Sharing My Secret Obsession with Extreme Credit Carding

Posted by Madison on July 29, 2013

After a recent night around the firepit with the neighbors (who have all become very close friends), somehow the conversation turned to my love of personal finance, in particular my obsession with maximizing credit card benefits.

I alluded to using multiple credit cards at the grocery store and gas station to earn cash back rewards on my purchases. Then my husband added that when he makes a purchase he has to sort through his wallet and look for the correct quarterly card marked in sharpie marker. They were intrigued.

Sharing My Credit Card Strategies

Slowly, after a rapid fire of questions my credit card story came out and I had a very curious audience (and probably shocked in disbelief!) with lots of questions. In fact, midway through the night, they even renamed my strategies as “extreme credit carding.”

I thought you’d enjoy a recap of the question and answer session about my credit card strategies. I’m sure you’ll find some of the questions entertaining, since they’re things long-time readers will recognize as standard discussion. However, what we consider standard around here was shocking for friends who didn’t know about my secret credit card life! Other questions provide updates on things I haven’t touched on in years and were fun to recalculate. Enjoy!

Extreme Credit Carding

  • How many credit cards do you have? As of this week, we currently have 76 open credit cards. This is down from the 89 cards we had back in 2007, and 93 cards as of last count. I close old cards when an annual fee kicks in or when I want to open a new card. However, many of the cards are still the same old cards from years ago.
  • Which credit cards do you use at each store My Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is my go to card for 6% cash back on groceries. I use my Barclaycard Arrival for travel, Citi Forward Card for restaurants and Amazon, and I’m currently using my Discover it for gas this quarter.
  • If you could use only one card, what would it be? Without rotating rewards and switching cards at each store, my favorite is the Fidelity 2% Cash Back Credit Card.
  • How do you know which cards offer the best cash back each quarter? Each quarter, I compile New Quarterly 5% Rotating Cash Rewards Credit Cards so that it’s easy to look in one place for the list. I also try to keep tabs on all the credit card rewards cards as they change.
  • How do you remember which card to use if they are always changing? As I mentioned above, a sharpie marker is the perfect tool. Here’s a photo of some of the cards marked with the appropriate categories.
  • Do you get a lot of junk mail? I don’t consider offers for sign up bonuses or free money junk mail. In fact, I love it when companies take the time to send me an offer, because I know I’m more likely to get approved for it if they prescreened my credit report!
  • Do you ever take advantage of the offers to get $100 if you open a new card? Yes, all the time! In fact, I like to focus on a quarterly application spree to pick up many bonuses at once. My last application spree had a target of $2,000+ in bonus money.
  • Do you have joint accounts with your husband? For the most part no. I Avoid Joint Credit Cards to Double my Sign Up Bonuses.
  • How much open credit do you have? We have just under $900,000 available in credit lines. That’s down from a high of over $1,000,000 years ago. Most of the reduction was from closing one of our helocs since we weren’t using it anymore. In addition, some of our newer cards don’t have a pre-set spending limit, so they aren’t added in the total.
  • Are there other people who actually do this? Yes, there’s a bunch of us out there! We profiled a reader named Steve last year who is a free money fanatic and aims for $6,000 per year in sign up bonuses. I know that many MDP readers also share my love of extreme credit carding!
  • What’s the craziest credit card strategy you’ve seen? Hands down, my favorite, and clearly the craziest, is the reader Joe who paid off his mortgage with a credit card not once, but twice!
  • Is there a way to put your regular mortgage payment on a credit card? Yes, with a nifty little card called Bluebird, you can pay your mortgage and other places that don’t take credit cards or charge a fee to do so. I buy gift cards to fund the Bluebird account.
  • Why do you buy so many gift cards? In addition to the Bluebird strategy, I use my American Express 6% Cash Back Credit Card to buy gift cards at the grocery store to earn a higher cash back than I can earn at other stores.
  • Which card should I get before we go to Disney World? If you are planning any travel this fall, my favorite card for travel right now is the Barclaycard Arrival card. You can’t beat the easy $440+ Sign Up Bonus and 2% cashback.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t get into my evolving credit card arbitrage strategies though, as I figured the above was enough for one night! And I gave my standard disclosure about how this isn’t for everyone and you have to be very careful.

Overall, it was a fun bonfire with the neighbors. I wish you could have been there to see the look on their faces when I began detailing the ins and outs of my credit card adventures…. I’m guessing their image of me as a stay-at-home-mom was slightly altered that night!

Do you have any credit card strategies we should add to the list of extreme credit carding?

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Comments to Sharing My Secret Obsession with Extreme Credit Carding

  1. Wow, that’s pretty interesting. My wife and I just recently signed up for a travel rewards credit card in order to maximize our rewards, but I’d be worried about having more than just a few open at any one time. I’m sure it pays off, but you probably need to be really organized.

    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth

    • Jake,
      I would agree, organization is the key to making sure it all works. Between Quicken, excel, and my calendar, I think I’ve nailed down a process to stay on top of it all.


  2. What is the utility of keeping such a large credit line open?

    I share your love of making money from credit cards. I’m constantly cycling through bonus-offer cards, but I always cancel them after cashing out the bonus, since most have yearly fees after the first year. Also, I think I get more fresh offers after cancelling.

    I average about $2k in bonuses per year. Not too bad for only about $18k/yr in credit-card spending.


    • Bill,

      $2k a year isn’t bad at all. I’d love to hear more about it!

      Many times I like to keep them open if they offer cash back benefits in addition to the sign up bonus.

      The huge credit lines come in handy to keep my utilization low when I’m moving large balances for my credit card arbitrage.


  3. Thanks for sharing!

    I think it is time to apply for the Barclay Arrival card. I currently have another Barclay card, The Barclay NFL card. Would anyone know if I need to close this first, or does Barclay’s allow multiple cards?



    • Hi Rakso,

      I have multiple Barclay cards. However, I don’t have the NFL card anymore. I do have the Barclay Upromise card and didn’t have any problems getting both.

      Anyone else have multiple Barclay cards for data points?


  4. How does having so many open cards affect your credit rating?


    • Hi Michelle,

      I never have any problems with our scores, but I’ve been doing this so long, I think my credit score may actually reflect a new normal of some sort.

      Here’s more on how I manage our credit scores: Credit Scores and Inquiries.


  5. Hi, I just found your website today and so far, its awesome.
    I have one question though, with this many credit cards, what is your credit rating like?


    • I found the answer on another of your posts, again awesome blog.


      • Hi Dave,
        Welcome aboard. Glad you found the answer!


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