Tag Archives: Credit Cards

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

Can I hear a woot, woot?!  Okay, so I’m a little excited today.  I just received my Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer card and activated it.  I was a little worried about being eligible for the bonus on this card.  I had both the previous United card and the Continental card.  I had both of these card before July of 2011 and have already canceled both of them.  There was some wording in the Terms and Conditions that made it appear that they could possibly deny me the bonus because I already had a United card.  However, I’m happy to say that the customer service representative confirmed that I will get 50,000 miles after the first purchase on the card!  I’m not sure if everyone will have the same experience as I have, but this is great news. 

With the addition of these miles, we’ll have nearly 250,000 United/Continental miles.  So I may need to start learning more about the Star Alliance.  My current plan for these miles is to book a trip to multiple European cities using the stopover and/or open jaw option with the Star Alliance.  But my plans may change as we won’t be able to take that trip until 2014 at the earliest because of already planned trips and available vacation time.

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Credit Card Reconsiderations

If you are playing the travel hacking credit card game, you may run into initial denials due to activity.  I say initial denial because you can always ask to be reconsidered.  I recently applied for the Chase Sapphire card.  I really wanted this card because you can transfer points from Chase Freedom accounts to Chase Sapphire and then on to an airline account.  I applied and waited.  I called back about 3 weeks after I applied and there still wasn’t a decision.  They told me that it sometimes take a month to get an answer.  So I called back at one month and unfortunately I was told I was denied.  I asked them if they could transfer me to the department that makes the decision on cards so I could understand why I was denied.

The lady in the reconsiderations department was very friendly.  I explained that I was denied and told her that I was wondering why.  She said it was because I opened 2 cards with Chase in the last 9 months and I had several inquiries.  I asked her if there was a way that I could be reconsidered.  She said I could be if I closed one of the 2 cards that I opened in the last 9 months.  Not a problem for me at all because I didn’t want those anymore.  So I asked her to close one and do a reconsideration.  It took less than 5 minutes and she came back and said I was approved!  Woohoo!

So if you ever get an initial denial, don’t give up.  Always call the credit card company and ask for a reconsideration.  Usually you can get an approval if you do one of the following:

  • Transfer part of a credit line from an existing card (this is the best option, since it allows you to age your credit with the existing card)
  • Close an existing card

Ask the representative if there is a way you could be reconsidered.  Based on the reason for your denial, they may be able to offer a suggestion.

Here are a couple of Chase numbers that are useful to know:

  • (800) 432-3119 – Application Status: Use this number to check on the status of your application.  It’s an automated system.  You’ll either get a message saying you’ve been approved or it’s still under consideration.  If you don’t want to wait on a decision, they have an option to talk to a representative and you can usually get a decision made that day.
  • (888) 245-0625 – Application Reconsideration: Use this number if your application has been denied and want to be reconsidered.
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Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses

So after yesterday’s post, you may be thinking how do you book airfare for 4 people and 6 nights in Maui for a total of $115.  The answer is easy – credit card sign-up bonuses.

Here’s how we did it.

Last year American Airlines had a sign-up bonus on their credit cards of 75,000 miles with no annual fee the first year.  They have multiple cards (Personal – Amex, Visa, and Mastercard and Business – Visa and Mastercard).  My husband signed up for 2 of the cards – 150,000 miles.  You need 35,000 miles/ticket to go to Hawaii over the winter.  Each ticket costs $10 in taxes.

Currently, Hyatt has a sign-up bonus for 2 free nights at any Hyatt with an annual fee on the card of $75.  That was 2 of the nights at the Hyatt on Maui (not bad considering it retails for $300-$400/night).  Now for the rest.  Capital One had a credit card promotion this year where they would match the number of miles in any 1 of your frequent flyer programs up to 100,000 miles.  You had to spend $2,500 on the card to get the match and you also got an extra 10,000 mile sign-up bonus.  After the spend, I had 112,500 points with Capital One.  One of their redemption options was $900 Hyatt gift checks for 51,270 points.  I got 2, which will cover the other 4 nights.

So all in: $40 (air ticket taxes) + $75 (annual fee on the Hyatt card) = $115.  Sure there was some opportunity cost in that I had to spend so much on the cards, so I couldn’t spend it on other cashback cards.  So add in $50 – $200 maybe in lost cashback.  I’ll take that anyday to get a trip to Hawaii.

How did I learn how to do this?  In January 2010, I started following the Frugal Travel Guy blog.  I highly suggest that you follow it as well.  His blog focuses on how to travel for nearly free by applying for credit cards that have large frequent flyer program sign-up bonuses.  As he says, your credit is one of your most valuable assets.  Make sure you understand the impact this strategy will have on your credit before you start using it.

I had many people tell me that I was going to ruin my credit by doing this.  That has not been my experience.  I really haven’t seen any change in my credit score and my credit score is in the excellent category.  My experience, however, may not be the same as yours, so I would educate yourself before deciding if this is right for you.

Here are the basics:

  • Know your credit score before you start this.  You want a score that is 720 or above.
  • You should only consider this method if you pay off your balances every month and are not late with your payments.
  • Most frequent flyer programs have an associated credit card.
  • Sign-up bonuses vary.  You should look for ones where you can get the equivalent of at least one round-trip ticket in the US.  For most programs, you need at least 25,000 miles for a round-trip ticket.
  • Expect each application to cost between 2 – 5 points on your credit score.  (I will cover the categories of items that affect your credit score in a future blog.)
  • You should make sure you don’t apply for more than 3 credit cards per quarter that pull from the same credit agency.  To find out which credit agency will be pulled, you can check on Credit Boards under the Credit Pull section.
  • For the most part, you can only receive 1 sign-up bonus for each card (i.e. you can’t apply for multiple Chase Continental cards and get the sign-up bonus multiple times).  If you read other travel blogs or sites, this is what they refer to as churning.
  • Most cards come with an annual fee that is usually waived for the first year.
  • You do the minimum spend on the card to meet the sign-up bonus requirements.
  • You then may or may not choose to use the card for regular spending use.  If you choose not to use it for regular use (and you only wanted the card for the sign-up bonus), make sure you cancel before a year is up but not before 6 months.  You don’t want to cancel before 6 months because some cards will pull back the sign-up bonus if you do.  You want to cancel (or at least call and indicate you want to cancel) before the year is up so you don’t get assessed the annual fee.  In many cases, the credit card will offer you an incentive to keep the card open which may make it worth it.
  • AGAIN You should only consider this method if you pay off your balances every month and are not late with your payments.
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