Financial Planning
October 31, 2021

What is credit card churning and how to start it?

Juggling cards for rewards? Here's why that's a bad idea.

What does credit card churning mean?

Credit card churning is a popular term that describes the practices of applying for new cards frequently, principally to take advantage of the rewards and bonus points. By opening many cards, you can rack up valuable airline miles and reward points or even get cash back for a specified period of time. However, churning comes with serious risks. 

How does credit card churning work?

Let's stress again that churning is an unwise practice, and to understand why, let's look at how it works. 

  • Start by getting two or more credit cards that give attractive sign-up bonuses within an introductory period, which is usually 90 days.
  • Then apply for multiple credit cards in a row, ideally within that introductory period.
  • Meet the card spending requirements and get the bonuses.
  • Cancel the card before incurring annual fees.
  • Repeat the process, taking advantage of additional perks and credit card rewards.

Here's a sample scenario: let's say a credit card issuer offers 50,000 bonus points if you meet a spending requirement of $3,000 in the first three months. Pay off the card before interest charges hit, and after paying it off, apply for another credit card. Credit card churners repeat the process over and over again to accumulate the points and use it for their personal benefits.

Sound great? Think again.

What are the risks of credit card churning? 

The goal of credit card churning is to get rewards from their card intro bonuses. But credit card issuers conduct constant monitoring, which can identify what you're doing and shut off your credit. 

Here's what can happen if you're caught credit card churning:

  • Credit card companies will close down your existing accounts, your credit cards and sometimes even your bank accounts. They may also take back rewards if they can prove what you're doing. 
  • If you're not careful, you could end up spending more on annual fees, interest rates and minimum spending requirements than you get on rewards. If you're not managing the churn right, you could end up with debts you can't afford. 
  • If you're caught, credit bureaus can penalize you with a big hit on your credit score.

                                                            Factors affecting credit scores.

How does churning affect your credit?

Churning involves repeatedly opening new accounts. Every new account you open impacts your credit score. Here's why:

  • Each credit card application for a new card can trigger a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can hurt your credit score. Getting multiple credit cards in a short period is considered risky behavior, which credit bureaus penalized with a drop in your score. 
  • Opening new credit cards can raise your available credit and lower your credit utilization ratio. However, making the purchases required to earn points and rewards can wipe out the difference, causing your credit utilization ratio to spike.
  • Closing credit cards also impacts the average age of your accounts - another factor used to set your credit score. 
  • Because churning involves maintaining many accounts, you're more likely to miss a payment or the due date. This could result in penalties and higher interest rates.

Use Bright to manage your cards responsibly

Bright is an easier and more responsible way to manage your credit cards. Bright's MoneyScience™ system studies your finances, moves funds when it makes sense and makes payments for you, always on time and always optimized to save you money on interest charges, automatically. 

If you don't have it yet, download the Bright app from the App Store or GooglePlay. Connect your bank and your cards in a snap, set a few goals, and let Bright get to work.

Recommended Readings:

How to Be A Smart Credit Card User

How to Lower Credit Card Interest & Processing Fees

Pranay Chirla
Technical Content Writer
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