The 18 Credit Cards We’ve Signed Up For In The Past Year – Part 1: Airline Cards

Ever since I discovered how valuable different credit card signup bonuses can be, my fiance and I have been pretty aggressive with signing up for new credit cards.  Between the two of us, we have signed up for a total of 18 credit cards in the past year, but we will probably cancel several of them when the annual fee comes around if the benefits aren’t worth the annual fee.  Contrary to what you might expect, our credit scores have each gone UP around 50 points since we started!  See Churning: Tracking and Understanding Your Credit Score for why signing up for several credit cards can actually be beneficial to your credit score as well as the various risks that you should keep in mind.  While typing this post up, I realized this would end up being a huge amount of text, so I decided to break it into 3 parts: airline cards, hotel and flexible point cards, and cash back cards.

Our 18 New Credit Cards in The Past Year Series

This series is meant to show a personal example of how many cards a couple can sign up for and the various benefits that come with each one.  I list the signup bonuses we got on each which may or may not still be available, and in some cases they aren’t even the best signup bonuses available for the respectable card.  I also list out the thought process that we’ll go through before deciding whether or not to cancel each one once the annual fee becomes due, because this is an important part of any long term churning strategy.  All in all, hopefully you can get something beneficial by going over the cards we liked and learn something from our mistakes of either not getting the best signup bonus or spreading our points out over too many programs.

Airline Cards

We’ve signed up for a lot of airline cards and have accumulated a decent number of miles, so much in fact that we should probably focus more on flexible points and hotel cards in the near future.  Round-trip domestic flights cost 25,000 miles round-trip and we have enough miles from signup bonuses to take ~21 of those.  On the other hand, when we start looking at international trips (maybe even in business or first class!) those miles won’t last long at all.

Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines Visa (x2)

Both of us have applied for and gotten this card, but we each got a different signup bonus.  I was targeted for a 50,000 signup bonus after spending $2000 in the first 3 months (25,000 after the first purchase and 25,000 after the $2,000 in spend).  Becky signed up more recently for a public offer of 25,000 miles and a $100 statement credit after $1,000 in spend. Alaska Airlines has lots of partners that you can book flights through and since we live in Seattle (their hub), there are a lot of options to use these miles.  On top of that, each card comes with a Companion Pass each year that can be used to essentially get “Buy One, Get One for $118” on any Alaska economy class ticket.  On the other hand, the $75 annual fee isn’t waived for the first year of having this card.

Bank of America has been known to be fairly lenient in issuing this card even if you already have it, so several people sign up for multiple copies of this card.  We may get additional copies in the future because Alaska miles are very valuable for us.  As for whether or not we cancel these cards, it’s still up in the air.  The value of the companion pass outweighs the annual fee, but there’s only so many of those we’ll be able to use each year.  I’ll have to reevaluate once we get close to the 1-year mark on these cards.

Barclay’s US Airways Premier World Mastercard (x2)

Both Becky and I signed up for this card for a 50,000 point signup bonus after out first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee.  While this card didn’t waive the annual fee for the first year, there was no minimum spend to hit, so the signup bonus ends up being extremely valuable.  We got these cards knowing that the US Airways program would be combined with American Airlines sometime this year, so our points in both programs would be combined into one.  25,000 is enough points for a domestic round-trip, so the signup bonus for one of the cards will get both of us anywhere in the lower 48.  By combining the signup bonuses from each card, we can fly to the Caribbean, Hawaii, South America, or even Europe during the off-peak season (Oct-May) and only pay fees!

Since US Airways and American Airline combined their loyalty programs, this card will actually change into an American Airlines product, still issued through Barclay’s.  The benefits of the card include free checked bags for you and up to 4 companions, 10% of your spent miles back up to 10,000, and double miles on all US Airways and American Airlines purchases.  We will probably cancel at least one of these cards when the annual fee comes around because the benefits offered by this card are also offered by the Citi AA card that I’ll talk about next.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

I signed up for this card with a signup bonus of 50,000 for spending $3,000 in 3 months and the annual fee is waived the first year.  Like the Barclay’s card above, this one also offers free checked bags for myself and 4 traveling companions, 10% of my spent miles back up to 10,000, and double miles on all US Airways and American Airline purchases.  My primary motivation for signing up for this card was the large signup bonus that I could combine with the signup bonuses from the US Airways card.  Becky will probably sign up for her own copy of this card later this year and we will both have 100,000 miles in our AAdvantage accounts.  That’s enough for 8 domestic round-trip flights or enough for a round-trip flight to Europe in business class!  We haven’t decided how we are going to use them yet, but we have a lot of different options to choose from.  We will probably keep one AA card active between us and cancel the rest because the benefits overlap, but I’m not sure if it will be a Citi card or one of the Barclay’s cards.  Probably one of the Barclay’s cards because the annual fee is slightly cheaper ($89 vs. $95).

American Express Gold Delta Skymiles Card

I signed up for this card through a semi-targeted offer on the Delta website that offered 50,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months with the annual fee waived for the first year.  Delta miles are known to be notoriously difficult to redeem, so I was fine spending 40,000 miles for a last minute ticket to my alma mater for homecoming weekend.  This was actually the first credit card I signed up for and my first mileage redemption for a “free” flight.  Paying $11.20 and 40,000 miles certainly beat paying the cash price of $525 for a plane ticket and I pretty much vowed to never pay hundreds of dollars for a domestic economy flight ever again (we’ll see how long I can go!).

As I mentioned, Delta miles aren’t valued as high as a lot of other airline miles and this card doesn’t have any great bonuses, so this card will probably be cancelled once the annual fee comes around.  Until then, I’ll be taking advantage of all the profitable Amex Offers on this card (x2 because of the authorized user card I got Becky!).

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa

Another airline card that I signed up for myself, this time it was a public offer of 55,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months (50,000) and adding an authorized user to the card (5,000).  The annual fee was waived for the first year as well.  We’ve already used 50,000 of these miles to book round-trip flights for both of us to visit New York later this year.  We paid $22.40 along with the 50k miles for tickets that had an $1,152.70 cash cost at the time we booked them, which is a HUGE amount of savings for our upcoming trip.  We also plan to have all the hotel nights covered by points/free nights, so this will be our first big trip almost entirely funded by credit card signup bonuses and I couldn’t be more excited.

Interestingly, the trip we booked is actually scheduled for after this card’s annual fee is supposed to hit so I may end up paying for it to keep our free checked bags perk.  I do plan to call up Chase around the time the annual fee hits in order to express my interest in possibly cancelling the card which may end up with a retention offer.  Retention offers vary by bank, card, and your spending habits on the card, but many people have had luck getting the annual fee waived or being offered free miles for keeping the card.  The worst they can say is they have nothing to offer, so this is a recommended strategy whenever you are thinking about cancelling a credit card.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa Cards

Becky signed up for both of these cards late last year when each card had a 50,000 point signup bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months.  The annual fees of $99 and $69 respectively were not waived for the first year.  The greatest benefit of getting both of these cards at the same time is the Southwest Companion Pass that is earned after earning 110,000 points in a single calendar year.  The Southwest Companion Pass will allow both of us to fly for the price of one ticket (paying with cash OR points) plus taxes on the second.  This essentially DOUBLES the value of the points and the pass is good until the end of 2016, so we’ll definitely get good value out of these signup bonuses.  See my post on the Southwest Companion Pass for more details on how we earned it and what it’s worth, The Southwest Companion Pass: One of Churning’s Greatest Prizes.

Unlike most airlines, Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags, so the normal airline credit card perk of free checked bags doesn’t exist and most of the other perks are fairly lackluster.  One of the redeeming qualities of the cards are annual point bonuses of 6,000 and 3,000 respectively, but it’s debatable if those alone are worth the annual fee.  At least one of these will be cancelled this year and the other one is still an open question.


Airline Totals

After signing up for 9 airline credit cards, Becky and I earned 430,000 airline miles from the signup bonuses alone.  That total doesn’t even count the miles earned by spending money on the cards to meet the signup bonuses, but it is enough to get us >20 domestic round-trip flights if we utilize the Southwest companion pass for a few.  We had a decent amount of synergy between the cards such as taking advantage of the US Airways/AA merger and getting the Southwest Companion Pass, but cards like the Delta Amex didn’t give us the same value as some of the other offers.  All in all, there’s no perfect way to sign up for cards and we’re going to have a lot of fun over the next few years spending these miles for exotic vacations both domestically and internationally.  I’m already scoping out a possible international business class redemption for our honeymoon, but that’s a post for another day.