I love samurai movies. My favorite movie of ALL TIME is The Last Samurai. I also love the classics like Seven Samurai. I also really enjoy the fantasy genre. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched Lord of the Rings and how many times I will continue to watch it. I also really enjoy martial arts. I have dabbled in Aikido, Taekwondo and Muay Thai, and my ultimate goal in life is to become a full time martial artist. I greatly admire Bruce Lee and his work ethic.
So why am I giving you all the proof you need to call me a nerd? That’s because it helps me break down things in life into a battle of good against evil. It makes really dull subjects sound pretty darn epic. I previously wrote about how inflation is a beast and you need to slay it. I’ve also written about the monstrous nature of student loans and the need to keep attacking them. Noticing a pattern?
The next beast I would like to attack is credit cards. But this is not just simple attacking and killing it by not getting into credit card debt. We are actually going to take this beast and make it our pet, turning it into an easy source of tax free income year after year. How do we accomplish such sorcery? Through credit card churning of course.
It is said that the battle is won even before the first strike. This usually means that victory goes to the most prepared. When it comes to credit card churning, I couldn’t agree more. We want credit cards to work for us, but the fact is that most people end up working for credit cards. This is not an easy task but all it takes is a good battle plan and good execution.
For the uninitiated, many credit card companies offer sign up bonuses with their most popular cards. For example, one of my favorite credit cards is the Chase Ink Plus. It gives you 5 points for every dollar spent on TV/internet bills and purchases at office supply stores. This is a decent percentage of my monthly expenses, so it helps me to use it every month. But the key point is the sign up bonus. Currently, Chase is offering 50,000 Ultimate Reward points for signing up for this card and spending $5,000 in 3 months. That seems like a lot, but it comes out to spending $1,666.67 a month for 3 months. Some people spend that much in a week.
50,000 Ultimate Reward points translates into $500 cash back at the minimum, and can save you even more if redeemed for travel. To keep things simple, let’s assume we’re only using the points for cash back, as redeeming for travel presents a whole other realm of possibilities. So in essence, you got $500 for doing your normal spending. Not a bad deal. Now find another credit card with a sign up bonus and repeat. This is what credit card churning essentially is. It sounds like a dangerous game, and it really can be if you’re not careful. But if you follow just two rules, you’ll be be able to turn this dangerous beast into your little pet puppy:
1. Know your Credit Score
This is the most important weapon to have in your utility belt. Having a GREAT credit score will almost ensure your approval for many of the awesome sign up bonuses out there. Having a poor credit score will keep you out of the credit card rewards game entirely. There are a number of factors that help in increasing your credit score, but one of the most important things is to be able to monitor your score. You can get your score from the FICO website for $20 a pop, but that can get to be a little pricey if you want to check your score every month or so.
Credit Sesame allows you to access your free credit score anytime. I have been using it for a couple of years and it works great. It uses some demographic that you provide to get your score. While it is not an “official” score, it is almost exactly the same as my real score.
I’m a skeptical person by nature, because I know companies offer sales or “free” products in order to make some money for themselves. So what’s the catch? The catch, if you could call it that, is that Credit Sesame makes its money by suggesting certain credit cards or accounts that may benefit you based on your information. You certainly don’t have to accept those offers, and even if you don’t, the credit score is always free. Pretty simple business model.
2. DO NOT OVERSPEND
Credit card debt is one of the worst things in the world. Credit cards charge very high interest rates and you usually have nothing to show for the debt except clothes and electronics that go stale in a few weeks. Don’t start spending more than usual and get into debt because of it. If you don’t want the pet dragon to turn against you, you would be wise to remember this. Just do what you’re comfortable with. If you only want to do one sign up bonus every 4 months, that’s fine. If you feel confident in hitting sign up bonuses for 6 cards every 3 months, that’s fine too. I’m somewhere in the middle, around 3 cards every 4 months or so.
Again, do what you’re comfortable with. It’s not worth a few hundred dollars in rewards to find yourself in debt to Visa. I find credit card churning fun, and once you start overspending, the fun is over. That’s when you call it quits and focus on getting your spending back in order.
This post provides a very basic overview of credit card churning to get sweet, sweet sign up bonuses over and over again. There is SO much more to the process, such as finding the best sign up bonuses and ways to meet spending requirements without actually “spending” money, but those topics will be for future posts.
Just remember to keep an eye on your credit score to make sure it’s nice and high, and absolutely do not spend more than you usually do. With this knowledge in hand, the beast doesn’t stand a chance! Get your credit score and get started. Remember that you can ignore the other offers and stick to just getting your free score.