmEx, but keep in mind they know if you had a product before simpily because they keep pretty good records (I assume you just closed the card). Maybe by attempting to get the product again it triggered something!

      AmEx has been rolling out their war on churning as aggressively as Chase, and it looks like the 90 day rule did kick in because it had been less than 3 months from the delta card applications to get a denial for the schwab charge card. However recent data points have suggested that Charge cards are exempt from such rules. In all cases I would call in and ask why a card was rejected. From DoC: You’re limited to one approved credit card every 5 day rolling period and two approved credit cards every 90 rolling period. Note that this only applies to credit cards and not their charge cards.

      Sounds like your experience is unexpected and new. This might be a sign of things to come!

      Think about investing the $1,000 into their many non commission funds that rival Vanguard

  4. Nick Thompson says:

    This is a fantastic write up. I didn’t realize the Amex Plat upgrade trick. Between the wife and I, that’s going to be a lot of points and money in the bank!


  5. DallasBest says:


    Something to look at for manufactured spending. I’ve set my withholding to the maximum and have been paying taxes via online websites to help hit manufactured spending. Fee runs about 1.9%, but is much better than Plastiq.

    • BubbleheadBee says:


      No need to have your withholding increased, just pre-pay (over-pay) your taxes a week or so before you file. Then include the over-payment amount in your tax forms and you will be refunded the amount (assuming you don’t owe). This works even if you normally get a federal tax return every year. Be aware that sometimes the IRS may take a while to get you your return, so make sure you can cover any possible payments while you wait.

  6. DallasBest says:


    Great write up, but I would add paying taxes as another manufactured spend. Got the idea from the wealthyaccountant, but I’ve set my withholding to the maximum and then just make payments via a 1040-ES on Fee runs about 1.9%, but that is cheaper than Plastiq.

  7. Navy UMO says:


    Great post, I enjoy the new layout of the site. DP for AMEX Spouse fee waivers: I have residence in CA and my wife has received annual fee waivers on all her credit cards (Plat, Aspire, PRG).

  8. Marcus says:


    I had the CSR when the 100K bonus came out but closed it a year later to not pay the annual fee again. At the pace I am applying for AMEX cards I will never be under 5/24 to get the CSR again. However, I do have a Chase Freedom (since Dec 16) that can be product changed to a CSR. Do you know if I prouct change to the CSR if I would be able to have the annual fee waived? From what I understand, Chase only waves fees on cards opened after Sep 2017 and I don’t know if this card would show as still be opened in Dec 16…

    It would be an interesting way for military members to get the card if over 5/24. I obviously wouldn’t get the bonus but I would at least get the $300 credit every year.

  9. uiucderp2011 says:

    They won’t waive the fee but it would be worth doing just to have the 3x earn. The $300 credit would off set the $450 annual fee. Do you have a player 2 that could get the card?

    • Marcus says:

      I don’t usually spend time looking at what categories are the most efficient since almost all my spending goes to new cards. So the CSR would basically be $150 extra per year. Not worth it for me unless it was free. And nope, I don’t have a player 2.

      • uiucderp2011 says:

        Well if you got the freedom before you joined you would have the SCRA coverage and would be elligible for the fee waiver if you upgraded to a CSR. When did you join?

  10. Anonymous says:

    When you request SCRA for Amex, do you have to it for every single new card, or does Amex already list you as a “covered borrower” from your credit report?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Yes I do it for every new card. I have been charged before, but after applying it they waived the fee.

      • Taylor says:

        I haven’t had this issue. After applying for SCRA last year on wife’s Amex PRG, I never saw a fee on my Platinum or Hilton Aspire cards applied for this summer.

      • Marcus says:

        I upgraded my PRG to a Plat and then 2 weeks late I was charged a $195 membership fee. I submitted my SCRA benefits again and then a week later I was charged $504.16 for another membership fee and reimbursed $178.75. I waited another 2 weeks until I received a notification that my SCRA benefit went through and then I was reimbursed $699.16. This was the most trouble I have gone through and oddly enough I am still up $178.75 from the ordeal. I transferred the positive balance to my Green card.

  11. Marcus says:

    I’ve also been charged the annual fee after product changing my card and then had to submit for SCRA benefits again.

  12. Josh says:

    You mention that you can technically have plenty of Platinum cards, correct? (get first one Vanilla Platinum, then PRG and Green), then upgrade both after a year for 3 total vanilla Platinums? Can you reapply for new PRG and Green Cards, then subsequently upgrade those, and rinse and repeat (but not get shut down).

    I also have the Ameriprise Platinum, and just now got the Ameriprise Gold Card. I should assume that can be upgraded for double Ameriprise Platinums?

    Finally, Morgan Stanley has a normal card, lower than the Stanley Platinum Card. ( I should assume that this is also upgradeable?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      I am in the same situation with my Ameriprise gold, I am going to upgrade in February 2019 and I will let you know how it goes!

      • Caleb says:

        Any update on the Ameriprise Gold upgrade yet?

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          I tried again online, but they are making me call it in. They killed the Ameriprise gold, but they are now offering 60k MR for $5k spend! This offer is perfect since we get the $495 waiver right off the bat for SCRA!

  13. Alex says:

    When you say that you can technically have unlimited Platinum cards, (have vanilla Amex), you mean upgrade PRG and Green to Vanilla after a year? So, you can technically repeat this constantly?

    Also, I have the Ameriprise Platinum card, and just got the Ameriprise Gold Card. Once I upgrade Gold, I would still be able to have the 2 Ameriprise Platinum cards?

    Finally, there is a “Morgan Stanley Credit Card from American Express”, is that also upgradable to Stanley Platinum (after you have also received it?)

    • Marcus says:

      I don’t know if there are any data points on people upgrading a PRG, then getting another PRG, and then upgrading it. I don’t think I want to be the first to try it but it seems like it could be possible.

      I’m also doing the same thing with the Ameriprise PRG. I just got it this month so I will convert it in September next year.

      I doubt the Morgan Stanley Credit Card could be upgraded to the Stanley Platinum since it doesn’t earn MR points. This would make me believe it’s not in the same family of cards and therefore couldn’t be upgraded.

      • uiucderp2011 says:

        Agreed, never doubled dipped hitting the same product twice for inital application. I am sure it would be fodder for a shutdown. There are plenty of choices out there for now, but who know when I am a 20 year terminal commander!

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      I think I spoke to AmEx CSR regarding that the MS along with the CS credit cards are the only ones that you can PC to the Platinum. Not sure about double dipping, but I don’t see why not. Please post any DP right here!

  14. […] love from his YouTube or site for my personal approach found here, but always interesting to get a perspective from a non-military member. He describes the 5/24 like […]

  15. […] some good points that I commented on in my feature of his blog post here. I am going to update my guide found here to reflect these two new […]

  16. Matt Kelly says:

    Thanks for all of your guidance!

    This is all fantastic. One of the AEGD residents came out here to Japan and has gotten me started, but I goofed up a bit. Any advice for having taken things too fast with Chase? Got CSR and Freedom, but then got denied Chase Sapphire Preferred because I missed that bullet in your guide…

    Should I wait until a month has passed from my CSR application, and then call the reconsideration line? Thanks for your help!

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      You can never get more that one sapphire product. Even if you close it you got to wait 48 months before getting another CSR or CSP or plain Sapphire. You just upgrade the freedom to CSR then do that over and over again!

      • Matthew Kelly says:

        Got it! I’ll keep on at it. Thanks for all of your help!

      • uiucderp2011 says:

        Not sure, I have been shut out of chase for two years now. I have a few readers out there that have done the double dip without hard pulls or shut downs.

  17. Dave says:


    I would like to upgrade my CSP to CSR. I already have an existing CSR. Do you know if Chase will hard pull for this or get me on their radar for shutdown? Do you know what the upgrade process is like?

  18. Jorge says:

    I found this site too late! 🙁 Made the mistake of adding my spouse as authorized user for CSR, Freedom, Amex Platinum (Schwab) and added myself as authorized user for my wife’s Freedom Unlimited. So, we’re 4/24; only one slot left with Chase. I’m thinking of opening a CSR for my wife (will she get sign up bonus? and for my last slot, not sure if I want to go with the United Club…still undecided on my last slot with Chase. After maxing out 5/24, thinking of the vanilla amex plat before the end of the calendar year to get $200 travel credit.


    Need to do more reading around here. Thanks for all this info!


  19. […] like I will have to update my guide here and my old Ameriprise article here. Please also use my catch all referral pages here, here, here, […]

  20. […] of all of the recent restrictions from Chase and AmEx, I decided to update my gigantic churning guide here. Please also use my catch all referral pages here, here, here, here, here and here for any of your […]

  21. Doug says:


    I just wanted to confirm that as it stands now, we can get multiple CSRs via upgrades? I have a CSP and CFU and would like to upgrade next year.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      thats where it stands! Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Slate, CS, and CSP can all be upgraded to CSR. The date of the original account is what they base the SCRA or MLA waiver on. So if you had the card before your join date or after October 2017 then the card fee should be waived.

      • Andres says:

        No, that is not the case. Chase only allows one Sapphire product per member. They will see that you already have a CSR and sent the upgrade.

        • Andres says:

          Meant to say deny* the upgrade.

          • uiucderp2011 says:

            Hmm mixed data points here, I’ve had people here successfully upgrade a freedom to CSR even with existing CSR. Any other readers out there with success or deny stories?

          • David says:

            I was able to change my SCRA Qualified CF to CSR without losing my SCRA benefits. So, now I have 2 CSR cards.

            My original CSR does not have SCRA benefits despite multiple requests. I got the original CSR before the MLA but after becoming active duty.

      • Dan says:


        Any new reports on folks getting multiple CSRs? Every person I’ve talked with has said you can only have one sapphire card. Wondering if you could do two upgrades back to back in a two day period…perhaps that would slip through the cracks..

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          There are three people that were able to upgrade their freedom cards to another CSR after one year for a second and third CSR. This was months ago. Not sure if it has been shut down. What are your data points? Are you sure that these other people applied for a new CSR directly?

        • Charles says:

          I just upgraded a Chase Freedom and a Chase Slate last week that I had for many years to a CSR. I am going to try and upgrade the CSP to a CSR next week. A while back I called asking about a product change for my CSP before the 1 year was up and they said you can only have one sapphire card and had to wait a year to do the change. So, maybe hang up and try again or maybe try a Chase customer service number that is not sapphire customer service.

        • Charles says:

          I just upgraded the CSP to a CSR today using Chase Freedom Phone Number 1-800-524-3880. I called awhile back using the Sapphire phone number on the back of the card and they said you only can have 1 sapphire card. I have since upgraded 3 cards to CSR using the Freedom number or Slate number instead of calling the Sapphire number.

  22. Jayson says:


    Any card recommendations or order of preference if you’re stationed in Japan. I have two more years in Japan and want to take advantage of any useful resources. Thank you in advance!

  23. Troy says:


    I just want to thank you for the amazing post!

  24. […] Share your data points if you got it! I updated my churning guide as well. […]

  25. Schmeeb says:


    Are you able to close your Morgan Stanley or Charles Schwab accounts after getting the platinum or do you risk closer. Same question for US Bank and the Altitude Reserve…would be nice to consolidate accounts but haven’t been able to find any DP on anyone doing this on FT or Reddit.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      If you close either MS or CS they will send a nasty letter and close your platinum card. One O-4 here at Great Lakes had not happen, so its best to keep them open!

      • Dan says:

        Interesting. Did your friend have that happen to both accounts or just the CS or MS? Both my MS accounts have been closed for several months (previously unfunded) and the MS platinum cards remain open.

  26. Lauren says:

    Hello, does plastiq still work to pay rent and such? I thought they put a stop to that?

  27. Frank says:

    Hi Derp,
    DoctorofCredit link says two Chase Products in one month, but I also read somewhere that it was one Chase product per 3 months, which timeline would you suggest?

    If 2 Chase/month is valid, then when would you suggest for the next card application?

    Thank you so much!

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      It’s been so long since I have applied for any chase cards due to the 5/24 expansion. Keep in mind some people apply for two chase cards in one day to have just a single hard pull on credit. You can always apply in branch as well but that is always a pain in the ass. I would suggest one new pair of Chase every 3 months because of the risk of shut down, and the fact you may over extend yourself and not get a bonus because you committed to too much spend in a 90 day period. I personally do one Chase card every 3 months and not poke the bear, but I am at 27 cards in a 24 month period.


  28. Lauren says:

    Hi. Do you have different online log-ins for all of your AMEX platinum accounts or do you have them all under one log-in?

    I have one personal platinum and I’m about to upgrade my green Amex and gold AmEx to platinum cards. Will I be able to have them all stay on my current online login or should I split them up?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      It wont let you upgrade the green if it sees there is another plat on there, just orphan all your cards that need to be upgraded.

      • Bill says:

        How do you orphan them? Does this let you combine MR points under one location? Could you put all your AMEX MR under your schwab account and transfer them to be schwab money at 1.25x?

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          Under account management you can drop an account, then re-add it as a new account. The points will pool either way, and you can points exit with Schwab

          • Bill says:

            Fantastic, thanks! Another question… what do you personally do to keep all your cards straight? Do you walk around with 20 pieces of metal/plastic at all times or just keep your current “hot use” cards and file the rest at home in some organized fashion?

          • uiucderp2011 says:

            Apple Wallet and my Samsung gear 3 hold my US Bank altitude card. I have a separate wallet that has all of my personal platniums to use at saks. In my wallet I only have the USAA Limitless for 2.5% every where, CSP for use at dining and travel, AmEx gold for groceries, my Citi Cost co for gas, and my ATM card.

            in a separate travel wallet I have my passport with my AA Executive for Admirals Lounge, my Marine Memorials club for club access, my Priority pass for lounges, One amex biz platinum for OPEN lounges, Delta lounges, and centurion lounges. My United Club card for united and star alliance lounges, and then I have my ritz carlton card for in flight food.

            the rest are in a drawer at home

      • Lauren says:

        Thank you for answering this question and now I get the orphan part. I have a couple of follow on questions that I am hoping someone can help me with. I read this post and all of the comments and I’m still a little confused.

        Question 1: I have 1 vanilla amex plat and I just received my first business amex plat. I know that I am supposed to get the highest product first. Once I hit the spend min to get the points for the business plat I plan on applying for a 2nd business plat because I have a second business.

        When I call in to do the application for the 2nd business plat (with a different company name) will it be a problem when they see the 1st business platinum? Because it seems as when you call in to do an application they see your WHOLE file. When I applied for the 1st business plat the representative said “oh I see you have a personal platinum with us.” I got nervous, but it all worked out. So I am nervous to open the next business plat.

        Question 2: If I get approved for my 2 I will then have 3 plats. Should me next step be to get gold cards and orphan them and then try to upgrade those to plats as well? After I do this for the golds, then I should do the same thing for the greens?

        I just want to make sure do this right.

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          Amex Plat Personal and Amex Plat Business are considered separate products but work together to earn 5x on buying airline tickets (Personal) and then getting 35% points back on airline of choice (Business) as well as any business class or first class ticket on any airline using points (Business).

          I attempted to get two business platinums but there was no bonus offered on the second because I can only use my SSN as a sole proprietor. I think it is different if you have separate EINs for each card and busisness. Please be the datapoint we want to see! Does your second business have a different EIN than the first? If you use the same SSN or EIN they will most definitely see your first card, and might deny you the bonus the second time around. That is why you should apply for the Gold and green business and upgrade once the bonus hits (no need to wait a year for business cards)

          Again the business and personal products are considered different products. You can Get Personal Plat, Gold, Green, then wait a year and upgrade the gold and green to #2 and #3 plat cards. You can then do the same with the Plat, Gold, Green Business and not even wait a year to upgrade the gold and green biz. Then you can have 6 platinum cards, and hitting 6 bonuses. No need to be nervous because they are all different products.

          No problem trying for Business Platinum #2, you will get it, but might not get the bonus again. Stick with the gold, and green plan.

          Hope that helps,


          • Lauren says:

            I have 3 businesses with 3 separate EINs. But I swore when I saw the application even though I had an EIN it still asked for my SS#.

            But I will try and be the datapoint once I hit my min spend in a month or two.

            Thanks for your reply.

  29. Tony says:

    I closed my CSR in Jun 2016. If not caring about the bonus, will I be able to open another CSR before the 48 month

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      I don’t think they would even let you get the card without bonus until 4 years after getting the initial bonus. THis anti-churn culture is quite real. I will need some datapoints to show this. Please let me know if you try to get a new CSR less than 48 months from the first one.

  30. Miguel says:

    Thanks so much for this! We’ve had amex plats for a while now and are about to start playing this game. We are a little hesitant about steps 2 (shwab) and 3 (Morgan) and would like to skip to steps 4 (Ameriprise) and 5 (business) since we don’t have to have any funds locked up in additional retirement/investment accounts. Any downside to this? Can we come back to steps 2 and 3 after we get our feet wet?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Well here’s the deal if you look back there used to be a Fidelity AmEx Platinum as well as a Mercedes-Benz Platinum. These products have gone away as partnerships change over time and all the current holders were converted to AmEx Platinum “Vanilla”. The only downside to waiting is the FOMO in not getting the card when it was offered.

  31. Caleb says:

    New data points from this week: Feb 2019

    I got US Bank Altitude card Feb 1 and a week later received the MLA benefits letter saying ALL fees would be waived.

    Feb 6 Charles Schwab Amex Platinum: purchased single $200 American gift card, reimbursed Feb 9

  32. steady says:

    What does UR and RR stand for when you are talking about each card and their points?

  33. jmacjjs says:

    FYI, Your Amex Bonvoy referrals aren’t working.

  34. TheSubmariner says:

    So, for clarification, does Amex waive the AF for business credit cards or charge cards?

  35. […] frequent miler visitors! If you are military check out my comprehensive military churning guide here. Good news on Citibank, looks like military are getting annual fees waived on cards opened in 2019 […]

  36. flyingsquad says:

    Hi Derp,
    Do you and your spouse refer each other when signing up for new cards to get a referral bonus? Is this acceptable amongst the CC issuers? I did read some AMEX TOS and inferred that it was ok to refer friends and family.

  37. ArmyGrunt07 says:

    Did anyone else recently get a $150 “corporate advantage program credit” on their account? My vanilla AMEX Plat had this show up on April 5th. The information I found on reddit seems to suggest if you have a corporate card or account you can get this credit, but i have never held a business card through AMEX, my account consists of 3x AMEX Platinums (vanilla, CS, MS), Gold PRG, Delta Reserve, Bonvoy, and Hilton. Happy to have the free monies, just curious why or how I got lucky and if others are in the same boat. Interestingly, the credit was applied to my original, vanilla platinum.

  38. Jason Kim says:

    First and foremost, thank you so much for doing this. I am a reservist and I will be deploying within the next 60 days for 9 months. That being said, I wanted to maximize my benefits while I am there and when I come back.

    I currently have the Amex plat (fee waived from previous active duty), Amex Rose Gold (Fee NOT waived), and Hilton Aspire (Fee NOT waived). I read the article about the Hilton and was wondering whether if I should get the Hilton Card without the annual fee from Amex using your referral code and upgrading it to the Hilton Aspire 1 year later. I also plan on getting the Delta Reserve and the Marriot Bonvey while I am overseas.

    I also have two chase freedoms and 1 chase freedom unlimited from college. Could I product change and upgrade those cards to the Chase Sapphire Reserve AFTER I am on active duty orders?

    Last but not least, I really want that Citi Prestige card. Do you have a referral for that and in order to get that fee waived, should I get the card before I enter active duty or after? Your help would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you so much.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      You can use my code for any hilton product and then upgrade it later in one year, but make sure you got the bonus on that upper product. For example if you get the Hilton honors and upgrade to Aspire, you won’t get the aspire bonus in the future. You weould be better to get the aspire first, then get an hornors next, to upgrade to another aspire in the future.

      I am not sure on the freedom to CSR for reservists, would that be considered having the cards before you joined? I guess you will find out.

      There are no referrals for prestige, and it appears that AD get it waived as well as well as having the product before you are active duty! Keep us posted!


    Do Chase and AmEx apply MLA for reservists/national guard too? Or do i have to be on AD?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      For sure active duty, but unsure with reservists!

    • Charles says:

      Yes. For SCRA you have to send in your orders when every you get them (Annual Training Orders, ADTS, ADT). I called Chase specifically about my spouse and they said for MLA orders need to be 30 days or more. I just sent in documents requesting SCRA for my spouse and they requested a marriage license (Still waiting for a Response). All of my accounts are coded for SCRA with Chase and AmEx. Just to be clear the laws are different for SCRA and MLA and the difference affects Active Duty and Spouses the most. Since a reservist goes on and off Active Duty (Annual Training) at least every year, if they apply for a new credit card while on Active Duty after those orders end they are eligible for SCRA with the next order. Barclays had denied me for SCRA saying I was Active Duty before applying for their credit card, so I responded with orders and a letter saying I was a reserve that goes on and off Active Duty and my SCRA Benefits were approved.

  40. Community Player says:

    Does anyone know if amex waives authorized user fees for cards that have the military waiver? I was thinking about adding some family members to my biz platinum and regular platinum cards if they waive the 175$ authorized user fees.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      They sure do, I have 15 AUs on my amex card for family, friends, retired service members. I of course trust them and I give it to them for lounge access and elite status at Hilton and Marriott (SPG). Every once in awhile they offer 5,000 MR to add a user and have them spend $500 in 90 days. I would wait for those offers.

  41. First Time Poster says:

    Recent reader, outstanding posts. Two questions: (1) if you have multiple accounts, e.g. a separate account to upgrade a gold to a plat, how do they pool points? And (2) MUST you have a business to apply for a business plat? It asks me for annual business income, and won’t let me type zero.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      The points just pool, and if they don’t you can reach out to Amex and the can combine them, I think it used the social security number.

      Select sole proprietorship as your business. I counted all my eBay sales in the income.

  42. Rob says:

    So Amex is real good at keeping tabs on when your AD ends? I know chase was not Amex. Got another twos years to enjoy this perk before I retire.

  43. el_georgie says:

    For those that upgraded their Freedom or unilimited to a second CSR, did the MLA kicked in automatically or had to call? I successfully upgraded my freedom, now have 2, and recently received a letter that the new AF will kick in July. The account should be MLA eligible since I opened it after my 1st CSR and that AF is waived (Received letter in the mail about MLA eligibility from Chase for 1st CSR). But have not received the same for this second CSR. Thinking of giving them a call to the military dept before July to make sure. Any DPs out there about process to apply MLA benefits to second CSR.

  44. PJ says:

    Need some help. Been churning for about 7 years now. I am finally under 5/24. I have never gotten the CSR but but cancelled all CSPs 29 months ago. SCRA didn’t apply since I opened the account after joining. I would like to get an a CSR card but cant just apply since I’ve had the CSP in the last 48 months. I have never applied for the Chase Slate card. If I get the slate card is there a path to CSR from this card? This will allow me to use MLA for the CSR.

    Looking forward to any help with this.

  45. Community Player says:

    Some info regarding the Ameriprise Platinum card…. was just denied for the ameriprise because it is considered the same card family as the Schwab platinum. According to the CSR you cannot apply for a card in the same family within a 90 day window. They recommended to reapply after 90 days. Will update y’all when I reapply in a couple months. Never heard about anyone having this problem so thought it was worth posting.

    • Mike says:

      DP2 – I had the exact same problem in reverse. I obtained the Ameriprise, and then I was subsequently denied for the Schwab for the exact reason cited to you. Applications were roughly 30 days apart.

    • Caleb says:

      I was approved for Schwab 12/21/2018 and Ameriprise 2/1/2019. CSR initially told me no because they are the same card, and I told him he was mistaken. He put me on hold for 5 minutes then came back and told me I was approved.

  46. KevH says:

    Unfortunately, I made my spouse an authorized user for several cards before I realized a lot of the info here and her eligibility for independently getting fees waived. Wondering if I can remove her from being an authorized user, and then having her apply for the cards as an individual (ie scoot by the 5/24 rule and remain eligible for initial sign up bonuses?) Thanks! So glad I found this website…

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      There has been successful arguments when applying for chase to invalidate those accounts as to counting against 5/24. If you do chase in denial you can get them to ignore such accounts.

  47. Charles says:

    Hey Derp, you may want to look over your Churning Guide posted above and on your new website. You have Chase credit cards listed where American Express Credit Cards should be.

  48. ak says:

    Hello from Okinawa. We have a couple of questions compiled from a few of us starting the game.

    1. I have a United explorer card from before Active Duty(AF waived) and a new Club card. You mentioned keeping prior to AD cards as ‘Anchor’ Cards for MLA. What does that mean? I was hoping to cancel the Explorer and get bonus in 24 months.

    2. A few of our spouses have CSP from before AD and are still paying the annual fees. Can they cancel CSP and open CSR? Perhaps downgrade the CSP? Neither have received bonuses in last 48 months. A few of the comments above suggest they wont be able to get the CSR. I dont believe they are eligible for MLA/SCRA on old accounts.

    Thanks for the help. A lot of good information. Looking forward to the new site.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      You can downgrade the United explorer card to the free united card (off menu item), but I would not waste a 5/24 slot on another explorer card and really focus on the Marriott card. Your anchor cards keep your account age long and your credit score high. The explorer gives you the two lounge passes a year so it’s nice to keep around. I personally upgraded mine to a United club card just for the fee waiver, but this was before MLA.

      Do not close any cards! Downgrade the spouses CSP cards to a slate and then get them new CSR when the 48 month window passes from the CSP bonus, make sure you transfer out the UR points before the downgrade

  49. Sand says:

    how do you keep track of all the different amex logins for all your cards?

  50. Matthew V says:

    Hi Team,
    I hope all is well! Quick question about military spouses. I will be deploying in 2 months to Jordan for 10 months. Should my wife get the CSR prior to deploying or after? I am currently a reservist.

    I know that Amex will waive all spouse’s annual fee regardless whether if you open the card before or after active duty. Any input or help on this would be greatly appreciated.

    If anyone can help, I don’t mind my spouse using YOUR referral code so please let us know!

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      I am unsure about reservists, because I am not sure when the “Active Duty over 30 days” takes place or what get reported to the MLA site. A reservist posted in the comments, but it was confusing for an active duty member such as myself. Safe bet is if you get the CSR for yourself, then that might be waived, if your wife gets it after your activation then she should get waived per the MLA.

      Not sure what happens when you get back and are no longer active duty.

      If you hit amex first and exceed 5 cards in 24 months you will not be able to get any chase cards for 24 months! keep that in mind.

      THere are no referrals for CSR.

    • JONATHAN says:

      Both SCRA and MLA covers spouses, get it BEFORE your orders start that way the annual fee is waived now and SCRA for chase will continue for 12 months past the end date written on your orders, so minimum of 2 years with no annual fee basically. Every year submit your AT orders too, I’ve been 100% succesful with only AT orders for both Chase and AmEx.

      • uiucderp2011 says:

        Thanks for the input, not very familiar with reservists. This makes more sense!

      • Daniel says:

        Do you have any proof of this that Chase will waive spouse’s annual fee for reservists?

        I’m deploying next week and I’m in the national guard but would need to get my wife to apply for credit cards, ASAP!! I know that Amex will waive fees and lots of soldiers in the guard and reserve posted proof on reddit. Your input is appreciated!

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          dunno, i have no proof because i’m active duty. you will have to be the first datapoint for the site.

        • JONATHAN PORTER says:

          My wife’s fees were waived for the 11 months i was deployed plus 12 months from end of active duty orders

  51. Franklin says:

    Chase not allowing for more than one personal Southwest credit card,
    1. Can you upgrade from either Plus or Premier to the Priority card?

    2. Can you upgrade both Plus and Premier to the priority card?

    3. Will this count against the 5/24?

    Thank you!

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      I think you can upgrade any card of the same family to the highest card, but make sure you can get the waiver first before the upgrade, but honestly why would you waste the 5/24 slots on southwest. You could have $300 a pop for multiple MLA waived CSR.

      Moving products does not count against 5/24

      • Franklin says:

        What do you mean by waiver? Waiver of fees for the cards?

        I already had both of them and both fees ARE waived, I had gotten them a while back and then noticed now that Priority card had better benefits. I def would not waste any 5/24 spots them for sure!

        Do you know since I already have the cards, I’d be able to upgrade them both to Priority because they don’t allow people to hold two personal Southwest cards as of now??

        Thank you so much!

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          i think it is possible since the restriction is applying for another priority while holding on to another. i say go for it and report back the results.

  52. TheSubmariner says:

    All right, I’m gonna say due to the new bottom tier no-fee Chase Marriott card, the optimal chase wallet is three CSR and two Ritz. I think a second Ritz beats out that United card. Any opinion?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Well the value from the United Club Credit Card is the 12,500 mile flights that it opens up, you can dump UR to United and fly a lot of little places with this relationship. I already get a 50k night with my Bonvoy Brilliant, and the $300 credit on the airline is tough to use, but certainly this is another option.

  53. Lauren says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I am a military spouse. My personal AMEX Plat was approved for the SCRA benefits, but this is what I received when I tried to get the benefits for my Business Plat:

    “According to our records, this account does not qualify for any adjustment(s) under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This is because the relief interest rate only applies to debts incurred by the Servicemember entering active military service. The account of a Servicemember’s spouse is eligible to receive the relief interest rate if the spouse is the Basic Card Member of the account and the billing address is located in a community property state or territory.”

    Maybe it’s because at the time of the review my husband was not an authorized user? After receiving this message I added him as an authorized user and reapplied for the SCRA benefits.

    Any other advice?

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      Are you a Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin resident?

      • Lauren says:

        We are in California, but I have been in Hawaii on a short term assignment for 6 month, so I put my Hawaii address on the application.

        I’m going to resubmit it and attach a copy of his California orders and update my address in the system to my California.

      • Dan says:


        I have been trying to get more info for the spouse SCRA waiver. Are these the only states where you can get the AF waived consistently?

        Thak you.

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          Nah, I’m in Illinois and lots of spouses here get the waiver, again I have an active duty spouse.

        • Lauren says:

          Sometimes I think it’s just the luck of the draw with who is reviewing your case file.

          My personal plat was approved, but not my 2 business plats. I’ll keep you updated because I put in a new application last week after my first request was denied.

        • wedstuntpuller says:

          DP for one and all:

          Spouse’s SCRA for her Rose Gold card approved (home state Virginia). It’s worth noting that they don’t ask anywhere on the SCRA benefits form submission where your spouse’s hometown is, so perhaps they look it up through DoD, but not sure.

  54. Thien says:

    Hi Derp,

    I love your blog so much. Question, I already have a CSR (lowered credit limit to $2000), some other chase cards (all lowered credit limits). After reading your blog, i realized that I have two old cards that opened before active duty. 1 is freedom with 6.5k credit limit. The other one is Slate with $800 limit. I really want to call chase up to upgrade both to a 2nd and 3rd CSR. But i know chase will do a hard pull on both right? Should I call in and do both at the same time to avoid a hard pull or that’s a risk? What will you do? Thanks

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      No hard pulls on product changes! Make sure you get SCRA coverage before the upgrade!

      • Thien says:


        I know that no hard pull on product change but to get CSR you need 10K credit limit and I only have 6.5k on freedom and $800 on slate. I would need to increase my credit limit that will cause a hard pull or 2. I made a mistake of lower credit limit on all chase cards all ready so I have little to no credit to move around. Please advise, thanks.

        • uiucderp2011 says:

          Wow, not familiar with the $10k minimum, but are there any other chase cards that you can pull credit from?

          • Thien says:

            Yeah CSR need initial 10K credit limit on the card to be approved and later you can reduce your limit. I made a mistake of reduce all my cards limit before knowing this. And to increase card limit it will be a hard pull. Do you know if we can shift credit limit from business cards to personals?

    • Jenn says:

      If you call they can move your credit between cards without pulling your credit.

  55. Dan says:


    Made a tactical mistake and added P2 (civilian spouse) as an AU to my first personal plat during my SCRA review process in an effort to get her future fees waived too. I should have just let her apply on her own and add me as an AU before her SCRA review. Is it advisable to call Amex and ask her to be removed and ask amex to remove it from her credit report? She is 4/24 and could get a couple more cards before Amex.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      At this point you can ask the chase Recon to ignore that card when applying.

      • Dan says:

        Correct. Is there a downside to requesting AMEX remove her though? P2 doesn’t want to do a biz recon with Chase. Still going through my SCRA review..

  56. Scott says:

    Hey Derp,

    Just got my first AMEX card in the middle of last month and immediately applied for SCRA. Would it be too soon to apply for the Biz gold, Biz plat, and Biz green this month? I don’t want to get the darn pop ups though.

    I understand that there is definitely no official limits on the charge cards, but I just wanted to get your take if this is too aggressive.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      As long it’s not more than 2 approvals in 90 days you should be fine, I just tried for my third in 87 days and it denied me!

      • Scott says:

        I thought the 90 day rule was just for credit cards and not charge cards?

        • Scott says:

          Rejected for Biz Plat. This would have been my second AMEX card. Looks like it was a bad time to jump off the Chase train! Has anyone been approved for any AMEX card this month?

          Hopefully, the smoke will clear and AMEX will lighten up.

  57. Jason says:

    Got some good DP for reservists/national guard. I was successfully able to get all my annual fees waived for my citi prestige and citi aa executive card. Not only that, I had three chase freedoms and I was able to upgrade all three to a chase sapphire reserve with all of my annual fees waived! They extended SCRA until August 2021. So I have three chase sapphire reserves now! Now the question is, will gift cards work for chase freedom credits? Idk what to do with $900 travel credit since I’m deployed overseas. Another thing is, I all of my Amex fees were waived as well! Just need to Amex Marriott and one more Hilton to complete my portfolio! I’ve been using your links so thanks for making all this possible derp! Any ideas/suggestions on my chase travel credits as well as my citi prestige?

    Another DP is is that my chase, Amex AND citi all extended the SCRA benefits to my wife. I was not eligible for MLA for any of my chase cards but fees were still waived thanks to SCRA. My wife has two chase sapphire reserve, two Amex plat, and one citi prestige. Will get her to get Amex credit cards soon!


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