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I just finished phases 1 and 2 of my first attempt at credit card arbitrage: info gathering and applying. I spent several nights researching all the available cards to figure out which scheme would best fit my spending habits (and maximize my sign up bonuses!). I’m pretty satisfied with the final selection. I also discovered www.cardoffers.com thanks to FW, and was able to accumulate a few more sign up rewards that way. It’s a good site for comparing credit card terms and offers, and they also give you cash rewards for applying through their site. Here are the cards I applied for:

  • Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students – $33 cardoffers reward. Earn up to 2,000 ThankYou Points twice a year for having a good GPA. Earn 25 points per month when you pay your bill on time and don’t exceed your credit limit. 5 points per dollar spent at restaurants (including fast food restaurant), bookstores, record stores, movie theaters, and video rental stores. 1 point for every dollar you spend on all other purchases. No annual fee, 0% APR on balance transfers AND purchases for 6 months. For an excellent review, see this FW thread.
  • Citi Professional THANK YOU Card – 15,000 TY pts = $150 after your first purchase +$40 cardoffers reward. 3 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at restaurants, gas stations, certain office supply merchants, and on auto rentals. 1 point for every dollar you spend on all other purchases. No annual fee, 0% APR on balance transfers AND purchases for 12 months. No BT fee during the 0% promotional period. More details here.
  • Chase Freedom – $200 bonus with your first purchase on a new Freedom Card, which can be redeemed for a $250 check. No annual fee, 3% cashback at grocery/gas/fast food restaurants. I applied for this card purely for the $250 sign up bonus. I had no intention of applying for any Chase cards, until a few days ago when this offer made the front page of slick deals. I was just hoping the promotion wouldn’t go extinct in the time it took to prepare for my mini app-o-rama!
  • Discover Miles Card – 1,000 miles/mo with purchase each month +$40 cardoffers reward. No annual fee, 1 mile per dollar spent, 0% APR on balance transfers AND purchases for 12 months. No BT fee if requested with application.
  • REI Visa Card - Limited time offer: $40 REI Gift Card when you apply by 4/1/07 and make any purchase by 5/15/07. No annual fee, full 10% dividends back on all qualifying purchases (normally reduced 2% for non-REI CC’s), 1% rebate on all non-REI purchases. Must be an REI member (membership costs $15 – one time application fee).

I was instantly approved for two of the five: Citi Professional and Chase Freedom. The rest require further processing. Now I just have to wait and see if I get qualified for them all!

Assuming I do get approved for all five offers, I will make approximately $553 in sign up offers alone. That’s $113 from cardoffers.com, $250 from Chase Freedom, $40 in REI Gift Card, and 250,000 TY points from Citi Professional, which is equivalent to $150 in gift cards. PLUS, pending the Discover Miles approval, I will get 12,000 bonus miles after a year, an estimated $100 value. Not too shabby!

Of course, I also plan on taking full advantage of the 0% BT on both Citi cards and the Discover. So I’ll be making profit on the interest from those balance transfers, assuming I don’t screw up any of my monthly payments :)

A couple of notes on my card decisions:

The mtvU card has some nice college-oriented features which can’t be had by any other card. The 5% cashback on restaurants is a nice feature, and it’s been reported that all purchases at Amazon.com earn 5% (since it’s coded as a bookstore). It’s important to note, that you have to wait until you accumulate 10,000 TY pts, to cash out for $100 gift cards for 1 TY pt = 1 cent. Otherwise the “cashback” is less than 5%. OR, you can request a student loan rebate, in which case 1pt = 1 cent.  And apparently you don’t have to have a student loan to get these. BUT, the best deal seems to be to use your TY points for airfare. Some people get  2~3 cents/point which is the equivalent of getting 7-8% cashback from restaurants!

For the Citi Professional card – the normal promotion at cardoffers.com is 10,000 TY points and 0% APR for 9 months. You can either apply directly through the link above to get the extra 5,000 bonus points and extended 12-month 0% period, OR, you can apply though cardoffers.com and get an extra $40 sign up bonus using the following trick: log into cardoffers, find the card and click apply, make sure the apply button is green, the splash page will come up talking about $100 gift card/10,000 points, close that and a pop up will come up offering 5,000 more. I only got the pop-up to appear in Internet Explorer, not Firefox.

Also, if you’ve been thinking about becoming an REI member, now is a good time to do so. Basically, with the REI Visa Card offer you get a free membership plus a $25 gift card.

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