Application sprees are one of the components in my Obsession with Extreme Credit Carding . While it’s definitely not for everyone, I think it’s a fun challenge to organize and execute. I find the payoff is worth my time and effort… my $1,800 application spree  last fall got us a fantastic new fridge in our kitchen!
It’s about time for another new application spree! Once I’m ready to embark on another spree, I begin planning. It occurred to me that you might want to see how I research and plan an application spree before I roll out my list of target cards.
Here is a behind the scenes look as I plan my next application spree.
Tips and Tricks for Planning a Credit Card Application Spree
- Check Credit Report. My first step in planning is to obtain a copy of my credit report  and make sure all of my cards are reporting with a utilization less than 89%. In addition, I like to make sure the average utilization is quite low, ideally less than 25%.
- Review Prior Application Spree. I’ll start with our last Credit Card Application Spree . Because I rotate each spree between spouses, I can often obtain a second card under the other person. If you avoid joint credit cards you can double your sign up bonuses . The first card I put on the list was the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard .
- Create Target List of New Cards. I keep a running list of new cards I want to apply for. I’ll add the cards I’ve had my eye on including the Wells Fargo  card.
- Review Featured Deals. I also keep track of my favorite featured deals  to make sure they’re on my list. I had to skip one of my favorites, the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard , because that was a duplicate card I already had. But with the $440+ sign up bonus, it would be near the top… if I didn’t already have it!
- Review Upcoming Calendar. I’ll also take a look at our upcoming calendar and see if any current offers line up with our plans. For example, we’ll probably take the kids on a ski trip for Spring Break, so I’m going to look into some of the hotel rewards programs  and cards.
- Determine Goals. While I used to focus strictly on getting the most money for my application spree (usually to pay for something special like our new fridge), I’ve recently been expanding into some travel cards now that my kids are getting older. I added this step to ask myself what my overall goal of the application spree is – do I want cash, miles/points, both? As I’m working through my application spree and looking at our calendar in the step above, I’m leaning more and more toward getting free hotel stays since the kids have lots of 3 day weekends coming up and we have lots of ski hills we want to drive to for the long weekends. However, while I am ready to start looking into more hotel stays, I’m not quite ready to start racking up miles to fly all over with the kids just yet.
- Research Prior Bonuses. Because I track all the bonus cycles for cards (I admit, I have some quirky habits!) I’ll also look back at previous offers. For example, during the last Olympics, the US Bank Flexperks came out with the Olympic bonus. That’s how I stumbled on the US Bank 20,000+ Olympic Point Sign Up Bonus . Digging deeper, I’m wondering if the traditional personal card, the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® card  is different from the Olympic card… and can I have both?
- Review Purchase History. I also pull a list of all our purchases, personal and business, for the prior year to see if there are any store cards I can add to my list. For example, based on the number of purchases we made last year at Barnes and Noble, the Barnes & Noble MasterCard®  would give me a great deal of savings.
- Look into Replacement Cards. We’ve cycled through many of the sign up bonus cards previously. Next up I’ll research which cards I might be able to apply for again after canceling them more than a year ago. While I currently don’t have an active American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card , I did have one as of August. Amex clearly states they won’t give a bonus to someone who had the card within the last 12 months.
- Find Business Versions. Many of the cards we have that I love also have a business version to sign up for after you’ve already gotten the personal card. For example, I’ll add the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express  to the list since I already have the personal version of this card, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express .
- Add Additional Business Versions. Further down the line, I’ll review which of our businesses have each card (one of the benefits of owning multiple businesses). Many of the issuers have given us the same card under each of our businesses (they all have separate tax IDs). I’m interested to see if we can get a second U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Business Travel Rewards Visa® Card  with a different tax id.
- Review 0% Offers. Believe it or not, I’m still playing the 0% balance transfer game. I’ll also review the 0% Intro Rate Credit Cards  to see if there are any good offers that catch my eye.
- Submit Cardmatch. I like to enter my information in CardMatch  to see if there are any exclusive offers that are better than the public offers available. Sometimes, I’ll see one of the cards on my list with a better offer.
- Review Quarterly Rotations. I also review my quarterly rotating credit card  schedule to see if there are any cards that I’m routinely maxing out the rewards on each quarter to see if I can double up on any.
- Prioritize By Issuer. Once I have my complete list, I’ll see if there’s any other cards I wanted from each issuer, like the Choice Privileges® Visa® Card  and prioritize by each issuer and select my top 2 cards I want from each. I prioritize the list by the value of the sign up bonus and the possibility of long term benefits. I’ll also add any missing issuers at this point. For example, I don’t have any Discover it®  cards on my list yet.
- Calculate Benefit of Annual Fees. Sometimes, I’m willing to pay an annual fee if the sign up bonus covers the annual fee. However, sometimes I’m not. Take the The Platinum Card® from American Express  for example. While I’d love to get my hands on the 25k bonus points and Amazon Prime sign up bonus, I’m just not willing to pay a $450 annual fee!
- Look into Rule Changes. I like to review changes from the issuers too. I’ve heard that Citi no longer wants (or will approve) more than one application in 24 hours. That means I’ll need to carefully decide which Citi card will be the most important. I’ll be looking closely at the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card , the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card , and the Citi® Hilton HHonors Card  to see which one is most important for me right now. Which one would you pick?
- Schedule App Spree. When I review my credit report, I’ll look at the closing date for when some of my key cards report that I want to show low utilization, then plan my application spree around that. I like to plan it for earlier in the week, so that I can work on follow-ups over the next few days. In addition, I’ll pick a day where I have a bigger block of time in case I run into problems, that way I don’t have to stop in the middle of my spree.
- Double Check All Offers One Day Prior. Right before I execute the application spree I double check to make sure none of the offers have expired or changed their terms. If that happens, which it often does, I review my next card in line for that issuer. It’s also the reason I keep a target list of more cards than I plan to apply for, in case I need to make last minute changes or additions.
- Schedule All Post Spree Action Items. One final planning step is putting together a calendar which will include all the dates that have action items including when each card must hit their spending requirements to get the bonus and if I will need to convert the card  in the future.
As you can see, my application spree evolves quite a bit during the planning stages. I use a spreadsheet as I work through my list of offers available and how they line up with my goals and the cards I already have. Once I prioritize the final list, I’m ready to go! Stay tuned for the final list of which cards will be part of my next application spree!
Update: Here’s the final list… $1,720 + 267k Point Credit Card Application Spree .
What credit card bonuses do you have your eye on right now?
More on Credit Card Application Sprees
- How Much Do Credit Inquiries Really Matter? 
- How to Collect Multiple Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses 
- How to Prioritize and Maximize Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses 
- How to Get Started with Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses 
- Credit Card Application Spree Q & A 
- $825 Beginner Credit Card Application Spree 
- Beginner Credit Card Application Spree Q & A