My wife and I have dozens of travel credit cards, but we slowed down our applications to prioritise the Chase rewards we value the most

  • My wife and I have been using rewards credit cards to earn free travel for our family of eight since 2013.
  • We’ve opened over 40 cards between the two of us to take advantage of sign-up bonuses and to maximise our spending.
  • However, since issuers have introduced restrictions that limit how many cards you can get approved for – like Chase’s 5/24 rule – we’ve slowed down our applications.
  • Before we were “under” the 5/24 rule, we converted our Chase Freedom into the Chase Sapphire Reserve so we didn’t have to miss out on the Reserve’s benefits and rewards.
  • We can still apply for business credit cards that appeal to us, since these cards don’t count toward the limit of five new card accounts in 24 months.
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My first foray into the world of miles and points came back in 2013. Staring at an upcoming family reunion in Lake Tahoe, I knew that eight cross-country plane tickets were going to run $US3,000 or more, and would put a serious dent in our ability to attend the reunion. After doing some research, I ended up applying for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and a couple of Southwest cards, and used 170,000 Rapid Rewards points to fly my family of eight to Reno and back.

That was the start of an adventure that had my wife and I applying for new cards on a pretty aggressive timeline, culminating in a situation where we had over 40 cards between the two of us. These miles and points helped our family to travel more than we would have otherwise been able to do.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

The advent of Chase’s 5/24 rule

Back then, if you had a good credit score and reliable income, there weren’t many limits on getting approved for new credit cards. That started to change in 2015, when Chase started rolling out new guidelines about who would be approved for its cards. Dubbed the Chase 5/24 rule, it said that applicants who had applied for 5 or more cards from any bank in the past 24 months would not be approved for Chase cards.

When it was first rolled out, it only applied to a small subset of Chase’s cards. Applicants with a lot of recent card applications could still be approved for business credit cards and co-branded cards like the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. At the current time, however, virtually every Chase-issued card is subject to Chase 5/24.

Other card issuers following suit

Chase 5/24 was the first shot across the bow toward people applying for cards just to get the welcome offers, but other issuers have certainly tightened their application requirements over the past few years.

American Express extended its “one welcome offer per card per lifetime” to business cards as well, and Bank of America introduced a rule that it will only approve you for two cards within a rolling two-month period and three cards within 12 months. And in my experience, even other issuers without formal application rules have tightened approvals for people with many recent card applications on their credit report.

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How our card application strategy has evolved

For a year or two after we noticed that issuers were tightening their approval criteria, my wife and I didn’t make any changes to our application strategy. We continued to apply for new cards at a healthy clip, even if it meant that we missed out on the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve as well as several other Chase-issued credit cards. Our thinking was that the benefits from the welcome offers of new cards outweighed the downside of missing out on some of the Chase cards.

But as time went on, our application strategy has evolved. As we “ran out” of new cards to apply for, we realised that it might make sense to slow down on our rate of applying for new cards. Was it worth delaying the time when we would fall under 5/24 to pick up Asia Miles or Best Western Rewards points that we didn’t really value as much?

So about 18 months ago, we decided that what made sense for our family was to drastically slow down our new applications, with the goal of falling back down under 5/24. After a period of “fasting,” my wife fell under 5/24 last month, and I will fall under in a few months.

If you have a ton of recent applications, here’s what you can do

You may hear or see people referring to themselves as “LOL/24,” meaning that they have so many applications in the past 24 months that they have no real chance of ever getting under 5/24. If you find yourself in the same situation that we were in, there are a few things that you can still do to get miles and points without applying for new cards.

One strategy we used was to apply for business cards. Most business cards have welcome offers that are just as good, if not better, than personal cards, and they have the added bonus of not counting towards your 5/24 total.

Another option to consider, if you have a spouse or partner, is to concentrate new applications with one person and have the other person be more circumspect with the new cards they apply for.

Also consider product-changing one of your existing cards. When we were about to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book a trip to Barcelona for our family, we realised that having a Chase Sapphire Reserve card would let us get 1.5 cents per point instead of 1.25 cents per point. Since we were both over 5/24, we couldn’t get approved for a new Sapphire Reserve card, so we product-changed a Chase Freedom to a Sapphire Reserve, which saved us nearly 35,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

A few of my favourite cards

Here are a few of my favourite cards that I carry in my wallet

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve The ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents per point has saved us tens of thousands of Ultimate Rewards in redeeming for cheap cash flights and hotels.
  • IHG Premier card My wife and I signed up for this card at the same time, which lets us stack the anniversary free nights (for hotels that cost up to 40,000 points) for two nights on the same trip
  • Citi® Double Cash Card 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your bill) and no annual fee is a great combo, and now you can transfer your cash back into ThankYou points as well, which gives you another great option.

While everyone’s situation is different, I hope this has given you another perspective on strategies for applying for new cards. Good luck, and happy travels!

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.