Maximizing Your Frequent Flyer Credit Card Bonuses


Unlike opening a bank account, buying a car, or switching insurance companies, applying for credit cards is amazingly fast! I applied for and received approval for 4 cards for my family in less than 10 minutes total! That is enough for 3 round trip tickets to Europe worth a total of $4500. If you do the math, that’s like earning $27,000 per hour! That’s even more than my plumber makes. Okay, a lot more.

Before you start applying for a dozen credit cards with bonuses, quickly read this entire list of helpful tips:

1) Don’t apply for more credit cards if you plan to get a large loan (home loan, HELOC, etc) within a year or two. I have heard that every time you apply for a credit card, your FICO score drops 5-7 points temporarily. Sometimes it might   take 2 years to fully come off, but often this drop is outweighed by the credit you are building even before then. If you apply for many credit cards in a very short period of time it could affect your credit more.

  • Review offers and pick the ones with the highest bonus with no annual fee for the first year.
  • If there is a Business card and a Personal card, you can often apply for both, but if you apply at the same time, you might be denied common with Visa). You can try this trick:
    1. Use two browsers and complete the application for the personal card, and before submitting, use your other browser to apply for the business card. Then you can submit both (in either order). No guarantees, but this might help you avoid having to wait more than 60 days before applying for the other card.
    2. If you do get denied for the 2nd card, you probably have to wait at least 95 days before reapplying.
    3. FYI, even if you don’t own a multimillion-dollar family run furniture store you may still qualify if you have a small side business. You would simply enter sole proprietor as the business type.
  • Have your spouse apply. Even a nonworking spouse should really have their own card to build up credit in his/her name. Often times the credit application will say you can include income received from another individual to pay your expenses, etc. There is a place for rent expense or mortgage expense. If both husband and wife are applying for credit cards of their own, I’m not sure if they both have to put the full amount of mortgage or rent, or if they would just put the “portion” they actually pay. Be honest of course, but you may have more latitude than you think. Many applications ask about “household income” rather than your specific income.
  • Calculate how much in “required spending in the next few months” is required when signing up. If you have a lot of expenses coming up quickly, this isn’t an issue, but you might want to spread out the application of cards based on what you can spend. Make sure you read this article to help meet the minimum requirements if you are concerned you might have a problem.
  • Go for the cards with the highest number of miles. For example, if there is one that offers 40,000 miles and another offer for the same card that offers only 30,000, go for the one offering 40k miles. FYI, many times you can only get “one of one card” and collect the bonus (unless it’s been 18 months or more since you last canceled).
  • Consider all the cards. Visa Signature Card for British Airlines is different than a Visa Signature Card for Alaska Airlines. Look at the underlying bank. If you apply for many with Chase at the same time, they will tend to not approve them.
  • “What’s in your wallet?” See what cards you already have that are active, and don’t reapply for the same card, otherwise you won’t get the bonus. You can check your credit report in case you don’t know.
  • If Southwest is offering 50k miles bonus right now, you might want to grab it, since they only typically do this once or twice a year (often towards the end of the year). If it’s close to the end of the year, you can apply, but don’t complete the required spend this year, but rather finish it up in January (if that works for you), then you have the rest of the year to try to rack up 110,000 SWA miles. That would give you free companion passes. Read this and the website for more details.
  • Remember to sign up for frequent flyer programs before you sign up for the cards, so you can enter the frequent flyer number (or at least know what your number is if you have one). It’s easy to call the airline, and find out what it is if you forgot. Most cards simply assign you a number when you apply.
  • Don’t apply for credit cards if you don’t pay off your current cards, or think that “$10k in credit is as good as $10k in the bank”. Banks charge you 15% to 24.99% interest on balances not completely paid off each month. You do not want to do that. If you are carrying a balance, ONLY do that for one card and pay every other card off each month.
  • Consider cancelling credit cards that gave you bonuses after you get the bonus, and definitely before a year if they will charge you an annual fee. However, don’t nix one or more of your longtime credit cards, since your credit score is partially based on “your longest running credit card.” Generally there is no need to cancel credit cards that didn’t give you a bonus in the first place.
  • If you apply an get denied, consider reapplying after at least 95 days have elapsed since many times card issuers don’t like to see a lot of new credit applied for within a short period of time.

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