Credit Cards on Life Support: Apply for Cards Before They Disappear

Some credit cards you choose because they’re the right fit at the right time. Others may appear to be the wrong fit, but the right time. One Right Time is as follows: grabbing as many credit cards offered by a loyalty program about to either disappear (The Merged) or ceasing to offer a credit card (The Deceased).

The Merged

In this hobby, it pays to be mindful of airline and hotel business deals. Read the blogs, watch the news, consume information however you like. But don’t be lazy. There are great opportunities to be had when change occurs. And such changes may trim your decision tree if you’re unsure what card to apply for next.

Here are two lucrative airline examples:

U.S. Airways to American Airlines

Some time¬†after both airlines announced a merger, it became clear American Airlines would be the dominant, single entity remaining. Presuming you liked American Airlines (I do), this was a great opportunity to acquire as many U.S. Airways miles via credit card signup bonus offers–even if you never flew on or cared for U.S. Airways. With AA being the sole remaining entity, U.S. Airways miles eventually converted 1:1 to American Airlines AAdvantage miles. I took full advantage of this opportunity.

Continental to United Airlines

Likewise, some time after both airlines announced a merger, we learned United Airlines would be the single remaining brand. Again, this signaled a perfect time to grab as many Continental Airlines credit cards as possible; with the hope that these miles would convert 1:1 to United MileagePlus miles. I love United, and that’s exactly what happened. I also took full advantage of this opportunity.

You can do the same when the next opportunity arises if you pay attention.

The Deceased

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is a small luxury hotel chain. They’ve offered a credit card through Chase for years with the same signup bonus: two free night certificates for meeting a given minimum required spend. Mandy and I never jumped on it because:

  • Being a small chain, they didn’t have enough properties in places we liked to travel (or so we thought)
  • There were plenty of better credit card signup bonus opportunities in the wild
  • The Spend was a bit high (3K in 3 months) for an uncertain payoff

That’s the thing with hotel free night certificates; they often come with an expiration date: typically 6 to 12 months after posting, with 12 months being the norm. And one of the worst mistakes in our hobby is to earn a bonus and lose it. However, word around the Fairmont FlyerTalk forum¬†late last year was that Chase was about to pull the card, forever. It would be no more.

This had us take a closer look at Fairmont’s portfolio of properties. Sure enough, they had two highly rated properties in Hawaii. Also a few in Europe. So we rolled the dice, applied for the cards before the application landing pages disappeared, met our spend, and ended up with 4 free night certificates.

We’re using them this Fall at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui–an all-suite resort. Not bad for grabbing one each of a credit card that was at death’s door. Fairmont itself isn’t going under. We’re not sure why they pulled the card–perhaps too many non-revenue paying “customers” getting the card for the signup bonus only. Certainly, Fairmont isn’t a brand I’d imagine I could easily afford staying at as a paying customer; at least not with my present economic status, such as it is.

The Living: Current Opportunities

Starwood and Marriott

Starwood Hotels and Resorts (famous for their Starwood Preferred Guest program and credit card) is in the process of merging with Marriott. Personally I don’t know where things are going. But presently, Starwood allows you to transfer points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio! In the opposite direction, you receive only 1 Starwood Preferred Guest point for every 3 Marriott Rewards points. The opportunity here is to grab as many of both brands cards as possible before one or the other brand is subsumed under one dominant brand. It’s possible that the programs remain independent; so and so rush to grab one card over another. But that isn’t the norm for the mergers I’ve witnessed.

Virgin America and Alaska Airlines

Virgin America and Alaska Airlines are merging. While I adore Alaska Airlines for its flexibility and partners, I’m less familiar with Virgin America. While I preach the gospel of maintaining a diversified portfolio of miles and points, I’d never considered Virgin America points worthy of earning; most likely because their cards didn’t offer great signup bonuses. But I’m reconsidering. The thought of having more Alaska Airlines miles, if Alaska becomes the single brand, tickles me.

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