Newbie launching in a few weeks...pick apart my strategy!

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by Sfmom, Aug 4, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    Hi,

    Thank you for creating such a user friendly forum. I have been soaking up all the information I can for the last few weeks and am finding this spot particularly helpful!

    Last month we (two adults, two kids) used UA miles to snag two round trip award seats to Italy, significantly cutting our costs and sparking my obsession. Now I am mapping out our strategy for the summer of 2014 and 2015. I am planning to launch our first round of credit card apps in the next two weeks - after our refinancing closes - and I would love the input of seasoned veterans. We do not anticipate applying for any loans after the refinancing in the foreseeable future.

    First some background: Our credit score is over 800. My husband has had a Chase Freedom card for at least three years, it was functionally our only card until he replaced with the Chase Mileageplus last year. I only have one card - a visa tied to a credit union that I have had for about 20 years and never use. My husband has a small business and we generally charge over $100,000 a year.

    For the summer of 2014, I have scraped our remaining UA miles together and booked three economy saver seats on a flight SFO to LHR in mid-June. Not the perfect dates nor routes--have saved searches in Expertflyer in hopes of improving. Plan to book three saver award returns as soon as later July schedule becomes available. Planning to pay for that fourth seat. I probably should have hired an award booker, but learned about them too late. Considering purchasing an EconomyPlus subscription to improve seats--husband does travel on United for business occasionally, and could use it as well.

    For the summer of 2015, my singular and only goal is 400,000 miles on Star Alliance, the current equivalent of four r/t business class seats to Europe. This is my plan to get there:


    Me: Apply for Chase Mileageplus Explorer and Ink Bold on the same day. Then apply for Chase Preferred in 3.5 months.

    Husband: Keep the Freedom to exploit 5x categories. Apply for Chase Sapphire and Ink Bold the same day. Then call Chase and ask if he can upgrade his Explorer to the Mileageplus Club card without closing his account to get 1.5x miles on our spending.

    From what I calculate the above should get to my goal, but is that too many Chase apps in the given timeframe? Will they be happy to upgrade husband's Explorer, or give him grief about his other recent credit card applications? I want to keep Chase happy, as SFO is a big United hub.

    I am also thinking of holding off on getting miles on other programs (AA, etc.) until I have exhausted what I can do with Star Alliance, as a way to slow down my churn. I don't feel the need for awards for domestic travel, and with kids we can only travel internationally once a year. Or Is that a bad idea?

    Thanks for reading, and all thoughts appreciated!
     
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  2. TravelBear

    TravelBear Gold Member

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    Hello and Welcome to MP SFmom!!! You certainly have done some homework and sound like you are off to a great start! I am no expert at cc churning but here is a thread where I asked about applying for multiple Chase cards that might be helpful. If I am reading your post correctly, your husbands business has the potential of creating a wealth of points especially if he needs to shop at an office supply store.

    I personally think keeping yourself focused on one program is good idea initially, but then again I am a dip my toes in kind of person. When I started I focused solely on DL miles. Once I got a handle on my plan for DL I started collecting UR points and am getting to know *A (and am sad to see USAir moving from them).

    Hope this helps some and thanks for joining us!
     
  3. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    Thank you TravelBear! I'm a little nervous but excited, too. Because we have always stuck everything on one card I don't know how much we spend on office supplies, but that is hopefully about to change. Been reading a lot and looking forward to trying this all out for myself.
     
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  4. clscholes

    clscholes Silver Member

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    Where are you planning on traveling? That is the other factor that can determine what would be best for you as well. Star Alliance is definitely the larger of the networks, but certain areas seem to be easier to book award travel for OW as well.
     
  5. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    In 2014 my plan is to fly to Heathrow. I was hoping to eventually get on the direct as it is the shortest flight (and my son had a hard time on our last trip) but no idea if it will work. Planning to return from CDG.

    For 2015, no idea yet. Europe is likely but South America or even Africa a possibility. I also picked Star Alliance because SFO is a United hub and my husband uses it in his occasional business trips.
     
  6. ckgunn01

    ckgunn01 Active Member

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    My 2 cents. Apply for the sapphire first unless you have a big offer on the united card. Since you obviously want united miles, Chase is your bank. It would help to keep your first card with chase in order to establish a long term relationship. There is no need for both you and your husband to have both the sapphire and explorer so he can cancel sapphire at year end ad you the explorer (and make each other authorized users on the other). But you both keep you first card. I might even get the freedom before the explorer. 30k a year for no fee is nothing to sneeze at. I'd also establish a checking account to trigger the 10% bonus even if just to park $2500 in.
     
  7. miles and smiles
    Original Member

    miles and smiles Gold Member

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  8. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    Thanks ckgunn. I had the 55,000 offer from Explorer, which is why I had put that first before the Sapphire and Freedom. I am already an authorized user on my hsband's Freedom so I can use that for the 5x categories. But perhaps am I missing something? Good point about us each canceling one card after a year. Husband is reasonably cooperative about all this--I'll see what he says about opening another checking account.

    Miles, we have had accounts with Fidelity for years so I assumed we couldn't get that bonus. But I will look at it again more carefully!
     
  9. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    I realized I didn't understand the Fidelity offer. Must ask the husband about that one!
     
  10. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    You can get the miles for adding to an existing account (if you have securities or cash in a non-fidelity account that you can transfer.)
     
  11. ckgunn01

    ckgunn01 Active Member

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    55k offer is probably too good to pass up. No reason to be an auth user on freedom for 5x when you can both get 5x for 60k with no fee. Just be sure to establish a good relationship with chase.
     
  12. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    Miles, I checked with husband and we can definitely park another $50,000 at our Fidelity account - possibly $100,000 we'll know in a couple of months. Thank you for the awesome tip!

    I thought I knew my Chase cards but I confess I didn't understand this: "No reason to be an auth user on freedom for 5x when you can both get 5x for 60k with no fee." Is Freedom offering 60k? Or maybe another product I'm not aware of? Thanks for all your great advice!
     
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  13. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    As one who does not view churning in a particularly good light, I can still endorse your plan because I believe that it is a good example of a smart approach to churning: the required minimum spend can be seamlessly integrated into spend that would have occurred regardless. No need to manufacture spending and it is relatively painless, but the potential for a big pay off is excellent.

    Good luck and let us know the outcome!:)
     
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  14. miles and smiles
    Original Member

    miles and smiles Gold Member

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  15. ckgunn01

    ckgunn01 Active Member

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    If you both get your own Freedom you get 5x in rotating categories. 5x points x $1500 per qtr x 4 qtrs x 2 cards = 60k points per year on an ongoing basis. Categories are usually easy to meet and gift cards can be purchased to streamline.
     
  16. Pizzaman
    Original Member

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    On a separate note, do either you or your husband have status with UA? If not, you may incur fees if you change those awards you already booked.
     
  17. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    NYCUA1K - Thanks! I looked into manufactured spending out of curiousity but quickly realized there's no way we'd have the time. I'd also worry about damaging our relationship with banks particularly Chase, given how useful United and Star Alliance is where we live. I'm hoping to be in this for the long haul, so I want to stay on the conservative end of things. I am excited that with apparently not much effort we can save ourselves at least the price of four coach tickets to Europe, which in the peak summer runs about $8000 post-tax dollars, and possibly four businesss class, which is over $16,000! All I want is for help on that one trip - don't need more than that.

    Miles - I was thinking of "saving" that card for another year, as I read Chase is one-bonus-per-product and figured we might want those miles down the road. Or should I be trying to get all the miles I can this year? Maybe I'm being too conservative.

    CKgunn - Oh I see! I don't think we'd be able to max out both categories every quarter - no way we're going to get close this one (gas, theme parks, Kohls). Wait - we were thinking of going to Disneyland in October - maybe I could get my tickets now. I love how all of you are making me think more strategically. I am tempted to save this card for another year per the above.
     
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  18. miles and smiles
    Original Member

    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    No, there is no rush. I just wanted to be sure you knew of that alternative, since you are focusing on UA miles. Also, since you and your husband can both be getting cards, you might be able to get both within the year.
     
  19. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    My husband is a Silver, though he may not get that in 2014. I did notice that the MileagePlus Club waives close-in booking fees, which is one reason we're interested in him getting that card. He will be the one buying his ticket; the rest of us are going on miles.
     
  20. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    No worries, as long as you have a strategy for change fees. :)
     
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  21. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    Sounds like a plan.

    Like others I encourage both of you to get the Freedom. Its a no fee card so you won't be tempted to cancel it and you can each get 5X per $1,500 per quarter or something approaching that. Keeping the card for the long haul will increase your credit history and thus your credit score. Whether you want to do it first... the bonus for the Freedom is small and so you may want to go for the United Explorer instead for the miles first.

    If United miles are your goal, the Explorer bonus is a great choice. As others have recommended, no reason not to get both the personal AND business versions of the card. Follow the advice in the linked FlyerTalk thread from Smiles and Miles. Works. You'll see the offer.

    And again, your credit and your husband's credit are different. You can both do the same things or different things in each AOR. Just don't go crazy and end up being unable to meet your spend requirements or end up paying interest. That'll cancel out any benefit to doing all of this.

    Obviously you're aware that UR points can be transferred to United Miles. And that its one of the best things to do with those points. And you can move them around from one account to another, so you'll be able to merge the points into one of your UR accounts before you transfer them to miles. Which you won't be able to do with your miles, at least not for free (I think United is 1.5 cents per mile plus $30-ish minimum $60 in 1,000 mile increments for transfers). Generally not a good idea. You just need a Sapphire or Bold to earn UR points. A Freedom alone won't do it. You can transfer the points from the Freedom to a Sapphire or Bold if you have one of those, so plan to get one.

    Each quarter you should apply for no more than one personal Chase card and one business Chase card. Ditto your husband. And yes you should be thinking you'll only get these bonuses once, so think about the order you want to get them in.

    The Sapphire bonus is only 10,000 UR points and generally doesn't increase. The Ink cards (there are two, and you can get both of them one after the other, say a year apart, Ink Bold then Ink Plus) both offer 50k UR bonuses. Steeper spend requirements if I recall though.

    Go for the Explorer cards first I'd say. No reason for your husband to upgrade his existing card. Just leave it open and apply for a new one. They're separate products and he will get more miles that way. The only disadvantage to this is you'll end up with another fee (assuming the non-Explorer has a fee?) which you wouldn't if the new card was simply an upgrade. But the fee for the first year will be skipped and you can always cancel before it hits.
     
  22. Pizzaman
    Original Member

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    Don't forget there is a Sapphire and a Sapphire Preferred. Bonus for Preferred is generally 40K.
     
  23. Sfmom

    Sfmom Silver Member

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    Thank you gconnery and Pizzaman for making some excellent points. I'm happy to be reminded of future application opportunities - one of my concerns is that I'll run out of future application opportunities down the line (which is kind of ridiculous given I haven't even started yet!).

    The good thing about waiting for my refinance to close (I feel like it's in slow motion!) is it is forcing me to spend more time planning. I've been doing more research since then, and have since come up with a second version on steroids -- and I am currently debating with myself whether to execute on it or not.

    Here is a summary of the steroid version. I've read a number of posts encouraging people to diversify, so I added American miles:

    * I would apply for four cards instead of two (adding an Amex and Citi), and apply for two (adding another Citi) the next quarter, and my husband does the same
    * My husband, who pays his federal taxes quarterly, puts them on the Club card and pays the 1.89% fee. I realize some people (like The Point Guy) says this doesn't make sense. But when I run the numbers it seems worth it, probably because we want the points for premium international travel.

    If we do the above, we would also have enough points for four first class round trips to Asia. Ran the numbers to make sure we'd meet our minimum required spends.

    The pro is obvious. Here are the cons I worry about:

    * Is applying for all these cards too much for my credit score? Everything I've read seems to suggest "no," but I don't want to take any chances. 768 on Karma, 808 on Sesame.
    * Is it too much Chase?
    * Will I run out of credit card bonuses down the line by applying for so many now? I'd much rather have one international trip a year for many years than two in the short term (and zero later).
    * How much do I need to spend on my applying-for-bonus only cards to keep the banks happy? Once the minimums are met I'd much rather dump my money on a few cards - the Club for 1.5X, the 5X categories for Freedom, dining on Sapphire, etc. But will that make the banks mad and therefore less likely to give me cards in the future?

    Again, thank you so much all your help, and any thoughts appreciated!
     
  24. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    While I don't find Delta miles all that appealing, I believe you can still apply for a Suntrust debit card that earns miles. The federal government will accept a debut card for a very small flat fee as opposed to almost 2%. Not the best miles but will save you some bucks.

    I wouldn't worry about applying for that many cards at once. I don't think that will be an issue. It might be too much Chase but they're big into horse trading. Hard to NOT get approved by them.

    I also don't think it's likely you make a bank mad by not spending on their cards.

    My general thought is there's no guarantee the big bonuses are here to stay. I'm not saying they're going away tomorrow, but there's nothing wrong with getting what you can now and figuring out what you can get later.
     
  25. ChrisUNC

    ChrisUNC Silver Member

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    In the Rules for the offer, it mentions allowing 6-8 weeks for miles to post to your account. Do you know if this 6-8 time period is from when the account is opened, the deposit/assets are received, or after the 6-month period? I'm assuming it's the latter, otherwise people could easily exploit this - but it wasn't explicitly mentioned in the rules, so thought I would ask.
     
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