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.