A year ago, I wrote a post in which I recapped all of the credit cards that I opened in 2017. That year was a big milestone for me – it marked my first year of playing the credit card/travel hacking game. Prior to 2017, I only had two credit cards – one was a Citi credit card that I got in college, the other was a Target credit card that gave me 5% off my Target purchases. In that first year, my wife and I opened up 12 credit cards between the two of us and racked up over 600,000 points and miles from signup bonuses. Not too shabby at all.
2018 marked my second year of travel hacking and it turned out to be even more lucrative than 2017! I ended up opening a total of 13 credit cards – 9 for me and 4 for my wife. In total, my wife and I accumulated almost 1 million points and miles from signup bonuses alone. When you add in the points we earned from the actual spending we did on the cards, we ended up accumulating over a million points and miles. That’s pretty incredible, especially when you consider that just 2 years ago, I literally knew nothing about credit cards and travel hacking.
I’ve always thought it was helpful when bloggers shared specifics with their audience, so, with the start of the new year, I thought I’d share all of the details about the credit cards I opened in 2018. My hope is that this post can give you a sort of roadmap as to how to go about doing things with credit cards. At a minimum, this post should hopefully give you a good look into how a regular person like me earns credit card rewards points.
The Credit Cards I Opened In 2018
I started out 2018 with the goal of opening up a new credit card about once every 3 months. My rationale was that since most cards give you 3 months to hit the minimum spend requirement, I’d basically always have a card that I could be working on a minimum spend with. I wrote in 2017 that I was planning to open up 4-6 cards for myself during the year. I ended up actually opening 9 cards.
Interestingly, all 9 of the credit cards I opened in 2018 were business credit cards (rather than personal credit cards). If you don’t know, business credit cards are the secret tool that everyone interested in travel hacking should take advantage of. Read this post if you’re looking for more information about how business credit cards work and why you need to use them if you want to maximize your travel rewards. For me, it comes down to the advantage of not having new cards appear on my credit report and the flexibility of staying under 5/24 when it comes to Chase.
Below is a recap of all of the credit cards I opened in 2018, listed in chronological order from the beginning to the end of 2018. For each card, I’ve listed the name of the card, the month I got the card (plus the month I closed the card, if applicable), and any other relevant information that I thought was worth sharing.
1. Chase Ink Business Preferred (Opened 2/2018)
I earned a total of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points by hitting the minimum spend requirement of $5,000 in the first 3 months. This was my second Chase Ink Preferred (CIP) card, so I was able to refer myself using the referral link from my first CIP card. By referring myself, I was able to earn the 80,000 point signup bonus, plus 20,000 points as a referral bonus.
This CIP is actually the business card that I use for this blog since it offers 3x points on ad spending. I’ve been running a lot of Facebook ads for this site, which means that using this card is very advantageous for me.
Note that the CIP does have a $95 annual fee, but that’s well worth it since the signup bonus is worth a minimum of $800 and worth at least $1,000 if used for travel. I use this card solely for blog expenses and will continue to keep it open for the foreseeable future.
2. CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard (Opened 2/2018, Closed 6/2018)
This card gave me 75,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The $95 annual fee is waived in the first year, so it was basically free points for me.
You’ll notice that I opened this card three times in 2018. The card normally comes with a restriction that only allows you to earn the bonus once every 24 months. However, Citi also sends out mailers for this card that do not contain this 24-month restriction. As a result, it was possible to get the bonus for this card multiple times by (1) closing the card after earning the bonus; (2) getting a mailer code from someone that didn’t contain this 24-month restriction; and (3) using the mailer code to apply for the card again.
Unfortunately, some recent restrictions have made this loophole a little bit harder to do – in the past, it was possible for multiple people to use one mailer, but now these mailers are limited to use by one person.
I ended up closing this particular card in June, then opening it up again by using a mailer code that I got from someone on Reddit. With the new restrictions that limit each mailer to one use, the only way I’ll be able to continue doing this trick is to either buy a mailer code from someone or hope that I start receiving these mailers in the mail.
3. American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card (Opened 3/2018)
The Delta Business Platinum card gave me 70,000 Delta SkyMiles, plus a $100 statement credit once I made my first purchase from Delta. I earned the 70,000 miles by hitting the minimum spend requirement and earned the $100 statement credit by buying a $50 Delta Gift Card.
This card did come with a $195 annual fee, but I found that this was worth it for the miles and the statement credit. I don’t need to keep this card, so I’ll close it when my annual fee is due.
4. Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (Opened 3/2018)
I opened this card right before the Marriott and SPG merger was completed, so this particular card does not exist anymore, but there’s another version of this card that’s basically the same. This card had a signup bonus of 75,000 Marriott points, which was pretty good. The annual fee was also waived in the first year. I’ll close this card when the annual fee comes due.
Note that if you’re looking for Marriott or SPG points, be sure to research the rules. With the Marriott-SPG merger, there are some fairly complex rules that determine whether you’re eligible to earn the bonus depending on which SPG or Marriott cards you open.
5. American Express Business Gold Card (Opened 4/2018)
This card gave me 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, along with $1,500 worth of G-Suite credit. It required $5,000 of minimum spend in 3 months, but that also included the $1,500 that I spent on G-Suite that was reimbursed by the card. Effectively, I only had to spend $3,500 in 3 months to earn the bonus.
My initial plan was to see if I could cancel the G-Suite plan and get a refund on the $1,500, which would have made this an insane bonus. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s possible based on what some friends have told me, but the $1,500 worth of G-Suite credit is still good for me to use on this blog (I use G-Suite for my business email and storage now, and with the $1,500 worth of credits that I’ve purchased, I basically can cover those expenses for the next decade).
My plan is to close this card once the annual fee is due – it’s a $195 annual fee that was waived in the first year.
6. CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard (Opened 6/2018, Closed 9/2018)
I opened this card soon after closing my first Citi American Airlines Business Card by using a mailer code that did not contain the 24-month bonus restriction. Like the first card, this one gave me 75,000 American Airlines miles after hitting the minimum spend.
I closed it in September once I hit the minimum spend.
7. Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard (Opened 7/2018)
This card gave me 50,000 American Airlines miles after making one purchase with the card. It has a $95 annual fee that isn’t waived in the first year, so essentially, it’s like I paid $95 for 50,000 American Airlines miles, since earning the bonus only required me to make a single purchase of anything.
$95 for 50,000 American Airlines miles was a good price, especially since I racked up a lot of American Airlines miles in 2018. I’ll close this card next year when the fee becomes due.
8. CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard (Opened 10/2018)
This was my third Citi American Airlines Business Card in 2018. I used another mailer before the loophole was closed. It’s still possible to take advantage of this loophole, but it requires buying the mailer from someone since the mailer codes can now only be used once. I’ll probably close this card again once I figure out if I want to keep accumulating American Airlines miles.
9. Chase Ink Business Unlimited (Opened 11/2018)
The Chase Ink Unlimited (CIU) is my 5th Chase business card. It seems like most people can get around 5 Chase business cards without too many issues, so long as you space out your applications enough. Since I opened my last Chase business card way back in March (the Marriott Business Card), I figured that enough time had passed for me to go for that 5th Chase business card. I wasn’t instantly approved when I applied, but it was then automatically approved after about a day.
This card gives me 50,000 Chase ultimate rewards points after I hit $3,000 of minimum spend in the first 3 months. It has no annual fee, so I could keep this card forever if I want.
Total Points I Earned From Credit Card Signup Bonuses in 2018: 620,000
I personally earned 620,000 points and miles from the 9 credit cards I opened in 2018. It’s a huge stash of points – more than it seems like I can spend while working a full-time job.
As for whether you can do this same thing, I’d say absolutely you can. If you’re doing any sort of side hustle, then you absolutely have a business, which means that you are eligible to open up business cards. A common mistake I see people make is thinking that they can only get a business card if they have a “real business.” The key is to remember that if you’re doing any gig economy or sharing economy thing, you absolutely have a real business.
There are some other things to note about the credit cards I personally got in 2018:
- I was able to hit a lot of minimum spends by using Gift of College cards. One of the ways I was able to hit the minimum spend on a lot of these cards was because I was able to pay my wife’s residency tuition with credit cards. Earlier in the year, there was a strategy where you could buy Gift of College gift cards at Toys-R-Us, then use those gift cards to basically pay your tuition. A $500 gift card cost $5.95 in fees, which came out to a 1.2% fee – well worth it for me to hit the minimum spend requirements (and actually worth it for anyone since even a regular credit card should earn more than 1.2% cashback). Unfortunately, since Toys-R-Us closed down, these Gift of College cards aren’t available for that low fee anymore, which makes the reward proposition less valuable now.
- Everyone should get two Chase Ink Preferred credit cards. I got my second Chase Ink Preferred card by using an EIN. The strategy with the CIP is to open your first CIP with your social security number, then open your second CIP using an EIN. Anyone can get an EIN from the IRS website, and it doesn’t have any tax implications when you get an EIN. Remember to refer yourself when you open your second CIP so that you can earn a referral bonus. In essence, two CIPs means you’ll have 180,000 Chase points once it’s all said and done (160,000 points for each signup bonus, plus 20,000 points for referring yourself).
- You can put personal expenses on business credit cards. A lot of people are reluctant to get business credit cards because they think that only business expenses can go on them. The truth is that there’s no actual requirement that your business credit cards only have business expenses on them. In any event, none of the credit card companies care what type of expenses go on the card. Note that if you have an actual business, it makes sense to only put business expenses on one particular card for accounting purposes. If you have a business that is incorporated in some way, you should also not mix any business or personal expenses for liability reasons. Of the 9 business cards I got in 2018, only 1 is used exclusively for business purposes. The rest pretty much only have or had personal expenses on them.
The Cards My Wife Got In 2018
My wife has always been more of a passive credit card user, and she pretty much only gets cards when I tell her to do so. We didn’t open any cards for her in the first half of the year since she was in the middle of buying a dental practice and we didn’t want any credit lines of credit or hard pulls messing up her practice loan approvals.
Once the purchase was completed, we tried to get her the Chase Ink Preferred card to use for her new business, but oddly, we got denied and Chase wouldn’t budge on letting her get the card (essentially, we were told to wait a few months and try again). Since we couldn’t get any Chase cards, we ended up getting a Citi business card and an American Express business card for her to use for her practice.
Below is some more detail about the cards my wife got in 2018. Note that every card my wife got in 2018 was for her dental practice. She didn’t get any personal cards or business cards not related to her practice (in other words, these cards are only used for her practice expenses).
1. CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard (Opened 6/2018)
We ended up getting this card because my wife needed a non-AmEx card to pay vendors with – many vendors only take Visa or MasterCard, which can make relying on just an American Express card problematic. Like with my Citi American Airlines business card, she earned 75,000 American Airlines miles once she hit the minimum spend (which basically took her two seconds to do because of how much overhead a dental practice like hers has).
2. Hilton Honors American Express Business Credit Card (Opened 6/2018)
We opened this card at the same time as the Citi business card. This card gave us 125,000 Hilton points after hitting the minimum spend. It has an annual fee of $95, which isn’t waived in the first year.
The rationale for this card was that it had a good signup bonus, and it also came with a Priority Pass that gave her 10 free lounge passes per year. We already have a priority pass with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, but since my wife doesn’t always travel with me, it made sense to make sure she had her own Priority Pass just for the times when she’s traveling on her own.
Right now, my wife has put so much spending on this card that we also ended up earning Hilton Diamond status and two free weekend nights. We’ll close this card when the next annual fee comes due since this isn’t really an ideal card for her to use for her regular business spending.
3. Chase Ink Business Preferred (Opened 10/2018)
We finally got this card for my wife’s practice towards the end of the year. I referred her using my CIP referral link, so we ended up getting a total of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points – 80,000 for hitting the minimum spend and 20,000 for the referral.
My wife now has two CIPs and I have two CIPs. Combined, we’ve earned 380,000 Chase points from those four cards.
4. American Express Blue Business Plus (Opened 11/2018)
This card didn’t have a signup bonus, but I wanted my wife to have a decent base American Express card to use for her practice. The point of this card is really just to serve as a base card that has a decent earnings rate for everyday business spending. Basically, all of my wife’s dental practice spending should go on either this card or the Chase Ink Preferred card.
Total Points My Wife Earned From Credit Card Signup Bonuses in 2018: 300,000
Altogether, my wife and I earned a combined 920,000 points and miles between all of the various cards we got in 2018. When you add in all of the points we earned from spending on the cards, we earned over 1 million points and miles. Crazy!
My Credit Card Strategy for 2019
2019 will pretty much be a fresh year for me, as I haven’t gotten a new personal credit card since May of 2018. What this means is that, by next year, I’ll pretty much be looking at a fresh slate when it comes to the Chase 5/24 rule.
At the moment, I don’t have any specific plans for any cards. Most likely, I’ll have my wife get the Chase Sapphire Reserve this upcoming year, and I’ll probably downgrade my Chase Sapphire Reserve when the next annual fee comes due.
One big thing is that my wife and I have the Southwest Companion Pass, which will expire at the end of 2019. The Southwest Companion Pass has proven to be really useful for us, so we’re definitely going to try to get it again for 2020 and 2021. This will involve either me getting the two cards necessary to earn the bonus, or we’ll have my wife earn the Companion Pass again since she’ll be eligible for Southwest bonuses at the end of the year (assuming the rules don’t change by then, which they definitely can).
2018 turned out to be a very good year on the travel hacking/credit card rewards front, and my wife and I have gotten to the point now where our mileage and points accounts are very full.
Getting started with all of this stuff can be scary, but like anything, once you understand how it works, it becomes much easier. Credit cards won’t make you rich, but if you do them right, they can be very valuable. For high-income earners, it becomes even more valuable since credit card points are tax-free.
If you have any questions about your own credit card plans, feel free to shoot me an email on my contact page. If you want to follow along with all of the credit cards I get, make sure to check out my “What’s In My Wallet” page, where I keep a running list of all of the cards I have opened.