How to Churn Credit Cards

Churning is quite simple. You open a new credit card, spend enough money to activate the signup bonus, and then cancel/downgrade the credit card after redeeming your reward points. Many people who find themselves on this website might be aspiring credit churners. My advice to you is to start slow, opening a new card every 3-6 months. Ramp up from there if you feel ready to take on more. Even two new cards each year—when redeemed correctly—can easily save you more than $1,500 in travel. This could mean a lot of money to the average person or family. For all of you hardcore credit churners, I plan on tailoring a post later to address everything you should know as you seek to hack the rewards system.

 

The Future of Credit Card Churning

The future of credit card churning 5-10 years from now is uncertain. Just a few weeks ago, American Express released a new rule for one of their cards, reserving the right to shut down accounts and retract bonus offers from customers who American Express believes are churning credit cards. Chase has expanded its 5/24 rule to more cards over the last couple years, halting application approvals for customers who have opened 5+ credit cards with any bank in the last 24 months. And there are still many more rules that restrict your churning rate. But surprisingly, it’s actually still pretty difficult for banks to identify who is a credit churner.

So what does this mean for us? Enjoy the benefits of credit churning now while banks are just beginning to find ways to restrict. And second, but more importantly, get the right system set up now before you screw up your personal finance system later once the restrictions hold you back from making appropriate changes. Seriously… you may be churning credit cards incorrectly and risking a longer-term bad credit score. Our premium dashboard and service Credit Cache helps you set up your longterm credit card, improve your finances, and increase your credit score while landing free flights anywhere in the world every year like $86 to Paris, $72 to South Africa or $11 to Hawaii. Check it out here.

 

Manipulating Your Credit Score

Last week I addressed the free, automatic benefits of credit cards and hopefully convinced you that you need one—or even a new one. Today we’ll learn how to manipulate your own credit score. Take a look below at a graph of my credit score over the last three months (this report was pulled on July 27).

Pretty stagnant, huh? Would you have ever guessed that I opened 6 and closed 7 accounts during those months? Why didn’t my credit score plummet? Like I’ve explained before, your credit score responds directly to the actions you take. So manipulating your credit score can be VERY easy if you calculate the consequences of your actions.

Results speak for themselves, and I can guarantee that few other credit churning fanatics have scores as high as mine. Why? Because they’re doing it wrong. Suckers. I’ve legit received messages from several credit churning “professionals” out there who run their own websites, social media accounts, and services, asking me for information about the credit game and how to do credit churning correctly. You may follow them. And they for sure follow Wall Street Minimalist (subscribe here if you aren’t already).

Take a look at the credit factors that make up my credit score below (there’s a two-week disparity between the screenshot above and the picture below):

 

How has churning credit cards improved my credit score?

My total accounts number has increased towards the 21+ accounts needed to have an “excellent” total accounts rating. My credit utilization has decreased as my accumulated credit limit has increased north of $100,000. And my credit payment history has improved as I have made MORE monthly payments on time. These three advantages to credit churning make up 75% of my credit score. If you need a refresher as to what goes into your credit score, read last week’s post.

 

How has churning credit cards had no effect on my credit score?

Ok, so this one is debatable depending on what you do with your old cards—cancelling or downgrading. Traditionally, the best credit card bonuses are attached to annual-fee accounts. At the end of your first year with a new card, you’ll be faced with the decision of (1) keeping the account open and paying the $50-$450 annual fee, (2) downgrading the account to a no-annual-fee credit card, or (3) cancelling the credit card to avoid paying year 2’s annual fee. Truthfully, most banks will waive the annual fee if you threaten to cancel the credit card at the end of your first year. Two years in a row, I did this with my Barclay credit card, and both times the phone representative removed my annual fee and even gave me a bonus for threatening to cancel. Banks are willing to bend over backwards for you, because they make money in the long game, not in the first 1-2 years. Use this to your advantage; I’ll provide word-for-word scripts in a coming post to help you know what to say when you call in to cancel.

Cancelling newer credit card accounts can actually boost your credit score, depending on your other credit accounts and credit history age.

Note that cancelling the newer credit card increased the average credit history age from 5 years to 7 years. When you’re done using a credit card, cancelling isn’t always the best option. Sometimes, it’s much better to downgrade the card to a no-fee credit card. My rule of thumb is to try to keep my credit history age above 1.5 years. Therefore, I recommend only cancelling a credit card you have if (1) you have used all of your bonus reward points, (2) you have older credit cards, and (3) your current credit age is less than 1.5 years (you’ll get a boost once you cancel). But remember, this ultimately only makes up 25% of your credit score: credit age (15%) and new credit and credit inquiries (10%).

 

How has churning credit cards hurt my credit score?

It hasn’t. But it’ll hurt yours if you don’t do it right. Make sure you look for our downloadable supplemental materials and guides at the bottom of each email we send out. We try to give out most of our material for free. If you haven’t already, join hundreds of other newsletter subscribers so you don’t miss out!

 

Most Important

The most important thing you can do for your credit score today is to choose and COMMIT to one credit card as your long-term credit card.  This is incredibly important, and it ticks me off how no credit churning websites or “credit churning gurus” address this.

You NEED to set up your personal finance system correctly before you ever begin churning credit cards.

 

What You Need to Do

For your long-term credit card, I suggest the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I recommend this card because the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is flexible and generous, and the card has all the standard benefits. The annual fee is waived the first year, which will provide you with plenty of time to understand and develop an affinity for this lovely card. Even better, you can pair the Chase Sapphire Preferred with the Chase Freedom.

I love this combination. The Chase Freedom doesn’t have an annual fee. Every quarter of the year, the Chase Freedom rotates through new redemption categories where you can earn 5% cash back. For example, from July-September of this year the Chase Freedom credit card rewards you with 5% cash back for restaurant and movie theatre purchases. And the best part, these cash-back rewards can be transferred to the same Chase Ultimate Rewards program that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card uses. You swipe your Chase Freedom card on all purchases receiving 5% for that quarter and then use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for all other purchases. With an approximate Ultimate Rewards point’s redemption value of 2.1 cents/point, you’ll be receiving 2-10% cash back by pairing these two cards together. Hannah and I use both of these cards as our long-term credit cards. You’re doing yourself a favor by committing now.

Ok, actions steps to manipulating your credit score like a champ:

  1. Choose and apply to your favorite credit card from the list below
  2. Pay down your credit card balance to zero every week
  3. Maintain your credit score above 740 before you decide whether you want to begin churning credit cards
  4. Make sure you keep your oldest credit card open by having an automatic monthly charge go to that credit card. I use my Spotify membership charge on one of my cards, and another card receives a $1 charge from Apple iCloud storage each month. Recurring charges on a card ensure that a bank can’t close that card due to inactivity. You need to keep your oldest credit accounts open to improve your credit history age.
  5. If you’re new to our website and aren’t already receiving our emails, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send you materials to get your score above an 800. We’ll also continue to update you on worthwhile signup bonus rewards when they’re released, so you never miss out.

Following these steps above will help you quickly achieve an excellent credit score. We want to hear your success! Message us on Instagram or through chad@wallstreetminimalist.com when you begin to see results in a few weeks.

 

Let’s Be Real About Credit Card Churning

One day, I may stop churning credit cards as I cross a salary threshold and no longer wish to deal with multiple redemption programs and credit cards. But do realize, Hannah and I opened more than 20 new cards this year, and the average person would only need 2 new cards to save more than $2,000 on expensive flights each year. For now, Hannah and I have [definitely] appreciated the thousands of dollars and millions of points we have earned in cash-equivalent travel rewards. Credit card rewards have been a convenient way to decrease our expenses without minimizing our travel experiences. Churning credit cards isn’t for everyone though (even though it should be), and if it sounds stressful to manage multiple credit cards at once, I wouldn’t recommend you try. Instead, build your credit score by selecting only 1-2 credit cards below. You will receive the lowest interest rates and best terms on any mortgage, student loan, or auto financing if you focus on simply paying down your credit card balance weekly and keeping your account open by using your card regularly.

Whatever your goals may be, we’ll help you achieve them. We continuously offer tons of free material to our newsletter subscribers. We’re here to help.

 

Signing Up for the Right Card

Cards offer different benefits, but I’ve listed my top 5 below with links where you can view their offers. Sign up for the offer and benefits that you think is best for you:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  2. Chase Freedom
  3. Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
  4. Hilton Honors American Express Credit Card
  5. Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

 

Most of these cards require “higher” credit scores. If your score is lower than ~720, I would recommend selecting the Hilton Honors American Express Credit Card credit card or the Chase Freedom to help you build your credit score before you begin churning—the average approved credit score is lowest for these two cards, so your chances of being approved will be higher. The signup bonus on these cards is generous and there is no annual fee. Although this won’t be your primary card in 1-2 years, it is a great card that rewards you well and requires little maintenance. My first credit card was crap. I was stoked when I redeemed all my points for a new iPhone cable charger. Weren’t those the days. I got excited about $50 rewards. If banks aren’t approving you for any of these credit cards, message me on Instagram and I can help you find a starter credit card to begin building your credit.

So much focus and hype lie around credit cards, but you can earn much more over your lifetime by setting up the best checking, savings, and investing accounts.

One Comment

  1. Nice job tracking this! Good data to back it up.

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