Before figuring out what cards to apply for, you must understand how to space out your credit card applications. This can be a little tricky because every bank has their own standards; there is no hard and fast rule across the board.

Most point enthusiasts recommend waiting a minimum of 90 days in between credit card application days. Personally, I like to wait 95 days just to be safe. By waiting you reduce the number of recent new accounts on your credit report in the last 3-6 months. It also helps increase your credit score at the time of your application. Too many recent new accounts is a common cause for credit card denials.

Is It Ever OK To Apply Without Waiting 90 Days?

Occasionally I’ve applied for a new card in less than 90 days since my last credit card application. I’ve only done this if I hadn’t opened many cards in the previous 6 months.

For example, if a person had opened only 1 or 2 cards in the last year and they were both 30 days ago waiting 90 days would not be as necessary because there would not be as many previous new cards that needed to age on the credit report. The exception is if you apply for a card issued by the same bank as you did 30 days ago. Depending on the issuing bank, you could risk a declined application. Most banks will want to see more time pass (like 90+ days) before they will give you a 2nd or 3rd personal card.

How Many Cards To Apply For

As we discussed in our first post from this series the maximum number of cards you should apply for depends on what you plan to spend on your cards. Most banks require that you meet their spend requirement within 90 days to receive the sign up bonus.

On application days, I often apply for 1-5 new credit cards. These new accounts do not show up on my credit report until the following day, so they have no impact on getting approved for multiple new accounts in the same day.

For someone just starting it out applying for 5 cards in one day can be a bad long term strategy, not to mention overwhelming. Let’s talk about setting up a long term plan.

Start with Chase

Regardless which airline or hotel chain you wish to build points with, start with Chase. Chase has a very strict 5/24 rule, and if you don’t plan correctly, you won’t be able to get a Chase card again for a very long time.

The 5/24 rule from Chase prevents you from opening a Chase credit card if you have opened 5 personal credit cards with any bank in the last 24 months, including Chase. No other bank has a rule like this.

If you are serious about building points, you’ll exceed 5 new personal cards quickly.

Within the Chase card family, I recommend starting with Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Reward points as their sign-up bonus. Prioritize Ultimate Rewards over any Chase-backed airline or hotel credit card; those can be applied for later, and many like the Hyatt and British Airways card are not yet under the 5/24 rule.

Chase cards that provide Ultimate Reward Points (Not affiliate links):
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase INK (business card)

The Case For Chase

Chase Ultimate Reward points are very valuable because they have so many transfer partners. You simply select the program you want to transfer to and enter your account number with the airline or hotel. You can transfer points in increments of 1,000. Wait to make a transfer until you want to redeem the points. I’ve made a few transfers in the past that never ended up getting redeemed and instead just inflated a point balance where I had no immediate need.

Here are the airlines that you can transfer into directly. I’ve also noted the relevant partners associated with these airlines that US-based travelers would be likely to use. Important to note: you can transfer points to one airline (such as British Airways) and then redeem those points for a flight with one of their partners (like American).

  • United
  • British Airways (Partners with American, full list here)
  • Air France (Partners with Delta, more info here).
  • Singapore Airlines (Member of Star Alliance, more info here)
  • Southwest
  • Virgin Atlantic (Partners with Virgin America for great redemption values, plus Delta and Hawaiian Air – More info)

There are also many different premium hotel brands you can transfer points to. Not all points are of equal value so you’ll want to choose wisely. I find that Hyatt points are the most valuable of those on this list.

  • Hyatt
  • Marriot
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Starwood (post merger)
  • IHG

Useful Chase Point Transfer Alternatives

The worst case scenario is that you decide not to transfer any of these points and you use them instead like cash to pay for travel or even to receive cash back. This might be a good idea if you plan to stay at a boutique hotel outside of the chains listed above. Another reason might be that you can’t find any award flights on the airline you want to fly and you would rather just book the flight with points through Chase’s portal. In both of those cases the Ultimate Reward points act like cash.

Other Chase Cards

Other popular Chase cards that are under the 5/24 rule (remember Hyatt, Ritz, IHG and British Airways are not under this rule as of September, 2016) are listed below. These are the cards you’d want to try to get within your first 5 cards if they are of interest to you.

  • United
  • Marriott
  • Southwest

An Example Application Schedule

If I was starting from scratch and wanted to prioritize Chase cards my plan would look something like the following using a fictional start date of February 1st. Make sure you can hit the minimum spend for each card before applying for multiple cards in the same day.

February 1st:

  • Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and 1 credit card from another bank (like the Citi AA platinum or Barclays Arrival – Your choice depending on preference)
  • Then wait 95+ days
  • 5/24 Count: 2

May 5th:

  • Apply for the Chase United Visa and 1 credit card from another bank (Starwood or anything that fits your long term plan)
  • 5/24 count: 4

August 10th:

  • Since my 5/24 count would now be at 4 I’d ramp up my personal applications with this round. From here on out I will not be back under the 5/24 limit for a very long time.
  • You could have decided to apply for just 1 Chase card on each of the previous application dates instead of applying for a 2nd personal card from another bank. This would keep you under the 5/24 benchmark so you could keep applying for new Chase cards. Personally I would choose to be more aggressive because I know I could earn a lot more points by mixing in other cards.
  • On this date I’d apply for a Marriott card and as many other personal cards as I could meet the spend requirement on.
  • The most credit cards I’ve applied for in one day is 5, which I have done many times. So has Amy
  • 5/24 Count: 5-10

Next time around, 95 or more days later, it would be possible to include a different Chase card that is not under the 5/24 rule in the application day.

Getting Around the 5/24 Rule

If you are willing to work at it there are ways around the 5/24 rule. From what I can tell the best way for the average person to get around its to open a Chase checking account and then check in your local branch to see what offers you are pre-approved for. Many people report that they have bypassed the 5/24 rule using this strategy. The one thing they seem to have in common is that they have a checking account or Private Client relationship with the bank.

The key is to make sure you are pre-approved for whichever card you apply for. We’ve seen reports where the bank analyst is not very clear on this matter.

Don’t Forget About Starwood

The Starwood Amex is hands down the next card to get alongside or after you get the Chase cards. These are the most valuable points you can have because they transfer to just about every airline with a bonus. 20k points becomes 25k airline miles. You can of course redeem them at Starwood properties for very good point/dollar values.

American Express currently limits you to one Starwood sign up bonus per lifetime so there is no rush to get this card.

In our next post we’ll talk about what cards to focus on in addition the Chase cards we have discussed here. A solid long term credit card plan will to include travel partner cards, point only cards and travel cash cards.

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