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The Unfortunate Expansion of Chase’s 5/24 Rule

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Travel rewards credit cards figure heavily into most award travelers’ strategies, allowing them to earn valuable sign-up bonuses along with points or miles for everyday purchases. However, as TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen explains, one issuer is making it harder to open too many accounts.

Many credit card issuers have application restrictions for their various credit card products. American Express, for example, only allows you to earn a sign-up bonus on a card once in your lifetime, a change that was implemented back in 2014. Unfortunately, it looks like another major issuer is tightening up its policies even further. As of late May, it appears that Chase has expanded its much-maligned “5/24 rule” to other popular co-branded cards, so today, I’ll share my experience and provide some tips for navigating these new, customer-unfriendly waters.

What exactly is the 5/24 rule?

chase sapphire preferred featured
The 5/24 rule used to apply to a select few Chase cards, but it appears that it has expanded to many others as of May 2016.

Back in mid-2015, reports began emerging of Chase automatically declining credit card applications for individuals who had opened a large number of accounts within the immediately preceding two years. While a few reports emerged of successful approvals, it appeared that the magic number was five accounts: If you had opened five or more accounts in the last 24 months (hence “5/24”), your application was likely dead on arrival, and even a call to the reconsideration line wouldn’t help.

At the outset, this was restricted to personal cards that participated in the Ultimate Rewards program, including cash-back cards that allow you to convert your earnings to Ultimate Rewards points (see this post for more information). These products included:

TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig ran into this exact problem earlier this year with the new Freedom Unlimited card despite having a FICO score above 800. Some TPG readers reported success by applying for one of these cards in an actual Chase branch, but most online applications were immediately declined.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that this rule has recently been expanded to additional co-branded credit cards as well as business credit cards. While there’s nothing formal published from Chase, as of late May 2016, the following cards appear to be following the same criteria:

The news was first reported by Doctor of Credit, and a handy Reddit thread has popped up that allows readers to share their own data by taking this short survey through Google Forms. If you don’t feel like sorting through the results data, I have a quick summary for the above cards.

At the time of writing, I counted 156 online applications from individuals with five or more accounts in the last 24 months since these new rules supposedly went into effect (on or around May 22). Here’s a breakdown of how these applications for the above cards fared:

Card Applications Approvals Approval Rate Additional Details
Freedom 1 0 0%
Freedom Unlimited 5 1 20% Only approval was at the end of May
Ink Plus 10 1 10%
Marriott Premier 10 4 40% Three of four approvals were at the end of May
Marriott Business 3 2 66.7% One of two approvals was at the end of May
Sapphire Preferred 17 7 41.2% Three of seven approvals were at the end of May; two others were at five new accounts
Southwest Plus 2 0 0%
Southwest Premier 8 2 25%
United 34 10 29.4% Four of 10 approvals were at the end of May
TOTALS 90 27 30%

While an overall approval rate of 30% may not seem terrible, virtually all of the applicants had credit scores well into the 700s, including several over 800. In addition, many of the few that were approved happened at the end of May, right when this new rule was supposedly taking effect. If you take out those approvals, the rate drops to less than 17%.

This gets even more interesting when you compare this approval rate to that of the 39 applicants with four or fewer cards in the previous 24 months. For the exact same set of cards listed above, these individuals had a 79.5% approval rate, and 6 of the 8 denials didn’t even bother calling the reconsideration line. This data clearly points to an unfortunate trend.

However, it appears that this new rule doesn’t extend to every Chase card out there, as the 66 results not included in the above chart are from others (like the British Airways Visa Signature Card and the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card). Here’s a breakdown of that data:

Card

Applications

Approvals

Approval Rate

Additional Details

Amazon

3

2

66.7%

Only denial didn’t attempt reconsideration

British Airways

5

5

100%

Fairmont

6

5

83.3%

Only denial didn’t attempt reconsideration

Hyatt

28

23

82.14%

Four of five denials didn’t attempt reconsideration

IHG

19

16

84.2%

One of three denials didn’t attempt reconsideration

Ritz-Carlton

4

4

100%

Disney

1

1

100%

TOTALS

66

56

84.8%

As you can see, these cards are being approved at a much higher rate (close to 85%). This also doesn’t include the numerous denials who didn’t bother calling the reconsideration line to offer to move around existing credit lines to make room for the new card.

This is a pretty shocking disparity, though keep in mind that this is all user-submitted data from a relatively small sample set.

My Experience

Sadly, I am one of the unlucky souls who fell victim to this new rule. Back in February, I utilized a status match with United to test the waters with a new carrier, and I actually had some great flights. Just a few days before my match was set to expire, I was the lucky recipient of a targeted status upgrade, bumping me to Premier Platinum through January 2017. Shortly thereafter, I was targeted with a bonus mile offer for spending up to $2,000 with United before November 30.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 9.17.25 PM

United was clearly anxious to get my business, as I then received a direct mailer offering me 70,000 bonus miles on the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. This card had intrigued me in the past, but the combination of my Premier Platinum status and the opportunity to earn over $1,000 worth of United miles (based on TPG’s most recent valuations) pushed me to apply.

Here’s what greeted me after clicking the Submit button:

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.00.26 AM

I’ve often received a similar notice after applying for a card, and it’s happened a couple of times with Chase. In those instances, I simply call the reconsideration line and ask if they need any additional information to push the approval through. After shifting around some credit lines, I’ve always been approved without any problem. I had a hunch that wouldn’t be the case here, so I immediately called to investigate.

The rep pulled up my application, and despite the above message about needing additional time to review my application, she told me that I had been declined due to too many recent accounts opened. Before I could utter another word, she proactively said that the decision was final and that there was no way to appeal it or to be reconsidered. I expressed my frustration (though I knew it was pointless) and asked her to pass along my feedback. And that was that! My first ever credit card denial…

The next day, I tried my luck applying for the Ink Business Cash Credit Card for a local club for which I am the treasurer. This is not a mom and pop shop but is actually a multi-million dollar organization with roughly 40 employees that has been around for over 70 years. Sounds like the type of customer Chase would want, right? Unfortunately, even though I used the club’s Employer Identification Number, I still needed to input my own Social Security number on the application as well. Sure enough, I received the application pending message and immediately called, only to be told that the application had been declined as well. I even escalated to a supervisor without any luck.

My credit score at the time of both applications was above 780, and I’ve been a long-time holder of several Chase cards (including the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Hyatt Credit Card). In both of these instances, I was not trying to abuse the system by any stretch. In one case, United was trying to woo me as a customer, and in the other, I wanted to improve the financial health of the organization by using a credit card to earn cash back (rather than writing checks to cover expenses). However, Chase’s new application restrictions took away these two possibilities and left a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

What can you do?

Oscar Munoz United Featured
One of the most important things you can do is to share your concerns with Chase’s co-branded partners, like United’s CEO Oscar Munoz.

So what can you do to help navigate these new (and unfortunate) restrictions? Here are some suggestions:

1. Prioritize your Chase applications: If you’re just getting started in this hobby, be sure to start with one of the above cards before you get too far and begin falling under the 5/24 umbrella. I’m a big fan of the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus and Freedom combo, though I know many who have gotten a lot of value out of the Marriott and Southwest cards as well.

2. Apply for other Chase cards that don’t (yet) fall under this restriction: As I mention above, this 5/24 rule doesn’t apply to every Chase card out there, and there’s still some terrific value to be had with those that are still open. The British Airways Visa Signature Card (for example) allows you to maximize the carrier’s distance-based award program, while the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card opens up many luxurious redemptions. There’s no way of knowing when (or if) these cards will eventually fall under these restrictions, but for now, it appears that they don’t.

3. Apply for cards with other issuers: Other credit card issuers don’t impose these onerous restrictions on credit cards, though I’m not a big fan of the once-per-lifetime sign-up bonus policy of American Express. Consider a card like the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card or the JetBlue Plus Card (issued by Barclaycard) that can still offer lucrative sign-up bonuses and valuable rewards for travel, and feel free to let Chase know when you take your business elsewhere.

4. Contact the co-branded partner: This last one is (in my opinion) the most critical thing you can do. When a bank issues a co-branded credit card with a travel provider, it’s a mutually beneficial partnership. The issuer pre-purchases the points or miles from the airline/hotel chain and is then free to make money through annual fees, interest charges, etc. If enough consumers complain to Marriott, Southwest or United about these changes, they may turn up the pressure on Chase to relax these restrictions. As I write this, I literally today received a solicitation in the mail for the United MileagePlus Club Card, offering me a waived annual fee (normally $450) for the first year. I intend on sending a very sharply worded letter to United’s corporate office to let them know that I was ready to start traveling more with United and was looking forward to opening the Explorer or Club card thanks to the targeted marketing I received. However, United’s so-called “partner” (Chase) has prevented me from doing so.

Bottom Line

It’s always frustrating when new rules or restrictions come into effect that make it harder to utilize popular travel rewards credit cards. Chase’s 5/24 is an unfortunate development that stifles those who open multiple credit cards per year (many of which are for perfectly legitimate reasons). Only time will tell whether or not this strategy works, but in the meantime, I’d strongly encourage you to share your opposition to these restrictions in any way you can. Only a direct impact on an issuer’s bottom line or dissolution of lucrative co-branded card agreements would lead to a course correction, so let your voice be heard!

What are your thoughts on this expansion of Chase’s 5/24 rule?

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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