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An “App-O-Rama” is one of the different type of application strategies out there. It’s a bit outdated for the most part but it still does offer some advantages in certain cases (and a number of negatives as well). Here’s my take on why you should and why you shouldn’t do an App-O-Rama.
What is an “App-O-Rama” (AOR)?
This application strategy involves submitting all of your credit card applications together at the same time. Sometimes people may do only 3 or 4 applications at once but others may go as far as doing 8 or 9 applications at the same time, often within hours (or minutes) of each other.
It used to be that banks wouldn’t receive notification of a hard pull in an instant so by applying for many cards at the same time, you could increase the odds of getting approved since the bank wouldn’t know you’d just applied for X amount of cards.
However, now hard pulls are usually reported immediately. In fact, I have an app on my phone that tracks hard pulls and it notifies me about a hard pull before my credit card application is even finished processing! So nowadays, this isn’t a good reason to do an AOR.
Nevertheless people still do them. And here are a few reasons why.
1) Combining hard pulls
The credit card bureaus will often combine hard inquiries when you apply for cards from banks like Chase and Amex. So, it’s usually a smart decision to apply for more than one card when applying for cards from these banks. Thus, people tend to lump applications together (usually two but sometimes three) and therefore are already somewhat doing an AOR. They will also often try to combine hard pulls from different banks (e.g., Chase, Amex, etc.) at the same time complete their AOR.
One issue with this is that hard inquiries are not always combined instantly and it can take a day or two for the credit bureaus to knock off the extra inquiry. Thus, if you were planning on applying for two Chase cards and two Amex cards at the same time (same day or hour) it’s very possible that either bank will see two hard pulls from the other bank before the hard pulls are combined. Thus, when it comes to applying for multiple cards from different banks, the traditional AOR might not work as well and you might consider going another route.
While I’m not crazy about this type of strategy, if you know you can meet your minimum spend requirements and you’ve got a solid credit score that can weather the hard pulls, I don’t think it’s the worst thing to try out. However, I don’t generally recommend this for beginners.
2) Sign-up season
Sometimes it just feels like “sign-up season” and a handful of awesome offers from different banks come rolling out at once and it feel like everyone is going crazy chasing credit card applications. This can make it really tempting to do an AOR because you might not have the chance to apply for all of these bonuses in the future (and it just feels good to be a part of the madness).
In those circumstances, I recommend to:
- Check out the expiration date of the offers if they have one. It’s not always guaranteed that the offer will stick around for that long but they usually do. There may be ways to still pace yourself without doing an AOR so that you can still put a month or two between applications. If they don’t have an expiration date, then do some research to see how long these type of offers usually hang around for. You can usually find trends.
- Check the historical offers for the card by doing some research. Maybe the offer you are eyeing is cyclical and will come out again at a predictable time.
- Remember it’s okay to pass on some credit cards. Sometimes you just need to pass on great offers and chances are they will be back again.
I don’t think it’s a bad idea to take part in the feeding frenzies when they happen but it helps to have a goal that you’re trying to hit when doing this. Otherwise, you might end up jumping on good offers just because they are good offers even though they don’t really fit into your travel plans.
This is another instance when experience comes into play. If you’ve been doing this for a while you probably can quickly ascertain how different offers can fit into your prospective travel plans and thus make a better judgment call on whether you should jump on multiple offers. You’ll also have a better idea of when those offers might be returning if you’ve seen them come and go before.
3) Future travel plans in the short-term
People may have travel plans coming up and so they want to get the sign-up bonuses from multiple cards as soon as possible. This is one of the few very legitimate reasons for doing an AOR in my mind, especially if you get notice of a devaluation that’s probably going to happen to an award chart you were planning on using. The whole point of this hobby for most people is to be able to travel, so if you’re able to lock in a booking, I think that trumps a lot of the other concerns.
4) Future loans
This is another reason that I think is very legitimate for doing an AOR. If you’re planning on buying a house in about a year’s time you may want to eliminate hard inquiries over the course of the next 6 to 12 months. In that case, you’d want to knock out all of your apps at one time so that you have a cleaner credit report when you apply for a mortgage.
When you shouldn’t AOR?
So those are four reasons why you might consider doing an AOR but what are the reasons why you shouldn’t?
1) Limited “breathing room”
I always like to leave myself some “breathing room” for applying for new cards. You never know when a new amazing offer might roll around that might be an all-time best offer. If you apply for many cards at once, it’s possible that you won’t be able to get approved for a credit card because your credit score has taken a dip or you can’t get through a recon session (which is the next point).
2) Getting through recon calls
First, if you have a substantial number of recent inquiries or new accounts, your odds of getting auto approved for a credit card will be lowered. Part of this has to do with fraud prevention and other times it’s because you’ve probably just tripped something in an algorithm but in any event, losing the ability to get auto-approved is a bummer because that means your application will likely be subject to manual review and you might have to do a recon call.
In a recon call, sometimes bank reps will be straight with you on the phone and tell you that they can’t approve you for a card because of how many new accounts you’ve opened within the past 30 to 90 days and it’s incredibly difficult to explain (with a straight face anyway) why you had to open 8 accounts in the last month. Any experienced recon agent will likely see right though your alleged reasons and even if you’re a master of persuasion, a higher-up may override the approval decision.
However, if you went with the slow and steady approach, you’d probably only have around 3 to 4 accounts opened in the previous 3 to 4 months. Thus, your odds of triggering a fraud prevention review are probably less and if you have to call into recon, it’s a lot easier to explain why you’ve opened just a couple of accounts.
3) If you’re just beginning
It’s a fact that if you have a lower credit score and/or thin credit profile, hard pull inquiries will hurt you more. In fact, each hard pull could affect you up to 12 points or more! So if you’re already at a score like 700, it’s possible that a few hard pulls could put you all the way down near 650. In addition to that, with a thin credit profile, new accounts you open will hurt your average age of accounts and therefore also hurt your credit history. Thus, if you’re a newbie with a credit score and report that still needs some work, an AOR may do more harm to your score than it’s worth.
4) Minimum spend requirements
As you get more experienced in this hobby, you’ll discover more and more ways to meet your minimum spend requirements so this becomes less of an issue. Also, you’ll be more comfortable with meeting multiple minimum spends at the same time for different cards. But when you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to not overwhelm yourself with minimum spend requirements. If you’re a rookie, you should always have a concrete plan for meeting a minimum spend before you apply for a credit card. I’m still amazed by reports I read of others who get approved for cards only to be left scrambling to meet a minimum spend requirement.
As you might be able to tell, most of the good reasons for doing an AOR involve factors that are more likely to be present (and understood) when you’re more experienced. That’s because when you have more experience you’ll be able to:
- 1) Better navigate combining inquiries;
- 2) Make an informed judgment call if you should jump on multiple offers during a “sign-up season”;
- 3) Find cards to put together an award itinerary to be booked before a devaluation hits;
- 4) Better handle recon calls;
- 5) Have a better credit score that can handle multiple inquiries; and
- 6) Be more comfortable when meeting minimum spend requirements.
For these reasons, although I don’t prefer AORs, I’m not 100% against them. I just don’t generally recommend them for beginners because a lot of the benefits of doing them and challenges brought about by them are best dealt with when you’ve had a bit of experience in this hobby for a while.
H-Town based Attorney turned credit card rewards expert. Founder of UponArriving.com.