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So which order should I open the cards
I always recommend starting with what I like to call the “CHASE GAUNTLET.”
They were the first company to have a rule stating that if you were to open five (or more) cards in the prior 24 month period, then you would be declined. This includes cards from all banks including authorized user cards! So if you start with another card, it can make it more challenging to go back. The 5/24 rule is why you never open dumb cards like an Old Navy or TJmaxx card. Since Chase points are potentially the most valuable and have the most flexibility, I recommend you start here. If you are managing cards for you and your spouse, it effectively becomes 10/24.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points:
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points are the most valuable because they are transferable to many partners. Once they are transferred to an airline/hotel partner such as United, Southwest or Hyatt you can't send them back to your Chase account so they lose that flexibility once transferred; therefore you want to keep them in your Chase account right up until the exact moment you are certain you are going to redeem them at one of the partners!
When I originally started writing this post, I was going to show you the exact order I used, but some of the points have changed since then, and I know more now than I did then. So this is my recommended card strategy if you are just getting started. I also build a spouse or significant other into my strategy, so I am using a 10/24 baseline. If you are single and don't have a partner, it will work the same, but your gauntlet would be five Chase cards per 24 months. To be even more specific: when Chase does a hard pull on your credit, if you have opened five or more cards in the past 24 months, you will get an automatic denial.
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 points
- The first card for anyone should be the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a 50,000 point bonus and the $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year. It really can’t be beaten. The fact that the fee is waived for the first year makes this card even more compelling than its sister card the Chase Sapphire Reserve which has a significant annual fee.
2. Repeat for your spouse
3&4. Chase Southwest Cards (2) 50-60K x2
- If its December or January I would start working on the Chase Southwest cards next and the person who travels more frequently domestically should apply for this 2 card sequence. I would start with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card (60K bonus currently): followed by the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- They have a third one which is interchangeable. I look at the bonuses to decide which is better. when the bonuses are the same I pick the one with the lowest fee. I would not open 3 Southwest cards. The key is to earn 110,000 Southwest miles in one calendar year by one person to earn the Companion Pass (the Holy grail of sweet spots). The goal is to get your Companion Pass early in the year ideally by hitting the bonuses in Jan or February and then earning the remaining points necessary to get to 110k. this allows you to BOGO (Buy One Get One) your flights while still using your points all the way through December 31st of the next year. Absolutely incredible!
With those 4 cards, you now have enough for a trip to Europe and free domestic flights anywhere in the US for 2 years. VEGAS ANYONE?
Do you want to keep going?
5.Chase Ink Business Preferred (80K)
6. Repeat for Spouse (80K)
7. United credit card
8.Repeat for Spouse
9&10. Chase Southwest Cards (2) 50-60K x2
Total Points will be well over 600,000! At an average 2 cent per point redemption level, that's $12,000 of free travel!
And you are just getting started- this should take you 2-3 years depending on your level of income and intensity. I encourage you not to rush this but enjoy it. Travel Rewards is a game you can win because now you know the rules.
I will update the info as new card become available but the basics should remain the same. Many of the travel rewards gurus out there are too far down the road to be able to do this. But I believe if they were starting over this is the approach they would take.
How do I get the business cards if I don't have a business?
If you noticed, several of the cards we discussed were business cards. If you were reading my advice and thinking I don't have a business, then read the next section because I bet you do. In fact getting a business credit card was one of the pushes I needed to make my business a reality.
Do not confuse the credit card companies for the IRS. Their idea of what constitutes a business is much looser. In fact, if you have a consulting job, blog or hobby that you are thinking of monetizing then you could easily take the next step and start a business. You do not need to file any paperwork to start a business. You can operate your business as a sole proprietor using your social security number. In fact, ChooseFI began as a sole proprietorship before I converted it to an LLC with Brad. And it was a little more than an idea in my head when I requested my first business card with Chase. Small businesses have lots of startup cost, and Chase and other credit card companies want a piece of that action, so they look kindly on your business application even if you don't have any revenue to show
This is the Chase Gauntlet, and if you are doing it for you and your spouse it should take 1 to 3 years to complete, And if you follow our advice, you should be able to travel the world for free.
I think that the advantages of doing it this way ensure you don’t miss out on the Chase points and you learn how to do this in a controlled setting. It gives you a great blend of flexibility plus the holy grail of the companion pass for you and your spouse for nearly two years.
What if I have a question about Travel Rewards?