A friend wrote to me and said he wants to open a new card. Well, I used to get one card at a time and that was a newbie mistake. The app-o-rama every 6 months or so, with couples alternating in quarters, is the way to go. If you apply for a new card every time you hit a min spend, then you always have recent inquiries on your report. With my first denial (courtesy US Bank) about a month behind me, I realized I have to follow a better strategy. This strategy is commonly known as the app-o-rama and is three or more applications on the same day. People are often concerned the app-o-rama will hurt their credit, and it will a tad, but if you have more than a twenty point buffer past 720 and you aren't buying a house this year you should consider it your best bet.
First piece of advice for the app-o-rama is: Get a card from each bank. Chase might let you get two if you tell them you want the Freedom and the X for some reason and apply in a branch. This post is for someone new to the game so I pick the best card from each bank and ignore business cards.
So order of applications best practice is supposedly US Bank, then Barclays, then Citi, then Chase, then AMEX, and finally Bank of America or others. If you are a beginner, don't apply for cards with a combined minimum spend much more than a $2000 or $3000 more than your normal quarterly spend. Two or three thousand is a pretty easy spend to manufacture. In other words, if you spend $5000 a quarter, go for a group of cards with $7000 - $8000 in combined minimum spend.
Advice from Flyertalk: "Especially with the first 3 [banks], wait for approval before making the
next app. Start in the morning so you have time to make as many recon
calls as necessary, and still get all your apps in the same day."
Starting with US Bank, here is the best card signup I think they have out there: Club Carlson Premier, I put the signup bonus at around $800 in value, conservatively. Depends on if you can travel to Eastern Europe or India or not. If you can, you can get over $1000 in value here. This card requires $3500 in min spend and gives another 40k in points every year. Second best: Flex perks travel, $3500 min spend, $400 in value.
Next, Barclays. I think this is a no-brainer for the US Airways Dividend Miles card. It requires no spend, and the bonuses vary. Look around on the internet for a 35k link with no annual fee the first year, lounge passes, and a companion ticket. I put this signup value around $700.
Second best Barclaycard, not sure. Lufthansa bonus is too low right now, Frontier and Arrival both are worth around $450 right now. The Arrival is a good card to spend on when you aren't trying to hit bonuses. The Frontier only has a $500 min spend. Toss up, or depends on how much you care about where Frontier goes or if you live in Trenton or Denver.
Next up is Citi. If you are in flying more than five times a year or so and you don't have lounge access somewhere, you might want to get the 100k AA card with the lounge access and the $200 credit. You pay $450 but you are getting lounge access and some other nice perks, but you have to hit 10k in spend in 3 months. Most folks should get the AA Platinum Select with the 50k signup bonus. This card is worth around $800 in signup for 3k in min spend. Second place from Citi: I guess you could get the Thank You Premier, but I would skip it since the bonus requires 15 months to get. I would choose the Hilton HHonors card. This card has some tricks to it with status, but it is generally good to hold on to and the sign up bonus is worth about $500 bucks since you get two nights in pretty much any Hilton.
Next up is Chase. This is tough, there are so many good Chase cards, but I still like the in branch offer for the United Explorer card at 55k. You get 50k for you and 5k for your authorized user with the fee waived. You get a couple lounge passes and a bag free. Latest is usually here, which seems to indicate you don't have to hit up the branch, but recommends it. I value these perks at least at $900 for 2k in min spend. Runners up include but are not limited to the Southwest card, currently at 50k so $800 (dropping to $700) in value, the Marriott card I reviewed earlier today (worth about $700), and the Chase Sapphire Preferred (worth about $800 in signup).
So far we have 4 cards at an average of $800 in value, getting us $3200 in value for $8501 in three month credit card spend. If we manufacture $2500 of this, this is good for folks with about $2000 a month in credit card spend. If we can fit more, let's move on to Amex.
Some folks are getting 50k offers for Amex Premier Gold by using Cardmatch. This is worth about $1000. If you can't get this, I would go for the Starwood card for a $600 in value bonus.
Alaska Airlines (who has great partners) is the best from B of A ($500) and the Venture is the best from Capital One ($200). Comenity offers the Virgina America card with a ~$300 sign up bonus. PenFed has a card with a signup bonus too.
Altogether, it is straightforward to get about $4000 worth of signup bonuses for getting 5 cards without annual fees the first year. If you have a significant other to help you with minimum spends, have them do this 3 months afterwards and get some great travel in this year.