There’s A Correct Order In Which To Apply For Credit Cards

Filed Under: American Express, Chase
In the interest of full disclosure, OMAAT earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers (terms apply) that we have found for each product or service. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, hotel chain, or product manufacturer/service provider, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about our partners, and thanks for your support!

If you want to maximize points, there’s merit to having credit cards from all of the major issuers. There are so many great credit cards out there, and plenty of different reasons to get these cards. Typically the three biggest factors I consider when applying for cards are the welcome bonuses, the long term perks, and the return on spend that they offer.

With that in mind, there’s a correct order in which to apply for cards. If you’ve been using a bunch of credit cards for a long time then you’re probably familiar with this, but for those newer to credit cards, hopefully this helps.


Different issuers have different policies

The three credit card issuers I write about most are American Express, Chase, and Citi. In the past I’ve written posts explaining the different policies that these card issuers have in terms of how many cards you can be approved for, what the rules are for earning the welcome bonuses on the cards, and other general policies that are in place. Here are posts talking about the details of the policies from each issuer:

All the issuers have their own quirks. American Express has a policy regarding how many total Amex cards you have at any given time, and about only being able to earn the welcome bonus on a card once in a “lifetime.” Citi has a policy of only approving you for at most two cards every 65 days.

Chase also has some policies, which are probably the most important to understand if you’re new to miles & points.

Chase cards are the first you should apply for

Of the major issuers, Chase is the only one that formally limits your approval based on how many cards you’ve applied for in the past. Chase has the “5/24 rule,” which means that they typically won’t approve you for some of their cards if you’ve opened more than five accounts in the past 24 months.  Some of their most popular cards are subjected to this rule, including:

I see the logic behind Chase’s 5/24 rule — they’re trying to prevent people from “gaming,” and applying for cards for the bonuses, and then canceling them. However, I think there are lots of profitable customers who would apply for more than five cards in 24 months, especially if they’re fairly new to credit cards.

Given that Chase is the only issuer that has an official policy like this, I’d recommend that those new to credit cards first apply for a few Chase cards. Specifically, the Chase cards that are subjected to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

How many Chase cards should you apply for first, and how quickly?

Chase doesn’t have a consistent, formal rule, when it comes to how many cards they’ll approve you for in a certain amount of time. Generally Chase’s biggest limitation is the total amount of credit they’re willing to extend you, though they’ll often let you move around credit lines in order to approve you for more cards.

However, some have reported having to wait 30 days between Chase applications. So if I were new to miles & points, I’d apply for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® before applying for any other cards, and I’d wait a bit over 30 days between the two applications.

These are two of the most well rounded cards, and then you can decide after the first year which of those cards works better for you. Then you can potentially downgrade one of those cards to the Chase Freedom FlexSM or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which I consider to be two of the most lucrative no annual fee cards. I’d even consider applying outright for one or both of those cards, or even both of them, given how they can help you maximize your spend.

For example, if you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Freedom® Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you’ll be able to earn double points on dining and travel, 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, and 1.5x points on all other purchases, all while paying just a $95 annual fee. That’s a fantastic return.

Furthermore, if you have a business, I’d consider getting the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and/or Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, which are two very compelling Chase business cards.

Bottom line

There are a lot of fantastic credit cards out there, and for many of us, it makes sense to have over a dozen cards that we pay annual fees on, just for the benefits they offer. Many people have the temptation to apply for a bunch of cards at once.

Personally I’d take more of a long term approach, and would take my time applying for the Chase cards that are useful long term and are subjected to the 5/24 rule, even if it takes you several months to get approved for these cards. These are cards that can potentially help you maximize your points earning opportunities long term.

Once you’ve done that, consider picking up cards that are rewarding otherwise, but aren’t subjected to the strict 5/24 rule.

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. Good post! Now one starting must be strategic and getting Chase ones 1st due to 5/24 is strategic. Since I’ve had all the AmEx cards as well as Citi within last two years, im trying to lay off new cards for 24 months to start the Chase cycle again.

    I still have some points in reserve, but my hubby worries when I travel, I’m slowing down. Rather than 3 international trips a year, maybe two or one. This year, both of us are going to Amsterdam in a couple of weeks on United Biz using both chase UA bonus & UR. I’m close to finalizing my 5th annual RTW this fall flying Korean JFK-ICN-SYD in 1st on both B747-8i & A380. With only 13 hours in Soul, this only takes 120k miles. Transferred 80k SPG & 20k UR for this.

    2 nights at IC Sydney using Ambassador 2 for 1 weekend cert (net 19,000 IHC points for annual renewal). Then using AA miles for SYD to AUH in Apartment (100k AA miles) & 122k Etihad miles (transferred from AmEx MR) for AUH-IAD on 787-9 in 1st. 7 day #RTW17

    Also since there were already gobs of comments on two recent posts, let me mention mine now while I have a good chance of having your attention

    I liked your story of becoming the great blogger you are! I’ve enjoy your growth over the years and especially how you have morphed from traveling with a friend to naming your friend. As a guy together with another guy for thirty eight years, I wish you and Ford all the best.

    Second and this related to the previous paragraph, I would think two folks could enjoy the Residence. But in all events, Have Fun!

  2. I’d also say the biggest bang for your buck with Chase would be to do the following:

    1. Sapphire Reserve- foundation of your UR approach, everything flows into here.
    2. Sapphire Preferred- great sign up bonus, downgrade to the Freedom Unlimited after the first year
    3. Ink Preferred- after the first year, downgrade to the Ink Cash
    4. Southwest Premier
    5. Southwest Plus- both Southwest cards to get Companion Pass

    If you aren’t a Southwest flyer, going for the United card might be a good option, or the Ritz.

  3. For new people, definitely agree that it pays to get a few UR cards first. I’m not sure it pays to wait if you are already over the limit. Say you apply for two cards every three months and each sign up bonus is worth ~$400 equivalent. That is 16 cards you could get within the 24 month period worth $6400. There is no way that the chase bonuses are worth that much. Only problem with this strategy is that you will accumulate lots of fragmented points currencies.

  4. I’m surprised that the Southwest Airlines cards are not included in the blog post. My understanding is that they are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

  5. Great stuff on this site. Still learning.

    This post alludes to downgrading (and cancelling?) cards after receiving bonuses. Is that a strategy? Is this outlined somewhere in another post?

    As a longtime user of just a couple of cards and just some targeted airline and hotel rewards programs, I’m interested in applying for more opportunistically as sign up rewards warrant, but I’m weary of annual fees (and just generally, monthly card management) getting out of hand as the cards start to add up.

    Thanks for any insight or direction!

  6. @lucky.. I read you a ton but this is one of your worst articles. Did you forget to write the rest? Where’s the list? Thought you were telling me what order to get CC in and you stopped! Please continue the list for the majors at least. I know there are a ton of stories out there but having a condensed version would be awesome. Thanks

  7. I’ve had my trusty Chase United MileagePlus Explorer for years. $95/year and the main benefit to me is earning miles in UA’s FF program, as it’s an easy way to book reward flights and the miles “cost” to book the type of flights I book (usually on partner airlines) isn’t that bad.

    But should I just move to Sapphire Preferred instead? Annual fee is the same, and am I reading right that I can do a 1-1 conversion of Sapphire points to UA miles? Is there some limit? Seems too good to be true.

    Is there something I’m missing? I’m a Star Alliance Gold level so I get lounge access any priority boarding when flying, and free bags anyway (and I usually fly domestic F or int’l J). Maybe I’ve been racking up all this spend on MileagePlus Explorer when I should be doing it on Sapphire instead!

  8. Is Chase happy to give you the signup bonus for the Ink Cash / Sapphire preferred if you already have the Ink Preferred / Sapphire Reserve? Or should you always start with the cheapest card first?

  9. Lucky first let me say that I am a real fan of your blog and read all your posts. I have never commented on your posts. That said, I read your glowing write up on the Chase Reserve. You did not mention that a few benefits are really not benefits.YOU should really give the good, the bad and the ugly.
    1) for a $450 annual fee you would expect a concierge service that works instead of going on line for 3rd party restaurant reservations like open table. Amex platinum makes calls and has restaurants that are tied into their program. Open table is not a benefit. Have tried 3 times for rest. reservations after I had used open table. The only rest. reservation I received from Chase Reserve was the incorrect location ( Roy’s Rest in Newport) and I could not use. I ended up walking to the rest (had no car) Roy’s in Anaheim, CA and they gave me the reservation Chase could not get.
    2) sporting and theater tickets: Reserve uses 3rd parties like vivid seats or stub hub. Amex actually keeps inventory. If you ask nicely, they seem to find face value tickets for an event even when they say t they have no inventory left.
    These are really great Amex benefits. The Chase Reserve is quite useless for a premium card when compared to an Amex Platinum or gold. Plat now over $450 but Gold is $175. You get what is promised. I dropped the Amex Plat. and received a prorated refund for my annual fee. Took out a Chase Reserve. When I realized they had scammed me on 3 benefits I attempted to drop the Chase Reserve. Chase was obstinate and refused to grant prorated refund. Even after speaking w/ 2 managers, also obstinate and rude. I explained that I can easily do what they consider benefits on my own in minutes.After hours of conversation I finally asked for a refund based on THEIR benefit for anything purchased( monetary limits OK) and the vendor not accepting return or giving refund. They said that it is an internal policy not to use that benefit when they (Chase Reserve) are the vendor. So that is 3 benefits they say they have but really don’t have. THEIR REFUND POLICY IS NOT IN THEIR ACCEPTANCE AGREEMENT.
    I am now back to Amex ( still have Reserve and will use ONLY for GOES and Travel benefit.When my year is up will drop the Chase Reserve. A real waste of money, obstinate and rude customer service. If you are looking for REAL BENEFITS this should not be your premium card.

  10. The Chase IHG Rewards MC isn’t subject to 5/24. Chase denied me a few times because I already have eight other cards with them, but on the last application Chase was finally willing to move some credit around to approve the IHG card.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *