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Continental United Card Strategy: Should You Cancel Your Continental OnePass Card Now?

by Mr Credit Card

Here is an update for those of you looking to take advantage of the Continental United merger to get extra sign up bonuses. The Continental United Merger will be officially done in 2012. What is more important is the holders of the Continental OnePass Cards will be converted to the United Explorer Card. When the Continental United deal was first announced, the very obvious strategy for churners and folks who want to get sign up bonuses was to get both the Continental and United cards (spaced out over a couple of months since they are both issued by Chase). Then a real bumper harvest came along when Chase offered a 50,000 bonus sign up for both their Sapphire PreferredSM Card and the Ink Bold(SM) with Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Continental Miles at a one for one ratio – and Continental Miles are transferable to United Mileage Plus account).

However, when United issued their new Explorer Card (in place of their four old Mileage Plus Visas), one of their terms and conditions was as follows:

United Mileage Plus Explorer cardmembers will only receive one 25,000 bonus miles award if they apply for both the United Explorer Card and the Continental OnePass Plus Card after 7/19/2011

To add to the confusion, some folks are getting targeted offers of 50,000 or 60,000 sign up bonuses for Continental or United cards. The way to find out if you have been targeted is to log into your OnePass or Mileage Plus accounts and check what sort of bonus is being offered on their credit card page.

Now that we are getting close to the period where Continental OnePass Card will be converted United Explorer Card, what should you as a holder do? Below are some scenarios we can think of.

1. You Got The Continental Card Before 19th July 2011 And You Want To Get More United Sign Up Bonus – In this case, the answer is pretty clear. You should cancel the card because once it converts to the Explorer card, you cannot get their sign up bonuses. Whether you want to apply for the Explorer Card now or wait for a larger sign up bonus is totally up to you.

2. You Got The Explorer Card After 19th July 2011 – You’ve already got your sign up bonus on the Continental Card. If you fly Continental and United and value the free baggage feature and do not want any interruptions on that, keeping the card may make sense. It will eventually convert to the Explorer Card. The downside of keeping it is that you may miss the opportunity of getting a big United sign up bonus (I say may because cancelling the card and applying for the United Explorer Card down the road is not without risk).

You could cancel the card and apply for the United Explorer Card. The upside could be that you do get extra sign up bonus. There are some risk to this. It is not clear in the terms and conditions of the Explorer if you can only get “one sign up bonus” even if you canceled the Continental OnePass Card that you applied after 19th July 2011. It also depends if Chase put that terms and conditions there just to deter folks, but not really enforce it.

What if you have not applied Continental Card and want to churn both cards?

The more interesting question would be what happens if you have not applied for any of these cards but want to churn them both? This is really tricky. There are more risk if you apply for the Continental Card now. It will probably take a good month for your sign up bonus to get into your OnePass account. ( Here is the timeline: If you get it now and get approved instantly, you’ll get your card within the next 10 days. If you use your card immediately, then you will have to wait for your first statement in about 25 days). By then, your card may already be converted and you will not be legible for the Explorer sign up bonus.If you card is not converted by the time you get your bonus, then you face the risk that Chase might put you in the jailhouse for canceling a card too soon.

The answer on whether to get the Continental Card now if you have not gotten one might depend on whether you get a targeted mega 50,000 bonus miles offer. At present, the current sign up bonus of Continental is 25,000 miles after the first purchase. You get 5,000 miles after adding an additional card member. That makes it a total of 30,000 bonus miles (OK but not impressive). You get an additional 10,000 bonus miles if you spending $25,000 every year. But if you purpose of getting the card is to churn, then the anniversary bonus doesn’t really matter in this case.

If you have received the targeted offer and it is 50,000 bonus miles, it might make applying for the Continental more attractive.

Conclusions – After going through the various scenarios, it appears that if you applied for the Continental Card before 19th July and you want to get the extra United sign up bonus, then you should cancel the card and get the United Explorer Card (either now or wait for a better sign up bonus). If you got your Continental Card after 19th July and have had it for a few months and you want to get the United sign up bonus, it probably makes sense to cancel it and get the Explorer Card. The worse case scenario would be that Chase refuses to give you the sign up bonus, but you would still be in the same position. The best case scenario would be that United has a mega sign up bonus and you now have extra miles in your account.

If you do not have either cards now and want to churn, it probably makes sense if you get the targeted 50,000 bonus miles offer.

If any of these sound dicey to you, the safest option to get more Continental United Miles would be to get both the Chase Sapphire Preferred(SM) Card and the Chase Ink Bold(SM) with Ultimate Rewards. Both offer 50,000 sign up bonuses and you can get a total of 100,000 bonus miles, which can be converted to Continental OnePass miles (then to United Mileage Plus).

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