2018 is the year of denials, it seems.

Between me, my wife, and my business, we’ve applied for dozens of credit cards over the past few years, and it isn’t until recently that I’ve started getting denied. It’s starting to make me rethink my strategy a little bit, since it does seem like the gravy train I’ve been on is coming to an end. There have been plenty of sky-is-falling prognostications around the major hurdles put up in the past few years (Amex once-per-lifetime, Chase 5/24, Citi once-per-family, etc.), but I’ve never found those to be catastrophic in practice. Sure it would be nice to churn Amex cards every 12 months like in the past, but it’s still possible to build up a seven-figure stash of points even in the current environment.

What’s most concerning to me isn’t the restrictions banks are putting on earning bonuses, but rather the restrictions on actually getting approved for cards in the first place. My first rejection came from Bank of America, who declined me for an Alaska Visa because I had too many recent inquiries and not enough business with the bank. And, this past week, Captial One denied my application for a Venture card, despite the fact that I was responding to a targeted offer with its own RSVP code and everything. The Capital One denial was instant as well — they knew right away that they wanted no part of me.

A couple days later I was able to download a letter explaining why I was rejected, and they gave me three reasons: too many recent inquiries, not enough cards with a revolving balance, and not high enough income. The income one is weird (not that my salary is anything to brag about), since Capital One markets all kind of subprime credit cards, and no bank has ever refused me on these grounds before. The other two I understand, although it’s not great to know that the exact strategies of credit card churning (opening cards and not carrying a balance) are now showing up as reasons to deny new applications.

Now I’m at a crossroads, since I’ve mined all the low-hanging bonus fruit as well as a bunch of fruit higher up in the tree. My new Morgan Stanley Amex will be my last big Membership Rewards bonus until Amex either introduces a new card or sends me a targeted offer without the once-per-lifetime language. Chase’s doors are closed to me, since even applying for cards not under 5/24 could risk an audit of my account and a shutdown due to too many recent inquiries. My 2-3x per year Alaska bonus is gone thanks to BofA, and I’m ineligible for Citi bonuses until May of ’19 on the Prestige/Premier and April of ’20 for American Airlines.

I could keep scraping the barrel for more bonuses here and there — I’m eligible for the Amex Delta Platinum (personal) and the Delta Gold (business), although I told myself no more Delta bonuses until I spend the SkyMiles I already have. I want to get Barclay’s JetBlue card at some point, since it’s always nice to have enough points on hand for a Mint flight (assuming Barclay will approve me for a third card). And I think I’ll be able to get a lot of value out of the new Amex Marriott/SPG Luxury card coming out in August — it will have a high fee, but with a $300 hotel credit and what I’m guessing will be a 75-100k Marriott bonus, it will at least make sense for a year. There’s also a few hundred thousand Hilton points to be had across various cards I’m still eligible for. Whether I should go for these bonuses is another story.

I’ve never contemplated sitting on my hands and waiting to get back under 5/24 until now. Or at least sitting on my hands for 6-8 months and then trying again for cards like the Alaska Visa. I’m torn, since the bonuses I mentioned above certainly present a good opportunity, as well as almost a year’s worth of minimum spending if I chased down every one of those opportunities. However, all of those cards offer bonuses that are at the margins of my overall travel strategy, so it may make sense to try to pull back and look at the longer-term picture, especially since I have enough points to meet my travel goals for the next couple years.

This year started off with a lot of promise, what with new Hilton cards in January and rumors of new SPG/Marriott cards as well as rumors of Barclay introducing a new premium card with transferrable points. While the Amex SPG news is undoubtedly good, Chase’s changes to Marriott and IHG’s cards are mostly irrelevant given my reluctance to poke Chase in any way, and the Barclay card was a transcendently lame dud. The landscape isn’t being upended by any game-changing cards right now, and whenever a new card does come out, it’s not even certain that it will be available to churners in the first place.

Anyone else out there getting discouraged by denials? I know denials are part of the game, but it has seemed particularly frustrating lately, since of my four applications so far this year, two haven’t been approved. Oh well. My tentative plan right now is to wait at least until August when the new SPG cards come out, and which point I’ll probably apply. I’m not sure about the others, though.

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  1. memmie leblanc says:

    no, I don’t think so, not at all


  2. Christian says:

    It’s getting tougher, that’s for sure. I’m just about at 5/24, but between business and personal, I have 10 Chase cards, and all of them are used regularly, have a worthwhile hotel night for the fee, or are Freedom cards with good benefits and help on account aging. With the other big banks, it’s a similar circumstance, so tough to get worthy cards there. I applied for an Ameritrade Aeroplan card just to keep away from the big boys for a change.


    1. DCJoe says:

      Get in the AA mailer game. Been getting codes on reddit since January- for free or maybe $20. Getting a new card every month. 60k bonus plus ask via secure message and Citi will gift you an extra 15k, so 75k per card total. Built up 390k AA miles so far this year.


      1. Christian says:

        I haven’t really used Reddit. I guess it’s time to sign up. Thanks!


  3. DCJoe says:

    Re: Capital One- they have been rejecting churners for years now, so don’t feel bad.

    Might want to think about Marriott business card. Not 5/24 dependent, and doesn’t add to 5/24 count.


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