My next application cycle

Background: What's in my wallet?

Compared to many travel bloggers, I rely on signup bonuses for a relatively small part of my travel needs. For example, my Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard came with a 40,000 "mile" signup bonus, worth $444 in statement credits against travel purchases.

However, since it earns 2 miles per dollar, worth 2.22% cash back against travel purchases, it's also my go-to card for non-bonused manufactured spend, and I've earned and redeemed many tens of thousands of miles with the card. The 40,000 mile signup bonus is a great incentive to include it in any application cycle, but it's not the only reason to get the card, and in a lower-signup-bonus environment the card might still be worth applying for — at least for the first, fee-free, year.

All this leads me to say that since I rely on manufactured spend more than signup bonuses, it's more important for me to find the right combination of cards on the earning side than merely waiting for the highest signup bonuses. For example, I applied for the American Express Blue Cash back in January because of its earning potential, not its signup bonus — then I included a few cards with valuable signup bonuses to round out my application cycle.

The cards I'm waiting for

There are a few cards I don't yet have, which are going to complement my current holdings nicely. I plan to apply for these cards during my next application cycle:

  • Bank of America Alaska Airlines Signature Visa. The signup bonus for this card went as high as 50,000 miles back in December, during what I called a perfect storm of signup bonuses. It's currently stuck at 40,000 miles after spending $10,000 within 6 months, which is a great offer. But I'm hoping it pops back up to 50,000 sometime soon, so I can keep earning Alaska miles after May 31, when the Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card finally disappears;
  • American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Personal or Business. This card has a 25,000 Starpoint signup bonus, and the ability to earn Starpoints, which are incredibly valuable for hotel stays, but also transferable to partner airlines and redeemable for paid airline tickets. In other words, if approved I'll be putting this card in heavy rotation, despite its earning rate of just 1 Starpoint per dollar;
  • Chase Ink Bold or Plus. I write about the earning potential of these cards fairly regularly, mainly when I'm envying people who already have them. I've grown increasingly disgusted with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, since I put my travel purchases on my Arrival card and just don't eat out all that often (no reimbursed business expenses here!). I'm looking forward to changing my Sapphire Preferred to a Chase Freedom card (doubling my quarterly bonus earnings) and adding an Ink Bold or Plus to retain the flexibility of my Ultimate Rewards points.

What's missing

After picking up those three cards I'll have access to virtually all the most valuable points currencies. But there are a few cards I'm still considering for their other benefits:

  • Chase Hyatt Visa. I've written about this card before when contemplating whether it's worth renewing for its annual free night certificate (short answer: yes, if you'll use it). It simply isn't the case that staying at a Hyatt property is the best option for me very often, which makes it a tough decision to spend a hard credit pull on the card without specific upcoming plans;
  • Membership Rewards. American Express has a number of cards with lucrative Membership Rewards earning structures, but until I can find a few reliable venders where I can maximize those bonus categories, I'm not willing to commit to a $95 or $175 annual fee, given the signup bonuses currently available;
  • Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature. I already have the business version of this card, and I love it. The personal version has a slightly higher annual fee ($75 vs $60), and gives an additional 40,000 Gold Points on each account anniversary. That's a great value, but I'm not convinced it's worth another $75, given that I can manufacture 40,000 Gold Points whenever I want, without paying $75 or waiting for my account anniversary!

Those are the cards that are currently on my mind. What do you think: what cards do I need to include in my next application cycle?