As the year winds down, I figured it would be a good time to evaluate my year in points and miles. While I do not have an exact number of points and miles I’ve earned and redeemed this year, a good “guesstimate” would probably be in the 500,000 range. Not surprsingly, a large chunk of my points and miles balances came from some lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses that I’ve taken advantage of over the course of the year.
At the moment, I have 11 active travel credit cards. When I tell that tidbit to “normal” people outside of the “industry”, it’s not unusual for them to gasp and quickly “judge” me, thinking I must be drowning in debt. The fact of the matter is, my credit score has actually improved with my large collection of cards. Another fact of the matter is that some people just don’t “get it”, but I’ve already covered that rant in this blog post.
A common misconception is that having multiple credit cards lowers your credit score. That’s not true if you are financially responsible and pay your balances on time and in full each month. Having an array of credit actually improves your credit worthiness if you’re organized and spend responsibly.
When it comes to monitoring my score, I use CreditSesame and CreditKarma. Now, let’s take a look at the history of my credit score over 2012:
My Annual Credit Score “Report Card” According to CreditSesame:
CreditSesame is a 100% free service that uses Experian’s National Equivalency Score (not FICO) to give you a gauge of your credit standing.
As you can see from the chart above, my score has roughly been at a steady 777 since August 2012. In 2012, I had 3 “churning” periods – February, April and at the very end of August. My score dipped at its lowest (743) in April right when I applied for two Chase cards at the same time. I attribute the “drop” to the fact that I was initially denied by Chase due to having “too many Chase personal cards”, but I was able to turn that decision around with a quick call to the Chase reconsideration line.
My Annual Credit Score “Report Card” According to CreditKarma:
CreditKarma is another free service that gauges an estimate of your TransRisk/TransUnion score.
According to this timeline, My score has remained pretty steady in the “excellent range” over the course of the year.
Now let’s peek inside my wallet [that I can no longer close anymore]…
A Timeline of My New Credit Cards in 2012:
- Chase Continental OnePass MasterCard (was recently converted to the United MileagePlus® Explorer since the CO/UA merger): In February of 2012, I applied for the Continental OnePass MasterCard before it automatically got converted over to the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa. At the time of my approval, I was able to receive 50,000 OnePass miles after my first purchase.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: I applied for this card using Dad’s referral during the time of the increased referral bonus. I received 25,000 Starpoints after completing $5,000 spend in 6 months, and Dad received 10,000 Starpoints for referring me.
- Hyatt Credit Card: I applied for this card when the offer included a $75 statement credit, 2-free nights at any Hyatt worldwide with first purchase, and 2 suite upgrades for existing Hyatt Platinum members. I used my two free nights in June at the Grand Hyatt Kauai (related post).
- Chase Freedom® Visa: The Chase Freedom Visa is the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s best friend. I lucked out when Chase matched me to the 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points offer.
- The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®: I applied for this card to take advantage of receiving 30,000 US Airways miles after my first purchase. No sweat here.
- Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: What attracted me to this card was the two-free weekend nights at any Hilton property worldwide after spending $2,500 in four months.
- American Express Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card: I applied for this card during the increased sign-up bonus of 30,000 Starpoints over the summer. I love my Starpoints!
Cards I Was Able To Have the Annual Fee Waived as a Retention Bonus:
- British Airways Visa Signature Card: I got this card in May 2011 during the original 100K, and redeemed all of my British Airways Avios on my Cathay Pacific first class flight experience before the tragic Avios devaluation of November 2011. I still love Avios now because they are great for domestic redemption on American Airlines, but I found myself using this card less and less as other cards made it inside my wallet.When I called Chase to cancel, they offered to waive my annual fee if I kept it open for another year. A cool perk that this card comes with is the Michelin Dining Promotion, aka free lunch in NYC (related post).
- Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature® Card: Back in July 2011, I applied for this card and the Citi Business AAdvantage Visa simultaneously when the sign-up offer was at a lovely 75,000 miles per card. When it was almost time for renewal, I called Citi and was offered an $85 statement credit to neutralize the annual fee if I kept the card open. Though I don’t use this card as much as my others, my favorite perk is the 10% back on redeemed AAdvantage miles.
Cards I Said Goodbye To:
- Citi Business / AAdvantage Visa: Since I had both the personal and business card, there was certainly no sense in keeping both. However, when I called to cancel, I was not offered a retention bonus of any sort, so the business card and I ultimately parted ways…
Cards I Found “Worth It” to Pay the Annual Fee So Far:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: I want to maintain a prosperous and mutually-benefical relationship with Chase, so I felt that paying the $95 annual fee on the card I love was worth it.
- Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: By paying the $95 annual fee up front, I was able to unlock the ability to get 2-free weekend stay certificates at any Hilton property worldwide after meeting the minimum spend. Plus, the card comes with HHonors gold status (which I personally believe is very valuable… free breakfast, complimentary room upgrades, free wifi… the works).
- The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®: No brainer: 30,000 free miles is worth paying the up-front annual fee of $89 .
Cards I’m Hanging Onto:
- Hyatt Credit Card: Though I don’t use it that often, being a card holder grants you Platinum status with Hyatt, and the $75 annual fee is off-set by the yearly anniversary free night certificate, which is valid at any category 1-4 Hyatt property.
- Chase Freedom® Visa: No annual fee + quarterly 5x bonuses, for an additional 30K Ultimate Rewards points per year = totally staying in my wallet.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: I love the 2x on travel and dining purchases, the flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards program (United and Hyatt are my favorite transfer partners), the no foreign transaction fees when used Internationally, and the instant no-wait phone customer service.
- American Express Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card: Since I have both the personal Starwood card, and the business Starwood card, I’m sticking with the business version since it has the AmEx OPEN perks. The annual fee is worth it to me because I value Starpoints very highly, and I always make my annual fees “back” [and more] by participating in various AmEx promotions such as Small Business Saturday and Twitter/Facebook “sync” promotions.
- Blue Sky from American Express: This was my very first American Express card that I’ve had since 2008. No annual fee and is my oldest account. I love that this card comes in handy during the various “sync” and “statement credit promos that AmEx has throughout the year.
Cards Currently on “Death Row” (aka, what I plan on canceling in 2013) and Why:
- Chase Continental OnePass MasterCard (was recently converted to the United MileagePlus® Explorer Visa since the CO/UA merger): I really don’t use the card, plus I already have priority boarding/free checked bag privileges through elite status with United.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express: I’m keeping the SPG Business card open instead; there’s no sense in having both. Plus, I want to make room for the American Express Platinum card next year.
Cards on My Radar (Prepping for My Next Churn):
- Ink Plus® Business Card: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points and a lower minimum spend? I’m sold. Not to mention 5x everywhere abilities with Bluebird/Vanilla Reloads. It’s about time I jump on this bandwagon.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (offer no longer available): Yes, there’s a $450 annual fee for this card, but guess what? Aside from the lounge access perks, you also get a $200 airline allowance credit per calendar year ($400 potential if you strategically apply in the middle-end of a year) that you can use to purchase airline gift cards. I’m really excited to add this card to my collection. Anyone have a 100,000 membership reward offer that you can extend to me?
- Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Card: This is a new offering from Club Carlson and US Bank, and it comes with some really strong selling points for the $60 annual fee, including an 85,000 point sign-up bonus and a free night for every two redeemed nights (this is huge for me, especially since I have 3 nights lined up at the Radisson Blu Sydney in March, at 50,000 points a night).
- Chase Freedom® MasterCard: Yes, I already have the Chase Freedom Visa, but since I will be canceling my OnePass MasterCard very soon, I’ll be needing a new MC. I’ve heard successful reports of people having both the Freedom Visa and Freedom MasterCard; Since they are no-annual fee cards, it makes total sense to have them both. Let’s also not forget a second chance to maximize the 5x quarterly bonuses!