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My September App-o-Rama: Meet the Candidates

Candidates

(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.)

This is my 5th App-o-Rama since starting the site, and man, each time it gets harder!

I already have many of the best travel credit cards, which leaves the pool of cards for me to pick from to be (relatively) slim.

Of course, there is still value to be had, and while it takes a little ingenuity, a really good AoR can be put together, even if you’ve been at it for awhile.

For this AoR, I have two major questions I need to answer, followed by a list of cards I call “Duh, Obvies”, which seem to be no-brainers for me.

As always, my favorite part about writing these “Meet the Candidates” posts is getting your feedback.

Any and all suggestions are welcomed in the comments.

Did I miss a card?  Should I consider something else?

Of course, the first thing you need to know is what cards I currently have, so here is a list of every card I’ve ever opened.  The highlighted ones have been closed:

All cards Sept. 2013 AoR

And here is the list of cards that I am considering for this App-o-Rama:

Sept. 2013 AoR Cards

Decision #1:  Which Chase Card to Get?

decisions

As always, Chase has the best options.  But unlike other app-o-ramas, this time I’ve run out Chase airline cards to get, so I’ll finally be adding a Chase hotel card to my stable.

So which one:  The Chase Hyatt or the Chase Priority Club?

I’m looking towards your comments to help me decide.

Chase Priority Club

See this Flyertalk thread for info on the 80k Priority Club 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.

Overall:  I love the flexibility of this card.   If I want to stay at a nice place one night, I can.  But if I’m just looking for a place to rest my head, I can stretch 80k points super far!

Chase Hyatt Gold Passport

Pros:  Two nights stay at any Hyatt is a great deal, seeing as some of their top end properties, like the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris, can run $1,000+ a night!

Cons:  The $75 annual fee isn’t waived.

Overall:  This card would be used just to indulge myself in fantasies that I would never, ever pay for.

And to spoil my wife, who has put up with more than her fair share of awful less than opulent accommodations over our years of backpacking.

Decision?: It’s neckandneck between the Chase Priority Club and the Chase Hyatt.

Do I go with the flexibility and great value of the Priority Club or the amazing, “spoil myself silly” Chase Hyatt card?

Weigh in down in the comments!

Decision #2: Is the Mercedes Benz Platinum Worth It?

money

I’ve written at length about the “regular” American Express Platinum card, coming to the conclusion that while it was worth the $450 annual fee for the first year with a 25k sign up, I was going to wait in hopes of getting a targeted offer for 100k.

The Mercedes Benz Platinum is currently offering a 50k but clocks in with a slightly higher annual fee of $475.

The Mercedes Benz Platinum offers almost the exact same perks as the regular Platinum (broken down here), so technically, it is worth it.

But I’m still having trouble pulling the trigger on the card.

Decision?: What do you think?

Is 50k Amex points, using lounge access a few times a year, and a $200 airline voucher worth paying the upfront fee of $475?

Duh, Obvies

duh obvies

Chase United Explorer Business card

There is a targeted offer for 50k United miles.  Check this Flyertalk thread for details.

Pros:  50k United miles is a really nice sign up bonus, especially considering United miles allows you to have stopovers and open jaws and never charge a fuel surcharge.

Also, it gives you 2 United club passes each year and allows you to check your first bag for free, which are are two nice perks.

Cons:  None

Overall:  This is a no-brainer for me.  The minimum spend of $2,000 in 3 months is easily attainable and 50k United miles is a nice haul.

I already have the personal version of this card, but you are allowed to get 1 personal card version and 1 business card version.

Citi Hilton Reserve

Pros:  When a night at the top end Hiltons jumped from 50k to 95k earlier this year, a “free night” became MUCH more valuable than collecting points.

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.

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 370k Hilton points, which nowadays, can only get me 4 nights at a top notch Hilton.

By adding 2 free weekend nights, I could theoretically spend 6 nights at the Hilton Bora Bora, which might make it worth going all the way out there.

Since there are no other Citi cards worth applying for now, this is an obvious choice.

Amex Hilton Hhonors Surpass

Pros:  60k Hilton points gets me closer to my ultimate goal of spending a week or so at a crazy awesome Hilton property, like the Hilton Bora Bora discussed above.

Also, you receive complimentary Gold status, which entitles you to free internet and free breakfast.  That can save you tons of money during an extended hotel stay.

Cons:  The minimum spend of $3,000 in 3 months is high for a hotel credit card, and the annual fee of $75 is not waived.

Overall:  If I didn’t already have a ton of Hilton points, I wouldn’t get this card because the annual fee and minimum spend aren’t worth it for 60k.

However, because I’m working towards a specific goal, every little bit helps, which is why I’m applying for the card now.

US Bank Club Carlson Business card

Pros:  The Club Carlson card is my favorite hotel credit card out there.

Why?

Well, the 85k sign up bonus is a ton of points.  The top Club Carlson category is 50k/night, so right away the sign up bonus is good for almost 2 free nights at their top end hotels or 4-5 nights at a lower end hotel.

But it gets better….

You can get buy 1 get 1 free nights when using points.  This doubles your free nights!

The card also comes with an anniversary bonus of 40k, which negates the $75 annual fee.

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.

More importantly, US Bank only approved me for the lower version of the personal card (60k instead of 85k) last app-o-rama and have been known to be stingy.

Overall:  While it makes sense to apply for this card, I’m not overly optimistic about getting it.  US Bank doesn’t really ever reconsider their decisions, so if you get denied, there isn’t any recourse.

But the 85k points, with the ability to get buy 1 get 1 stays in Club Carlson properties, is enough to make me chance it.

Fingers crossed!

Bank of America Alaskan Airlines

Pros:  I already have 40k Alaskan Airlines miles from back in 2011, so adding on 30k would give me the ability to redeem for a nice flight somewhere.

The miles post immediately after approval, so no need to worry about a minimum spend.

Cons:  30k isn’t much, and Alaskan Airlines miles don’t work near as well for me since I live on the East Coast.

Overall:  This is more of a “why not” application.  30k doesn’t move the needle much for me, but there is basically no effort to get it.  So, why not?

There is also an offer for the same card which gives you 25k miles but offers $100 statement credit when spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.  I’m still deciding between 30k or 25k and $100.

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 Hyatt or Chase Priority Club
  • 1 Chase business card- Chase United Explorer Business
  • 1 Amex personal card- Amex Hilton Surpass
  • 1 Citi personal card- Citi Hilton Reserve
  • 1 US Bank business card- Club Carlson
  • 1 Bank of American personal card- Alaskan 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).

Final Word(s)

This AoR is a little more cut and dry due to the fact that I’m running out of great options.

However, I’d still love your opinions in the comments of what I should do, or if I’m missing a decent card.

Also, I wanted to show that even with opening 20+ cards in the last 2 years, there are still some options out there that provide good value.

You just got to dig a little!

(photos courtesy of A. Stormtrooper, Sektor!)


Comments

  1. Diamond Vargas says:

    The Mercedes Benz card really comes with $400 of airline credit, not $200. Get $200 as soon as you open the card and another $200 in January. It’s a no-brainer if you’re going to be spending $400 on airfare in the foreseeable future and have a reasonable idea of which airline you’re most likely to fly with.

    • @Diamond Vargas- You are right, I would receive $400 of airline credit because it is each calendar year. At this point, the question becomes whether I’d use that $400 in the foreseeable future. Decisions, decisions.

  2. I would hold off on the Hyatt until you knew exactly when/where you wanted to use the certificates. I would go with the Priority Club instead and you can use those points at your leisure.

    • @kelly- Agreed that the Priority Club is a lot more flexible. If I got the Hyatt card, I’d definitely use it for the Park Hyatt in Paris and spoil my wife.

  3. Last night I was adding up the number of credit cards I had —- it looks like we have the same number. 22! Crazy, yes. But worth it, yes.

  4. I highly recommend the Hyatt card. Great bonus, and of course you get the free Category 1-4 certificate on your anniversary. I got the card in July 2012, and the first year fee was waived. I believe there are still some app links that have the first year fee free floating around, although I can’t seem to find one with the quick search I just did. Some people have reported that there is an app link on the Hyatt website when making a room reservation, that includes a statement credit.

    Another perk to holding the card is that in the past 2 quarters, I have received targeted offers for bonus points by meeting spending thresholds. This quarter I received an offer for 5,000 bonus points by spending $3,000.

    • @Denny- Thanks for the recommendation. I agree it is definitely worth it to get at some point, just trying to decide whether that should be now or later.

      I like the idea of the targeted offer, although $3,000 seems like a decent amount to spend for only 5k points. Hyatt points are valuable, but to me, not as much so as other currencies (like SPG points or Chase UR points).

      Agreed that the annual fee is cancelled out, and that when I get this, I’m keeping the card for the long haul.

  5. Jerry Mandel says:

    Hyatt Platinum Elite = no elite at all. Only diamond elite is worth anything. With diamond, you still pay for parking in downtowns and you “might” get breakfast. Use the two nights and never look back.///IHG.com is great. So far, we’ve had 10 free nights and likely enough points for another one or two. Never cancel them. $49 per card at renewal gives us each another semifree night. I go for quantity-a nice room-no Paris or Tahiti suites. Their US points break hotels are nearly all in obscure places where you are not likely to go in your lifetime./// Hilton-Two weekend **only** nights are not tempting./// Carlson 2-for-1 nights is a really good deal. Note: Gold elite = Silver Elite…….no better….and most “benefts” are puffery of no value.

    • @Jerry Mandel- Totally agree that most “elite statuses” at hotels are not worth much, unless you are getting the top end status. I think both the Hyatt and the Priority Club cards are worth keeping open, as they both negate the annual fee. The two free weekend nights at Hiltons are only worth it for me to add on to my stash of Hilton points.

  6. Nice post. Always interesting to see how other people manage their AoR’s and the particulars behind it. Thank you.

    As to the first question – IHG or Hyatt – I’d go IHG. The breakpoints are great value, sometimes include top-tier, and annual free night anywhere is worth the 2nd-year-on $49 annual fee. But I’m not so much into the aspirational hotels that Hyatt could offer.

    Second question – especially if you get the $200 twice (& maybe one $100 GE), the MB card is absolutely worth it. Just like you, though, I’ve been holding out for another 100k offer to show up for 6 days before being pulled. Fingers crossed for sometime in the next four months.

    Lastly, I think the Club Carlson Business Rewards card has only a $60 annual fee (the Premier card is $75). I actually was approved for both in my last AoR in June, but I think I squeaked in for the Business card. My limit was like $16k on the personal card, but only $1,000 on the Business!

    • @Joe- Agreed that the Amex MB is worth it, for sure, but I just keep hoping I’ll get that dang 100k targeted offer! What’s a man gotta do to get that?

      You are right, I made a mistake. The Club Carlson business card does only have a $60 fee attached to it, which makes it even more enticing. I haven’t heard many good things about people getting the personal and the biz, but maybe I’ll be able to squeak it out like you.

      Thanks for the input, readily appreciated!

      • Diamond Vargas says:

        I’ve never heard of a 100k targeted or public offer for the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card, although I have heard of 100k bonuses for the regular personal Platinum card with the slightly lower $450 annual fee. More importantly, though, those are entirely separate products and you can get the bonus for both. So unless you have any reason to believe a 100k bonus for the MB card will appear for the first time, I wouldn’t use that in your pro / con analysis.

        • @Diamond Vargas- You’re right, they are separate cards and I can get both. My thinking was more along the lines that I didn’t want to hold the Amex MB and the regular Amex Platinum at the same time because they offer the same perks.

          So in order to maximize, I’d want to get the Amex MB at a time when I could use those benefits for a whole year, then get the Amex Plat when that year was up.

  7. It helps to have an idea of how you would use your points.

    The priority club card is nice for the sign up bonus but not as exciting after the devaluation. It is completely useless for spend and the only reason to keep it is for the Platinum status and the free night which more than pays for the annual fee.

    Speaking of Chase hotel cards, have you considered the Fairmont card?

    AMEX has been running a lot of promotions with its charge cards. I got in on the 100K deal in Jan. Don;t you think you would be better served waiting for a better deal to come along? As to the Hilton card, I am not a fan of Hilton after their massive devaluation. The Citi card is still not bad for the free nights.

    Club Carlson is a nice card to have but most of the properties worth staying at are overseas. In fact they may have been a little too generous in recent times. I am wondering when they will hit us with the devaluation hammer.

    • @Dan- I did consider the Fairmont card, but it’s basically the same terms as the Hyatt card, and Hyatt seems to have more properties in places I’d rather go. After I pick up Hyatt and Priority Club cards, the Fairmont will be my next target though.

      I do think I’d be better served waiting for a better 100k offer, but…you know how hard it is to be patient! And what if when it comes around, it’s targeted and I don’t get picked? That’s the dilemma.

      Lastly, I agree that if I didn’t already have a ton of Hilton points, I certainly wouldn’t be going for them now. They are close to worthless after the devaluation. Once I use this batch up, I’ll most likely not go for them anymore, but at this point, I might as well get enough for a great vacation with them and call it a day.

      I agree that Club Carlson is due for a devaluation. Better spend them while we can!

  8. Saphire MC (not visa), churn the US Air personal and biz. United Explorer biz for 50K (see flyertalk). American Air Amex,Visa,MC (whichever one you don’t have)

    • @JB- Are you able to get the MC version of the Sapphire while still having the Visa opened?

      Also, I’ve already had the AA Visa, and I’m under the impression that you can’t get the AA Amex or AA MC if you already have the Visa nowadays. Is this false?

      • 1) I thought the Sapphire M/C no longer exists. Last I heard of it was back in June when FFU found that an old link still worked. But that expired months ago. The link currently says “Offer not Available”. If this isn’t true, I’m sure we’d all like to hear about it. Just checked FlyerTalk too and that seems to be the current understanding.

        2) My understanding was the VISA and Amex cards were “the same” and you couldn’t have both. But the MasterCard was different, and that’s certainly been my experience. You probably could get a Citi AA Gold World MasterCard 91 days after your last Citi application.

        • @Glenn- Yeah, definitely think the two CSP deal is over. Will certainly look in to the Citi AA Gold World Mastercard…isn’t the offer pretty slim though?

  9. How did you get the SW Biz card twice? Different businesses? I started another business but there’s no income, it’ll just be me spending to promote it for the first year or two before I see any revenue. I already have an Ink Bold for my sole prop day job, but I’d like some more Biz cards to separate out the businesses from one another.

    • @Ken- I got the SW Biz card twice by accident, actually. Not for two businesses. The 2nd time, I meant to apply for the personal card and actually hit the wrong app. Somehow, the 2nd biz card got approved, both for my sole proprietorship. Weird, but it worked.

  10. Why didnt you consider barclays arrival card???? No brainer for most!

    • @Skudu- Two AoR’s ago, I applied for the Barclays Frontier card. Last AoR, I applied for the Barclays Arrival. I was denied both of them, and even after calling in multiple times, still couldn’t get reconsidered. Barclays seems to think I’ve applied for too many cards in the last year, and won’t approve me for another Barclays card at the moment, even though I have stellar credit.

      Seems like I should lay low on them for a few more months and then see what happens.

  11. I was able to get both a business and personal Club Carlson card, but it took some work. I had to make a few calls and keep stressing my very high credit score, but eventually it paid off. Unfortunately it seems they don’t allow two cards to be linked to the same account, so they open a new one for you when approved for the second card. After a year in the program, you can transfer points between them, I was told. I went business first, then personal, by the way. Good luck.

    • @MFK- Interesting, and good to hear you were able to get them to reconsider you after originally getting denied. I’ve actually not heard of anyone getting approved after getting denied, so that offers a glimmer of hope!

      Yeah, I’m going to try to for it, and cross my fingers. Strange they don’t let you have the same account number. Wonder why.

      • There have been a few recon success reported on Flyertalk. They usually don’t have many inquiries though, Given the # of new cards you got this year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they denied you for “too many recent apps.” I would definitely apply it first among all apps if you decide to go for it.

        • @Yuhao- Yeah, still waiting to hear back from them. It wasn’t instantly approved, but maybe I can sweet talk them. Will let you know next week what the results were.

  12. There is an offer for an AA business card for 50K miles.

  13. Wow, too bad you missed out on the big Citi AA Platinum VISA churnarama. I got 3 for myself and 2 for the wife. Just ended last week. Surprised you didn’t jump.

    Yes go for the MB. Do $200 now and $200 in January and that’s $400 of your money back in airline ticket credits. The lounge access is worth it.

    You didn’t say if you’re Hyatt Diamond or not. If you’re not, you might consider doing a Diamond Challenge during the fall to coincide with the fall promotion. Earn yourself 50,000 additional Hyatt Points, get Diamond and THEN apply for the card so the two nights you get are in a suite rather than just a room. Depends on your ability/willingness to stay in a bunch of Hyatt hotels though, 12 nights for the challenge, 20 to get the full 50K extra.

    I’d consider cancelling one of those SPG cards in January after the additional stay/nights credits post. You won’t lose them and you can then reapply a year later and get them again plus the bonus points. You could also wait that year until fall if you’ve already got SPG Platinum and get the annual 30K offer when it comes around again rather than jumping in January. I’d keep one of them open at all times of course…

    No love for the Chase Freedom? Seriously, with 5X for Gas Stations? Buying beans at 7-Eleven for the $1,500 limit gets you 7,500 United Miles in one quarter, if you hurry. You can almost certainly get approved for the Freedom as well as another Chase card, just do it 2nd and be prepared to call in. Plus Amazon is in the list for next quarter. This is a no-brainer to me.

    If you can get a 2nd Ink Bold why not a 2nd Ink Plus? I admit the Bus United offer will probably go away and you can do this one next quarter, but it should be in your bag for the future…

    • Buying Beans from 7-11 with a CC died a few weeks ago. Are you still able to do so?

    • Normally when I hear beans I just assume VR. I didn’t know they allowed CC to purchase a Vanilla GC at all.

    • @Glenn- Yep, missed out on the Citi/AA thing. Was away on vacation, and for whatever reason, just figured I’d wait until I got back to get in on them. Of course, by that time, they were gone. Stupid me…even after knowing how this hobby works, I still waited. Pretty bummed myself.

      Not a Hyatt Diamond, and to be honest, not all that interested in getting the status since I don’t usually stay at hotels. I get that it would be a nice perk, and especially to have suites for those two nights, but too much work for me.

      As far as the Chase Freedom, I just keep hoping the sign up bonus increases and that I’ll get it then, but it doesn’t seem like it. Might have to just bite the bullet and take the 10k sign up and do as you said.

      2nd Ink Bold was because it was the new Ink Bold and I already had the old Ink Bold. I don’t have a 2nd business yet, so couldn’t get a 2nd Ink Plus, but it is something I’m looking in to once I get my LLC up and running.

      Thanks for all the input!

  14. Doesn’t the Alaska Air 30K have an annual fee?

  15. How about upgrading your AX Hilton Honors to Surpass to save a hard pull?

    • @Will- Yeah, that is a great idea. I think I might do that instead….only issue is that I love being able to keep my Amex Hilton Honors open forever because there is no annual fee, which helps my average age of credit and keeps my credit score high.

      Have to weigh the trade off.

  16. IHG points seem so easy to get (if you stay there). I’ll have about 120K from 10 one night stays by the end of September. You also get the chances to buy 80K for less than $500.

    I’d say go Hyatt IF your going to max the 2 nights’ value. Like IHG there is an annual free night tp more than offset annual fee

    I’m surprised you missed the US Bank Olympic FlexPerks promo.

    • @Carl P- Yeah, agreed IHG points are easy to get, but since I don’t usually stay in hotels, I probably wouldn’t rack any up that way.

      In the end, I’m planning on getting both the Priority Club and the Hyatt cards, just trying to decide which order. And yes, if I do get the Hyatt card, I’ll definitely be maximizing!

  17. CARL not CATL. Yes I’ve had a drink or two.

  18. That Alaska Card is not free the first year. Not a bad deal for $75 but still…

  19. FYI – just to confuse you, for west coasters, I’d also suggest the Fairmont Card – mid tier status awarded with the card comes with a room upgrade, suite upgrade cert and $50 dining credit. Great properties like the Kea Lani (all-suite), Banff, Savoy, and Fairmont SF in a suite are hard to beat.

    • @James- Yeah, I noticed Fairmont has a huge presence in Canada, at some pretty swanky places (Lake Louise, Victoria). I definitely want to look in to that card next…although the extra perks might make me consider going for it now instead of Hyatt!

  20. We just upgraded our Hilton Honors to the surpass, will get 50,000 points after $3,000 spend , planning to downgrade after the first year. One less credit pull. Just a thought..

    • @Margo- I actually did the same thing. Didn’t get the 60k like I would have for opening a new one, but it didn’t save a credit pull, which is key. Thanks for the advice!

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