If you are just getting started collecting hotel points and airline miles from credit card sign-up bonuses, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are lots of resources out there, but here are 10 quick facts to get you started.
1. Annual fees do not count toward spending requirements
When calculating if you reached the minimum spending requirement, make sure to avoid counting the annual fee. For example, if you need to spend $4,000 to get a sign-up bonus and the annual fee is $95, do not count this $95 charge when totalling your purchases.
2. You can get bonuses from credit cards that are considered separate products
While it may be confusing, there are different versions of credit cards that you can get the bonus for, often at the same time! For example, there are several Delta cards from American Express and you can open accounts for all of them. This rule doesn’t apply to all cards, however. You can only get one Southwest personal card from Chase or one card that earns Citi ThankYou points. More on that here.
3. Apply for Chase credit cards first
Chase is definitely the company that is most sensitive to recent credit card accounts (read about the 5/24 rule here). If you have a business, apply for Chase business cards first.
4. Different banks have different rules
Credit card issuers have different rules for how many cards you can apply for within a certain time frame and how often you can get the sign-up bonus. Learn more here.
5. Reduce the number of hard inquiries by applying for multiple cards on the same day
If you apply and are approved for two credit cards from the same company on the same day, you may only see one hard pull on your credit report. Results may vary.
6. Credit card companies pull credit reports from different bureaus
Your credit report is pulled from either Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion depending on where you live. Knowing which company pulls from which bureau will allow you to strategically decide which card to apply for next.
7. Some credit cards may not post to your credit report immediately
This is especially true of American Express credit cards. This can be used to your advantage since it looks like you have fewer open accounts than you actually do.
8. Annual travel credit can be worth more than you think
Some credit cards offer a yearly travel credit as part of its benefits. If you time your application correctly, you can get the travel credit two times while paying the annual fee only once.
9. Double dip when earning points by shopping online
In addition to the points and miles you earn through credit card spending, you can use a shopping portal to earn more points.
10. Don’t close credit cards immediately after getting the sign-up bonus
Wait until the annual fee is due to maintain a relationship with the bank. Then convert to a no annual fee version of the card if possible. This will help your credit score in two ways. First, it keeps the amount of credit extended to you high and your credit utilization low. Furthermore, it will improve your average age of accounts. If you can’t convert the card, try to get a retention offer before closing it.
Check out my guide to credit card churning for beginners for more information.