THIS PAGE CONTAINS REFERRAL LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
It’s time for my third Credit Card Churning Experiment Update! And this month saw some major progress, which makes it feel like this is actually working! I’m pretty excited to see it in action. I put this off for so long – now I’m finally reaping the benefits!
I finished my minimum spend on my first card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, in early October. I’ll give you the scoop on where I stand with that in my detail update at the bottom of the page. But since that card’s minimum spend was complete, it was time for another one!
If you’ve been following this experiment since the beginning you know that I had a proposed plan for which cards I was going to get in which order. (If you don’t know the history, you can read the introduction, the first update, and the second update)
Well, I’m changing up my plan entirely.
I had planned to follow a slightly modified version of the ChooseFI Chase Gauntlet. However, I’m going another way.
There are a few reasons I’m doing this
First, Chase changed the rules for getting the bonuses on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The new rule says you can’t get the signup bonus for both of them within 24 months. That means I need to delay signing up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, since the Preferred was my first card in this experiment. Luckily with the rule about business cards not counting towards Chase’s 5/24 rule, I should be able to do this while still churning a new card every 1-3 months.
Second, I had a lot of upcoming travel and I wanted to take advantage of some of the travel benefits available on high end travel cards.
Third, I keep hearing about one card in particular….one that is great for military members (so long as they are responsible credit users).
So I wanted a card that would get me a decent bonus, didn’t have a crazy expensive annual fee, and got me some sweet perks.
Enter the American Express Platinum Card
(apologies in advance…this post got lengthy because I’m really excited about this card!)
I decided to apply for the AMEX Platinum personal charge card. A charge card is slightly different than a credit card – you are expected to pay off your card in full each month. Because of this, there is no credit limit on the card. You should only apply for this card if you plan to pay your balance in full every month.
Why the AMEX Platinum?
- First and foremost – AMEX waives the annual fee (which is a hefty $550!) for active duty status military members! You have to apply for the benefits and they will verify your service. If you are a spouse of an active duty spouse member, you can receive the same benefit. Pretty awesome, right?
- This card has some amazing travel benefits, including:
- Up to $200 each calendar year in airline fee credits
- Up to $200 each calendar year ($15/month plus a bonus $20 in December) in Uber credits. I’m torn on this one, given Uber’s troubling culture. For that reason, I’m debating my future use of this credit…and I’m not providing a referral link.
- 5x Membership Rewards (points) when you book directly through an airline
- Fee credits for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Since, as a military member, I usually already get TSA Precheck, I’ll be applying for Global Entry.
- Access to 1000s of airport lounges around the world (I’ve already used this benefit four times!)
- Upgraded status at several hotel and car rental companies
- Complimentary Boingo WiFi
- And so much more!
- The card is currently offering a 60,000 Membership Rewards point bonus if you qualify for the card and spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. You can receive this bonus if you use my referral link. Membership Rewards can be transferred to many of the major airline and hotel rewards systems, including the major 3 airlines in the US – United, Delta, and American.
- I won’t go into the detail on authorized users, since I won’t be using that feature. Luckily Christine at Her Money Moves has already explained it in her post on this same card. If you are interested in this feature, check out her post!
Initial thoughts on the AMEX Platinum
I’ve been putting off getting this card for several years as all of my friends raved about the benefits. I’m now eating a big ‘ole slice of humble pie. This card is awesome (the actual card…it’s metal and hefty). The benefits are awesome. Even the box it arrives in is awesome! I’m a little upset that I’ve been wasting all these years of FREE access to this card, but at least I have it now!
If you decide to apply for this card, you can use my referral link: AMEX Platinum Card. If you sign up via that link, I will receive up to 15,000 Membership Rewards points per referral, up to a max of 55,000 per year (I know…55,000 isn’t easily divisible by 15,000. It bothers me too). You will receive an offer to get the same bonus I’m pursuing – 60,000 points after $5,000 spending in three months. You don’t have to sign up via the referral to receive the bonus, but if you sign up through my link you are helping support this blog.
If you use the referral link, great! Thank you very much! If not, I completely understand.
I know I said I was going to focus on Visa cards since I do a lot of my shopping at Costco, and they only take Visa. However, with these incredible benefits, the AMEX Platinum seemed worthwhile to me. Plus, I had four trips scheduled between October and December. That means a lot of out-of-the-norm spending, away from Costco. And a lot of opportunity to take advantage of airport lounges!
Applying For And Setting Up The AMEX Platinum
I was instantly approved for the card and offered to set it up immediately. The website said the card would arrive in 3-5 business days. I ordered it on a Saturday and received it on Tuesday.
When setting up my account, AMEX asked me questions I’ve never been asked by an account before. I could choose to opt in to a variety of alerts and informational emails. For instance, I chose to be notified when the card was used for large purchases (it defaults to $500 but I chose $100) and when a merchant credits money back to your card. You can also choose options such as Friday updates, which I think is a very smart option for people who are tracking their budget closely or if you don’t want to have to log in to check your balance.
My favorite alert is one I receive every time the card is charged without being physically swiped. This is a great idea, because if somebody uses the card info without actually having the card, I’ll know virtually instantly.
I also immediately set up online payment – literally, I did it within 5 minutes of being approved for the card. I thought at the time that I was simultaneously enrolling in AutoPay, but apparently I wasn’t because when I checked the account a week later, AutoPay was not turned on. If you plan to use AutoPay, make sure you double check this!
AMEX Platinum Benefits
Upon receiving the card, I went through the activation process then started immediately signing up for benefits. Here is what I was able to get right away:
- Lounge Access
- I enrolled in Priority Pass Lounge Access. I was told to expect the card in 10-14 days, but was hoping to receive it earlier due to an upcoming flight. The access card actually arrived in 6 days. I was able to use it during a trip starting the next day, which included a 2.5 hour layover. Score!
- AMEX platinum also comes with access to Delta lounges when you are flying Delta. Just show your AMEX Platinum card and a Delta boarding pass for that day, and you’re in!
- I’ll also be taking advantage of airport lounges during the rest of this year’s trips, including some Centurion lounges. They are supposed to be super luxe…a great way to kill time on a layover. FOR FREE (if you qualify for the military fee waiver).
- I added the card as my payment on Uber. I haven’t decided whether or not to actually use it yet. On the one hand – free rides from Uber! On the other hand – Uber.
- I picked my airline for my $200 airline fee credit. I chose United as it is the airline I fly most frequently. My plan is to use the credit to contribute to a gift registry for myself. That way, I can use the money on anything I want – including tickets! Here are some details on that.
- I signed up for Hilton Honors Gold. I was staying at a Hilton property for the trip I completed last week, but the Gold Member reward at that hotel wasn’t appealing to me (25% off the hotel restaurant). Still, I hope to make good use of this in the future.
- I signed up for Boingo Hotspot
- And I signed up for the car rental statuses
And More Benefits…
I also signed up for a bunch of the “AMEX Offers and Benefits” bonuses available. I won’t spell them all out because there were 100 to choose from and I signed up for a bunch, but here are some examples:
- One additional Membership Rewards point per dollar spent at Whole Foods through December 31st. I live very close to a Whole Foods and shop there weekly. While I don’t spend a ton of money there, this will be a few hundred extra points each year. Not shabby for a two second effort.
- A one-time statement credit if I spend $75 or more at a local seafood restaurant. I probably won’t do this because I don’t go there too often, but I have been there a couple times so it’s worth signing up just in case.
- A similar offer for another restaurant, except it’s $25 back if I spend $75, and I go there fairly frequently.
- $5 back when you spend $15 on SlingTV (I’ve been considering it).
My Other Cards
I’m keeping the Chase Sapphire Preferred (also a referral link) open for now. It’s perfect for when I can’t use the AMEX, like when I shop at Costco. This card comes with a 50,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. You can read my full writeup about it in my first and second updates.
I decided to downgrade my pre-experiment credit card to one with no annual fee. This will maintain my credit history and credit balance without having to pay an annual fee. It took about 15 minutes on the phone to work out which card I should get and complete the process.
Month Three Experience
I purchased another flight to my hometown using United and Delta points. This trip cost me 26,000 points (slightly more than normal) + $16.80 in fees for a flight that would have otherwise cost me $361. It was 12,500 points for the United flight and 13,500 for the Delta flight. That means my points value was 1.32 cents per point. I’m not really happy with that because I’m trying to get 1.5 cents or more per point, but hey – ya gotta go home for the holidays, right?
My Month Three Results!!
Everything here is based on my statement date, which happens to be the 17th of each month. You can expect my monthly updates to happen about week three of every month.
- Ultimate Rewards: 14,024
- United: 13,190
- Delta: 12,775
- Southwest: 1,637
- AMEX: 0
Starting Points/Miles as of September 17th: 41,626
- Ultimate Rewards: 51,268 (includes 50,000 point signup bonus!!!)
- United: 100 (from a work trip)
- Delta: 3,640 (from a work trip)
- Southwest: 0
- AMEX: 0 (no statement yet)
Points/Miles Earned In Month Three: 55,008 (I’m doing a happy dance right now)
- Ultimate Rewards: 0
- United: 12,745 (the plane ticket plus I lost 245 for a refund on my card….boooo)
- Delta: 13,500
- Southwest: 0
- AMEX: 0
Points/Miles Spent In Month Three: 26,245
New Point/Mile Totals:
- Ultimate Rewards: 65,292 (!!!!!)
- United: 545
- Delta: 2,915
- Southwest: 1,637
- AMEX: 0
Total Points/Miles as of October 23rd: 70,389
My Credit Score
As I’ve said before, I’m not worried about my credit score dropping a few points. That’s because I have no major purchases planned, no need to take out a loan anytime soon, and a high starting score. If you plan to take out a loan soon or are concerned about your score dropping, credit card churning might not be for you.
I baselined my credit scores in July – all changes are reported off that baseline.
Between July 6th and August 21st, my credit score went down by 7 points on USAA. When I checked this week, it was back up by 5 – so only down 2 points total since July.
Looking at Discover, between July 17th and August 21st my credit score fell 4 points. No big deal. When I checked this week it was down another 10, for a total loss of 14 points. This is unimportant to me, since I’m not opening a loan anytime soon and it’s high enough to not matter much. But I’ll keep an eye on it. Most reports I read about card churning said scores only went down in the single digits, so this was more than I expected.
By the way, I also noticed that I receive the Experian Score 8 for free as an AMEX customer. In future months, I’ll report changes to that score too.
This month was awesome! That bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is enough to buy two roundtrip tickets within the US. That’s a return on investment of hundreds of dollars per hour based on how long it took me to choose, apply for, set up, and use the card. Plus who knows how much happiness value that will turn into?
Lots. That’s how much.
I started the experiment in July with 52,472 points across four rewards programs. I’m on track to finish the year with about 75,000 points, plus two sets of roundtrip plane tickets. Maybe ~135,000 points, depending on exactly when I finish my minimum spend for the AMEX Platinum.
NOTE: Please do NOT use the referral links or start churning cards if you don’t plan to pay off your balance in full every month. I’ve been through the pain of having credit card debt, not paying off my bill each month, and even a couple late payments. That’s not something I recommend for anyone. Besides, the rewards are only a good deal if you pay off your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the interest you are paying will outweigh the rewards. Use credit wisely!