Travel Rewards | Part 2 : The Chase Gauntlet | Card Opening Strategy

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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.

Have you listened to our Travel Rewards podcast yet?

Go back to part 1 – Travel Rewards, An Introduction

Read part 3– How to redeem my points for trips all over the world

Skip part 3 – I'm ready to get started now!

What if I have a question about Travel Rewards?

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I have a question

29 thoughts on “Travel Rewards | Part 2 : The Chase Gauntlet | Card Opening Strategy

  1. Loved the podcast. I have a few questions.

    You pointed out in the podcast that we can repeat the series after about two years. Do you recommend that one close out each credit card as soon as the points are awarded, until the points are used, or keep open the credit card?

    Also, I’ve made the mistake of having my wife as an authorized user on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. How can I recover from this mistake?



    • I want to open some cards and get in on the points, I already have a lot of Delta miles but nothing for hotels, but we are probably 2 years or so away from taking a vacation where we could use them. Is there an option where I wouldn’t have to pay to keep a card open? Above it says you will transfer your points over to the reserve, can I do that without keeping a card open and paying the yearly fee? If I have to pay the yearly fee i’ll just wait until we are closer to going on a vacation to do this.

  2. I would like to start saving up points but I do not plan on traveling much (at least by plane) for about 3 years or so. Would you just skip the southwest cards until January of the year you plan on flying more frequently? Then just bounce back and fourth between ink and sapphire? When my kids get a little older we would like to do Disney then maybe Hawaii or Mexico.

  3. I want to open some cards and get in on the points, I already have a lot of Delta miles but nothing for hotels, but we are probably 2 years or so away from taking a vacation where we could use them. Is there an option where I wouldn’t have to pay to keep a card open? Above it says you will transfer your points over to the reserve, can I do that without keeping a card open and paying the yearly fee? If I have to pay the yearly fee i’ll just wait until we are closer to going on a vacation to do this.

  4. Love the podcast! Thanks for doing it.

    I am planning out my rewards strategy for the year and I had 2 questions regarding the Southwest companion pass. I have had a Southwest Preferred card for 5 years. I want to go for the Southwest companion pass as early as possible in 2018 so that it lasts through 2018 and 2019.

    Question 1: Should I close my existing Southwest Card so that I can get two more with the bonuses and avoid the $99 annual fee on my current card which will hit August 1, 2017?

    Question 2: Should I open my first new Southwest Card in October 2017 such that most spending occurs in 2017 but the 50/60k bonus miles will hit my Southwest Account in early 2018? Or is there some risk to this approach, such that I should wait to open the first Southwest card until January 2018?

  5. Thanks for the reply!

    I will use your website when applying for the next credit card.

    I kept open the Chase Preferred for another year. I also tried to apply for a Chase business credit card, but hit the 5/24 limit because I was previously focusing on cash back cards and not points. I now want to shift to focus on points, but won’t be over the 24 months for another 6 months.

    I looked at the CITI AAdvantage, for 50K points but this has a $95 fee that is waived the first year and I don’t think that I would use all of the points in the first year. So, my questions is, what credit card would you recommend that I get next?

    Thanks again,


  6. So if you put your spouse on a card as an authorized user does that mean that they can’t get the card within 2 years? Or can they be an authorized user and then sign up as a primary user?

    Also, do you always keep one card open so that before you cancel a card you transfer all of the points to that primary card? If so, which one do you use as your primary card?

    Thanks! We really enjoy your podcast and it has risen to the top of our favorite podcasts.

    • Your spouse can definitely get approved as a primary as well. But she has effectively used one of her 5/24 spots. so she would have 4/24 left. Definitely listen to episode 9 for a comprehensive tutorial and if you want to go deeper into the weeds make sure you listen to each friday roundup where we reserve a segment to tackle questions about travel rewards from our audience.Thanks for the feedback!

  7. Hey there guys. So I recently listened to the travel hacking podcast and I love the podcast in general! About a week into it and already on episode 17. Will be caught up soon. So my only question was regarding the southwest companion pass… I’m trying to verify 100% that the southwest business and personal card bonuses will apply toward the 110,000 requirement. From my research, I’ve seen mixed answers. Even Southwests terms and conditions are leaving me confused. This is what they currently have on their website.
    “A Member who earns 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points or who flies 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines per calendar year will qualify for Companion Pass. Companion Pass qualifying points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners. Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass qualifying points.”

    So at one point it states “Companion Pass qualifying points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards,” implying that those signup points should count but then they later specify “points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass qualifying points.” indicating that points earned from program enrollment (im assuming rapid reward program) will not count. Any current clarification you guys have on this? I would just hate to sign up for these cards and not earn the companion pass. Thanks again, and great podcast! Southwest terms and conditions were derived at this link :

  8. I’m hoping to get the Southwest companion pass for 2018. Would I be able to open the 2 southwest cards in November and then wait until January to hit the spending minimum? Or would I have to wait until January to even open the cards? I’d rather start spending on them early to allow us to hit the spending requirement earlier in 2018. Just planning ahead to make sure we are under the 5×24 rule.

  9. Hi,
    I have a United Chase card that I use for everything and I’ve been accruing miles on. This gauntlet sounds interesting but I’m curious how having so many credit cards with large credit lines affects your credit score and your ability to make major purchases (cars, homes, etc). Once you complete one credit card, do you close that account?

    • Ed, it actually has a positive effect on your credit – if you don’t carry a balance. One of the biggest factors affecting your credit score is you debt to credit ratio. If you open a new card, you take a small hit on your credit from the hard inquiry, but your % of credit utilization has decreased if you don’t add anything more to your balance. That positively affects your score.

      If you are looking to make a major purchase, like a home, you want to limit the number of hard inquiries in the past 6 months to 1 year. But just having open a bunch of cards with high credit limits is not going to decrease your credit score. It will actually help it if you are responsible and don’t carry a balance.

  10. Does anyone know if the points earned from the Chase Southwest cards can be transferred and placed toward international travel? We are really focused on a Europe trip and not as focused on domestic travel (except for maybe flying to a hub city like NYC in order to less expensively connect to Europe). Would it make sense to skip the Southwest rung in this case?

    • I will check with brad, but I am pretty sure – those points are trapped in the southwest eco system 🙂 I would prioritize Preferred, Reserve, business ink, and united and push the southwest to the end or skip altogether.

  11. Hi Guys! Firstly, THANK YOU for all that you do! My wife and I are very excited to start travel hacking. Currently, my wife’s credit score is good while mine is only fair but we want to start travel hacking asap. Since my wife’s credit is good, is it possible for her to start strategically going through the “Chase Gauntlet” first while my credit builds? Then as she finishes up with the Chase Gauntlet and my credit gets closer to 800, I can start the Chase Gauntlet. Or is it best to just wait until my credit improves and we just follow exactly your instructions? Thank you so much!

    • Glad you are enjoying the show 🙂 She can definitely go ahead and get started . Chase does limit how many cards you can open at a time.I believe its 2 cards per 30 days. but if you are only opening 1 new card every 1-3 months or so, this should be a non factor. Have Fun!!

  12. Hey guys,
    Just a thought. As I started with your spreadsheet and modified it for myself, I thought about optimizing card opening, closing, and re-opening strategy with optimizing annual fees. To me, it makes more sense to run through 5×24 for one spouse first, keep those cards for one year, then start 5×24 for the second spouse. Sure, you may not maximize 10×24 points as quickly, but this way you always have only one of a type of card open at a time to minimize annual fees. With Chase, you can always transfer UR points between cards and will always have a CSR card open for maximum UR usage if you use the Chase portal. So, I added a third tab to your spreadsheet for opening and closing for one spouse, then opening and closing for the 2nd spouse over a two year period. At the end of the second year, start with first spouse again. If the first spouse reaches 5×24 before the end of the first year, the first spouse could open some non-5×24 cards until the 2nd spouse starts the process. Thoughts?

  13. Hey, I was getting ready to follow the chase gauntlet and just read this article that chase is now limiting the number of Sapphire cards a person can open to prevent churn.
    I know things change and wish I would have heard your podcast earlier in the year. What order would you now recommend for someone about to start the gauntlet? Just cut the second saphire?
    Thanks for putting this together.

    • Yeah, this update puts even more emphasis on starting with the sapphire preferred, then you can make a judgement call down the road if you decide to upgrade to the reserve. The Framework still remains the same but now you do have to pick which sapphire you want and I think a strong case can be made when beginning to make that the preferred 🙂

  14. Curious if anyone can comment on how one should open a Chase Ink Business Preferred card when one spouse has a business and the other does not. My wife has an LLC and I do not. We are (more or less) following the card sequence noted above. How would I open the card? Under her business name?

  15. Im a newb in all ways of FI, I started out with budgets are sexy then saw a link to your podcast and have listened to a few.
    Im just wondering if these hacks work for someone of a more average salary of 40k? My wife and i save for vacation every month along with the usual savings so better deals would be great.

  16. Hi Guys, My wife and I will be looking to get started on this but I noticed when looking through Chase’s selection that the Sapphire cards mention that if you already have a Sapphire product you are not eligible for the new cardmember rewards points. I have a Chase Sapphire (Not Preffered) card that I’ve had for about 5 years that I use for all my purchases currently. We also have a Chase Slate card that we had used for a balance transfer to help us get completely debt free. How should I go about being able to take advantage of the Chase Gauntlet seeing how I already have a Sapphire product?

    Thank you and I’ve truly enjoyed your site and podcasts.

    • Hi Kevin, yeah they made a rule change with reference to the sapphire cards about 2-3 weeks ago – we are going to address it this friday on the roundup 🙂 stay tuned episode 42R

  17. Love the podcast guys! Keep up the good work!
    I’m looking into the Southwest cards to earn the companion pass in 2018. It looks like the bonuses are 40K and 60K points for the premier card and business premier card respectively. If I need 110K points to get the companion pass, it actually look like I would need to get 3 cards for next year. Did the points go down for the premier card?

  18. I don’t want to be that guy, especially since this is seriously life changing and eye opening… But your math is wrong, when you add up those numbers it comes to 580K miles not 710k.

    Minor, but just figured I would help you guys out since I ran the numbers like 10 times trying to figure out where I went wrong.

    That said, I love this and I hope you guys keep us updated on more tips/tricks as good offers become prevalent. My wife and I are in the process of listening to all of your podcasts now!

  19. Brad & Jonathan,

    Thanks for your excellent podcast. You have a legion of fans in Indiana.

    Please pass on to folks who are travel hacking to NOT CANCE,L YOUR OLDEST CREDIT CARD. My 1999 Chase card was ditched as I began to roll through Sapphire, Ink, et al, thus eliminating my OLDEST form of credit.

    Little did I know this would drop my credit score from 800 to 700 once the data settled in. If I am missing something then please clue me in. We have a sterling credit history with on-time payments going back to the mid 1990s. The only thing I can attribute this precipitous drop to is the oldest card being cancelled (***I called the bureaus — this is a form of torture that ranks up there with the motor vehicle bureau and voting booths — zero help).

    Dan in Indiana

  20. I just applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. My question is whether my spouse should apply for it simultaneously as the next step in the Gauntlet or wait until I spend the $4,000 on the card. Thanks for the great information!

    • Hi Eric, Great Question and totally depends on your spending patterns/planned expenditures. the RLS (rate limiting step) is your planned expenses. I don’t recommend spending additional money to hit minimum spends. Rather my wife and I try to move our normal spending onto these cards to hit the bonuse. so we can easily hit 1 new card every 2-3 months but doubling down to hit 2 might be more difficult unless you have a big purchase coming up – so it’s very situational. but I play the long game and try to keep it as simple as possible – so we typically open 1 card every 2-3 months alternating between my wife and myself- Thanks for the question – Jonathan

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