Next ... the AMEX Route
So, you have your five Chase cards. Enjoy them, because they may be the only ones you get for at least two years. And if you go further down the rabbit hole, like I do, that interval will be even longer, since each credit card you apply for re-sets the 24-month clock.
What's next down that rabbit hole? The fancy-pants world of American Express.
Specifically, find out what American Express travel rewards card is offering a big fat promotional bonus. Following the blogs One Mile At A Time or The Points Guy can help you identify them.
Right now (October 2016), AMEX is offering a limited-time big point bonus on their Delta credit cards. The Delta Gold card usually only offers 30,000 miles for a sign-up bonus; the Delta Platinum card usually only offers 50,000 miles; now the Gold is offering offering 50k, the Platinum 70k. Big increase, and it applies to both the business and personal versions of the cards.
Why only get an AMEX if there’s a big promo bonus? Because American Express only allows you to get a promotional bonus on a particular credit card ONCE IN YOUR LIFETIME.
Chase, by contrast, will let you apply for the same card program with the same bonus once every two years (that could change in the future).
But with AMEX, you only get one shot at the sign-up bonus. Do it when it’s big. After screwing this up once (an AMEX card offered a promotional bonus literally days after I applied) I will never make this mistake again.
AMEX cards to check for promo bonuses currently include:
The personal Delta Gold card
The business Delta Gold card
The Hilton Honors card
The personal Delta Platinum card
The business Delta Platinum card
The Everyday Preferred card
The Membership Rewards Gold card
The Business Rewards Gold card
The Membership Rewards Platinum card
The Business Rewards Platinum card
The Blue for Business card
The Starwood Preferred Guest personal card
The Starwood Preferred Guest business card
And so on.
Delta frequent flier miles and Hilton points are self explanatory.
Starwood Preferred Guest cards earn “Starpoints,” which are good for stays at Starwood hotels, but also can uniquely be transferred 1:1 into frequent flier miles for a huge number of programs, often with great promotional bonus rates. For example, I turned 20,000 Starpoints into 30,000 American Airlines frequent flier miles last month. Since Starwood and Marriott merged, there’s an open question how long the programs will remain separate.
The Gold, Platinum, Everyday, Blue, and similar AMEX cards earn Membership Rewards, which are the AMEX version of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer them one-to-one to a bunch of airline partners, including Delta and several other very useful mileage currencies.
Some of the cards - especially the Everyday Preferred card - earn points at great rates. You may like using them a lot (since I missed the boat on the 5/24 rule from Chase, my Everyday Preferred AMEX is what I use all the time). But if you’re focused on spending with the Chase cards, you might end up cancelling a lot of the cards - particularly the Delta and Gold cards - after you have gotten your bonus and before the next annual fee. It won’t be worth it. Keep at least one card to keep your Membership Rewards account active, but otherwise don’t pay the fees unless you like the perks.
The Starwood card gives you free Boingo WiFi access, which has saved my ass a couple of times.
Once you are on the AMEX roll as a “member,” you may get targeted offers. That’s how I’m getting 75,000 points from applying for an AMEX Gold business card that I intend to cancel before the first annual fee comes due. The public offer is only for 50,000 points, which the Hobby bloggers are lauding as a great deal in itself. Score.
MAKE SURE YOU SCHEDULE ON YOUR CALENDAR APP WHEN TO CONSIDER CANCELLING THESE CARDS! Don’t pay an annual fee if you’re not getting value. Many of the annual fees are waived the first year, so you can get away with murder, IF you remember to cancel at the right time. You can always re-apply for the card if you want it back - but you can’t get the bonus again! That’s why you waited for the promo.
THE MILES AND POINTS HOBBY
BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BOOKING AIR TRAVEL LIKE A BANDIT