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Like most things in life – you are going to get more value out of churning rewards credit cards (i.e., sign-up for multiple rewards credit cards on a pretty regular basis in order to load up on the lucrative sign-up bonuses) if you come up with a game plan and map out your year ahead of time. Of course, some adjustments will be made based on any new cards, new offers, limited time offers, etc, but it is better to have a plan and amend it than not have a plan at all. Most people who churn rewards credit cards do so on a schedule of roughly every 91-ish days in order to spread out the inquiries and spending requirements, so it makes sense to plan out four theoretical churns for 2013.
You should plan the cards you get for 2013 in part based on what, at that time, are the best available offers, and then mainly based on which cards will best meet your travel goals. Of course that means you need to first really sit down and come up with your travel goals not just for 2013, but also really for 2014. This is important since it takes some time to get the cards and then the pay-off, plus some trips have better availability when planned well in advance. The booking window for many airlines is already open into December 2013, so that means we are actually just about a month away from actively booking 2014 trips. Everything I am now planning is for 2014, and even some into 2015.
Here is my current plan, and some other cards that are worth considering for 2013 if you don’t already have them.
Hilton HHonors Points:
I want to add to my HHonors balance for a hopeful 2014 or 2015 trip to the Maldives. I would like that trip to be in 2014, but that may be wishing upon a star due to the limited vacation days my husband has, and the fact that I have already earmarked many of them for a big trip in 2014 (and they are long gone already for 2013). Naturally planning that far out puts you at greater risk of point devaluation, but we aren’t too far out from booking a ’14 or ’15 trip, so fingers crossed that any changes will be minimal between now and then. Cards on my radar to boost my HHonors balance are:
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card – this one will give me two free weekend nights at a Hilton plus Hilton Gold status after spending $2,500 in four months. The $95 annual fee is not waived on this card. (though I need to time this no more than a year out from my trip) This card also makes you eligible for the GLON/VIP points discount of 15% off four-night stays, 20% off five-night stays, and 25% off six nights or longer.
Amex HHonors – 40,000 points after spending $750 in the first three months. What I love about this card is no annual fee (so it is a card that will actually pay you assuming Small Business Saturday happens again) and it gives you access to AXON and GLON awards. This means that the 50,000 per night for the hotel I want will actually just come to 145,000 for four nights using an AXON award instead of the 200,000 it would otherwise cost for four nights.
Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines Card – 35,000 miles (which can convert to 70,000 HHonors points) with the first 20,000 coming after the first purchase and then the other 15,000 coming after spending $1,000 on the card in the first four months. There is a $79 annual fee with this card. I actually already have this card, but plan to cancel and reapply in 2013. Rumor has it this is a card you can get multiple times.
American Airlines Miles:
I need to boost my AAdvantage miles balance a bit as I want to fly OneWorld for our Maldives trip. I will likely be cancelling my remaining Citi AAdvantage card later this year and using the two-browser trick to increase my balance by 100K. Or, I may just add a business card and call it done. Or both. Most of the best offers for these cards can be found here.
Ultimate Reward Points:
I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold® Business Card, Chase Freedom and am working on my spending requirement for the Ink Plus Business Card, so I won’t be repeating those in 2013. I will also continue to really maximize the 2x travel and dining bonuses on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the quarterly 5x benefits from the Freedom, and the 5x bonuses on cell phone, cable, landline, and office supply stores with the Ink cards.
Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card:
I really enjoy the 3x on airfare that I get on my Business Gold Rewards Amex, but it does come with a hefty $175 annual fee, so an option would be to ditch that card in favor of the personal Amex Premier Rewards Gold card to avoid the annual fee for a year (it is $175 in subsequent years). I’m not 100% that I will pick up this card in 2013, but there is a real possibility, especially if the sign-up bonus comes up above the current “25,000 points after spending $2,000” level.
Hyatt Credit Card:
I very much want this card in 2013 in order to get the two free nights in a suite at any Hyatt in the world (my nights are in a suite due to my Hyatt Diamond status, otherwise they would be in a standard room) after spending $1,000 in the first three months. However, since the free nights are valid for one year, I need to time this application appropriately as I want to use them in Paris potentially in 2014. There is a $75 annual fee that is not waived. If you want to try for an offer that also provides a $100 statement credit then go through the steps of making a reservation on Hyatt.com and see if that offer appears.
A new card on the scene is the Club Carlson Premier Visa from US Bank that awards 50,000 points after the first purchase and 35,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first three months. This card not only has a decent sign-up bonus, but it also gives you one free night when you redeem points for two or more reward nights in a row. So, if I want to use 50,000 points to stay at a top property in Europe, then I can get the second night for free. This is amazing “hidden” value in this card. US Bank is very strict about approvals and doesn’t like to see many recent inquiries in the last 6-12 months, so I have to time this one carefully. There is a $75 annual fee.
There certainly will be some adjustments to the cards I want to get in 2013, but for now these are my thoughts and plans. All of the cards have at least a general travel goal that they are helping to meet, so I know the points won’t go to waste. What cards are you considering for 2013 and what redemptions do you have in mind for their sign-up bonuses?
Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a card using one of my affiliate links. Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links and some are not. All links are to the best offers of which I am currently aware.