This is the second article in a three part series on applying for credit card bonuses aka App O Rama(AOR). In the first part, I talked about how to prepare for your first App O Rama, the potential benefits and the impact to your credit score.
Once you’ve determined your credit health, it’s time to do a little more research into what cards you want to get. I usually look for offers that will give me 50,000 points or more. Although most of these 50,000 points aren’t advertised very well, they are out there. I’d say there are probably about 20-25 sign up bonus offers out there as of today that offer 50,000 points or more. Some of these cards can even be churned, meaning that you can sign up for them multiple times and get the bonuses multiple times as you’ll see below.
Generally 1,000 points can be redeemed for $10 cash or $10 in gift cards. So anytime you can cash out 1 point for 1 cent you’re at about the average redemption rate. A lot of bloggers and forum posters refer to the redemption rates in terms of cents per point so anytime you see a redemption rate of 2-3 cents per point, you know you’re looking at a great redemption rate.
If you’re looking to redeem your points for cash, you will rarely be able to redeem for better than 1 point to 1 cent. But if you’re willing to redeem for airfare or hotel stays, that’s where you can really boost your redemption rate. One of my first redemptions was two years ago on my trip to Maui when I paid for two first class tickets to Hawaii($3,000 value) with 150,000 points. I was able to get 2 cents per point on that redemption but it’s all relative since I never would have paid for first class tickets in the first place. Normally, I travel in coach, unless I get to pay with points. I think it was only 25,000 more points per person to upgrade from coach to first class so I did it! So even though I got a $3,000 value from my points, it wasn’t a true $3,000 value since I never would have paid that much in the first place.
Finding the Best Credit Card Offers
There is a wealth of information out there when it comes to travel hacking(or credit card churning as I like to call it). Everything from blogs to forums will post all the latest offers but it is a lot of information to digest when you’re first getting started. If you’re new to the credit card bonus scene, I’d start off reading a blog like The Points Guy or Boarding Area. There you’ll find all of the latest travel news, credit card offers, etc in a concise and simple format.
My main resource for finding credit card deals though is the FlyerTalk Forums. The credit card programs thread has a list of all the newest offers available and before any App O Rama I always consult this thread to see which cards I want to apply for. Since I’m also on Slickdeals a lot, I’ll find a new deal there once in a while but there’s nothing on Slickdeals that won’t be on FlyerTalk.
Which Offers Should You Focus On?
If you’re going for cash back, then picking the best offers is pretty simple. But if you’re looking to redeem for travel related benefits, it gets a little trickier. Applying for cards is the easy part, but knowing how and when to use the rewards is what takes some real expertise. Since award availability is generally limited, if you’re looking to travel during peak season you’re going to have a lot of trouble booking rewards within 6 months of your travel date. But if you’re the type that has a flexible schedule or summers off, then travel reward may be perfect for you. I’ve found it’s a lot more difficult to book flights than hotels so a good strategy for some of you may be to go for the cash back offers to pay for flights and the hotel cards to pay for hotels.
If you’re just starting though I think the best strategy is to go for the cards that have the best transfer options like Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Amex and Chase have a ton of airline and hotel transfer partners so you’ll have more flexibility redemption-wise. Personally, I go for a mix of cash back, airline and hotel cards. In this App O Rama I was more concerned with finding the best offers and less concerned with what I was going to spend it on though. I have a honeymoon coming up so I’m trying to rack up as many points as possible in an attempt to get all of our airfare and hotels paid for over 2 weeks in Italy and Greece, we’ll see how it goes.
Picking the Best Offers
I ended up picking 5 cards that I was going to apply for:
Barclays US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard – 35k Bonus after first purchase, no annual fee 1st year($89 after that), 10k bonus on 1 year anniversary, 2 US Airways Lounge Passes
I ended up applying for this card as part of my AOR since it basically had no spend requirement. The 10k bonus on the 1 year anniversary is pretty nice too since I plan on canceling the card after I get the 10k point bonus in order to avoid the annual fee. In addition, since US Airways and American Airlines are likely to merge, if I don’t use these points in the next year, they will most likely be combined with my AA points. Basically, I want to capitalize on as many US Airways offers right now while I can since they won’t be around for much longer.
As of 9/4/13, this offer is still active. Flyertalk Thread
Citi Platinum American Airlines Visa - 50k bonus after 2.5k spend in 4 months – no annual fee 1st year($95 after that)
I’ve had pretty good luck redeeming AA points(like with my Hawaii trip) so I consider them pretty valuable. If you book during the right time, you can actually get a flight from the west coast to Hawaii round-trip for only 30k points.
As of 9/4/13, this offer is no longer available, but there is a new offer for 50k points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. Flyertalk Thread
Chase UA Mileage Explorer Visa - 50k bonus after 1k spend in 3 months, 5k bonus for adding an Authorized User, $50 Statement Credit and no annual fee 1st year($95 after that)
I like this card because I don’t have many United miles and the spend requirement was so low. The 55k bonus is a good offer and the $50 SC makes it even better. I don’t have any trips planned on United but they are a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards so if I needed more points on United for two flights(for my fiancee and I) I could transfer points from Chase to United at a 1:1 ratio.
As of 9/4/13, this offer is still available, but it might take some work to get it to show up. Flyertalk Thread
Chase Ink Bold Business Card - 50k bonus after 5k spend within 3 months, 2 Airport Lounge Passes Plus VIP access, no annual fee first year($95 after that)
The Chase Ink Bold/Plus cards have been around for a while and I kind of missed the boat on them when they first came out so I felt like I had to get in on this one. The 50k bonus might seem comparable to the other offers but Chase points are some of the most valuable in my estimation since they have a ton of great transfer partners(1:1 ratio) and you also get a 20% bonus on point redemption for travel related purchases. For example, 50,000 points is worth $625 in travel rewards. This card is probably the best one out of all five in my opinion.
As of 9/4/13, this offer is still available. You can actually sign up for Ink or Plus Versions. Flyertalk Thread
Citi Business American Airlines Visa - 45k bonus after 5k spend in 4 months, $150 SC on AA purchases, 4 Admirals Club Passes
This is the exact same card as the one above but the business version. The spend requirements were a little higher but you could get a $150 SC on AA purchases and 4 Admirals Club Passes.
As of 9/4/13, this offer is no longer available, but there is a new Citi Business Mastercard offer for 50k points. Flyertalk Thread
In this AOR I ended up choosing mainly airline cards because I have some big tickets to purchase in the next year but the Chase UR points are very valuable since I can redeem for so many different options. In the third and final part of this series, I’ll talk about the application process: which cards I applied for and in which order and how I plan on meeting the spending bonuses. If you don’t feel like adding it up, I have to spend 13.5k in just 4 months so stay tuned to see how I plan on accomplishing that feat.
Readers, what do you think of the cards I chose to apply for? Do you think 5 is too many for one round of applications or should I have chose more?
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-Harry @ PF Pro