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Historically, one of the best and easiest ways to get a ton of airline miles and hotel points has been through credit card signups
(SEE ALSO: How I got a million points (and you can too!))
With a few timely credit card signups, you could easily rack up enough miles to travel just about anywhere you wanted. Credit card churning was the main contributor to Frequent Miler’s “Million Mile Madness” a few years ago, where he attempted to earn 1,000,000 points in one month!
Current credit card churning rules – a crackdown
Recently however, the banks have been cracking down on credit card churning, making it harder for people that repeatedly sign up for credit cards to get new signup bonuses. Some banks are denying applicants with too many recent applications outright, while others won’t give a bonus if you’ve had the card recently.
I’ve attempted to compile the known information for each of the major banks, based on other blogs, online travel resources and my own personal experiences. If you have corrections, comments or other data points, I’d love to hear them in the comments
American Express credit card churning rules and best practices
The American Express official policy appears to be a maximum of 4 credit cards that you can have at one time, and this does NOT include charge cards (like the American Express gold card). The 4 credit card maximum includes Business AND Personal cards, but does not appear to include cards where you are just an Authorized user.
This Flyertalk thread shares some examples and data points of the 4 card policy. There does appear to be some exceptions as Dans Deals reports that he has TEN! Amex cards, though many people have reported that higher numbers of cards were from before the 4 card limit was introduced, and any new cards would not be approved unless and until the person closed enough cards to get under the 4 card limit.
Best practices for American Express is that most American Express PERSONAL cards will not allow you to get a bonus if you’ve ever received a bonus for that product before. You used to be able to get a bonus on an American Express business card if you hadn’t had the card in the past 12 months, but that has now changed – American Express business cards are now also only one bonus per lifetime.
Bank of America credit card churning rules
Bank of America has probably the most relaxed credit card churning rules. As it stands currently, all Bank of America cards can be churned indefinitely. Bank of America also combines credit pulls from the same day into one pull, so there are even reports of people getting multiple Bank of America cards on the same day!
I should caution that there have been reports of people being either audited, denied or outright having their accounts shut down for deceptive behavior. If you have too many Bank of America cards open, you might also not be offered the Visa Signature card, which is the one that comes with the bonus that you want.
Barclays credit card churning rules
Barclays cards are also churnable, per the Doctor of Credit master post on the subject. Personally I’ve not had good luck getting Barclays cards. Back before the Barclay Arrival card gutted any of its benefits, I had tried to sign up for a second one. I was denied, and even though I called the Barclay reconsideration phone number, I could not get them to approve me.
Miles to Memories reports that there appears to be a system in place that will automatically decline you if you already have the card you’re trying to apply for. You might have better luck canceling and then re-applying. Recommended minimum wait time between applications is around 6 months, though that’s more of a guideline.
Chase credit card churning rules
Recently, Doctor of Credit reported that Chase has been denying anyone who has 5 or more applications for credit cards within the past 24 months, from ANY bank. This applies for applications for the Chase-branded credit cards (such as Freedom, Sapphire
or Ink). From the data points that we have, churners are still able to apply for Chase cards like the IHG or Hyatt cards.
EDITED Nov-2015: It appears that the Ink card does NOT fall under the Chase 5/24 rule -see The Chase 5/24 rule: cards that churners still CAN get
It also appears that Authorized User accounts are counting towards the 5 application limit.
Citibank credit card churning rules
Bonus Hilton HHonors points are not available if you have had any Citi®Hilton HHonors™ card opened or closed in the past 24 months.
This is a deterrent to churners, though it doesn’t completely rule out things. For example, between the 2 of us, we have 3 Hilton HHonors cards (they used to be much more churnable), but we’ve just kept them open. So as I understand it, because it’s been 24 months since we opened the cards, we should both still be eligible.
This is a change as of August 2016 – previously you were only ineligible for the bonus if you had opened or closed THAT particular card within the past 24 months (SEE: Citi changes the rules to crack down on churners)
This is a change as of April 2016 – previous to that it was only 18 months required between opening and closing the account and getting the bonus again (SEE: An update to the Citi churning rules)
The general guidelines for applying for Citibank cards are:
- Maximum of one Citi application per eight day period
- No more than two applications per 65 day period
- No more than one business application per 95 day period
If you have questions about other banks, such as US Bank, Discover, Capital One or others, I recommend this Doctor of Credit post.