In the pursuit of credit card bonuses, airline miles and hotel points a growing number of travel hacks have turned to credit card churning. A controversial method of working the credit card companies and chasing points. But is this method worth it for the Average Joes?
Credit card churning involves applying for, then getting a credit card, earning those bonus points, and then cancelling the credit card before any annual fee is due. Then, the credit card holder waits a few months, then reapplies for the same credit card that they just cancelled, chases the new reward points, gets the bonuses, then cancels the card a second time. Then they repeat the process a third time, and then a fourth time and so on.
And, this technique has worked for many travel hacks. For a while.
But, like all good things that are advertised, this technique is now drawing unwanted attention by the very credit card issuers who we hacked. This is why I am an advocate of the “keep it safe, keep it secret” methodology. But, that debate is for another page.
Let us look at the fundamentals of this technique and why this may or may not work for the Average Joes.
First, you are going to draw unwanted attention on your credit report. An important factor on your credit report is the age of your credit history. Suppose you have one mortgage bill and you have had that account open for ten years. Then you decide to open a credit card account. The credit rating companies average the two accounts together to create an “average age” of your credit history. For this example, a ten year old account plus a one month old account, equals a five year age of credit history. Add, a third account and it comes down even lower. Add a fourth, and it drops even more.
I do not do credit card churning (much); however, the average of my credit history is just over two years. That is because I open a new account every few months. It prevents me from “aging out” my credit history because I keep bringing it down with new additions. Every time I check my Credit Karma, I see a big old red flag regarding my “Age of Credit History.”
Second, credit card companies are getting wise to this technique. If you check the fine print of your offer, you may see verbiage to the effect, “bonus points are not available if you have held this card within the last few years.” Yep, the word is out. The credit card companies are dropping the hammer and stopping people from getting unlimited bonus points through card churning.
Third, credit card companies are very wise to people who open to many accounts to fast. This is a time honored warning flag to the credit card companies that something is amiss. I applied for a credit card recently and I was turned down. Reason, “Too many accounts opened to quickly.” The same can happen to you if you are not careful.
You are going to fine blogs that promote credit card churning. It is a travel hack that is being promoted by a number of travel hack experts. And, I do not doubt it worked for them. I just recommend to my Average Joes think long and hard about doing it. You can still chase points, bonuses and arbitrage opportunities. But, be careful about cancelling a credit card, just with the idea of getting it back months later.
You fought long and hard to get those credit cards. Now, don’t just throw them away!
I am always interested in your thoughts and experiences. Let me know what you think of credit card churning and your experiences, if any, with it.