What is Credit Card Churning?

What is Credit Card Churning

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For the first time in a while, I have only one credit card in my wallet, and admittedly it feels kind of weird.  I usually have more than one credit card (as evidenced by my credit card travel hacking spree), you know to get cheap airfare.  It will probably be only a matter of time before I get another card, I feel more comfortable having at least a Visa and a Mastercard in my wallet.

Probably time do another credit card churn.

What is Credit Card Churning?

What is credit card churning, you ask?  It sounds like something to do with churning butter and dairy intermingled with credit cards and personal finance.  Credit card churning is the action of signing up for credit cards (sometimes a lot of them at one time) in order to get the sign up bonuses, and then after you receive the bonuses you either cancel the card or you hold it and then cancel it when the first year free offer is up.  Sometimes it also involves applying for the same card after you have cancelled it a few months ago in order to get the sign up bonus again.

Churn baby churn!

How to Churn

Basically you apply for a credit card (they say preferably on the same day as another credit card so you don’t have so many hits or hard checks on your credit score) and you receive the sign up bonus perks (usually in the form of a cash bonus, extra points, or my personal favourite, Aeroplan points) after doing the minimum spend (sometimes it can be $500 for the first 90 days, or $1000 for the first 90 days, or sometimes if you have a business credit card you are churning, even $5000 for the first 90 days).  After you receive your bonus points, churners keep the card and then close it before the first annual fee charge occurs or sometimes they even close it right away when they receive the bonuses.

These are big perks.  Not a $25 bonus or anything like that.  Think $200-$300 upwards worth of rewards or rebate.

Where to Look for Credit Card Churns in Canada

There are a few places to check out for the updated credit card churning opportunities in Canada, of course credit card perks are not as good as the ones offered to our neighbours south of the border.  You can check out lots of travel hacking websites and blogs for updated credit card offers, including:

  • Reddit has a credit card churning Canadian thread
  • Red Flag Deals has a thread as well on credit card churning advice
  • Great Canadian Rebates
  • I also like reading what Jeff from Canadian Kilometers has up his sleeve in terms of his credit card du jour and of course live vicariously through his business class adventures (which I have never tried)

The Downsides to Credit Card Churning

According to Credit Card Canada there are a number of downsides to credit card churning because the credit card suppliers are cracking down on this.  Some of these downsides include hard credit checks (it’s definitely not a good idea to apply for so many credit cards that it will lower your credit score.  They say about 3-4 a year should be safe), decrease in total credit available which in turn reduces your credit score if you close a long time card, and having too many credit cards available which will again reduce the credit score.  In addition, the other down side is that some credit card companies don’t allow you to churn (for example, American Express Aeroplan Gold Rewards card may not provide you with the 25,000 bonus points if they see that you have applied and closed recently).

I personally don’t go crazy with credit card churning (though at times it is tempting), but I do try out a card for a year or so and I like to cancel it before I have to pay an annual fee.

Readers, do you credit card churn?  What are your favourite credit cards to churn?

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