How many credit cards should you apply in 1 calendar year ?

Card FAQ

Someone suggested 10 for excellent FICO.  The number seems to vary per individual.

In my case, I have applied for 17 credit cards with approvals (except 1) since the beginning of 2012, and successfully refinanced our home with excellent rates twice.  The 17th card application was pending approval, also drew a hard credit pull, probably due to a Bank of America business card application practice.  The card was eventually approved 5 days later.  Hard credit pull is not favorable.  This is a stop sign for me for more credit card applications.   I plan to not applying more cards until March 2014.

Why apply this time and no more cards?

The following is my order for 14th, 15th, 16h and 17th card applications.
  • Chase United MileagePlus Card - 55,000 sign-up bonus United miles with $2000 spending in 3 months and $50 statement credit. I like United miles and its StarAlliance network.  Devaluation of Feb 1, 2014 is disappointing.  This easy 55,000 (+5000 is from adding an authorized card user) bonus United miles becomes more valuable.

  • American Express Premier Rewards Gold card - 25,000 Membership Rewards points with $2000 spending in 3 months.  I plan to "experiment and experience" the American Express Membership Rewards program. just like the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.
  • Alaska Airline Visa Business Card from Bank of America - 25,000 Alaska miles with first purchase, $75 non-waive-able membership.

We have to spend money for Black Friday, Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping anyway.  May as well use these purchases to collect large bonus points.  Spending requirements are low this time also.  Total is $4,000 + one purchase in 3 months, to collect, 135,000 miles/points for a period of 3 months.
  • 55,000 United miles (60K miles for Europe, 70K for Asia round-trip United economy/coach-class)
  • 25,000 Membership Rewards points
  • 55,000 Alaska miles (60K miles round-trip Asia - US with Cathay Pacific)
Suppose I can earn a 3% cash back if using Costco credit card for these expenses,  

$4000 x 3% = $120

Opportunity cost: $120 + $100 card membership fees = $220

For $220, we can redeem at least two economy/coach-class round-trip flight tickets between Europe and US, or Asia and US, worth about $2300.  Sounds good for 2014 vacations.

All of the below checks give a green sign
  • Excellent FICO score (730+) - I use to have an approximate idea of what my FICO score is.  Home refinance agent informed me that 730+ is considered excellent credit score.  Therefore, I use 730 as the breakpoint.
  • No new credit card application during the last 95 days - I like to throw in a several extra days to make sure a clean +90 days of non-activity.
  • Sufficient revolving credits - approval success rate increases if credits are available to be transferred from existing/holding credit cards to new credit cards.  Revolving credits can be built up by transferring credits to another of your holding credit card issued by the same bank (Chase, Bank of America, AMEX) when you close a card.  $10,000 credit in each holding credit card would be sufficient for this purpose.
  • Apply all new credit cards on the same day - the hope is that the application activity would not be detected on the same day after the first card application.  Practicing this would not hurt.  Each application still pulls from credit report.
  • Ready to call reconsideration line if pending approval - Typically two new credit card applications, if not on the same day, have to be at least 91 days (3 months) apart.  For Chase credit cards, it is recommended 6 months or 180 days apart.  I would not violate these rules, again.  My only credit card online rejection was when I applied two Chase cards with only 2 weeks apart.  After that, I waited 8 months before a new Chase card application was approved.
  • Manageable card spending requirements - estimate how much you would normally spend in the next 3 months, considering any recurring upcoming expenses such as auto, house insurances, car repair, and special events such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas shoppings. 

The following are reminders for myself:
  • NO MORE than 16 cards in 2 years
  • NO MORE than 5 active Chase (business + Personal) cards holding
  • NO MORE than 4 active AMEX cards holding.

17 is my number, with no new application of Bank of America Business card.

Updated Nov 12, 2013 - United Airline miles 30% discount promotion

If United miles are used to redeem for business class tickets (120K miles round-trip, or 160K miles after Feb 1, 2014), the 55,000 miles are worth near half of the business class ticket price.  55,000 United miles is available for $2000.  I received a targeted United miles promotion via email today.  55,000 United miles is available for $1500.  I strongly recommend NOT to redeem these purchased miles for an Economy/Coach-class flight ticket which is available for $1200 via  Save these purchased miles for your Business or First Class tickets.

I do not know when United will have United miles sales promotion again.  Neither Isa or my parents receive this targeted email promotion this time.  Isa has 300K+ UA miles, my Dad has about 70K, I have collected 130K (plus the 55K bonus coming).  My best guess is to keep your United miles inventory above 100K.

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