We all have that one friend who always seems to be traveling for “free.” Or that friend who always seems to be talking about how many “points” or “cash back” they got on their latest credit card. Did you know that what your friends are doing has a name? They’re churning credit cards. Want to learn how and get in on the fun? Churning credit cards is the practice of opening credit cards to reap their sign up bonuses. In this post, I’ll be covering how to churn credit cards effectively and my personal take on it in order to maximize your rewards even further!
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What Is Credit Card Churning?
Credit card churning is the process of opening a credit card in order to attain the signing bonuses. When you do this, you can redeem a large amount of credit card rewards in the form of cash back, miles, or points. Most people will either close, downgrade, or stop using the card after they get the bonus.
How Does Churning Credit Cards Affect My Credit Score?
Applying for a credit card will put a hard inquiry on your credit report. These inquiries remain on your credit score for two years before they’re taken off. Two components of your credit score are your length of credit history (15%) and pursuit of new credit (10%). Getting a new credit card will show that you are pursuing new credit (a hard inquiry) and also reduce the average length of your credit history. These will both negatively impact your credit score in the short term. These will be reversed when inquiries are taken off your report in two years and simply with time, which will increase your credit history length.
I personally have gotten 24 credit cards over the past 6 years and my credit score is above 760. You can churn responsibly and still keep a great credit score. Learn about all the components of your credit score here before you start learning how to churn credit cards.
Is Credit Card Churning for Me?
Credit card churning isn’t for everyone. In order to make it worthwhile, you have to be able to manage a lot of different credit cards and be organized. Here are four reasons that credit card churning may not be for you.
You Don’t Pay Your Bills In Full Every Month
Credit card annual percentage rates (APRs) are renown to be one of the highest around. This means that if you aren’t paying your bills on time, you’ll end up with a ton of interest accrued on your debt. This will negate the bonuses you received churning quickly as well as spiral you into bad spending habits.
You’re Not Organized
When you are credit card churning, you’ll have to manage many bills, statements, and cards. If you’re not organized, you’ll end up misplacing cards, forgetting to pay your bills, or even forget what cards you even have. Make sure that you know what you can manage before churning credit cards.
You’re Planning On Buying A House Soon
One of the most important things to know when you learn how to churn credit cards is the short term impact it has on your credit score. Getting one new credit card will impact your score minimally, if at all. However, if you’re getting too many cards at once, you can expect to see a bit of a drop because your average credit history length will drop and your pursuit of new credit will go up. If you’re looking to buy a house in the next two years, you might want to take a break from credit card churning. Monitor your credit report and always know what’s happening with your score at all times.
You Can’t Organically Spend Enough to Redeem the Bonus
If you have to constantly force yourself to spend a certain amount to redeem a signing bonus, you shouldn’t be churning credit cards. While it may seem great to get that new TV for free, did you really need it? Don’t force yourself to spend money to get money.
4 Best Credit Cards To Start Churning With
What are the best cards to start with when you start learning how to churn credit cards? Some great starter cards to start churning with are these three below. All of these credit cards have no annual fees and are a staple for your wallet.
- Capital One Savor One: $200 back after a $500 purchase in your first three months. No annual fee.
- Chase Freedom Flex: $200 back after a $500 purchase in your first three months. No annual fee.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: $200 back after a $500 purchase in your first three months. No annual fee.
These cards give you a 40% return rate on your first $500 in purchases! Churning credit cards is a great way to get great rates on cash back.
If you’re looking to get even more return and willing to spend a considerable annual fee, you can look at these credit cards.
- American Express Platinum: 75,000 points ($750 cash value or potentially more if redeemed for travel) after $5000 spending in your first six months. $550 annual fee.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 60,000 points ($600 cash value or potentially more if redeemed for travel) after $4000 spending in your first three months. $550 annual fee.
You can downgrade your Chase Sapphire Reserve later on to a Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited, which have no annual fee. However, you can’t downgrade the American Express Platinum to a no annual fee card. You’ll have to close it if you want to stop paying an annual fee, which will negatively impact your credit score in the short term.
5 Ways on How to Churn Credit Cards Effectively
When you churn credit cards, it’s important to keep a couple things in mind in order to maximize your rewards, minimize the impact on your credit, and maximize your approval rate.
Downgrade Your Annual Fee Cards After the Bonus
Many credit card churners use this technique to avoid paying hefty annual fees as well as the ding on their credit report for closing a card, while still reaping the signing bonuses. Not all annual fee card have no annual fee counterparts that you can downgrade to, so make sure you do your research. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve can be downgraded to the Chase Freedom Flex or the Chase Freedom Unlimited but the American Express Platinum can only be downgraded to another annual fee card such as the American Express Gold. Do your research when researching how to churn credit card by looking for hidden rules.
Look For No Annual Fee Cards
I personally like churning no annual fee cards because I’m not a heavy spender. $500 is easy for me to spend organically in three months and I don’t have to go out of my way to make big purchases to get the signing bonus. Churning no annual fee credit cards will allow you to optimize your rewards without worrying about paying fees. The downside to churning no annual fee cards is that you’ll have to apply for more cards, resulting in more inquiries in your report in the short term.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Always be monitoring your credit report. This way you will know when new inquiries are put on your report, when they will fall off, and how your credit score is doing.
Know the Hidden Credit Card Churning Rules
Credit card companies try to mitigate the amount of bonuses they have to pay out to credit card churners and have hidden “rules” in play. These companies will automatically reject you if you are subject to these rules. Although Chase has the infamous 5/24 rule, which means that you cannot be approved for five credit cards in the past 24 months or you will automatically be rejected. This applies to all credit cards, not just Chase credit cards. Research each credit card provider to see if they have hidden rules that other credit card churners have found out.
Set Your Bills on Auto Pay
When you’re managing multiple credit cards with a variety of statement balance due dates, it can be hard to remember to pay your bills all on time. Make sure you’re setting your bills on auto pay and have enough money in your checking account so that you aren’t paying late fees or overdraft fees.
Learning how to churn credit cards is pretty simple once you get into it. Churning credit cards isn’t for everyone but when it’s done effectively, it can make for a great way to make some extra cash. Learn how I stack even more cash back onto my credit card churning here!
Hello, I’m Chloe! I’m the primary author of Off Hour Hustle. Currently, I work as a software engineer, sell products through eBay, Etsy, and OfferUp, have 26+ credit cards, and am always working to diversify my income streams. In my spare time, I enjoy climbing, hiking, and other outdoor activities.