Eight Reasons Why I Stopped Applying for Travel Rewards Credit Cards

I am stepping off the credit card application merry-go-round — for the time being.

Here are 8 reasons why:

1.  I am still holding unspent gift cards.  I acquired a number of gift cards to meet the  minimum spend requirements for the Chase Ink Plus rewards credit card  I opened last year.  These include  ITunes, Starbucks, Amazon, and  Trader Joes gift cards.  I have about $500 of credits on these various cards that I want to spend down before incurring another minimum spend requirement.

2. I need to give my credit score a break.  My credit score took a hit from numerous credit inquiries and from lowering the average age of my accounts.  A hiatus from credit card applications will allow my accounts to mature and give my credit rating a chance to recover.

3.  I can meet my immediate travel needs with points/miles already in hand.  My family has lots of travel planned for this summer, but with 180,000 points/miles in the bank, I should be able to finance about half a dozen cross-country flights.  At a recent Frequent Flyer University conference, the advice from the experts was to use your miles to protect against program devaluations.

4.  There are great new offers just around the corner.  It seems like there are always new bonus offers for opening rewards credit card accounts.  There are more than half a dozen very attractive offers that interest me right now.  I am guessing that these opportunities are not going to go away any time soon, and if they do, something new and maybe better will come along.

5.  I want to be strategic in any future applications.  I need time to map out a strategy consistent with my family’s travel needs over the coming year.  I anticipate a lot of train travel in our future, so I would like to start collecting Amtrak points.  I would love to plan a trip to Japan but that is not in our budget for now.  It takes time to learn the intricacies of  booking award flights and hotels with frequent flyer miles.  I want to take stock of my long-term goal, and determine how many points/miles are realistically needed to finance a trip to Japan.

6.  I would like to stay flexible in case a great limited time offer comes around.  If a surprise offer for a large number of bonus points hits the street, I do not want to be rejected for “too many recent inquires” on my credit report.

7.  I have great points earning opportunities with the cards in my wallet.  I am a long-time holder of the Chase Freedom card which gives 5 times points on popular categories every quarter.  The Chase Ink card pays 5 times points on routine business expenses such as monthly phone charges and the cell phone bill.  These cards provide a steady stream of points without much effort.

8.  I want to understand the pros and cons of various programs.  When I first got into the game, I applied for cards on an ad hoc basis.  As a newbie, I did not always make the smartest choices.  I don’t have much flexibility on when I can travel and I prefer nonstop flights.  Some programs offer easier and more plentiful redemption options.  Others may be less flexible, for instance only allowing redemptions for round-trip tickets, or only offering nonrefundable tickets.  Information about the pros is readily available.  I’d like to better explore the cons.

For a good discussion of the potential dangers of applying for credit cards, see this post by Million Mile Secrets.

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There is no doubt that applying for travel rewards credit cards can net you large bonuses that can pay for tons of free travel.  By taking a breather, I can better assess the options that make the most sense for my family — which may be instructive for others.

Have you taken a break too, or are you still gung ho for big points earning opportunities?

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10 thoughts on “Eight Reasons Why I Stopped Applying for Travel Rewards Credit Cards

    • No, you are on the boat already. The article is geared more towards someone who may not have credit cards or who may not understand how having the right credit cards can be good. I think you are taking a hiatus for the right reasons. I have tried very hard to go slow, even when I see post after post explaining how many cards one can apply for in a churn, how to manufacture spend, etc. My own approach since Nov. 2013 – so I am still a bit of a newbie – is to forgo some good offers when the spend was a stretch for me, dependent on VRs or other such games. I am happy to do a few VRs a month if I can find them easily and a clerk agrees to accept my CC – not something I can depend on where I live – but I use manufactured spend only to get me to a minimum spend more quickly.

      I am re-evaluating a bit too – considering aiming at cards with hotel points and cash back over those with miles. I booked our first award trip and it was a nightmare to get it. We could only do it since we were very flexible and willing to fly a really crummy routing. For people with work obligations and time constraints, booking award trips is hard. I already had to deal with one cancelled flight in the award itinerary and wonder how many more may come between now and late August when we go. I am starting to think that it works best for those who use manufactured spend to run up huge point balances, so they can book standard rather than saver awards. Those come up a lot more frequently.

      I just did a churn and have a few more cards in mind to get in late summer/early fall, but at that point I may be following in your footsteps, now that I feel I can better evaluate this points and miles game. But you’ll have to excuse me – gotta call to authorize two new cards the postman just brought and add them to this churn’s spreadsheet. My hobby calls!

      • Your post gave me a chuckle. I hope you have a great trip in August!

        I too have found that the “saver” awards are less likely to be available for nonstop flights and for travel days other than Tuesday and Wednesday. In my case, I go ahead and book domestic award tickets for 40,000, 50,000, and sometimes 60,000 miles. These are trips to see family that would put a great strain on our budget if we had to pay cash. This may be heresy to the points and miles gurus.

        That’s why I started this blog — I wanted to write about travel deals for the ordinary person — not about trips to Dubai in first class.

  1. TWA44 is correct. I wrote the article about 6 ways credit cards can be good for you for young people just starting out who have heard that credit can be dangerous or bad for their budgets. I think you guys who are heavily into discounts, freebies, miles, points and bargains already know most of the points in the article.

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  3. I think you have the right idea about slowing down. I’m slowing down as well, mostly because I have 3 weeks vacation a year and plenty of points to travel well for that amount of time. I have 10 days at the Conrad Maldives via Etihad Air (bus there / 1st return), then a 15 day ATW trip in Feb, 1st all the way.

    that just about takes all my time off from work. I don’t understand people who try so hard to collect millions of points. If you’re unemployed, then I get it, but most people can’t stay gone long enough to use all that.

    I’ll slow down to let a few hard inquiries fall of my credit report. I spend enough to collect points too. I’ll jump back in if I get more time.

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