Getting Approved For The Chase Sapphire Reserve With Limited Credit History

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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Getting approved for a credit card with limited credit history can be a challenge. Credit card companies want to see that you can spend responsibly before they’ll extend you credit, but at the same time if they don’t extend you credit, you can’t really prove that you can use credit responsibly. This is a situation I was in about a decade ago, and I remember my frustration at first. Fortunately I quickly figured it out, and have been earning amazing credit card rewards ever since.

A couple of years ago the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card was introduced, which has been extremely popular with millennials. I get lots of questions from young professionals regarding their approval odds for the card. Is it really practical for a 20-something year old to be approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card?

In this post I wanted to answer that question on a few different fronts:

  • Why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is so popular with young people
  • How tough is it to be approved for the Sapphire Reserve?
  • Why the Sapphire Preferred could be a better first card to apply for
  • What happens if you get denied for the Sapphire Reserve?
  • If you get denied, what should you do?

Let’s get right into it:

Why the Sapphire Reserve is so popular with young people

Chase reached their one year sales target on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card within two weeks of introducing the card. They’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of millennials who have applied for the card, which is pretty powerful on their part, since historically young people have avoided high annual fee cards (conversely, I feel like the Amex Platinum Card has largely targeted seniors, who still view the card as a prestige symbol).

While Chase has been thrilled with the number of young people who have gotten the card, that’s also an issue, because they’ve learned that young professionals often have different credit card usage patterns than previous generations. They’ve found that fewer people are financing charges (which is one way credit card companies make money), and people are also spending a disproportionate amount on dining and travel, which are the most rewarding categories.

So in addition to the great welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points upon completing minimum spend, what else makes the Sapphire Reserve so great?

  • 3x points on dining and travel
  • A $300 annual travel credit
  • A Priority Pass Select membership with guesting privileges
  • The ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Great travel and purchase protection

As you can see, this card is very much geared towards young professionals, who may spend more on dining and travel than on gas and groceries, for example. Furthermore, the “travel” category is so broad, and includes things like Uber, which many of us use on a daily basis. That $300 annual travel credit can be applied towards anything that’s coded as a travel purchase, including Ubers, so just about everyone should be getting the full value out of that credit.

How tough is it to be approved for the Sapphire Reserve?

Let me share a scenario I get asked questions about all the time. Say you’re a young professional who is a few years out of college, but you’ve primarily used debit cards up until now. Maybe you applied for one credit card in your name, because you’ve operated under the (incorrect) assumption that having multiple credit cards is bad for your credit score. Your credit score is good, but you don’t have that much credit history.

What are your chances of being approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card?

Probably not amazing, but you do have a chance. This has more to do with being approved for Chase cards in general, rather than this card specifically. In my experience for those with excellent credit but not much credit history, Amex cards are easiest to be approved for, followed by Citi cards (though they’re wildly inconsistent when it comes to approvals, in my experience), and then Chase. So Chase is one of the tougher issuers to get cards from, though in my experience once you have your first card with them, getting more cards is much easier.

Why the Sapphire Preferred could be a better first card to apply for

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the more mainstream version of the Reserve. It has a $95 annual fee and offers:

  • 2x points on dining and travel
  • The ability to redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Great travel and purchase protection

If you get the Sapphire Preferred you could upgrade it to the Reserve after a year. So this is a chance to “try out” the program for a year before committing to a larger annual fee.

So why is the Sapphire Preferred potentially easier to get approved for? Because the Sapphire Preferred is a Visa Signature Card, while the Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite Card. In general, each of those types of cards has a credit line minimum:

  • A Visa Signature has a $5,000 minimum credit limit
  • A Visa Infinite has a $10,000 minimum credit limit

What this means is that you can have an excellent credit score, but they could decide that they only feel comfortable giving you a $7,000 credit limit, for example. If that’s the case, you could be approved for the Sapphire Preferred but not the Sapphire Reserve. As a result, if you’re not sure if you’ll be approved, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be a good card with which to start.

What happens if you get denied for the Sapphire Reserve/Sapphire Preferred?

My general recommendation for this with excellent credit but with limited credit history is to just try applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Should you be super angry if you get denied? Absolutely not. The reality of how credit scores work is that your score will be dinged by a couple of points temporarily (that falls off your report after 24 months), and those couple of points shouldn’t make a difference for all practical purposes. You can still apply for the card in the future, but then at least you know if you have to build up more of a credit history before trying again. There really is very little downside to trying to apply.

If you get denied, what should you do?

As I mentioned above, I find that for those with excellent credit but limited credit history, Amex cards are among the easiest to be approved for. So my recommendation would be to pick up a couple of American Express personal credit cards, spend on them for several months (let’s say 6-12 months), monitor your credit score, and if you’re seeing positive changes to your score, you can try applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card again.

Which Amex card makes the most sense? It doesn’t really matter much, I find there’s not huge variance in terms of approval odds by cards. If you want a card that’s generally useful for earning points, my recommendation would be one of the following:

Bottom line

For those who haven’t had many credit cards, getting approved for a Chase credit card can be challenging. This is especially true for younger people, who are likely to have limited credit history.

To summarize my advice, if you don’t yet have any credit cards:

If you already have a couple of credit cards, have an excellent score, but have limited credit history:

  • Try applying for either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card; if you get rejected it’s not a huge deal, as it just dings your credit score by a couple of points for a limited time
  • Work on building your credit by applying for some Amex cards, which are likely to be easier to be approved for
  • After using those cards responsibly for 6-12 months (paying off your balance in full and keeping your utilization low), consider applying for a Chase card again

This strategy worked for me back in the day when it came to getting my first Chase card, and it’s something I’ve generally gotten good feedback on from readers. Of course, everyone’s situation is going to be different, so only take this as very general advice. I’m happy to provide more detailed recommendations in the comments based on data points I’ve heard if you want to share more details based on your situation.

If you have a fairly limited credit history, please share your experience getting approved for one of the Chase Sapphire cards in the comments section.

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees).

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  1. My CSR was approved earlier this month with the SL of $25,000. I have only 9 months of credit history. I was approved a Chase Freedom 9 months ago with the SL of $500. Chase likes their own customers with excellent repayment history and low utilizations.

  2. @Lucky: By “fairly limited credit history”, do you mean PERSONAL history based on a credit card where one is the primary card holder? As I mentioned in another comment of mine, my son who is just out of college will apply soon for his first credit card. Since he has been an authorized cardholder on several of our own credit cards, his credit score is very good, and on his credit report all those cards show up. Would you say that that credit history is sufficient to get approved for his first card? Thanks.

  3. @ Daniel B — It all depends on how it shows up on the credit report. In the past Amex often backdated account history for authorized users, which was great, but they’re not doing that anymore. For your son, how many active accounts does it show, what does it show as the average age of the account, and what’s the score? In general if those numbers look good, then he should have a good chance of approval.

  4. What if I get approved for the CSP? How easy is it to product change to the CSR after a year if my CL is $10,000 on the CSP?

  5. @ JC — It’s readily available at that point, and virtually everyone in good standing should be eligible.

  6. @Lucky. Thanks. I will check, but this is what shows up for him even though he is just an authorized card holder: a Chase Marriott card (4 years), SWA Premier (3 years), Citi AA Executive (1 year). Also was on my wife’s and my Citi AA Platinum for 4 years before we cancelled it because we both got the Aviator card.
    You mentioned that the Amex cards seem to be the easiest to get. Would that include the Delta co-branded cards too? Thanks.

  7. @ Daniel B. — Yep, it does. If he hasn’t applied for his own card yet, I might recommend first getting him an Amex Card since that’s the easiest to start with.

  8. Oooh this looks great. I’m moving to the states next year so I applied for an Amex in New Zealand and I’m hoping to be able to get approved for an Amex in the US so I can start building some credit history. I remember one of my friends had a Chase credit card and got such great rewards- much better than us kiwis have ever been able to get!

  9. Hey Lucky,

    Does having checking/savings/investment accounts with Chase influence them being willing to extend you credit at all?

    Say you have 5k in a chase checking where your monthly paycheck hits, and another 2-5k in a savings or investment account with them.

  10. @ Jenn — Generally speaking not really, unfortunately. In the past they sometimes made exceptions for those in the Chase Private Client program, but even that doesn’t seem to be happening anymore, so I’d say there’s even less hope for others, unfortunately.

  11. That’s odd. If anything, it’s collateral in case something goes wrong.

    I’ll have to ask my friends who just moved from Europe to the US with no credit history how they got their cards, cause they’re running around with a Reserve and a prestige each… figured it was a large lump sum sitting in their accounts.

  12. @ Jenn — It really does depend on the particular situation. I’m not sure what your situation is, but there are good odds you may be approved for the card as well. The more data points, the better.

  13. I applied for the CSP with 6 months’ US credit history (6+ years in another country) and was denied. Am waiting until I have 1 year US history this June, then going to try for the CSR. Bugs me that credit history from outside the US should be deemed automatically not good enough. Of course no other country can compare to Merica.

  14. I got approved (somehow) for the card at age 20. I only had 1 previous card, and some credit history from financing a pair of tires. On the application I listed my income as $7,500. But they gave it to me anyways! Maybe I’m just *lucky*.

  15. Applied for CSR one month ago with 7 months credit history(all good and current) and only one CC(Cap One Venture One) and one auto loan, also through Capital One. I’m also an AU on my wifes AE Blue Cash card. Never had any relationship w/Chase at all. One night just decided to go for it.


    Things of note- FICO 8 of 740. Annual gross income of $93,000. Sixty years old(does that even matter if your credit age is 7 months?).

  16. Actually for those, who just moved to the States and don’t have any tax return to proof the income, even an Amex card could be hard. I was declined for the Amex Gold and Everyday Cards since I didn’t have a salary record with the IRS that they can access (I think it was Form 4506-T that they requested).
    I instead applied for the CSP (no relationship with Chase) and got approved with a >30k CL and wonder if I could have been approved for the CSR if I had gone for it.

  17. I’m 21, I was denied for the card. I’m hoping after another year I can build up enough history for a decent credit limit. (Esp. since BMW Financial gave me a $130,000 loan).

  18. How about10 month over all credit history and everything is lower then 10% and credit Karma say very good approval odds?

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