My April App-o-Rama: Meet the Candidates
It’s Christmas in April. Yep, time for my first App-o-Rama of 2013!
This is my 4th App-o-Rama since starting the site (February 2012, August 2012, December 2012), and I’ve got to admit, each time it gets harder and harder to figure out what cards I’m going to go after.
Of course, I still love writing these posts. Not only do I love the idea that a bunch of points will be coming my way, but I also love the feedback I get in the comments.
There have been multiple times I’ve changed my mind about a card due to a reader suggestion.
For everyone who is new to the Meet the Candidates posts, here’s how it works:
I’ll break all the candidates down in to three categories: Pretenders, Contenders, and Duh Obvies!
I’ll state my initial reactions for each card.
Then, I’ll ask for your feedback in the comments to help me make my final decisions!
Of course, it helps to know what cards I already have. Here’s all the cards I’ve opened in the past (with ones that are closed in yellow):
And here is a chart of all the cards I’m considering for this App-o-Rama, listed by bank.
Chase Freedom application link
Pros: This card has two things going for it. First is the fact that there is never an annual fee, meaning you can open this card and keep it open forever without having to worry about closing it. This helps keep your credit score high.
The second is that each quarter there are categories that will give you 5x bonus points. If you meet the maximum spend each quarter ($1,500) this equates to 30,000 extra Chase points each year. Yes please!
Cons: The signup bonus is a paltry 10k (it was a high as 35k in April 2012).
Overall: Every App-o-Rama I list this as a pretender because of the 10k bonus. If it were to bounce up to 30k, like it was in April of last year, then I’d seriously consider picking this card over any other Chase personal card available at the moment.
But while I really want this card to take advantage of the 5x offer, I just can’t justify getting it with such a small sign up bonus.
Amex Platinum application link
Pros: This card has a ton of extra perks that come along with it, such as worldwide lounge acces, free Global Entry, and a $200 airline credit (which would really be $400 the first year).
Cons: The annual fee of $450 is not waived the first year and the sign up bonus is only currently 25k.
Overall: At some point, I will definitely get the Amex Platinum card. I’ve been swayed by many of the comments on my Is the Amex Platinum Worth the $450 Annual Fee post.
But since the sign up bonus is only 25k right now, I’m going to hold out until it’s higher. It goes as high as 100k, at which point I’ll jump on it. Unless that happens prior to my AoR, the Amex Platinum will be on the outside looking in.
Contenders, Part #1: The Chase Conundrum
Every App-o-Rama, the toughest decision is which Chase personal credit card to get. This time is no different, as we still have the usual suspects of the Hyatt and Priority Club as well as a AirTran card with an increased sign up bonus. What to do, what to do?
Chase Hyatt Gold Passport
Chase Hyatt Gold Passport application link
Pros: Two nights stay at any Hyatt is nothing to sneeze at, since they have some amazing properties and I’ve been wanting to add Hyatt points and stays to my meager stable of hotel points.
Also, for once, the options for Chase personal cards are pretty slim since I’ve already grabbed most of the best cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase United Explorer).
Cons: The $75 annual fee isn’t waived.
Overall: Each AoR, I come close to picking this card but I usually can’t seem to justify the hotel points, even if it is Hyatt, over picking up some extra airline miles.
This time around, the only Chase airline card out there that I don’t have already is the AirTran card (listed below). Looks like once again it will come down to either an average airline card or the Hyatt card that I’ve been thinking about for a year now.
Chase Priority Club
Chase Priority Club application link (unpublished 80k offer)
Chase Priority Club application link (public 60k offer)
Pros: 80k Priority Club points is a decent haul considering that Intercontinental Hotels, the premier hotels of Priority Club, range from 30-50k, with most being 40k. This means you’re getting at least 2 nights at a top-notch property.
Also, Priority Club has “Point Break” properties each quarter, which are a measly 5k a night, leading to some fantastic value for 80k points. The no annual fee and no annual minimum spend is also a huge bonus.
Cons: There aren’t really any cons except that I’d have to pick this over the Chase Hyatt or Chase AirTran since they are all Chase personal cards.
Overall: Last AoR, I thought I’d grab either the Hyatt or the Priority Club and then this AoR, I’d grab the other. Turns out, I got the Chase BA card last time, and once again, this time I’m left with a decision between two cards who are neckandneck.
Do I go with the flexibility and great value of the Priority Club or the amazing, “spoil myself silly” Chase Hyatt card? It’s too close to call at this point.
Chase AirTran application link
Pros: The sign up bonus is currently at 32 credits, which is equal to 50k Southwest points ($833 of Southwest fares), which is a substantial amount. The bonus bounces between 16 and 32 credits all the time.
Once Southwest and AirTran merge, this card will not be available.
Cons: The $69 annual fee is not waived. Since this is a Chase card, I’d have to get this instead of the Chase Hyatt or the Chase Priority Club.
Overall: I value the Chase AirTran card on par with the Chase Hyatt and the Chase Priority Club, but the reason that I’m leaning towards getting this card first is because the sign up bonus is currently at it’s highest level and there is no telling when this card will disappear.
Because of that, I almost have to get this card now, right?
Contenders, Part #2: The Citi Conundrum
This is a little more cut and dry than Chase, but I’m still not completely sold on my decision. I’d really like to add to my Hilton stash, but…
Citi Hilton Reserve
Citi Hilton Reserve application link
Pros: With the major devaluation of Hilton’s award chart, a “free night” is worth a lot more now that a top end property is 95k points instead of 50k. So the sign up bonus of 2 free nights could be worth up to 190k Hilton points if you use them at the best properties, like the Hilton Bora Bora which I intend to do.
This is now the best way to go about trying to stay at aspirational Hilton properties. Collecting Hilton points is sooo00 last year.
Cons: The major downside to me is that it only includes weekend nights. This puts a big crimp in a lot of vacations if you’re planning on going for any length of time. You’ll need to have additional Hilton points to use for the days that aren’t weekends.
Also, you can no longer get two Citi cards at once, so the ability to get 2 of these cards, and 4 free nights total, which was available during my last AoR in December 2012 is no longer an option (a huge bummer).
Lastly, the annual fee of $95 and minimum spend of $2,500 in 4 months are quiet hefty for a hotel card.
Overall: Since I was unable to offload my Hilton points before the devaluation, I’m still sitting on 270k Hilton points, which nowadays, can only get me 3 nights, instead of 6, at a top notch Hilton.
So I’d love to add 2 free weekend nights, which means I could theoretically spend 5 nights at the Hilton Bora Bora, which might make it worth going all the way out there.
The one problem is that you can only get 1 Citi card at a time now, and I’ve got my eye on the Citi/AAdvantage Visa. Since I can only have one, I’ll have to decide if the two nights is worth it or if I should go with the 50k AA miles.
Citi American Airlines Visa
Citi AA Visa application link
Pros: 50k AA miles is a good sign up bonus for a good airline, one that has great off-peak awards and rarely charges a fuel surcharge on their flights.
Cons: I’ve already had this card before (Sept. 2011) and while most people say you can “churn” it 18 months after you your last approval, it’s not a guarantee. The sign up bonus no longer includes a $150 statement credit nor 2 lounge passes.
Overall: Because the Citi AA deals seem to be disappearing left and right, I don’t expect the 50k Visa offer to be around much longer. Therefore, I’m heavily leaning towards getting this card now, and waiting on the Citi Hilton Reserve card.
Contenders, Part #3: What To Do About Barclays?
Usually, there aren’t many decent Barclays offers, but with the arrival of the Arrival card, I’ve got two options this time. Do I dare tempt fate and risk another denial?
Barclays Frontier Airlines
Barclays Frontier Airlines application link
Pros: Frontier Airlines flies out of 4 airports that are very convenient for me; Philadelphia, Allentown, Princeton, and Harrisburg. The direct flight options are fairly limited (although one option from Trenton is New Orleans, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go), but most of them route to Denver, Frontier’s main hub.
This means with one connection, I can go anywhere Frontier flies. Check out their surprisingly awesome route map to see all the options.
Cons: The biggest con is that I’ve already been denied for this card during my last AoR in January, and I’m not sure why this time would be any different. The 35,00o signup bonus is pretty small, and will get you less than 2 roundtrip domestic tickets.
Lastly, its a bummer the $59 annual fee isn’t waived.
Overall: Normally, I’d be more than happy to pay a $59 annual fee for 35,000 miles. But since I’ve been denied once before, and not too long ago, I’m a little gun shy.
Do I really want to waste a credit pull (and Barclays pulls all 3 bureaus in my area) on the off-chance that this time I’ll get approved? The answer is probably yes, but…I put the odds of getting this card at less than 25%. I have not been very lucky with Barclays reconsideration line recently.
Barclays Arrival card
Barclays Arrival card application link
Pros: I’ve never applied for this card with Barclays before, so the chances of getting denied may be lower. The 40k offer is good for either $440 in travel credit or a $400 statement credit, which can be used for anything.
This is nice, since I already have a glut of airline miles and this gives me flexibility to buy $400 worth of something else, if I choose.
The annual fee is waived for the first year.
Cons: I’d normally rather have airline miles than “cash”.
Overall: I’d put the 35k Frontier miles and the $400 statement credit as pretty much equal. Because I was already denied for the Frontier card, I’m leaning towards applying for the Arrival card this time.
Contenders Part #4: Big Fee, Big Perks?
Here, it’s strictly a “is it worth the money” decision. And, to be honest, I don’t really know!
Amex Mercedes Benz Platinum
Amex Mercedes Benz Platinum application link
Pros: The 50k sign up bonus is a decent amount and it gives you all the same extra perks (worldwide lounge access, $200 airline credit, etc) as the “regular” Amex Platinum.
Cons: The $475 annual fee is not waived…and that’s A LOT of money!
Overall: Since you can get both the Mercedes Benz Platinum and the “regular” Platinum, I’m definitely leaning towards getting this card now since the sign up bonus is at 50k, as opposed to the 25k sign up for the “regular” Platinum.
My main concern is that if I get this card now and the 100k sign up bonus comes back for the regular Platinum and I get that, I’ll be paying two annual fees ($925) and be getting the same extra perks for both, which doesn’t make much sense.
Overall, I’ve got to decide whether I want to pay $475 for 50k Amex points, and at this point, I’m not sure it’s worth it.
US Bank Club Carlson card
US Bank Club Carlson application link
Pros: The 85k sign up bonus is one of the best hotel offers out there. The top Club Carlson category is 50k/night, so this sign up bonus is good for almost 2 free nights at their top end hotels or 4-5 nights at a lower end hotel. In addition, if you stay 2 nights using points, you’ll get the 3rd night free, which is a huge perk.
The card also comes with an anniversary bonus of 40k, which negates the $75 annual fee.
Lastly, this card is from US Bank, so I don’t have to decide between this and some other card. It’s basically a freebie.
Cons: The annual fee of $75 is not waived the first year and while the minimum spend of $2,500 in 3 month isn’t a killer, it is much higher than most hotel credit cards.
Overall: This card is a no-brainer for me. Even though I don’t normally love hotel credit cards, I’m paying $75 for 85k points, which is a steal. I’ll stash those points and then at some point find a nice Radisson and give myself 3 free nights!
Citi American Airlines Mastercard Gold
Citi American Airlines Mastercard Gold
Pros: I love AA miles because they have great off-peak awards and rarely charge fuel surcharges, so any time I can get them, I’m happy. I’ve never had this card before (unlike the Citi AA Visa, which I have had before), so I should have a better shot at getting approved.
The minimum spend is small ($750 in 3 months) and they waive the annual fee for the first year.
Cons: The sign up bonus is only 30k.
Overall: I love adding AA miles, and since there is no longer a valid 50k offer for the Citi AA Amex, I figure I might as well jump on it while I can.
The way to still get both the Citi AA Visa and the Citi AA Mastercard is to apply for one during the App-o-Rama and then one a few days later.
Since I’d rather have the 50k of the Citi AA Visa, I’ll apply for the Citi AA Mastercard a few days after the AoR and hope I don’t get denied for “too many recent inquiries.” *Crossing my fingers*
Bank of America Virgin Atlantic
Bank of America Virgin Atlantic application link
Pros: The sign up bonus is back up to 50k (it bounces between 25k and 50k), which is the highest it’s ever been. Virgin Atlantic miles convert at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton points, so the sign up bonus would net me 100k Hilton points.
Cons: The $90 annual fee is not waived, and a $2,500 in 3 month minimum spend for a card that doesn’t earn me “good” airline miles is a pain to add to an AoR.
Overall: While adding the minimum spend to other minimum spends has me a little wary, as it’s one more card to juggle, I need to add to my stash of Hilton points.
Even though it will cost me 2x or 3x as much now that Hilton has been massively devalued, I still have my eyes set on a 6 or 7 day trip to the Hilton Bora Bora or the Conrad Maldives. Since that will now run somewhere around 500k points, and I’ve currently got 275K, I need to get Hilton points whenever I can.
My Tentative Plan
It looks like I’ll be doing a 6 card app-o-rama this time around, which is what I did last time. It can certainly get to be a pain juggling all those cards, but if all goes as planned, I’ll be adding some really valuable and diverse points to my miles bank!
Definites: US Club Carlson, Citi AA Mastercard Gold, BoA Virgin Atlantic
Most likely: Citi AA Visa, Chase Air Tran, Barclays Arrival
Probably not: Chase Hyatt, Chase Priority Club, Amex Mercedes Platinum, Barclays Frontier, Citi Hilton Reserve
Definitely not: Chase Freedom, Amex Platinum
Meeting the Minimum Spend
If I stick to the above plan, the minimum spend will look like this:
Total, I’d be looking at spending $8,750 in the first 3 months, and then an additional $2,500 in month 4. With my natural spending patterns, there’d be absolutely no way I could meet those minimum spends.
How Can I Get All Those Cards?
There are two keys to pulling off a successful App-o-Rama and getting approved for all the cards you applied for.
1. Apply for them all on the same day, and as close to simultaneous as possible. By doing this, you lower your chance at getting denied for “too many recent inquiries” since they will all be processing at the same time.
2. Spread out the cards you get by applying to different lenders. Don’t apply for 4 Chase cards at one time. You’ll get denied.
However, you can apply for 1 personal card and 1 business card from each lender, so I highly suggest looking at getting business cards. Here’s how you can get business cards even if you don’t think you have a business.
In this AoR, I’m looking at applying for:
1 Chase personal card– Chase Air Tran (or possibly Chase Hyatt or Chase Priority Club)
1 Barclays personal card– Arrival card (or possibly Frontier card)
*2 Citi personal card– Citi AA MC Gold and Citi AA Visa (or possibly Citi Hilton Reserve)
1 US Bank personal card- Club Carlson
1 Bank of American personal card- Virgin Atlantic
*Usually I recommend only going for 1 personal card from each lender, but Citi is an exception that seems to work.
Spread your applications among lenders and don’t get greedy and you’ll have a good shot at getting approved for all of them.
Will getting all these cards kill my credit score?
The short answer is, probably not. Check out this post on why that is and how my personal credit score has been affected (and its not negatively).
I need your help! I’ve got some tough decisions to make, so in the comments below, let me know what cards you think I should get and what cards you are aiming for in your next AoR!
This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.