Declassified: Churning Road Map For AD Spouses

Currently I am spending two weeks at Bethesda for a course and I ran into my old friend from dental school. He is finishing up some cases, super busy to PCS, and asked if his spouse could reach out to me about credit card advice. I just got a text from her asking:

I have read some military spouse fb fourms would any of these be a good option or do you have another recommendation all together?

Amex Platinum-the annual fee is waived for service members, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Southwest, or another airline?

(sad to see that AmEx plat is the only card on everyone’s mind)

I have know her husband since dental school way back in 2007! He went Army, and I went Navy, but this entire AD time I have been telling him the virtues of churning, especially with the SCRA and MLA waivers. He told me for many years that he was more than happy with his Cabela’s credit card. Now that he has a family, he is starting to see the cost of travel and vacations with kids. His wife says:

We are in the middle of moving to Hawaii and realized we need to make this move work for us – meaning get a credit card or two and put everything on it and earn points, rewards, or whatever for all our purchases.  One goal is to also earn enough points/airline miles to be able to fly family out to help out with the kids so my husband and I can do some solo traveling.

Well I decided to write my solutions here. This plan works for her only because she and her husband did not open any new cards in the last 24 months so they are known as 0/24. You can check credit karma to see how many cards you have gotten at any bank. Most of us are over 5/24 as in we have more than 5 cards at any bank. She is very lucky to have entered the game with a blank slate.

Rules of the game:

After each application you will need to go into the secure chat and request SCRA/MLA waivers, this should automatically apply for each additional card. She will promise me that her spends will not increase, and these spends are all organic in nature. She is smart to see that some big expenses are coming up, and these cards are perfect to capture this organic spend.

Also she pledges to me that these accounts are to be paid off on time, and even early if possible. The cards are to be treated like debit cards. Money will not be spent until matching funds exist in a bank account! If the game goes out of control, they are going to stop this game compley and go full Dave Ramsey plans! Also no gift cards are to be bought to pad the spend on these cards, this practice has cause accounts to be shut down for Both AmEx and U.S. Bank!

I optimized the solution to spread out earning over several hotel programs, and focus on Hilton and Delta since they have a lot of Hilton resorts in Hawaii, as well as the Delta companion pass from Hawaii to Mainland.

Step One: The CSR, INK, Freedom(s),

Keep in mind you can only get 2 cards every 30 days for Chase. Also each new personal card counts against the 5/24 count. However business cards do not, but require you to be under 5 cards at the time of application. I suggested this schedule:

  • Day One: Chase Sapphire Reserve (Public Link)
    • 50K UR Points for $4k spend in 90 days
    • $300 travel credit
    • Primary Rental Car Insurance
    • Priority Pass Lounges at airports (Including Some Restaurants)
  • Day Two: Chase Ink Business Prefered (Please Use My Referral Links Here)
    • 80k UR Points for $5k spend in 90 days
    • $95 annual fee is not waived
  • After 30 days: Chase Freedom (Please Use My Referral Links Here)
    • 20K UR (as a $200 credit) for $500 spend in 90 days
  • After 31 days: Chase Ink Cash (Please Use My Referral Links Here)
    • 5x on cell phone bill
    • Earns “Cash” where $1 is 100 UR
    • 50,000 UR ($500) for $3,000 spend in 90 days
    • No Annual Fee
  • After 60 days: Chase Freedom Unlimited (Please Use My Referral Links Here)
    • $150 (15,000 UR) for $500 spend in 90 days
    • 1.5 UR per $1 on anything

Note that there is a current offer of 60k right now for the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP), but don’t get suckered in since 10k UR is only worth $150 in travel. You need the CSR (reserve) because of the 1.5 cents per point on travel as well as the instant $300 travel credit. Also note that the CSR will have the $450 in annual fees waived for both the spouse, dependant, and service members. However the $95 annual fee will NOT be waived for the Chase Ink Preferred, instead the current 80,000 UR is well worth $1,200 in travel. The Chase Freedom has no annual fee and will be upgraded in one year to another CSR to get another $300 travel credit.

When UR points are earned on each card you would then pool them together in the CSR account and use it to book hotels and flights at 1.5 cents each.

In summary, in three months you would need to spend $13,000 to get the following:

  • 225K Ultimate Rewards worth $3,225 in travel
  • $300 Travel credit
  • $95 annual fee on Ink
  • $450 in fee waivers for the CSR (Per MLA)

In one year you would call and upgrade the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited to another CSR, and then downgrade the Ink Preferred to the free Ink cash. This combo can also be kept intact if you want to just keep earning points in this fashion:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve:
    • 3x UR on travel
    • 3x UR on dining
    • Lounge access at every Priority Pass Location
  • Chase Ink Preferred
    • 3x UR Travel
    • 3x UR Shipping purchases
    • 3x UR Internet, cable and phone services
    • 3x UR Advertising purchases
  • Chase Ink Cash
    • 5x UR on Internet, cable and phone services
    • 5x UR on Office Supply Stores
  • Chase Freedom
    • 5x UR on rotating quarterly categories
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
    • 1.5x UR on everything

Unless you are planning on spending $4,000 a year on the Freedom rotating categories, it is not worth keeping the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited. Upgrading both to a CSR would give you an instant $300 travel credit (worth 20,000 UR). I would argue in keeping the Chase Ink Cash for the 5x for the phone and internet bill, Ink Preferred for 3x in shipping, and have points trickle in. Every year of your active duty status you will get $900 a year in travel credit, double this with your spouse and you will have this to look forward to:

  • First year: 450k UR worth $6,750 in travel
  • First year: $600 in travel credits
  • Every year of AD: $1,800 in travel credits

Travel credits work by charging anything travel related such as:

  • Flights
  • Hotel stays
  • Parking garages
  • Toll booths
  • Pedicab rides
  • Taxi rides (including ride-share services)
  • UberEATS orders
  • Public transportation

When charged to each CSR for up to $300 every card anniversary. You will have to keep good track of which cards have been exhausted. I would recommend putting $300 right on to each person’s Uber, then $300 right into your toll transceiver account, then use the rest on airfare. If you don’t use the credit after one year of opening the card it will be lost and reset!

Step Two: Free Hotel Nights With Chase

Chase has their hands in three hotel groups: Marriott/Ritz Carlton, IHG, and Hyatt. You can certainly get all three, but keep in mind you have only 5 cards you can get before Chase cuts you out forever (over 5/24)! This does not count for the business cards (ink does not add to the 5/24 count). So right now you should have 3 out of 5 cards, leaving two slots. I would recommend these two cards because they are the most lucrative:

  • Day 61: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless(Please Use My Referral Links Here)
    • 3 Free nights with $3k spend in 90 days
    • Free 35k point night per year
    • Upgrade to Ritz Card in one year
      • One free 50k point hotel per year
      • $300 in flight credit (Some airfare too)
  • Day 90: World of Hyatt Card (Please Use My Referral Links Here)
    • 50K Hyatt Points (25K for $3k spend, then 25K for $3k more)
    • Free cat 1 to 4 night every year
    • Points can be used for hotel and spa
    • Discoverist Status for Late Checkout and Resort Fee Waiver
  • Optional Card: IHG Premier Card (Public Link)
    • Free night once a year (40k points)
    • Platinum Elite status
    • 125,000 Points offer for $3k spend in 90 days

Hotel redemptions very greatly depending on time and location of your hotel stay. In the first year you could earn:

  • 3 free nights worth 105k Marriott points
  • 50K Hyatt points
  • 125k IHG points

These groups are huge IHG consists of these brands:

Marriott group:

And then Hyatt:

After the first year you will call Chase and upgrade the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless to a Ritz Carlton card which you will get the $450 annual fee waived. Now every year you would get (assuming you and your spouse are both follow along):

  • Two free 50k Ritz/Marriott Nights
  • $600 in flight credit for seat upgrades, food, lounge access
  • One Free IHG Night (40k points)
  • One Free Hyatt night (Cat 1-4)

Step Three: Finish up Chase With Airlines

EIther way you go, you need to fill up your 5 Chase cards, two good choices come to mind:

  • Day 60: Chase United Club Card (Public Link)
    • 50k United for $3k spend in 90 days
    • United Club Lounge access anytime
  • Day 90: Chase Southwest Premier Card (Public Link)
    • 7,500 annual bonus points
    • $75 annual Southwest credit
    • 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in 90 days
    • 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 total in 1 yr

Now you are done with Chase because you have 5 personal cards and a single business card. YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO GET ANOTHER CHASE CARD AGAIN. Unless of course you stop getting any new personal cards for 24 long months.

Step Four: The One U.S. Bank Card

Not a lot of people know that U.S. Bank will waive for military, just open a checking account using one of these deals here. Wait a month and then get the U.S. Bank Altitude card. You will get $325 every year to use on travel related expenses. The first year you will get 50k points with $4,500 in the first 90 days of account opening. Each point is worth 1.5 cents on booking airfare.

I keep the card around and link it to my Apple Pay to earn 3x points every time I use my iPhone to pay for anything. You will also get a nice magazine called Andrew Harper wich will give you great ideas on where to vacation to. This card is the most under appreciated card in the military wallet.

Step Five: American Express

Note that some state residents do not get a waiver for military spouses. Florida seems to be the most problematic. Also AmEx watches what you buy and will shut you down if you buy too many gift cards ($5,000 and more).

Finally after after about a year of starting your journey you will get to the one card most military people know, the American Express Personal Platinum card. Note that this is a CHARGE card, and will not count towards the 5 card limit for every AmEx CREDIT card. AmEx has a rule where you can only get 1 card in 5 days, and then only 2 cards in 90 days! Here is the timeline assuming the first card it the Personal Platinum:

Image result for hilton brands

After one year you will have (assuming you spouse plays along):

  • Marriott: 2 Free 50k anytime nights every year
  • $600 in hotel credits at Marriott (Including Ritz)
  • Hilton: 6 Free weekend nights at any Hilton (including Waldorf Astoria)
  • Hilton: $1,500 Hilton Resort Credit
  • Hilton: $1,500 Airline Credit
  • $400 Uber Credit Per Year
  • $200 Saks Fifth Avenue
  • $400 airline incidentals for one airline

I suggest getting the Charles Schwab AmEx Platinum and/or the AmEx Platinum Business to best use your MR points. The Schwab Plat would let you cash out the 70k points at 1.25 cents for $875. The Plat Biz would be worth $1,050 on a single airline.

Step Six: Other Banks

Well the journey ends with Citibank wich has the Citi Prestige, Citi Premier, Citi AAdvantage Executive. All should be waived for military and spouses. I could write an entire article on the CItibank system.

That is my quick summary for this couple, check out www.mlatravelclub.com and www.thepointscommander.com in the future on ideas on how to spend the points and maximize benefits!

-Derp

6 thoughts on “Declassified: Churning Road Map For AD Spouses

  1. Mike says:

    Derp,

    As always, great article! You forgot one thing though, the $300 hotel credit with the AMEX bonvoy brilliant.

    Also, CITI has not been waiving the fees I thought? I applied for the Citi Executive platinum in June and was recently mailed a letter from CITI informing me that I did not qualify for my annual fee to be waived. To make matters worse, I applied for the card 2 weeks before I hit the two year mark on my CITI AA premier, so no bonus on the spend either. I know, what a rookie!

  2. Steve says:

    Amex “Note that some state residents do not get a waiver for military spouses.”

    Do you know if Amex waives annual fee if a spouse opens his/her own credit card in Maryland without adding a service member as an authorized user?

    • wedstuntpuller says:

      Not sure about Maryland, but my DP is that non-mil spouse Virginia resident has been waived on 4 separate cards without me as an AU on any of them.

      • AK says:

        In MD with two data points for the Aspire from Jul-Sep

        My CIV wife was rejected for the aspire (sole account), but was accepted for SCRA after I was added as an authorized user.

        Alternatively, my colleague had his CIV wife accepted for SCRA without any issues or adding her AD spouse.

        So MD is variable…

  3. MungB says:

    Got some DP for AD Spouse

    AMEX: AMEX Plat was waived AFTER I added my wife as an authorized user to my account. She was initially rejected (she made her own account). Next month after adding my wife as an authorized user, I resubmitted my marriage certificate and reapplied for SCRA on my wife’s account and boom! 3 weeks later, annual fee was refunded on my wife’s account. Trying to get the AMEX Aspire on my wife’s account soon.

    I need help on getting my Spouse’s annual fee waived for her CITI prestige card.

    On a side note, my own citi prestige card was waived BUT my American Airline Executive card was still not waived.. It’s been over 3 months now… What gives?

    If anyone can help on this, I would greatly appreciated!! Thank you

  4. troynewman says:

    Awesome! Thank you once again Derp!

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