My December App-o-Rama: Meet the Candidates

Posted By Trav

Let the debate begin!

This will be my 3rd App-o-Rama since starting the site back in January and the Meet the Candidates posts (read February’s and August’s) have become my absolute favorite to write.  It’s like giving myself an early Christmas present!

If you don’t know what an App-o-Rama is, check out What the Deuce is an App-o-Rama and the 4 Most Commonly Asked Questions about App-o-Ramas first.

Why are they so fun?

1.  They help me clear my own head and organize my thoughts about which cards I want.  This is never an easy task for someone as scatter-brained as myself.

2.  While writing the posts, I usually talk myself in or out of certain cards.  I’m super indecisive, so going in, I actually really don’t know what cards I’ll pick.  By the end, I usually have something fairly concrete, which you’ll help me with…

3.  I get tons of comments from you guys, often with suggestions I never even thought of.  You give me great advice, which actually helps me pick which ones to go with. (no pressure, but I’m expecting the same this time around…I’m more indecisive than ever)!

4.  Readers LOVE them...which makes a lot of sense, since everyone likes hearing about others pulling in huge chunks of miles.  I get as excited hearing from emails about other people’s AoRs as I do about my own, so it makes sense that the reverse is true.

5.  I’ll actually be getting the miles and points I’m writing about.  Pretty easy to get jacked up about writing when you realize that you’ll be 200k+ miles richer in a month!

Ok, so for those of you who are new to the Meet the Candidates, 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 the chart of all the cards that I’m considering for this AoR, listed by lender.  Pretenders in red, Contenders in yellow, and Duh Obvies in green. (click to enlarge)


Chase Freedom

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 back in April).

Overall:  For card that has had a bonus as high as 35k not too long ago, there is no way I’m finally pulling the trigger on this card when it has such a low signup bonus.  If it bounces up to 30k (or maybe even 25k) then I’d seriously consider picking this card over any other Chase personal card available at the moment.

Contenders, Part #1

A Massive Amount of Hilton Points

While I may not be a huge proponent of hotel points, there comes a time when you have to take what’s given you, and this AoR might finally be the time I pull off the “massive Hilton Points” strategy that I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

Below, I’ll be looking at how I can possibly get up to 400,000 Hilton points by grabbing cards from Bank of America, American Express, and Citi.

Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa

Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa Application Link

Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines Visa Application Link

Pros:  The minimum spend is easily attainable and converting to Hilton points gives pretty good value at 70k Hilton points a card.  Since it is Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii, I wouldn’t be wasting a spot with one of the bigger lenders (Chase, AmEx, Citi).

Cons:  While I’m not sure about B of H, B of A pulls Experian in my area and so getting these cards would cost me an inquiry (and maybe two) with the credit bureau that I can least afford inquiries with.  70k Hilton points isn’t bad but they definitely give the least bang for your buck, so 70k isn’t exactly as great as it sounds.  Also, they don’t waive the annual fee the first year, so I’d be stuck paying $160 for both cards right out of the gate.

Overall:  140k Hilton points isn’t too shabby, especially if I can you take advantage of their AXON or GLON rates (check out this great breakdown by Nick over at TGP to understand those two crazy acronyms).  I’m not too keen on paying $160 upfront, nor do I want the hit (or two) on my Experian report, but 4 nights at a Category 7 resort does sound pretty enticing, especially come winter!

Citi Hilton Reserve

Citi Hilton Reserve application link

Pros:  Since this is a Citi card, you can get two of these cards if you apply for them simultaneously (thanks to Rapid Travel Chais for the heads up) and it will most likely be merged in to one credit pull.  That’s 4 free weekend nights at ANY Hilton, which is pretty fantastic when you consider you it includes places like the Hilton Bora Bora.

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, the annual fee of $95 is quite hefty, so assuming you get two cards, you’re looking at dropping $190 right off the bat.  Additionally, the minimum spend is $2,500 in 4 months, so again, if you’re getting two cards, you’re staring at $5,000 in 4 months.  Not a crazy amount, but if you have other cards in the AoR with minimum spend requirements, this can become a big pain.

Overall:  I LOVE the fact that two cards can earn you 4 nights anywhere.  Since a Category 7 Hilton is 50k/night, this can be worth up to 200k Hilton points, which is a huge haul.  However, because of the restrictions, the big upfront annual fee, and the higher minimum spend, I’m leaning slightly towards the card below.

 Citi Hilton Hhonors

Citi Hilton Hhonors application link (50k unpublished offer)

Citi Hilton Hhonors application link (40k public offer)

Pros:  Since this is a Citi card, you can get two of these cards if you apply for them simultaneously (same as the Reserve card above) and they will most likely merge in to one credit pull.  That’s 100k Hilton points in one shot, which is very nice.

Probably more importantly is the fact that these cards never have an annual fee, meaning you can keep them open forever, which will help your credit score and also give you Silver Status with Hilton.

Lastly, even with getting two cards, the minimum spend is fairly manageable; $1,500 in 6 months x 2.

Cons:  Hilton charges 50k/night for their top end properties, so 100k only gets you two nights at one of them, which is just ok.

Overall:  It comes down to this card or the Hilton Reserve as my Citi card for this AoR.  Right now, I’m leaning slightly towards the regular Hilton Hhonors for the flexibility of being able to use it on any night and not paying a fee upfront.  If I do get this card, I’m definitely going for the 50k offer as many people on Flyertalk have said it’s still working.

American Express Hilton Surpass

Amex Hilton Surpass Application Link

Pros:  There is nothing else of interest right now from American Express, so getting this card isn’t taking up any spot in my AoR from another Amex card.  If I’m going for all these other Hilton points, it makes sense to add this card on.  Also, I’ll get the first 40k has no minimum spend requirement.

Cons:  I don’t like that you need to spend $3,000 in 3 months to get the additional 20k Hilton points.  That’s not good value, seeing as that spend could be used on more valuable points.  Also, the $75 annual fee isn’t waived (boo!).

Overall:  If I do decide to go the Hilton route and rack up some major points with them this AoR, I’ll add this card on.  However, I may end up just taking the 40k and not making the additional minimum spend for the extra 20k, since I may need to use that money elsewhere.

Contenders- Part #2

Let’s shine some light on this sticky situation.

The Chase Conundrum

Even though I’ve already gotten many of the good Chase personal cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase United Explorer), the decision of what Chase card to get during this AoR is excruciating.  Every time, it’s by far the hardest decision to make since they have so many fantastic offerings.

Will this be the time that I finally get the Chase Hyatt or the Chase Priority Club cards that I’ve been talking about for the last year and a half?  Or will my love for airline miles win out once again with the Chase British Airways card that was just announced today?

I desperately need your help on this one, so weigh in!

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.  Now, the only decent airline card with Chase is the British Airways 50k offer, and since I already have 120k+ BA miles, it’s not as tempting as it usually would be.  It looks like I’ll finally be snagging a Chase hotel card and it will come down to either this card or the Chase Priority Club.

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 since they are both Chase personal cards.

Overall:  This card and the Chase Hyatt card are neckandneck!  On one hand, I love that his has no min. spend and no annual fee.  On the other hand, top-end Hyatt properties are amazing.  On the other hand, the Priority Club Point Breaks are amazing value if you can snag them (what….I ran out of hands???  Whoops…please help me decide)!

Chase British Airways Visa

Chase British Airways Visa application link

Pros:  There are no other airline options for Chase this AoR, and you know I like airline miles over hotel points.  Also, The 5 Best Uses for Avios Points are all on my list of places I want to go (especially South America and Dublin) so I wouldn’t struggle to find ways to use them up!

The minimum spend of $1,000 in 3 months is a piece of cake.

Cons:  There was an offer earlier this year where you could get 100k Avios points pretty easily, so I’m hesitant to jump on this now at 50k because I don’t want to leave points on the table should it go back up later.

The $95 annual fee isn’t waived, and I hate paying for points upfront.

Overall:  Remember all that talk about the Hyatt and the Priority Club and how it was between those two cards?  Yeah, well…I told you I was indecisive, didn’t I?  I’m now seriously considering the BA card over those two hotel cards.  This is the hardest decision yet…airline miles, hotel points, BA, Hyatt, Priority Club…help me out!

Duh, Obvies!

Let the masses know “I will get these cards!”

As long as these deals don’t change between now and when I pull of my AoR, I’m definitely applying for these cards.  Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Barclays Frontier Airlines

Barclays Frontier Airlines application link

Pros:  There are no other Barclays cards out there that are worth applying for since I already have 2 USAirways cards (which seems like the max), so applying for this card is basically a freebie.

Also, 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:  A 35,00o signup bonus is pretty small.  A roundtrip ticket with Frontier costs 2ok, so this is less than 2 roundtrips.  Also, I’ve got a boatload of SW points (110k) and the incredible Companion Pass, so domestic travel is pretty well covered for me.  Lastly, its a bummer the $59 annual fee isn’t waived.

Overall:  While the card doesn’t inspire too much enthusiasm in me, there isn’t any real reason NOT to get it.  A roundtrip ticket plus a one-way ticket on Frontier is worth more than the $59 fee, and even though I have a ton of SW points, it never hurts to have more options.  I guess I’ll just have to start traveling domestically a ton…Oh, darn!

Chase Ink Plus

Chase Ink Plus application link

Pros:  My love for the Chase Ink Plus has been pretty well documented, so suffice to say I’m PUMPED to apply for this card.  50k signup bonus, awesome ability to get 5x points/$1 spent by buying gift cards, and 2x on gas.  Yep, I’m sold!

Since the minimum spend is now $5,000 in 3 months instead of $10,000, I’m jumping on this now.  There is no telling when or if the spend will go back up, but I’m not taking any chances.

Cons:  $5,000 minimum spend is a little bit of a pain, which is why I’ll use these 5 tricks to make the minimum spend.  Other than that, nothing.

Overall:  I’d be a fool (and I pity the fool) if I didn’t get this card now that the minimum spend is lowered.  I’m more excited to pull the trigger on this card than probably all other cards combined since this gives me the ability to get even more gift cards at office supply stores and get 5x on all my spending (in addition to doing it with my Ink Bold).

Big Picture


Chase Ink Plus- 50k

Barclays Frontier Card- 35k

Most Likely:

Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines- 70k Hilton

Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines- 70k Hilton

American Express Hilton Surpass- 40k (potentially 60k)

Decisions to be made (and which I’d like you to weigh in one):

  • Do I get 2 Hilton Hhonors cards, earn 100k Hilton points, have no annual fee and a small minimum spend requirement OR get 2 Hilton Reserve cards and get 4 free nights but pay $190 and have a larger minimum spend?
  • Do I get the Chase Hyatt with 2 free nights, the Chase Priority Club with 80k points, or the Chase British Airways with 50k Avios points?

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.

This AoR is a perfect example.  I’m looking at applying for:

1 Chase personal card– The British Airways, Hyatt, or Priority Club card
1 Chase business card– Ink Plus
1 Barclays personal card– Frontier Airlines
1 Citi personal card– Hilton Reserve or Hilton Hhonors
1 Amex personal card– Hilton Surpass
1 Bank of America card– Hawaiian Airlines
1 Bank of Hawaii card– Hawaiian Airlines

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).

What about the minimum spend?

You should always consider the minimum spend requirements when pulling of AoR’s.  If you don’t make the spends, you ain’t getting the points!

If I went with all the cards with the highest minimum spend, it would look like this:

$16,750 in 4 months comes out to $4,200 a month, which is heck of a lot of spending for a regular Joe like myself.  Even with using Amazon Payments to knock off $1,000 a month, I’d be hard-pressed to get there.

It also mean that I’m not putting my spending on cards whose points I deem more valuable, like Chase UR points and SPG points.

The three main options I have to make the spend lower are (in order of likelihood):

1.  Decide to only get the 40k signup bonus for the Amex Hilton Surpass, which you get after first spend.  This would cost me 20k Hilton points but cut $3,000 off the total minimum spend.

2.  Switch out the Citi Hilton Reserve with the Citi Hilton Hhonors, which will cut the overall spend by $2,000 (and also give me 6 months to meet the spend on those cards).

3.  Switch out the Chase BA card with the Priority Club, which has no minimum spend and will cut the overall spend by $1,000.

Ok guys, so that’s all my thoughts (3,000 words worth) regarding this December AoR.  Now, it’s your turn to help me out.

What do you think I should get?  What am I missing?  Is 8 cards too much?

Fire away below and help this indecisive soul out!

(photos courtesy of Julius No)

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.


  1. Elena says:

    I was just gonna writing a post on my goal to get 500k M&P next YR…scrap that post! lol. Good luck applying for all those cards. In my experience you will have to make some consideration phone calls but totally possible! I’d say if your credit score is great and you can make those min spends…go for it!

    1. Trav says:

      @Elena- Yeah, I’m going to try to pare down the minimum spend a bit, probably with some of the ways listed. My credit score is pretty high, and I’m also putting it out among a bunch of lenders. It will probably be my biggest AoR to date. Of course, I’ll be updating everyone after I do it to let them know what I decided on and how it shook out.

  2. Danny says:

    Trav – I think the unpublished Citi card for 50K Hilton points and no annual fee is 1,500 in 4 months, not six.

    1. Trav says:

      @Danny- I just checked the terms and conditions and it didn’t state it anywhere. Could you shoot me a link to where you found that? I’m not sure why I thought 6 months. It’d be nice to get that cleared up!

  3. Laura says:

    why not get the no fee AMEX Hilton card?

    1. Trav says:

      @Laura- I already got that card Nov, 2011. I have heard that you might be able to get the same Amex cards every year, but not sure if that applies to the Hilton card and I’ve kept it open anyway, since it gives me a free night each year.

      1. bluecat says:

        From my recent experience, you definitely need to wait 12 months after you close an amex before you get another “in that same family” again. So, for example, I closed out an SPG in the summer and reapplied again in October and got no bonus whatsoever. So, now, with Amex, if you want to maximize, then you need to close as soon as points are posted so that your 12 month clock will start again.

        1. Trav says:

          @bluecat- Yeah, that is what I’ve heard; 12 months after CLOSING, which is a bit of a bummer. This is especially a pain for cards like the Amex Hilton, which give a free night. I want to keep it open for the free night and the no annual fee, but if I never close it, I can never get it again. Decisions decisions!

          I’m also a little wary about closing right after points post and not waiting at least 11 months. Won’t Amex catch on if you do this often enough? Do you have any experience with closing right after your points post?

  4. Asubrapp says:

    I’d look at the NFL extra points card instead of Frontier Airlines card. Spend $1000 and get $400 in credits to apply to the bill. Not travel per say but if you spend $400 on a ticket or hotel stay it will end up being free. I’d take that over 35k frontier miles, especially since you have Southwest points and CP already.

    Good luck on the AOR. I just finished 4 cards for my wife in August and did 4 of my own last week.

    1. Trav says:

      @Asubrapp- Wow, never even thought of that card. That would definitely be a better deal than 35,000 Frontier miles in my mind. However, I just looked about for the NFL card and the $400 offer and it seems to be dead. Only thing I can find now is a $100 offer. Do you happen to know of any working links for a better offer?

      1. Bryan says:

        There are links for the Barclay’s NFL Extra Points card at this Slickdeals thread – http://slickdeals.net/f/5429636-Barclays-NFL-CC-No-Annual-Fee-400-Statement-Credit-after-1000-spend-in-90days-Links-for-all-teams-YMMV-Repost

        Just don’t get a Cowboys card!

        1. Trav says:

          @Bryan- Thanks for the link. Looks like people are getting approved still from the thread, so I’ll definitely have to consider this instead of the Frontier card.

          Don’t worry, I wouldn’t get a Cowboys card if it was the last credit card in the world!

  5. Ken says:

    The BA card is back with 100k miles – 50k at first and then 25k after 10k and another 25k miles after the remaining 10k spend. High spend, but if you can swing it 100k miles. Gary wrote about it earlier.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- Yeah, that’s the offer I wrote about in the post above. I just considered it a 50k offer because there was no way I’d be making the extra spend to get the additional points. If the 100k was easier to get, I’d definitely be jumping on that over the Hyatt or Priority Club cards. With it only 50k (for me), it makes it much tougher to decide! Advice? Which one would you grab?

  6. Hey would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re
    using? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot
    faster then most. Can you recommend a good web hosting provider at a honest price?
    Thanks, I appreciate it!

    1. Trav says:

      @surgery to get taller- I use Bluehost. My site has really gotten a lot faster since I switched to them and made some tweaks on the backend.

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