My Chase Credit Card Strategy (2020)

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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There are lots of aspects to maximizing your credit card rewards, including taking advantage of the best welcome bonuses, spending categories, and card perks.

Sometimes I think it’s interesting to break down credit card strategies by card issuer, so in this post I wanted to share my Chase card strategy for the year. Which cards do I have, which do I spend money on, etc.?

Chase has some of the best points earning credit cards out there, though they can also be among the toughest to be approved for. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to be approved for a Chase card, and also a summary of my strategy.

How Many Chase Cards Can You Have?

There’s no set limit to how many Chase cards you can have. For example, I have ten, though I know people who have more than that. With Chase the limiting factor is typically the total amount of credit they’re willing to extend you.

This means that if you apply for a new card and are maxed out in terms of the credit Chase is willing to issue you, you may be asked to switch credit lines around.

The other big restrictions involve their application process, as I’ll explain below.

Restrictions On Applying For Chase Cards?

There are a few major restrictions to be aware of when applying for Chase cards:

The 5/24 Rule

Chase has what’s known as the “5/24 rule,” where they typically won’t approve you for a new card if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. For this reason it often makes sense to apply for as many Chase cards as possible early in your credit card journey, since these are cards you may not be able to pick up in the future.

Note that as a general rule of thumb, business credit cards won’t count towards that limit, whether issued by Chase or another card issuer. When you are applying for Chase cards, you’ll want to prioritize business applications ahead of personal applications.

See this post for details on how to check if you’re under or over 5/24.

Waiting Between Applications

As a general rule of thumb you won’t be approved for more than two Chase cards in a 30 day period. Some report only being able to get approved for one Chase card in that period.

Personally to be on the safe side I wouldn’t apply for more than one personal and one business card in a 30 day period.

Chase 24/48 Month Rule

The exact terms will vary by card, so you’ll always want to carefully check the terms of your credit card application. Generally speaking Chase will only approve you for a card if you don’t currently have it, and if you haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 24 months.

However, for some cards (like the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve) that waiting period is even longer, up to 48 months.

“Family” Card Rules

For some of their cards, Chase has a “family card” rule. Essentially Chase won’t approve you for a card if you’ve had a similar card in the past 24-48 months.

This is the case with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example. If you have one of those cards then you can’t be approved for the other card, and vice versa.

Similar restrictions apply to some Marriott and Southwest cards.

Which Chase Cards Do I Have?

At the moment I have the following ten Chase cards (as you can see, there’s a heavy focus on cards earning Ultimate Rewards points):

For years the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was my “go to” credit card, though since then I’ve switched to the Sapphire Reserve instead.

How Do I Use My Chase Cards?

There are different reasons that I have Chase credit cards:

  • Some I have for the ongoing perks that they offer
  • Others I have for the return on spending that they offer
  • Others I have for a combination of the two factors

Let me break down the reason I have each card:

Chase Cards I Have For The Perks

I have both the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card specifically for the anniversary free night certificates that the cards offer, each valid at a property costing up to 40,000 points per night.

That alone more than justifies the annual fees on both cards, and is also a reason to pick up an IHG Card.

That’s not even factoring in the other perks of the IHG Premier, including IHG Rewards Club Platinum status, a fourth night free on award redemptions, and more.

I get big value out of the anniversary free night certificate

Then there’s the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, which offers all kinds of great perks, like up to $600 in reward flight statement credits per year, 10% off British Airways flights, and more.

Chase Card I Have For The Perks & Spending Bonuses

The World of Hyatt Credit Card is also pretty compelling for the perks. It has a $95 annual fee, and I keep it because it offers an annual free night certificate valid at a Category 1-4 property, plus five elite nights towards status annually. That more than justifies the annual fee, in my opinion.

But I also end up putting $15,000 of spending on the card per year, as spending that amount gets me:

  • A second Category 1-4 free night certificate
  • An additional six elite nights towards status annually (two for every $5,000 spent)

I get two free night certificates with the card annually

Chase Cards I Have For The Spending Bonuses

I have the other six Chase credit cards for the return on spending that they offer, though I’m not actively using all of them. These cards make up what I like to call the “Chase holy grail.”

More specifically:

I don’t think there’s a more ideal combination of cards to be had with any issuer, as Chase cards get everything from much of my bonused spending, to much of my everyday, non-bonused spending.

Some of my favorite cards earning Ultimate Rewards points

The one thing that has changed is that the Freedom Unlimited used to be my go-to card for everyday personal spending, while now I’m using the Citi® Double Cash Card (review), as it allows me to earn the equivalent of 2x ThankYou points per dollar spent.

However, I’m keeping it, because ultimately having no annual fee cards long term still helps your credit score, and you never know if the Citi Double Cash will be devalued in the future.

Which Chase Cards Do I Most Want?

At this point I’m really happy with my portfolio of Chase credit cards, and I have most of the cards I really want. In the past 18 months I’ve picked up the Ink Business Preferred® Credit CardInk Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card, World of Hyatt Credit Card, and IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

At this point I have just about all the Chase cards I could want. I’d say the one exception is that I’d love to get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (review), as the card offers a huge welcome bonus and perks that make it worth holding onto long term, like a 9,000 point anniversary bonus, four upgraded boardings per year, a daily inflight wifi credit, and more.

Since I don’t fly Southwest that much it’s not a high priority, but it is a very tempting card.

I’d love to get the Southwest Performance Card

Chase Card Strategy Summary

I’d say Chase has the all around most compelling portfolio of rewards cards at the moment. Between their excellent co-brand cards and also their cards earning Ultimate Rewards points, there are so many great opportunities to maximize points with them.

The main thing to keep in mind is that Chase cards are also among the toughest to get approved for, so consider the timing of applying for Chase cards.

I’m really happy with my current portfolio of nine Chase credit cards, and at this point the only Chase card I’d still like to pick up is a Southwest Airlines card.

What does your Chase card strategy look like nowadays?

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Comments
  1. Do you find it difficult to get approved for the business cards? I recently picked up the SWA Performance Business, but had to jump through a few hoops to get it (e.g. answering a lot of “what does your business do”-type questions). Also, as a heads up to folks, they won’t switch credit between your personal cards and business cards.

  2. @Lucky, maybe this is a comment more appropriate for your previous post about why the CSR still makes sense for you, but I really think you’re overvaluing the CSR and ‘want’ it to be worth it for you. When does your annual fee hit? If you can you get one more year at $450, then my following comments are moot. You said the 10x on Lyft is valuable to you. Have you done the math on how often you really use it? I’ve gotten 5x Lyft offers on multiple chase UR cards, so it’s no longer tripling the next best offer. Are you seeing side-by-side comparisons of Lyft Pink vs regular? You also said you already used your doordash credit, perfect, now’s the time to cancel. Every other travel (non-airfare, which you put on Plat AMEX anyway) spend can be put on your Ink Business Preferred with no opportunity cost (and you’ll earn points on that $300 credit you’re going to spend anyway).

  3. Divest. I’m keeping the Hyatt card. Shifting everything else to Citibank. Hard to beat double-cash + Prestige for earn.

    Amex is a joke – Centurion lounges are the new DMV of the airport. I keep watching rich families bring their 5 children in and wonder how that works. I get turned away in Seattle and told to come back in 2 hours. Why would I pay $550 for this, exactly? I can’t even visit the restaurant that Chase and Citi’s PP allows me to hit. Side rant: I live in Los Angeles, which has been expecting an Amex lounge “soon” for 2 years.

    Chase has low earn rates, and offers the mirage of better flight protection, but remember that insurance has their own incentives: not to pay you. Getting not-mortally sick, Covid19 as an extrinsic event, bankruptcy of the airline, weather, war, not listening to your doctor, strikes, or any other excuse they can use to not pay you will be exercised. We’re on our own with these tickets – the sooner you admit that, the happier you’ll be.

  4. @ George – my suspicion is that with the new Sapphire Reserve annual fee, incentives for referrals have changed.

    * TPG worships the card in a way that I’ve never seen.
    * Gary dumped on the card constantly in the past (everyone did) as “NEVER APPLY FOR THIS OMG THE PREFERRED IS THE CARD YOU NEED” (for the usually ditzy list of 10 reasons which boiled down to a bigger signup bonus and higher chance of approval.) Somehow, Reserve is now the “it” card to signup for.

    My credit becomes available in March. After that I’m dropping this card like a hot potato.

  5. I have four – CSR, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Freedom x2. CSR is invaluable for Hyatt, plus 1.5x portal. Lyft is a good bonus. It’s debatable whether you need CSR or CSP. These are among my oldest cards so I am keeping them in some form. I am under 5/24 next year and will add Hyatt and one of United, BA or Marriott

    Andrew – I put the vast majority of my spend on Amex. Great customer service, access to SkyClubs is much more important thant Centurion/Priority Pass, Delta status boosts, Amex Gold 4x on dining and grocery, FHR, attractive Hilton and Marriott cards, honestly a great suite of cards.

    Citi is decent, but transfer partners aren’t unique.

  6. My strategy: CSR + Freedom unlimited and transfer points to Hyatt. Its that easy. No effort in making bookings and regulary get $1000 night hotels for 25k & 30k points

  7. @ Andrew — I can’t speak for others, but I know for me incentives haven’t changed. At least not as far as I know. I honestly have no clue what commission various cards pay (Tiffany controls that, I just do the writing), and Tiffany hasn’t said anything to me, so…

  8. @ George — That’s an excellent question. Let me first of all say that I view my credit card strategy as a long term game and not a short term game. I primarily apply for cards that I plan on holding onto. But your comment got me thinking.

    I already used the DoorDash credit and the $300 travel credit for 2020, so is it really worth me keeping the card into the next year? Next year I’ll pay a $550 annual fee, and I’ll get a $300 travel credit and $60 DoorDash credit, which I’ll no doubt maximize. So that’s $360 worth of value, and let’s say that the card is really costing me ~$190 per year, give or take.

    I’ve made the switch from Uber to Lyft, and I’ve actually been very happy with it. I’ve compared the price on every ride (I want to write a separate post about my experience making the switch from Uber to Lyft), and prices have actually been marginally lower with Lyft without even factoring in the 15% discount.

    Not even taking anything else into the equation, I’m earning an incremental 7x UR points per dollar spent. You say you get 5x offers sometimes on other cards, so let’s just call it an incremental 5x UR points. I value those points at 1.7 cents each, so that’s an incremental 8.5% return. I’d breakeven on the $190 fee with ~$2,235 in rideshare spending per year, and I absolutely do spend that, since it’s my primary way of getting around.

    That’s not even factoring in the other value I get from the card.

    Don’t get me wrong, the card might not be a “slam dunk” for everyone anymore, but I do think the card is at an absolute minimum marginally worthwhile for me.

  9. I have the Chase Southwest Performance business card and Southwest Priority card, which with the combined signup bonuses plus a referral bonus, I was able to earn 175,000 rapid rewards points and a companion pass.

    For hotel branded cards I have the old Hyatt card and the old IHG card. I see no reason for upgrading them to the newer versions of these cards.

    For Ultimate Rewards, I have the Sapphire Reserve, Freedom, Ink Plus, Ink Cash, and Ink Unlimited.

    I basically only use my Sapphire Reserve for 10x on Lyft (I use my Citi Prestige for dining), my Chase Freedom on gas (5x bonus this quarter), and Ink Plus and Cash to buy Visa debit gift cards when on sale (Right now, there happens to be a sale at Staples– fee free gift cards and you can stack it with current Chase offers of 20% off for a profit)

    Interestingly, several months ago I upgraded my Sapphire Preferred card to the Reserve card when the AF of the preferred was due. After upgrading, I was reimbursed the $95 AF and I was never charged the higher AF for the Reserve card. I guess it’s a mistake on Chase’s part. So I’m getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve (and all it’s perks) for free… at least for now.

  10. I like what @Andrew said about travel protection. Are there any honest evaluations or reviews out there about them? I feel like it’s one of those things that gets more attention that it deserves. Just like medical insurance, all they try and do is figure out how to deny you.

  11. Currently have

    CSR – Dining and non-airfare travel
    World of Hyatt – Taxes, general spend up to $15k
    Ritz Carlton – Just use for the airline credits and FNA
    United MileagePlus (the free one, not Explorer) – Don’t use, just keep alive
    Ink Cash – Staples/Office Depot fee free VGC
    Marriott Business – Never use, just keep for the FNA

    I feel like they’re trolling me because I just got a snail mail offer for 100k on the Ink Pref but the offer expires the month before I go under 5/24!

    Also interested in the United Business @ 100k – would make a nice set with the MileagePlus for the 5k points bonus per year.

  12. “For years the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was my “go to” credit card, though since then I’ve switched to the Sapphire Reserve instead.” – This does not make sense and is poor advice. The Reserve card earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, but only 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The Freedom Unlimited card ears 1.5 points on all purchases, so it would make sense to use that card for the other purchases, unless a specific reason to use a different credit card from one of the these two. Further, the points can be combined and used as Reserve points, so the 1.5 would receive a 50% bonus, much like the 3 would if redeeming for Chase travel. If you put the same charge on the Reserve card directly it would only earn 1 point + 50%.

  13. Why do you keep the Ink Preferred? If you keep the Reserve and have the no fee Ink Cash ,what benefit do you obtain from keeping the Ink Preferred ? Am I missing something?

  14. I don’t understand why people look at the CSR in a vacuum. It’s the only card in a chase setup that has an annual fee. I may not take advantage of all the benefits (i use all except Lyft), but the points i earn across ALL UR cards that I’m able to take advantage of using the travel portal or transfer partners makes it worth the cost.

    And of course YMMV

  15. I’m interested in applying for the Chase United Explorer card, which is offering 60,000 miles. I had this card two years ago – received it in late February 2018. The Chase website says you’re not eligible if you’re a previous Cardmember who received a new Cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months. But when I called Chase United, the woman told me it was based on when you received the card, not when you got the bonus points.
    Was she wrong? It’s very confusing and there doesn’t seem to be any way to contact Chase United Explorer by email to get an answer in writing. Thanks.

  16. @Geoff – a couple of years back there was a posting – not sure if it was Gary’s or Lucky’s – but where a traveler shared their father had a medical emergency while the family was traveling overseas. Fortunately, since they used their Chase cards to book the flights, etc. they were able to return and they were completely covered. The father needed special care – I don’t recall if it was a heart related issue or not, but the flight would have cost nearly $100K because of the transportation and special equipment required to be on board. While I know that sounds like a needle in the haystack it definitely worked for that family.

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