Posted: 6/26/2012 by Steve Hubbard
Most of the time we at GetDebit write reviews about specific credit cards-the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, sometimes we neglect the “post-approval” game. It turns out, there are a number of smart strategies you should pursue after you actually get approved for a credit card, and today we’ll share a few of those tactics with you.
Step 1: Setup online access and auto-payment
The first thing you should do is go online and setup access for this new card. Most card providers allow you to combine all of your cards into the same online account. An exception may be combining business and personal cards. Chase allows putting business and personal cards together, though you must start with a business card and then add the personal cards, the other way around doesn’t work.
Once you have established online access, the next step is to link the card to some sort of online payment system and set up auto-payments to pay the full account balance every month. A single missed payment can more than offset all of the benefit we are trying to achieve with these bonus offers. All of the main providers, Chase, Citi, Capital One, American Express and Discover allow you to do this all online.
Step 2: Confirm and record bonus requirements.
Each card you receive has different rewards and bonus requirements. Hopefully, when you applied for the card you took a screen shot showing the bonus, or you have some official piece of paper with the offer. If you have neither of these, then to be sure, it is a good idea to use the online account you setup above, to send a secure message to the provider confirming the bonus offer. Their response will provide a written record of the bonus you are expecting.
Take this reward requirement and put it in a spreadsheet or into your calendar. Make sure you are clear exactly how much money you must spend and by exactly what day to qualify for the bonus. Review this information regularly to know how close you are to achieving each bonus.
Step 3: Confirm receipt of bonus
Once you have qualified for the bonus, now is the time to make sure you receive it. If you have finished qualifying for the bonus much earlier than the deadline, for example if the card required you to use it once within the first 3 months to qualify and you use it within the first month, then you can be patient and wait some time to see if the points post.
On the other hand, if you are close to the deadline and just qualified for the bonus, then use the online secure message system to get confirmation that you have qualified for the bonus. If you are really close to the deadline it also makes sense to call customer service and get a response immediately.
Step 4: Keep, cancel or downgrade
Now that we have finished qualifying for the bonus points, you should decide if you want to continue using the card. Some cards that you apply for are simply for the excellent bonus offer (for example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) and nothing else about the card is interesting to you. For those cards you can simply hold onto them for 11 months and cancel them before any annual fee posts, or if there is no annual fee then just hold on until that credit line might be needed for another offer.
If the card has features you like, then you can decided to keep the card. Maybe the card has special bonuses you like, for example 5% bonus in certain categories (check out the Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express for some great cash back opportunities), extra points when used purchasing the same brand product as the card, or maybe additional bonuses like status, annual points, lounge passes, or annual companion passes.
Another option is that if you don’t want to pay the annual fee and can’t get it reversed or compensated in some way, then you can ask to have the card downgraded to a no annual fee card.
Step 5: Record anniversary date
The last thing to do is make sure to record the anniversary date for each card. Put a reminder in your calendar so that you know to contact customer service during the month before your anniversary date. It is always best to contact customer service before any annual fees get posted.
During this call, you should politely ask about having the annual fee waived for the coming year. If they refuse, you can ask if they will give you a courtesy points credit to offset the annual fee. It is best if you have an idea of how many points you want, usually you would want to ask for a sufficient number to offset the annual fee. You can leverage GetDebit’s estimates of the value of various rewards programs to help you come up with the right ask.
Hopefully this is just the start of your addiction to the points and miles game. Keep reading forums and blogs to find out what is the next best offer that suits your situation. Keep an eye on your credit score and apply for as many cards as you can be approved for without materially damaging your score. Most of all, have fun-it’s a game!
Steve Hubbard is an American citizen living in China with his wife and 3 yr old son. He got into the points and miles game in early 2011 because of a business contract that demanded weekly travel. In 1 year he has received 20 credit cards and at least $10,000 in points/miles. You can follow his success blog at SuccessClubIntl.com