The idea behind the “churn” is to get as many cards with bonuses as possible all in 1 day. Since getting credit card bonuses is central to how I acquire travel points for my family, I investigated it further. We don’t have any business expenses and don’t fly often, so it’s crucial to get it right the first time we apply. There is a method to this madness for sure.
Some credit inquiries get combined if the cards are issued by the same bank and if applications are done in one day. Also, the inquiries fall off at the same time. Some banks look back only 6 months, so they will only see 1 set of hard pulls if applications are spaced 91 days apart.
There are 3 major credit agencies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The best bet is to spread the applications between all them . The reason is, if the bank pulls a specific agency and sees too many inquiries, it looks bad on paper. They might assume, you are looking to max out your cards, flee the country and settle down somewhere in Tahiti. Hmm, are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Banks pull different agencies depending on your location. The goal is to spread your inquiries between all 3, so not to have more than 10 pulls in 2 years at any given one. People go beyond that amount, but I’m not comfortable with that. If you have a major loan or mortgage coming up, you may want to stay away from any new credit cards for a year or even better 2 years. That’s because the inquiries fall off at a 2-year mark. You can find out which banks pull which agency via this link and putting in your data. Be aware, it may not be accurate as of now: Link
The 91 day churn schedule is supposed to greatly minimize your chance of denial. I think this technique has merit to it, but I still don’t follow it. I simply apply when there is a good offer with at least 350 dollars in value, whether miles, cash or hotel points. There are several reasons for this:
1) There is no guarantee the inquiries will be combined. Citibank sometimes pulls different agencies for different cards. I don’t want an extra pull for an inferior offer (like 50,000 Hilton points) to potentially cost me a good offer in the future.
2) Even if the inquiries are combined, the new card still shows up on your report and your average age of accounts is diluted. Even though, it’s a relatively small part of your credit score, I keep an eye on it since my history is shorter than some.
3) In the event of a credit card denial in the future, I may have to call reconsideration line. It looks weird to a credit analyst when they see 5 applications made all in one day in the past. I always suspected it and it was indicated in a Flyertalk discussion as well. Err, I was bored since I am SAHM and felt like applying for a bunch of cards to cheer me up? I would rather not face that question and have to come up with a ridiculous excuse.
You know what’s really strange? I just looked at my husbands’s last 3 applications I made in his name. Guess what? They were 91 days apart! Not on purpose, it just worked out that way.