I had an email from a reader recently who asked me about how easy it was to ‘churn’ various credit cards, ie cancel them and then reapply, picking up another sign-up bonus.
He suggested that I write a specific post about it. I said that I wasn’t keen. However, I then had second thoughts and decided to write a Head for Points post to explain WHY I didn’t want to write a specific post about card churning!
The main problem with writing about churning is that, apart from American Express and Lloyds, the card firms generally do not publish their policies.
American Express is very clear. For the Gold and Platinum cards, you can have the sign-up bonus as long as you have not “hold or have held any Membership Rewards enrolled American Express Card in the past six months.” For the BA cards, bonuses “are not available if you currently hold or have held any other British Airways American Express Cards in the past 6 months”. Easy.
Lloyds is also very clear, in a very bad way. For the Avios Duo cards, “Customers will only be eligible for one joining bonus from Avios. In the event that a customer re-applies for the Premier Duo Avios Credit Card Account or upgrades from a Lloyds TSB Duo Avios Credit Card Account, Lloyds TSB may process an application and issue the Premier Duo Cards but Avios will not award a further bonus offer.” You need to pick the offer you accept very carefully, because you won’t get another shot unless you apply via your partner.
Barclays, issuer of the Hilton and Priority Club cards, has no stated policy. MBNA in general also does not make any statements about this.
How do Barclays and MBNA react to churning?
There are good reasons why I don’t write about churning MBNA and Barclays cards – I simply don’t know the answer.
MBNA can be very flexible when they want. I just got the American Airlines card, for example, despite having a ludicrously high credit limit on my MBNA BMI MasterCard. This is almost certainly due to the fact that I am a heavy BMI card user over many years and MBNA doesn’t want to annoy me. It is difficult to imagine anyone who got an MBNA card two months ago with a £20,000 limit would be able to get another MBNA card today with a £10,000 limit.
Recent comments on Head for Points by readers suggests that MBNA is starting to get tougher on multiple bonuses. There have been reports of readers denied the bonus on the Miles & More and American Airlines cards because they once had them many moons ago. It is not clear if this is now policy or just certain readers getting unlucky.
I have also had the Hilton card in the past, and my wife currently has the Priority Club card. This take me to a key point – I am not a heavy churner myself. What I tend to do is apply myself one year, my wife the next year, and then myself the next year. This leaves a 2 year gap between applications in the same name, which is not exactly pushing the boat out.
I also don’t like to encourage aggressive card churning via Head for Points. I treat miles and points as a long-term game. I want to keep all of the card companies on my side for many years to come, so I don’t want to push my luck with any of them. No sign-up bonus is so big that it is worth getting secretly blacklisted by the issuing company, as you will only end up worse off over the long term.
There is, frankly, no point in trying to set a British record for churning the maximum number of credit cards within a year. Pace yourself! It will pay off in the long run.
(Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.)