I’ve always enjoyed playing the credit card rewards game and earning points to use for free cash back, groceries, and travel. Last year I upped the ante with the goal of earning enough travel and hotel points to pay for our trip to Scotland and Ireland this summer. To level up my rewards I had to apply for new cards – 13 of them to be exact. The end result was an assault on my credit score that would make any personal finance blogger bury their head in shame.
Yes, in the process of earning more than 1 million rewards points my credit score sunk to new depths – dropping 122 points in less than a year.
What happened to my credit score?
I’ve never had an impeccable credit score like some people who boast scores over 800. I’ve been dabbling in credit card rewards for several years and all the new inquiries and age of accounts tend to drag down my score. Still, I started 2018 with a solid credit score of 749 – enough to receive an “Excellent” grade from the good folks at Equifax.
Early in the year I applied for the
Next up was the
Finally, I applied for the PC Financial World Elite MasterCard to take advantage of the no-fee card and bonus PC Points on shopping at Loblaws stores, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Esso gas stations.
No Credit Checks from Amex or TD
I should point out that during this time I had also applied for the American Express Platinum Card, as well as the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card. As a current and long-time American Express cardholder I did not have a credit check pulled with those applications.
I also applied for the
What I didn’t discover until later in the year was that all of these inquiries took a toll on my credit score – dropping it by 40 points or so by the middle of July.
In the meantime, I was on a roll and applied for another BMO card – this time the World Elite MasterCard. In hindsight I should have done a product switch from the BMO World Elite Air Miles Card to the World Elite Card, but I had cancelled the Air Miles credit card shortly after receiving the bonus. Damn – didn’t need that extra credit hit!
Then my first rejection – I applied for the HSBC World Elite MasterCard, which came with an awesome sign-up bonus and first year free. Denied! I also applied for a BMO business credit card. Denied again!
It’s at this time that I login to my Borrowell* account and check out what happened to my credit score. I also wanted to see if there’s anything odd in my credit report. Sure enough, I discovered multiple credit hits from CIBC after my Aventura misadventure from the summer. There’s two extra credit hits I didn’t need.
*Note: If you haven’t checked out your free credit score and report with Borrowell you should do so now. They also just released a super convenient mobile app that allows you to monitor your credit score and credit reporting information in real time.
By October 2018 my credit score had plummeted to 627 – a “below average” score according to Equifax. While a low credit score is not exactly devastating to someone who technically doesn’t need credit – I just like to collect rewards points – this poor score would clearly prevent me from getting approved for new applications.
Road to Recovery
After that discovery I put a hold on any new credit card applications. I had already earned enough points for our trip to Scotland and Ireland, so there was no point being greedy. It was time to repair my credit score.
It didn’t take long. After all, I pay my bills on time and pay off my credit cards in full each month. The 122 point drop in my credit score matches up with a common belief that each new credit inquiry lowers your credit score (temporarily) by 10 points. The extra credit hits from CIBC didn’t help, and so by October my score had suffered from all of these new inquiries within a short time-frame.
By November my credit score had jumped 50 points and then by December it had climbed back over 700. There it hovered for several months before jumping again in May to around 730.
The increased credit score doesn’t mean much – again, I’m not applying for a mortgage, car loan, or line of credit. But I’m grateful that my score is once again closing in on “Excellent” in the eyes of lenders. That’s because there are some very tempting credit card offers on the market right now and it’s time for me to get back into the rewards game!
American Express has announced some enhancements to its iconic Platinum Card. The main improvement is to the earn rate on dining and travel spending, while the earn rate on all other card purchases actually gets a slight devaluation.
Amex Platinum cardholders used to earn 1.25 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on all purchases. Now the enhanced earn rate looks like this:
- 3 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining in Canada
- 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible travel
- 1 point for every $1 in all other Card purchases
These changes go into effect immediately for new and existing cardholders.
New Metal Card for Amex Platinum Cardholders
Amex also unveiled a sleek new metal card design that’s now available for new members. Existing Platinum members will receive the metal card upon renewal, but can request earlier access.
No other changes were made in this refresh so American Express Platinum cardholders will continue to enjoy benefits such as:
- A welcome bonus of 60,000 points (with a referral link) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
- A $200 Annual Travel Credit
- Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries with the Global Lounge Collection
- Complimentary benefits at over 1,000 extraordinary properties worldwide when you book Fine Hotels & Resorts
- Access to exclusive culinary experiences and restaurant reservations with the Global Dining Collection
- A wide breadth of travel and retail insurance coverage
The increased earn rate on dining and travel is a welcome change from the standard 1.25 Membership Rewards on all spending. Let’s face it, the Platinum Card comes with a $699 annual fee so it’s not being billed as an everyday spending card but something to use on luxury travel and dining while basking in perks such as airport lounge access and hotel privileges.
I picked up this card last year to take advantage of the 60,000 point welcome bonus and annual travel credit as we prepared to book our trip to the U.K. The unexpected extra value came when I flashed my card at airport lounges in Vancouver and Calgary and gained entry for my family of four, and for the automatic enrolment in Marriott Silver Elite status.
The enhancements to the American Express Platinum Card are mostly positive with increased earn rates on dining and travel, along with the new metal card design. The biggest win for cardholders, both new and existing, is that nothing else changed with the program.
Some Platinum cardholders were anticipating an increase to the annual fee, or a decrease in the welcome bonus. Thankfully none of that happened and the Platinum Card retains its value as one of the top travel credit cards in Canada.