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My single favorite credit card combination involves having several popular Chase cards that can be combined to earn an unbeatable number of Ultimate Rewards points. In this post I wanted to address one of the common questions I get regarding the best strategy for acquiring this combination of cards.
Combining Ultimate Rewards cards to maximize your points earning
The following cards earn Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed as cash towards the cost of a travel purchase, or can be transferred to one of the Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel partners:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card ($450 annual fee)
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card ($95 annual fee)
Meanwhile the following no annual fee cards can be used to complement them (in conjunction with one of the above cards, points can also be transferred to airline and hotel partners):
For example, as I’ve explained, I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, Chase Freedom® Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Between those cards I pay a single annual fee, but I end up earning:
- 5x points in rotating quarterly categories with the Freedom
- 5x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services; 2x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants, with the Ink Cash
- 3x points on dining and travel with the Sapphire Reserve
- 1.5x points on everyday purchases with the Freedom Unlimited
Strategies for acquiring these cards
If you want to acquire a combination of these cards, sometimes your best bet is product changing from one card to another, rather than applying outright. All of these cards are subjected to the 5/24 rule, so you typically won’t be approved for them if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. In terms of applying for these cards, there are a few things to be aware of:
- Nowadays you can only be approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card if you don’t have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and vice versa
- On the plus side, you can product change between any of the personal cards, meaning that you could downgrade either the Reserve or Preferred to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited if you wanted to
- You can earn the bonuses and have both the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (if you do apply for multiple cards, I recommend applying for Chase business cards before Chase personal cards)
How long should you wait between product changing and applying?
This brings us to the question I get asked by readers all the time. It was most recently asked yesterday by reader Mike on a post about how much Ultimate Rewards points are worth:
I am finally under the 5/24 rule. If I downgrade my Sapphire to a Freedom Unlimited card in order to apply for the Sapphire Reserve, does anyone know if there is a minimum wait time to apply for the Reserve? Should I give it a week or two? And I got my Sapphire bonus three years ago so I should qualify for the signup bonus for the Reserve.
What Mike is suggesting is a popular strategy. Say you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and want to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited® (which is a killer combination), but want to limit your total number of inquiries. You could:
- Product change from the Sapphire Preferred to the Sapphire Reserve and apply outright for the Freedom Unlimited
- Product change from the Sapphire Preferred to the Freedom Unlimited and apply outright for the Sapphire Reserve
- Cancel the Sapphire Preferred and then apply for both the Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited
Assuming you want to keep your inquiries to a minimum, I think the second option is the best. You could earn the welcome bonus on the Sapphire Reserve, and end up with two excellent cards. This is exactly the strategy my dad used recently when revamping his credit card portfolio.
Since you can’t get the Sapphire Reserve while you also have the Sapphire Preferred, how long do you have to wait from when you downgrade your card until you’re eligible for the Sapphire Reserve (in this scenario)? The bad news is that there are many conflicting data points on this. Some say:
- They were able to get approved right after product changing
- They had to wait until the statement closed before they could get approved
However, the most common theory seems to be that you should wait about a week between the time you product change and when you apply for a new card that you were previously ineligible for. As far as I’m concerned that’s the best advice out there, and it’s what I’d go off of. In my dad’s case, waiting only four days did the trick, though:
- On March 14 he downgraded his Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- On March 18 he applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and was approved
While I unfortunately don’t have a definitive answer, hopefully this gives people a good general timeline.
If you’ve been in the above situation, what was your experience like?