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Which Card Should I Get? Part 1 – Chase Bank

The Military Churning Guide to Chase Bank

This Chase lineup alone nets $600 in travel, United lounge membership, $300 in airline incidentals, 1 night at the Ritz, Bonvoy Gold Status, 1 night at IHG, and IHG Platinum status, every year.

BLUF: Aquire 5 Chase Cards

1. Sapphire Reserve

2. United Club or Explorer (see below)

3. Bonvoy Boundless (upgrade to Ritz)

4. Freedom Unlimited or IHG (see below)

5. Freedom, Hyatt, or Amazon (see below)

Chase Application Rules

5/24 rule (see below), Unlimited cards if you can get approved (see 5/24 rule), Only 2 card applications every 30 days, On non-sapphire products you can get sign-up bonuses every 24 months, There is a max amount of total credit Chase will extend to you and you will have to swap credit around between cards after this point.

Introduction To Aquisition Strategy

If you’ve made it this far, you must be ready to give this free money thing a try.  I salute your capitalistic inclination you fine American, you.  There are way too many credit cards out there to jump in without a plan, and most of them suck.  You defiantly don’t want to waste hard pulls on a measly $100 sign up offer.  Fear not, credit newbie, TDWise is here to help.

There is more of a disciplined order of cards to acquire than you may think.  See, the banks aren’t very keen on handing out these rewards and perks for free, but they also want you to drown in interest-bearing credit card debt, so a middle ground is reached with various credit application rules.  The rules vary bank to bank, and by planning around them, we get a very straightforward order of cards to acquire.  Be advised, however, that everyone values points vs. status vs. perks differently.  This series will attempt to make a one size fits all framework for card acquisition, but your situation may dictate a variance from the norm.

The Chase 5/24 Rule

The first defining rule comes from Chase and is known as 5/24.  The 5/24 rule is built into the Chase credit approval system that will automatically deny your credit application for Chase cards if you have opened up 5 new credit card accounts in the last 24 months.  That’s 5 accounts from ANY BANK, so it makes this the most limiting rule out there.  Thus, we have our starting point: get the cards that will be blocked by the 5/24 rule first.

My old school Chase lineup of 5/24 affected cards before the rule affected ALL Chase cards. A simpler time.

Now, before I can tell you how to start, you have to figure out where you currently fall in the 5/24 rule.  The easiest way to do this is to head on over to Credit Karma and make or sign in to your account.  Then click on one of your scores, click on the Age of Credit History, and count how many cards you have that are younger than 2 years.  Subtract that number from 5, and that’s how many Chase cards you have room for under the 5/24 rule.  Do you have 5 or more already?  See how long it will take to get under 5 and weigh if you want to wait that long to start this hobby. If not, continue to Part 2 (Note: If you have authorized user accounts in the last 2 years they will count towards 5/24 on your automated application, but you can try to call Chase’s reconsideration line and sweet talk your way out of them counting.  Store-specific cards that do not have a Visa/Mastercard/Amex logo will not count.  It would seem student loans DO count, unfortunately.)

Chase Card Strategy

  1. Right off the bat, get yourself the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you have the Sapphire Preferred already then you, unfortunately, cannot get another card with the word Sapphire in the title. Don’t worry; you still have options. IF your Sapphire Preferred was opened after September of 2017, it qualifies for the MLA annual fee waiver. Get it applied if you have not already, wait a year from the date you opened the card, then upgrade it to an annual fee waived Sapphire Reserve. You won’t get a signup bonus, but you will get a $300 travel credit each year. If you had this card from before the activation of MLA, it gets trickier. If the date you received the Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus is over 4 years ago, I recommend downgrading the card to a Freedom to maintain account longevity without an annual fee and then applying for the Sapphire Reserve, sign up bonus and all. If the date you received the Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus is less than 4 years ago, then you pretty much have to wait to overcome that time requirement. Once you get this card, apply for MLA benefits here, and they should apply automatically to all subsequent cards.
  2. The next card to get is the United Club. There are two strategies here: either find a higher signup offer on the United Explorer and product change to the United Club after a year or don’t find a higher signup offer on the Explorer and skip right to the Club.  If you’re a die-hard United fan you could even get both, but that burns up another 5/24 slot so consider what you have room for and what other cards you want.
  3. Next up is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless because who doesn’t like free nights? After a year of owning this card, upgrade that bad boy to the Ritz Carlton card.  This is currently the only way to get a Ritz card if you don’t already have one.
  4. Slot number 4 can vary depending on your desires. If you want to play the long game get a Freedom Unlimited card, wait a year, and upgrade to a second Sapphire Reserve. The annual $300 travel benefit will stack giving you $600 per year in reimbursed travel purchases. If you are in the Army or stay at IHG hotels a bunch, snag the IHG Card to take advantage of IHG now owning a majority of Army based hotels. You’ll get added IHG points for TDY stays, a free annual night, and Platinum Elite status to boot.
  5. The 5th is up to you. Long gamers can get the Freedom card for a third Sapphire Reserve in a year (or second if you went the IHG route in slot 4). If you’re a Hyatt fan, there is a Hyatt card. If you’re an Amazon fan, they have a pretty lucrative 3% cashback card on your Amazon purchases.

There are various ways to go about your first 5 cards, and it will be a little different for each traveler, especially for those starting out with cards already taking up some of their 5 slots in 24 months. If you want to debate the merits of any one card strategy over the other, then let the people know on our facebook group.

The pre-5/24 days made travel hacking a lot easier.

The Chase Trifecta

Of note, you will read about the “Chase Trifecta” on other, lesser blogs that aren’t playing 4D-waived-annual-fee chess. They will lure you into a Freedom Unlimited card for its 1.5% cashback because it pairs well with the CSR’s 3x points on travel and dining and the Ink Preferred’s 3x points on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone services, and advertising purchases.  Don’t bother, military spender, your everyday spend is better utilized on meeting the plethora of other annual-fee-waived signup bonuses out there. I’ve been in the game for 3 years now and still have no end of substantial bonuses in sight.

The Southwest Companion Pass

Also of note are Southwest cards. I don’t fly them because not picking your seat is anarchy. If you do, they have a great companion pass program that lets you take 1 designated companion along with you on any flight for almost 2 years if you acquire 110k frequent flyer miles in January of whatever year you do from the signup bonuses on two Southwest cards.  You have to wait for the bonuses to be high enough (50k and 60k or 60k and 60k) and time them appropriately so that the second bonus hits in Jan/Feb, giving you the rest of the year the 110k miles are acquired and the following year.  I have not done this and thus cannot speak much about it.

Business Cards

I did not mention the Chase business cards (and I won’t mention other banks’ business cards) because I do not have a single business card in my collection yet. The Ink Preferred has a fantastic sign-up bonus of 80k points, and you can apply using your name/SSN as the business name/EIN for a sole proprietorship, but I can’t speak from experience on it. This card IS restricted by the 5/24 rule. However, there are data points suggesting it doesn’t count as a card against the 5/24 rule. In the good old days of churning it was no big deal getting sole-proprietorship business cards but lately banks have been getting more demanding with business documentation. I err on the side of caution here since we already get so much for free. I don’t want to get called out on a not totally legitimate business and screw up my reputation with a bank, which would put my other personal cards in jeopardy.

Disney Cards

My wife would be filled with contempt if I didn’t mention the beloved Disney cards. Here’s the deal: there are two, neither signup bonus is worth writing about, the Premier has a $49 annual fee, the one they didn’t bother to name is free. The free one is obviously subpar so you should only consider the Premier card. It will get you 2% cashback on gas, grocery, restaurants, and of course Disney. 1% on everything else. Cashback is a misnomer though because it’s only cash for Disney stuff and airline reimbursement. You do get a 10% discount at the Disney Store, which is nice to stack with your 2% “cash” back and, wait for it, cardmember photo opportunities with cast members dressed in Disney character costumes. What a hoot.

Then, of course, I didn’t include the Starbucks card because there’s bigger fish to fry.

Have you knocked out your 5/24 strategy already?  Continue to What Card Should I Get? Part 2 – American Express


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