If you’re not familiar with the term “credit card churning” it’s when you apply for various cards based solely on the rewards and perks that they offer. Could be in the form of cashback, free travel, or even free gift cards to various restaurants and big-box stores. If you have good credit and pay your bills in-full every month you can really snag some terrific perks. Here is how my recent churning adventure went and how I ended up with close to $2,000 in free money.
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred ($1,085)
My wife and I were planning a Washington D.C. trip for our family and knew this credit card was a total no-brainer and would help offset the cost of this expensive trip.
All we had to do was spend at least $4,000 within the first three months and in return we would get 50,000 bonus points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
50,000 points translates to $500 cashback or even more if you use your points for travel ($625 to be exact).
After I got my card I then signed my wife up as an authorized user and got another 5,000 points or $50.
You also snag points on all your purchases like you would with any other rewards credit card.
We then used the card on all our purchases for about 6 months and paid the balance in full every month.
We even used the card to book our D.C. trip via Expedia.
By the time we were ready to take our 3 kids to D.C. we had earned 108,566 points.
This translated to a free $1,085 for doing the same spending we would have been doing anyways.
The card does come with a $95 annual fee but is waived for the first year. My plan is to cancel the card before I reach my 1 year mark.
2. Bank of America Cash Rewards Card ($200)
After my huge success with the Chase Sapphire card I started looking for other credit card churning opportunities.
So when I saw Bank of America was handing out a free $200 cash for signing-up for their Cash Rewards card I jumped all over it.
All I had to do was spend a measily $500 within the first 90 days to get my $200. Easy.
Plus, the card gives you 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores (including Costco) and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 spent each quarter.
No annual fee.
3. Hawaiian Airlines MasterCard ($600)
A couple months ago we were on a flight to Maui and as we neared the islands the flight attendant came on the intercom and explained the benefits of the Hawaiian Airlines MasterCard.
The benefits included 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days, $100 companion discount for round-trip travel, and your first checked bag is free (whoopee! lol).
The big one was the 50,000 miles which equates to $500 in free airfare.
Plus, any spending you do on the card also earns you miles. You’ll actually get 2 miles for every dollar spent on gas, dining, and groceries.
Not sure if I was drunk on Mai Tai’s, but I went ahead and filled out the application and handed it to an attendant on my way off the plane.
What sold me on the card was the extra 10,000 miles for submitting the app while in-flight, as well as the ability to add the miles from the flight to my bonus miles.
So I ended up with close to 65,000 miles right off the bat.
My plan is to use the miles to fly somewhere beautiful for our 20th wedding anniversary next April.
Our round-trip airfare should be FREE or close to it.
The one downside with this card is the $99 annual fee which is NOT waived for the first year.
4. Lowe’s Credit Card ($99.94)
A couple weeks ago our refrigerator’s compressor went dead for the very last time.
So my wife and I headed off to Lowe’s to shop for a replacement.
Once we found the model we wanted we headed to the customer service desk to pay and set up a delivery time.
While I was standing there I noticed that the Lowe’s Advantage credit card offers 5% savings on all your purchases.
I quickly did the math and realized I could save about $100 on this new fridge.
Literally took 2 minutes to apply for the card and snag my savings.
When I get my first bill I’ll pay off the balance in-full and I plan to keep the card.
There is NO annual fee and I do enough DIY projects around the house that the 5% savings is significant.
Can “Churning” Affect Your Credit Score?
Experts say that opening a bunch of new credit cards within a 30-day window can cause your credit score to drop.
Because of this I spaced out these 4 cards over the course of about 9 months.
I’m really glad I did this as it made it much easier to spend the money required to get the bonuses the cards were offering.
It was also nice to NOT have to change our spending habits at all.
In other words, easily avoid over-spending but not churning a bunch of credit cards all at once.
When Is Churning a Bad Idea?
There absolutely are times when credit credit churning is a bad idea.
For example, if you’re in the market to buy a home or plan to refi soon, I wouldn’t churn as a small ding to your credit score could affect your ability to score the lowest possible interest rate.
The same can be said for financing a new car or any large purchase for that matter.
Should You Close the Credit Cards Afterwards?
It’s really up to you.
I’ve decided that I’ll only close the credit cards that have an annual fee.
Which in my case is the Chase Sapphire and the Hawaiian Airlines MasterCard.
The other cards I will keep open and use regularly to keep them in my credit mix and help keep my credit score high.
Ask the Reader: Have you taken advantage of any credit card offers recently? How much free money did you earn?
By Kyle James