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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 sign-up 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 sign-up 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:
- Rules for applying for American Express cards
- Rules for applying for Chase cards
- Rules for applying for Citi cards
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. The following cards are subjected to this rule:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
- Chase Freedom® Card
- Chase Freedom® Unlimited
- The Hyatt Credit Card
- IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
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℠ Card 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® Card 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® Card, Chase 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 (which is even waived the first year). That’s a fantastic return.
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.