A case for (and how-to accomplish) rapid churning

I should start by saying that my churning game doesn’t run nearly as long or deep as Derp’s, or probably most of the readers. I got my first “adult” credit card in 2006, my second in 2013 (AMEX Platinum), but didn’t start churning until January of this year (2019). In 8 short months I have amassed the following horde:
– 4 AMEX Charge cards (2 x plat, 1 rose gold, 1 green)
– 4 AMEX Credit cards (all 3 Hilton cards, 1 Bonvoy Brilliant
– 4 AMEX Biz cards (3 x plat (2 upgraded from Green & Gold), 1 Green after upgrading previous card)
– 3 Chase cards (1 CSR, 1 Freedom & 1 Freedom Unlimited to be upgraded to CSRs in one year)
– 1 Citi Prestige
– 3 x P2 cards (Rose Gold, Biz Plat, Hilton Surpass)

All of this has been done without any manufactured spending (other than paying taxes, which isn’t necessarily considered MS). The rest of this article assumes you have read the Beginner’s Guide to Churning and/or the Optimum Perpetual Wallet Holdings, and that you have some basic background knowledge of the reason we’re doing all of this.

Conventional wisdom for churning says that “Slow & Steady wins the race”. It certainly is easier & more sustainable long-term, but with the right mindset, tracking (spreadsheet), and referral partners you can crank up your wallet size and points balance in less than a year, all while setting yourself up to have some sweet travel credits waiting for you in less than 2 full years of churning.
I am by no means advocating irresponsible spending… follow Derp’s rules of churning, one of the first few is ALWAYS PAY YOUR BALANCES IN FULL! I have a 2xweekly rule, every Wednesday and Sunday I login to my accounts and pay every single balance in full. If you can’t do this, slooooow down. I’m not rich, and run a single income family with 3 kids… if I can do it, so can you.

My rapid churning SOP:
– First and foremost, enjoy the fact that you won’t be paying annual fees for any of this; otherwise, you’d have to be insane to pay for all of these cards.
– Keep a rotating 3-4 card active welcome bonus chasing stack, application dates/approvals separated by roughly a month each. Sometimes more, sometimes less for both amount of cards and time difference between stacks. Once you meet a welcome bonus or you’re about to meet one, apply for your next card (keep in mind Derp’s rules of thumb for starting with Chase until 5/24, then moving on to US Bank and AMEX). Take advantage of the easy cards (Biz Green, Regular Green) that you can meet minimum spend on without much effort.
– Spreadsheet tracking each and every card with the following info: Card name, approval date, sign-up bonus, achieve-by date (always 10 days prior to actual 3 or 4-month deadline to ensure it is reached). Each row/card status highlighted in Green (sign up bonus achieved), Yellow (not yet achieved), or Red (missed… should never happen!)
– Meet low amount sign-up bonuses as quickly as possible (ex: Hilton Honors card, $1k in 3 months) to focus your big-spending items on larger card bonus requirements (ex: Biz Plat, $10k in 3 months).
– Pay taxes in large chunks (preferably do at least one $5k payment on a Biz Plat to get 50% bonus MR points). I only pay taxes as a finisher for welcome bonuses if the deadline is getting close, or with the first Biz Plat I got to get the high spend welcome bonus. You can do this from the IRS website, or just google “Pay taxes with credit card”.
– Keep an eye on your credit score. Mine has fluctuated up to 30 points following heavy application periods (mostly at the beginning with 3x Chase cards and my push on Hilton cards rapidly), but always returns to normal a month or two later.
– Follow up advice for “healing” your credit score after a dip: AMEX Biz and/or charge cards are your friend and don’t have major impact on your score. After you max out your Chase 5/24 and get rolling on Citi and/or your pile of 5 AMEX credit cards, take a break and work on Biz cards only for a couple months.

Those are the basics to getting a healthy stack working for you in less than a year. If you have a P2, you can have a larger & better high-end card portfolio before you start slumming it with AMEX Green cards & regular Hilton cards. As I said, year two you should be able to start enjoying some of the fruits of your “labor” (travel credits, points, free hotel nights), and you’ll spend much of year two upgrading the lower-tier cards that you phased into your collection during your first portfolio building year. By the end of year two, you can easily have several AMEX Platinums, 3-6 Biz Plats, 3 CSRs, 2+ Citi Prestige cards, and multiple $450 annual fee-waived AMEX credit cards that give you whatever you desire (airline credits/companion passes, Hilton/Marriott free nights & hotel $$ credits).

Stay tuned for not-so-distant future articles about ways to EASILY maximize points earned while achieving welcome bonuses to multiply your point-folio in whatever your cards of choice are.

22 thoughts on “A case for (and how-to accomplish) rapid churning

  1. unclebuckme says:

    I’d be interested in a detailed breakdown of how you pay and manage your taxes: the actual logistics of paying with credit cards, the money/rewards lost to fees (if any), how you reduce your income tax withholdings to compensate, etc. Thanks!

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      Great questions. I was hoping to address some of these in the comments to keep the article relatively short. Here goes:
      https://www.irs.gov/payments/pay-taxes-by-credit-or-debit-card has several different options to pay by. I use pay1040.com because they have the lowest fee (1.87%). Simply go to the site, and click Form 1040-ES Estimated Tax under Personal Tax. You’ll pay the 1.87% fee on however much you pay to choose, but I find that paying less than $40 in fees for an example $2k in taxes (half of most welcome bonuses) is well worth the 50-100k points or whatever you’re trying to meet spend for.
      I set my exemptions to 10 on mypay to minimize the federal tax taken out each month. This has reduced my monthly tax payment around $450 a month, or $5400/yr. I will definitely be overpaying on taxes (as usual) this year since I’ll pay more than $5400 with cards for taxes, but well worth it, in my opinion, to give the government a free loan to rack up points & credits.
      I should note than you can only make two payments per tax quarter per website (ex: can only use pay1040.com to make two payments from 1Jan-31Mar), then you have to use a different site. If you’re spacing out your cards as I mentioned in the article, this shouldn’t be a problem… I’ve only made 3 payments this year with that method.

  2. Johan maj says:

    Did you have to apply for scra each time? Wife and myself are waiting on scra to be approved on our second biz plat, it’s been 25 days :/ about to pay the annual fee tomorrow if it doesn’t get approved today or tomorrow

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      As far as I know it has been automatically applied for every subsequent card I’ve added to the same login for both me and P2. I still electronically apply for it, and it typically gets reimbursed in a few days.

      If I were you I’d hop on AMEX Chat and ask them if they can check for an updated status on applying your SCRA benefits to that card, but don’t mention any of your other cards.

  3. John says:

    How long do you wait in-between applications for a new credit card?

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      It depends on what bank it’s through. When I started with Chase I got tagged for a frequency violation when attempting to get my 4th card. Here’s my rundown by month and card type:
      – Feb – CSR (13th)
      – Mar – AMEX CS Plat (1st), Hilton Aspire (15th), Green (18th), Chase Freedom (28th)
      – Apr – Chase Freedom Unl (8th), United Club (20th – Denied), AMEX Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant (24th), AMEX Biz Plat (30th)
      – May – AMEX Biz Green (14th, upgraded to Plat), Rose Gold (17th)
      – June – Rose Gold (P2, 7th), AMEX Hilton basic card (17th), Biz Gold (25th, upgraded to Plat)
      – July – Hilton Surpass (24th)
      – August – Hilton Surpass (P2, 5th), Citi Prestige (20th)
      – Sept – Biz Green #2 (6th), Biz Plat (P2, 10th)

      July was a slow month as I was back in the states on vacation for a couple weeks.

      • Law says:

        For the AMEX charge cards, such as platinum, is there a downgrade option for a no annual fee card?

        • wedstuntpuller says:

          Yes there is. You can downgrade them to a green card at any time, but dont forget the 1+ year of ownership rule to not have your welcome bonus taken back. Generally you won’t want to be opening any cards during your last year of service unless you plan to keep them after you get out. After you’ve downgraded to no fee cards, you can cancel them slowly so you don’t tank your credit score.

  4. Law says:

    I’m getting denied by Chase while trying for my 5th card to finish my 5/24 due to frequency violation. Going to wait 1 more month and try one last time. If I’m denied again, I’m going to give up Chase and move on. I feel like I’m wasting time and could get approved on multiple other cards in the months I’m waiting for Chase.

    • uiucderp2011 says:

      don’t forget to hit those business cards BEFORE GOING OVER 5/24!

      They don’t count towards the total, but you are on the hook for the fee!

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      Derp is right, but I did the same thing you’re talking about only after 3 cards. I moved on to the premium Amex hotel cards and the biz cards quickly. I’d say only wait the extra month if you think that card will be that valuable to you.

      • Law says:

        Yup, I’ve already got the CIP biz card after 4/24 in July, and I think it’s due to that card is why I’m being denied. Trying for a Freedom Unlimited as my last 5/24 to upgrade to CSR later on. But I think they recently ended their 3% cashback promo for the first year which sucks. Was planning on using Plastiq to pay off my student loans up to their max $20k in the first year for the 3% CB.

        Also, does the American Express biz cards waive the annual fee for Military? I know Chase doesn’t and I see you signed up for the Platinum Biz. Did you downgrade your AMEX biz cards after hitting the sign-on bonus or just close them?

        • McWolfe says:

          Amex waives every card for military including biz. The Biz Platinum is amazing for us! There are several previous posts here about how to acquire multiple biz plats to get hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in free Dell and Microsoft giftcards.

          • Hiram says:

            I am still waiting on them to waive my second biz plat, it’s been 28 days since I applied for scra

          • McWolfe says:

            That’s normal. They’ll credit the $595 back to you eventually. Multiple of mine have taken a couple months for the refund.

          • wedstuntpuller says:

            Also take care not to downgrade or cancel cards for at least a year after opening if you earn a welcome bonus. More and more reports coming in of Amex and especially Chase taking back your points if you don’t maintain the account for a year plus.

  5. kevH says:

    Just want to clarify: when you sign up for subsequent Hilton cards, you do not earn the initial spend bonus correct? So you are just getting it for the upgrade potential and perks, not the points? Same rule for any other branded cards right (delta, bonvoy, etc.)?

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      No, you can and will absolutely get the bonus once per card (Aspire, Surpass, Regular Hilton card, Hilton business card) for a max total of 4 welcome bonuses. You would not get the bonus if you applied for or upgraded to a second version of the same card.

  6. ArmyGrunt07 says:

    Just had a great and interesting thing happen today that I had previous success with last year. As i was going through my multiple Platinum accounts to ensure the $250 Sak’s gift card i purchased last week across five platinums was properly reimbursed, which it was, I had an offer under one of my newer Platinums to add the “pay over time” option and just for signing up i was given a 10,000 point bonus! Of course i’ll never use this option, but this is the third AMEX Platinum card of mine that has had this offer show up on my account and essentially give me a free 10k points.

    Make sure you check your dormant cards periodically for these easy points. It was a banner ad at the top of my account home for this one card that i haven’t used in months.

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      Good tip. Often times when cards go underutilized, Amex will throw out targeted offers for these members to get them back to using their cards.

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