Our primary strategy for credit cards involves rotating through signup bonuses at a pace where our regular spending matches up with the minimum spend requirements. This doesn’t stop me from chasing some free spending opportunities like gift card arbitrage, but does keep a steady amount of miles and points coming into my account without needing to go too far out of my way. This pace we’ve settled on has allowed both Becky and I to each sign up for about 1 card per month for the past year without any denials (I’m not counted the elusive Ink Plus…) and has kept our credit scores steadily rising since we started just over a year ago. This has allowed us to accumulate just over a million miles and points just from signup bonuses alone (first time I’ve actually added it up!) in the past year and there’s still a TON of great signup bonuses available.
While we’ve managed to redeem 520k of those points for travel so far, that includes most of our travel through the end of next year! FrequentMiler recently did a piece on why accumulating more miles and points than you plan to spend can open up some opportunities that you might not have anticipated and while he made a lot of good points, I don’t think he focused enough on the diminishing returns of too much points accumulation. There’s a happy middle ground that was touched on where having 100k miles/points in a few different programs (preferably flexible ones) can make last minute travel opportunities MUCH easier, but I would argue going beyond that “just in case” is wasteful when cash is an easy earning alternative with ultimate flexibility.
Now that we have a comfortable points and miles balance that could book us numerous last minute trips (hotels included!) that we may or may not use in the next year or two, I’ve shifted a little more towards cash earning opportunities. I recently explored The Value of an Extra $100 and that’s been surprisingly motivating towards choosing cash over points in certain situations. One opportunity that fits very nicely between credit card applications is bank signup bonuses, and the past month has been a great time to open new accounts. I’ve opened 3 myself and helped Becky open a 4th, but I think we might each get another in the next couple of weeks! I’ll walk you through all the details below.
#1 – PNC $200 Checking Bonus
I grabbed the 25k Alaska miles signup bonus from Bank of America back in the summer, but took a few months off before signing up for another bank account bonus. This one I saw on Doctor of Credit and the effort involved seemed pretty minimal for the payoff. I decided to stick with the $200 bonus instead of going for the $400 just because it would take a decent amount of extra effort to get a $5,000 direct deposit instead of the $2,000 one I could set up in minutes.
- Open a Performance Checking account
- Fund account with $2,000 from my Citi Prestige card
- Make a $2,000 direct deposit
- Make 1 payment through Online Bill Pay
- Earn $200
- Leave $1,500 in the account to avoid any fees
- Wait 6 months and close the account
Estimated time spent: 30 minutes
#2 – Citigold 50k TYP Bonus
I missed out on the 30k AA miles and 40k TYP Citigold offers earlier this year, but luckily they made the offers even better this month! Both 50k AA AND 50k TYP offers are currently available, but you definitely need to read the fine print on these as some people have had trouble getting paid out in the past. As I have the Citi Prestige card, just having a Citigold account will reduce the annual fee by $100, so I decided it was worth the effort and risk of no signup bonus to try it out. Hopefully everything goes smoothly. I haven’t decided how I’ll spend the Thank You Points yet, but worst case I can cash them out into gift cards and sell them for 80-90% of their value ($400-450).
- Open a Citigold account with the 50k TYP promo code
- Fund the account with $5,000 on my Citi Prestige card (I could have done more, but don’t typically like to push the limits)
- Get ~$100 of my Citi Prestige annual fee refunded
- Use Online Bill Pay in the first month on a non-Citi credit card
- Use Online Bill Pay in the second month on the same non-Citi credit card
- Wait for the 50k TYP bonus to post (hopefully not paying any fees in the meantime)
- Close the account
Estimated time spent: 45 minutes
#3 and #4 – Discover $100 Savings Bonus
I received both a letter in the mail AND an email targeting me for a $100 bonus after opening a Discover Savings account and funding with $5,000. After talking with a couple others who received the offer, we realized the offer was public for anyone with the promo code Save8915. I posted the code to Twitter after I signed up for my account and had Becky open the same account in her name a week later. While $100 isn’t a crazy amount, I plan to actually use at least one of the accounts going forward as my Emergency Fund account. I like to keep a few months worth of expenses liquid for the unexpected and Discover Savings currently has an interest rate of 0.95% which beats out my current Capital One 360 account which sits at 0.75%. Would I open a new account and shift money around for an extra 0.20%? Probably not, but since Discover is throwing in $100 I decided it was worth the very minimal effort.
- Open Discover Savings account in my name with Save8915 Promo
- Transfer $5,000 from my existing bank account
- Earn $100
- Open Discover Savings account in Becky’s name with Save8915 Promo
- Transfer $5,000 from her existing bank account
- Earn $100
- Close one of the accounts
- Move all of our E-fund money to the other and keep it there for the high APY rate
Estimated time spent (for both accounts): 20 minutes
#5 and #6? – Discover $300 Checking Bonus
Not more than a couple days after opening the 2nd Discover Savings account, Doctor of Credit posted about an awesome Checking bonus for Discover. This $300 bonus blows away the usual $50 one and I doubt it will go higher anytime soon, the only problem is that I’ve opened a lot of account in the past 45 days. When opening a checking account, the bank will typically check your ChexSystem report which shows all the accounts opening in the past few years and any delinquent marks. I don’t have any of those negative marks, but I imagine banks will draw the line somewhere with lots of new accounts and I don’t want to push it too hard. This offer is good until November 15th, so I’ll probably wait until then to open the account. Becky hasn’t opened as many checking accounts, so we might open one for her sooner. This is definitely one of the easier $300 bonuses out there with the direct deposit limit being only $250 x 2.
My Plan (x2)
- Open Discover Checking account with Bonus4915 Promo Code
- Transfer $25 from existing bank (minimum opening amount)
- Set up direct deposit for 2x $250 deposits
- Earn $300
- Close account
Estimated time spent (each): 10 minutes
If we go forward with each of us opening a Discover Checking account, we’ll have earned ~$1,400 over the course of 2 months for shifting some money around to different bank accounts. While you have to pay taxes on cash bonuses like these, we’re still talking about a cash profit of over $1,000 for about 2 hours of work. It’s hard to beat that kind of return and in the context of financial independence, we potentially moved our FI date up by over a week! With a decent stash of miles and points to fund our next several trips, those cash credit card bonuses are starting to look a lot more enticing. While there aren’t quite as many compared to travel rewards, I think a healthy mix of each is in our future.