Churning is the credit card strategy the banks don’t want you to know about. In fact, it’s so effective, banks have been setting up new rules year after to year to prevent gamers from exploiting the opportunity. The good news is, travel hackers are still ahead of the banks, and we’ll share their secrets.
Churning is simply the strategy whereby you open a credit card, collect welcome bonus miles, use them for a free flight and either close or stop using the credit card. You then do the same thing over and over again. That’s right, you get multiple free flights every year just by signing-up for new credit cards.
Some people needlessly spend dollar after dollar, day after day, year after year, trying to earn enough points from their credit cards for a free flight. That strategy is needlessly long and inefficient. Why spend $50,000 to get 50,000 miles, when you can get them just by signing-up for a new credit card?
Getting new credit cards is the fastest and cheapest way to exploit credit card incentive offers. While many other industries have high switching costs (mobile you may have a contract, insurance you may have a 1 year term, mortgage you may have a pre-payment penalty), getting a new credit card is easy. In fact, you don’t even have to get rid of your old one. Some people carry over 40 active credit cards! Here’s how to churn your way to free flights.
1. Find a Credit Card With A Free Flight Welcome Bonus
There are a ton of credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses offering free flights. However, not all bonuses are created equal. For example, some bonuses are large enough for return airfare to anywhere in North America, others are only good for a short-haul flight. Do a little research in advance to figure out the best opportunities.
2. Watch Out For Minimum Spending Requirements
Credit card issuers got wise to churning years ago. As a result, many require that you spend a minimum amount on your credit card within the first 3 months to become eligible for the welcome bonus. Make sure you find out what threshold you have to meet, if any, to become eligible to receive the bonus.
If the minimum spend requirement exceeds your budget, you may want to consider manufacturing your spend by pulling some of your future expenses forward by purchasing gift cards for gas or groceries. For example, if you’re $400 short of meeting your $1,500 spend requirement, buy $400 of gas and grocery gift cards you know you’ll use the following month.
3. Focus on First Year Free (FYF) Offers
To make churning really profitable, focus on credit cards that waive the first year annual fee—that way the flight is truly free. Before the end of the first year, simply cancel your card to avoid the annual fee.
That said, there are some cards that never waive their annual fee and are still worth churning. Why? So long as the welcome bonus is worth more than the annual fee, then it’s profitable to churn. That said, with so many first year free offers in the marketplace, you’re best off focusing on those first.
4. Time It Right
Credit card issuers provide different sized welcome bonuses throughout the year. Familiarize yourself with their offers so that when that too good to be true bonus becomes available, you’re ready to pounce. The same issuer can double the size of a welcome bonus from one month to the next, so it pays to keep yourself informed of the best credit card deals in the marketplace.
5. Rinse, Wash, Repeat
After you’ve done it once, do it over and over again. You don’t want to apply for too many cards at the same time, as your credit score will suffer. However, if your credit score is strong to begin with, applying for a new credit card 3-4 times a year is very doable. You can also monitor your credit score throughout the year to ensure you’re not being overly aggressive.
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