My Chase Credit Card Strategy (2021)

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, in particular in light of a couple of things:

  • The current pandemic has caused many people to reconsider their credit card strategies, so I’ll share which cards I have, which I spend the most money on, and which perks I value most
  • We recently saw major changes to the Chase Freedom portfolio, so I wanted to talk about how that’s impacting my approach towards Chase cards

Chase has some of the best points earning credit cards out there, though Chase cards can 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, a summary of my strategy, and then a summary of how coronavirus is impacting my credit card 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 the bank is 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 the 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,” whereby you typically won’t be approved 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

You typically 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. Usually 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 cards, Chase has a “family card” rule. Essentially Chase won’t approve you for a card if you currently have a card in the family, or have received a new cardmember bonus on a card in the family 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), and that’s also the most cards I have with any issuer:

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 reasons 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. This card consistently gets me more value than the annual fee.

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. Especially with the uncertainty nowadays, I think this is the most well-balanced card for everyday spending.

However, fortunately some improvements were recently made to the Freedom Unlimited, as it now also offers 3x points at drugstores and on dining, which is awesome. Furthermore, there’s always value in holding onto no annual fee cards to help you improve your credit score. You also never know if the Citi Double Cash will be devalued in the future.

Is Coronavirus Changing My Chase Card Strategy?

There’s no denying that coronavirus is having a big impact on the value proposition of many credit cards, in particular those earning travel rewards. I absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to cancel any cards if the value proposition no longer made sense.

However, as of now all of my Chase cards are still “checking out” in terms of value, thanks partly to the limited time perks that have been added to some cards:

  • Four of my cards earning Ultimate Rewards points have no annual fees, so there’s no cost to holding onto them
  • Three of my cards earn hotel free night certificates every year with an annual fee of under $100, and I continue to get outsized value from those, even during these times
  • The British Airways Visa might be the toughest to justify at this point, though if I use the 10% rebate or award surcharge credit at least once, I’d get way more value than I’m paying with the annual fee
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve has offered great limited time benefits, like a $100 annual fee discount, the ability to redeem point for 1.5 cents each towards everyday expenses, an Instacart credit, and more
  • The Ink Business Preferred continues to be the most well rounded business credit card out there, and I have no plans to cancel it anytime soon

Which Chase Cards Do I Most Want?

At this point I’m happy with my portfolio of Chase credit cards, and I have most of the cards I really want. At this point there’s one Chase card that I absolutely want, and two Chase cards that would potentially be nice to have:

  • The Chase Freedom FlexSM (review) is the card that I most want, as it has an excellent bonus, and offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, and 3x points at drugstores and on dining
  • The Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card (review) is offering a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Avios, plus some potentially valuable perks for travel on Aer Lingus
  • The Iberia Visa Signature® Card (review) is offering a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Avios, plus some potentially valuable perks for travel on Iberia

The Aer Lingus Visa has a great sign-up bonus

Chase Card Strategy Summary

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

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 ten Chase credit cards, and even the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t changed the value proposition of my Chase card portfolio much. The one card that I really want to get now is the Chase Freedom FlexSM.

What does your Chase card strategy look like nowadays?

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  1. are ink preferred and Ink unlimited or Ink cash businesss card all in the same group? if I had bonus from Ink preferred less than 24 month from now and I apply Ink cash or Ink unlimited , do I still get the bonus from both Ink unlimited and Ink cash business card? or just one of them or none of them? thanks

  2. Understand the free nights on the hotel cards, but why are you keeping the BA card, particularly given the only annual award is the companion ticket which has v. limited value given the taxes and fees?

  3. Scratch that. Just read the bit I skipped over 🙂
    I generally get the card, then dump it, wait 2 years and get it again. I find the 100k avios each time well worth it

  4. Hi Lucky – I already have the CSR. Am I eligible to apply for the Preferred and receive the huge initial sign-up bonus? Or does Chase have a “1 premium card bonus” rule (or something like that)?


  5. I only have the CSR, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Cash. I think its all you need. CSR for travel/dining. FU for daily spending thats not a bonus category. And Ink Cash for AMAZON. I go to staples use the Ink Cash to buy Amazon gift cards at 5x points. From amzn i can buy gift cards for anything else or buy anything i dont get a bonus on. And since i get 5x on all amazon purchases i dont think the Freedom Flex on rotation categories is needed since i can get 5x on amzn and therefor 5x on pretty much everything.

  6. I have a Reserve card and a Freedom unlimited card with over 500K UR points. The annual fee on my Reserve card has just been posted, and I’m seeing very little value in the benefits right now (no interest in immediate travel).
    Questions to the Chase wizards:
    1: What happens to the UR points if I don’t renew the Reserve card. Do I keep them all with just the freedom card, and if so can I use them in the same way as if I renewed the Reserve card. I am aware that the redemption value of a point would no longer be 1.5 cents
    2: How easy would it be to reacquire the Reserve card when life opened up again?

    Any other strategies for dealing with the Reserve card?


  7. I just signed up for the United Explorer card yesterday with their 60K bonus. I’m still under 5/24 and looking at the Freedom Flex for my next card, but after reading this, it looks like I need to wait 30 days till I can apply for another Chase card. I really hope they still include the 5x grocery bonus till then.

  8. I had Chase Presidential Plus for years as it was previously Continental Presidential. I got the IHG and then IHG Premier when I started here but not understanding 5/24 I quickly went over the limit with AMEX, CITI etc.

    Finally out of Chase jail last November.

    So I got Ink Business Preferred in November, then Ink Cash in January 2020 and Sapphire Preferred in March.

    I applied Ink Biz Unlimited in May, but was denied. I did not realize why until I saw latest posts that Chase stated denying Biz cards.

    I just got Freedom at earlier this month when announced it will be discontinued. So now at 2/24

    My plan is to get Hyatt in October and then Southwest Biz preferred in November and complete the big spend after January to have Companion pass 2021 and 2022.

    In January get INK Unlimited and maybe another freedom + an Avios or 2 different Avios?

    That will put me back in jail until 2023..still want a Marriott and other Freedoms

  9. Lucky – any thoughts on PC’ing my current Reserve to a Freedom Flex, then apply for Sapphire Preferred for the sign-up bonus? After getting the bonus, I’d hope to PC the Sapphire Preferred to the Sapphire Reserve as I really like the 1.5x bonus through the travel portal.

    Do you think it’d be possible to get the Reserve again after hitting the Preferred bonus? I don’t want to risk losing it long-term.

  10. @patrick you won’t be able to upgrade till a year after having the card. I recent PC my CSR to vanilla Freedom yesterday And will be applying for CSP and keeping that for a year than upgrading to CSR.

  11. Thinking of dumping the CSR. Too many benefits are duplicated with the Amex Green, the UR ecosystem has greatly devalued with Korean gone and United gutting their program, so it’s hard to justify the effective $250 annual fee. I could have justified it if I was traveling, but that won’t happen until the middle of next year at the earliest.

  12. @ Patrick – Your idea will not work for many reasons.
    1. The Sapphire card and the Reserve card are in the same line, but Freedom is in the same line as Flex.
    2. You may not be able to get the sign up bonus for Sapphire as you recently had Reserve so they may consider that a downgrade.
    3. You may be able to then upgrade for the reserve card again.
    Overall, seems like a lot of work to try to get a bonus. You may not be successful.

    Re dumping CSR for Amex
    There are many considerations, I think before doing this.
    1. Your redemption value for Chase points vs Amex
    Amex charges a fee to use their travel center
    Amex requires more points to redeem with Amex travel
    Chase gives you the 50% bonus if you redeem with Chase travel
    Using such travel agents can be useful if you have problems due cancelations, etc resulting from the pandemic.
    2. Where you spend money – Amex is not as widely accepted outside the US
    3. If you spend enough on restaurants and/or travel then it may be worth keeping the CSR given the points may equal or be more than the difference in fee (e.g. fee minus travel credit and minus the other stuff, etc)
    Having a higher balance with one credit card points provider may be more useful for redemptions than low amounts in many places.

  13. @Neil –
    I suggest you transfer your points from CSR to Freedom before cancelling your card. You can easily do this on the website. I suggest you wait for the transaction to clear before you cancel your card. If the points are not transferred you risk losing them when you close your account. I think it depends if you meet the requirements for the credit card and how long it has been since you held that card if you try to apply again as well as the 5/24 rule. Another option you may consider is the Sapphire card, but I also think you should calculate your spending/return versus the net annual fee minus the travel credit and other deductions.

  14. Excellent post! Between my wife and I we have each of the Chase cards you have except the British Airways and newer IHG card. We have a few duplicates (2x Freedom, 2x Hyatt) and the $95/yr Marriott Bonvoy card as well as the $95/yr United Business card. The new flex & the Avios cards are also on my list of cards to get.

    With the BA card, does the credit toward award flights on BA occur if neither the primary cardholder nor any authorized users are flying?

  15. I have received the CSR bonus of 100K on the Nov. 18 2016 statement and downgraded it to Freedom Unlimited after 1 year. Do you think I am eligible to receive the 80K bonus If I apply CSP and get approved?

  16. @WH. Probably not. They limit the number of bonuses you can get especially if you are going through an upgrade or downgrade rather than a card application.

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