Charlie contacted me wanting to share his experiences with applying for his first rewards cards, hoping it would be useful for other newbies. Each person’s ideal cards are different. Charlie had to convince a skeptical spouse and had unique goals for his upcoming travel. For comparison, see how this shaped his card choices differently than Rookie Alli’s.
Charlie is a software developer and consultant, now mostly retired, in Poulsbo, Washington. He writes about testing and test-driven development at It’s the Tests.
Previously: Charlie’s First Cards: Planning
In my previous post, I described how my wife and I came up with a plan to apply for nine cards, six of them in my name and three in hers. For easy reference, here are the six cards I was applying for:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Ink Bold
- Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
- Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card from American Express
- US Airways Premier World MasterCard
- US Airways Business MasterCard
And here are the three we selected for my wife:
- United MileagePlus Explorer Visa
- Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
- US Airways Premier World MasterCard
Applying for My Cards
As the day approached, I got all my links ready and made sure I had the information I would need handy. After some thought and a bit of research on how the credit checks would work, I decided to apply for my own cards all on one day and wait to see the result before applying for my wife’s cards. That way, if I were turned down for any cards, we could try again in my wife’s name. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary, but it didn’t do any harm either.
The application process turned out to be fairly easy. I applied for cards in the order of their importance to me, grouping them by bank.
I started with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, filling out the online application and receiving an immediate approval.
This seemed like a really good start after only 15 minutes or so!
My next application was for the Chase Ink Bold card. I filled out the application, using my Employee Identification Number (EIN), which I have because my business is an LLC. If you are doing business under your own name, you can just use your Social Security number.
This application didn’t go quite so well as the first, although I wasn’t turned down flat.
From reading this blog, I knew not to wait for them to contact me. I immediately called the reconsideration line as recommended in Scott’s Free First Class Next Month: Best Practices for Your First Cards post.
The agent who took my call verified my identity and asked me a few questions that were already on the application. He was very friendly in his approach and wanted to know why I was looking for this card in addition to the Chase Sapphire. I explained that I always kept my personal and business expenses separate, which seemed satisfactory. I told him I had held a Citi-Business card for many years, but that I now wanted a card that would earn rewards. I picked Chase because the cards sounded terrific and because I already had a relationship with them–I have checking and savings accounts at their bank. He wanted to be sure that I understood the Ink Bold is a month-to-month charge card, and I told him that I pay my balance at the end of the month anyway and didn’t need any more extended credit at the moment.
Finally, he got to the point. He explained that he was a bit puzzled that I had so little credit history. I repeated some of my history, as told in my first post, how I had paid off my mortgage and loans a few years back and had not been using personal credit very much for the past few years. I also pointed out my excellent history with Citi, reflected in my business credit report. He was aware of this but told me that they mostly go on personal credit history for a small business like mine. This was something I had not realized, so I’ll keep it in mind from now on.
He asked me again about how much I would use the card. By this time, I could see I was going to be approved, so I explained that I’m about to go on a trip to Europe and will have business expenses. I wanted–I told him–to make sure that the card had a sufficiently high limit that I wasn’t forced to make payments in the middle of the month. He went off the line for a while and then came back with an approval. The limit was more than I had asked for and he told me that the Ink Bold has a “flexible limit” so I could exceed it by a pretty large amount without any penalty. That’s important to me, since this is a card I actually want to use.
At this point I was two for two and feeling pretty cocky. I moved on to the Barclay’s cards and filled out applications for both the US Airways Premier World MasterCard and the US Airways Business MasterCard.
Both of them came back with the same result…
Here’s where I discovered one mistake I had made. I did my application on a Friday afternoon on the west coast. It turned out to be too late to talk to Barclay’s, whose credit application department seems to keep limited hours as compared to the other banks I dealt with. I wouldn’t be able to talk with them until Monday.
With my spirits only slightly dampened, I moved on to the American Express applications. I filled out the application for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express and was approved right away.
But when I applied for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card from American Express I saw this notice
I called the number right away. The agent I spoke to told me that the application had been automatically put in a pending status because I was applying for more than one card. I explained that I was applying for two different products but he told me that anyone applying for two Delta cards at the same time would have the second application held up “Sometimes,” he said, “people just submit the same application twice.” He gave me the date–three or four business days ahead–when I could call back for a decision.
Naturally, I immediately called back, using the reconsideration number this time rather than the one on the notice. A different agent told me the same thing and even added that “there was no other reason my application was being delayed.” I took that as a positive sign.
Final result at the end of the day: three applications approved and three pending.
More Calls to Make
On Monday morning I received an email telling me I had been approved for the US Airways Premier World MasterCard, making it four approvals and two more pending.
I next called the Barclay’s reconsideration line, knowing they were back in the office. While the Chase and AMEX agents I spoke with were quite helpful and friendly, I found the Barclay’s guy to have a bit of an attitude. Like the others, he brought up my “thin” credit history and mentioned that I had no track record at all with Barclay’s. He told me they couldn’t give me any more credit, having just approved me for a personal card. The fact that this was for my business didn’t hold any water for him.
I knew that my next step should be to ask them to move some credit from the brand new card to the business card, but I decided to just thank this guy and get off the line. I spent a few minutes thinking about what to do next. One option would be to call back and talk to a different agent. But frankly, I was aggravated and decided I no longer wanted to pay $79 to get these extra miles. From what I have read, I should be able to repeat my successful personal application in 91 days. If the no-fee link still works, this will be a much better deal. Suddenly I realized I was already planning my next cards. That made me smile.
On Thursday of that week, it was time to call about my Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card from American Express and find out if it was approved. That call was routine. Just a few questions that called for the same information as the initial application and I was approved.
Getting My Wife’s Cards
The next day, I sat down to make the three remaining applications on my wife’s behalf, with her standing by in case I needed any extra information from her. Two of the cards were identical to applications I had already made and they went the same way. Her Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express was immediately approved and the US Airways Premier World MasterCardwas left pending. Now feeling like quite the expert, I told her she would get an approval email in a few days–which, in fact, she did!
The United MileagePlus Explorer Visa application was a new one for me, but no more difficult to fill out than the others. I made sure to add an authorized user–myself–in order to get an extra 5,000 miles. The application was immediately approved.
I applied for nine cards for me and my wife and was approved for eight of them. My own applications were all done in one day and my wife’s on a separate day about a week later. Four cards were approved instantly two a few days later and two after talking to an agent–although only one conversation really got into any detail.
After spending $12,000 on these cards in the next three months, we will have 98,000 Ultimate Rewards, 70,000 Dividend Miles, 153,000 SkyMiles and 36,000 United miles.
That’s enough for quite a bit of travel for two people domestically or a few big international trips.
In the process, I learned a few things that will help me the next time.
Next week I’m going to beg Charlie to talk about getting the cards, tracking his spending, and setting up tracking for his annual fees.