Miller is a credit-card churner, one of thousands of people who pry travel, cash, and other perks from credit-card rewards programs. Their common traits are a keen eye for deals and an obsessive determination not to pay when they can make somebody else pay for them. They meet up online to share strategies, including in a Reddit forum with 42,000 subscribers, double the number a year ago, and contribute to dozens of blogs on the subject.
Churners can be secretive about their hobby, worried that its growing popularity will cause the card companies to turn off the flow of freebies. “There’s a fear that the more people who know about it, the sooner the deal is going to get killed,” says Miller, 40. But the basic idea is to take out credit cards simply for their rewards, squeeze as many perks as possible out of each one, and then move on to the next, often accumulating dozens of cards in the process.