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More On Credit Card Churning


Over at a blog called “The Art fo Nonconformity,” Chris Guillebeau has been chronicling his effort to earn on behalf of his readers 5 Million frequent flier miles. His first goal is to get 300,000 for his own account.

How Is He Doing It?

He is basically doing an “app-o-rama”, applying for many cards in a short period of time, similar to what I have been doing. His applications include various cards affiliated with American, Alaskan, Continental, Delta, and Hilton. He is willing to pay application fees and devote some of his spending ot reach the minimum spending requirements of various cards.

Is It Worth It?

He is claiming that his mileage will be worth $12,000 to him, an even 4 cents per mile. I am a little suspicious that he is able to get that value from points spread accross so many airlines. You see, one of the foundation principals of extracting value from reward programs is that you must concentrate your points in one or two particular programs, rather then spread them around, like he is. Even still, he may get some decent value from all of his points depending on a few factors.

Can He Use Them?

As with most programs, they are more valueble when you live in a city that is home to one of the airline’s hub’s. Having Continental Miles won’t do me much good if I have to fly from Seatle to San Diego via Huston. Furthermore, having 300,000 miles spread accross six programs would be of little help if my goal was to earn reward travel for multiple people traveling together, such as a family vacation.

More likely is that will try to use 50,000 points here or there for either a couple domestic coach tickets, an international coach ticket, or a domestic first class ticket. In that case, it is very doubtful that he will actually get 4 cents of value per mile, especially with the price of airfares so low these days.

How Will It Affect His Credit Score?

He seems to have had approximately the same experience that I had. While I spoke of my credit score being “about where I would expect it for someone who always pays their bills on time”, he speaks of his credit score as falling from the 98th percentile to the 95th percentile. Both of us have considered these temporary losses to be acceptablem, considering the gain.

Another Travel Guru

The Frugal Travel Guy is another reward travel guru who’s exploits I take note of. He seems to have the art of churning down to a science. His home page offers this advice:

#1: Churn Citi AA Credit Cards for 200,000 AA miles per year using no-fee-for-the-first-year cards. Use these four cards for 100,000 AA miles: the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard, the Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® MasterCard, and the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Visa® Card. After 6 months reapply again for the same cards and complete the same spend requirements to receive a second 100,000 AA miles bonus. Most have $250-$750 minimum spend requirements — use them for items would anyway (groceries, gas, etc.),

This is some serious churning in the traditional sense of the word. Too bad American Airlines Miles are near useless for a Denver resident. Non real non-stop flights to anywhere but Dallas, Chicago, LA or Miami.

Apparently Citibank offers the true “churn”, a card that you can re-apply for every six months. If you are an American Airlines Frequent Flier, this is probably the deal for you.

January 29, 2009 @ 12:58 am

Hey, thanks for spreading the word about the Frequent Flyer Challenge! I appreciate that.

In an update on the site, I discuss mileage valuation in detail and explain how I can easily earn the $0.04 value based on the mileage I had prior to earning the 300k and the kinds of award redemptions I use. However, it’s true that valuation is a relative matter, so each person should decide for themselves what their miles are worth.

Again, thanks. All the best from Hong Kong.

January 29, 2009 @ 1:33 am

Happy Chinese New Year!


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