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Cringe-worthy mistake: I missed out on $2,400 in travel because I forgot one simple rule

Sept. 29, 2021
7 min read
Cringe-worthy mistake: I missed out on $2,400 in travel because I forgot one simple rule
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There are a lot of details to remember in the points and miles hobby. Even if you're far from an "expert," you can earn thousands of dollars in free travel with surprisingly little effort through huge sign-up bonuses from the best travel credit cards. But paying attention to the fine print minutiae is how you can take your savings to the next level.

A few weeks ago, I violated a rule that would make even relatively new miles and points hobbyists shake their head in disappointment — and it cost me $2,400 in travel. I'll have the opportunity to recoup most of that money at a later date — but this haunting feeling of remorse stems mainly from the simplicity of the error.

I'll help you avoid the same mistake, but in the meantime, you can sign up for our daily newsletter for more tips on how to prevent other blunders like this.

(Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Missing out on 120,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Since June, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has sported an all-time high bonus of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

TPG valuations estimate that Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 2 cents each, on average. That means a 100,000-point bonus is worth $2,000. You can do some pretty amazing things with that amount of points, like book lie-flat business class seats to Europe or stay several nights in a five-star hotel (read our post on the best ways to use Chase points for more details). You can even cash those points out at a rate of 1.25 cents each to cover grocery, dining, and home improvement expenses through the Chase Pay Yourself Back tool (through Dec. 31, 2021).

My plan

Chase has some pretty strict rules when it comes to their best travel cards. For example, if you've opened five or more cards in the past 24 months, you won't be approved for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Also, if you've opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred or a Chase Sapphire Reserve in the past 48 months, you won't be able to earn a bonus on either.

My wife opened her Chase Sapphire Preferred about 50 months ago and I recently advised her to downgrade her card to a Chase Freedom Flex (it's better for everyday spending, anyway). The purpose of this recommendation I made was so she could reapply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and earn the giant bonus again.

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In addition to the 100,000 bonus points, I sent her a referral link, as I also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I'd earn 20,000 points for referring her. Between the two of us, we'd earn a total of 120,000 Chase points this way. That's an estimated total of $2,400 in value — though we can squeeze double that value from them if we're strategic.

For example, she transferred 120,000 Chase points to Hyatt last winter to book us a four-night stay at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado. The room we booked retailed for $1,370 per night. That's a value of 4.5 cents per point!

Transferring Chase points to Hyatt and then redeeming for a few nights at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is a great use of points. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Imagine my surprise when my wife, with an excellent credit score and a low number of hard inquiries on her credit report, was instantly denied after submitting her online application to Chase. When Chase mailed us the reason, I was mortified.

My mistake

True, you won't be eligible for a Chase Sapphire card if you've opened one in the past 48 months. But the actual Chase Sapphire rule is this: You will not be approved unless it's been 48 months since you earned your last Sapphire card bonus.

Because my wife was denied, she must have earned her bonus in the third month of her cardmembership, meaning we had reapplied 47 months after her bonus had posted. What a fail!

I forgot to check when she earned the last Sapphire card bonus and instead, I was fixated on her approval date of when she opened the card. There was a bit of good news in this tragedy, however. I didn't realize Chase would deny you if you weren't eligible for the Sapphire welcome bonus. This is fantastic, as I'd much prefer that over my wife being approved for a card on which she's ineligible to earn the bonus.

Sure enough, on the Chase Sapphire Preferred application page, it says:

"This product is available to you if you do not have any Sapphire cards and have not received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months."

Because Chase denied her, she can now apply for the card again in six months, and she shouldn't have a problem being approved.

When you apply for a credit card and are denied, it's a good idea to wait about six months before applying again. I'm not aware of any hard and fast rule about this, but many of us have found that the best bet for approval is to wait at least six months. Chase will not be amused if you apply for the same card a month after they told you to get lost.

Bottom line

If you're in the market to earn another Chase Sapphire bonus, pay no mind to when you opened the card — it's all about when you earned the bonus. If you don't know when you earned it, reapply at least 52 months after account opening to be on the safe side of eligibility for the sign-up bonus. Alternately, Chase may be able to let you know at which billing cycle you earned the bonus.

My wife and I will still get a nice bounty of Ultimate Rewards points, but we'll have to wait a while. An unbelievable rookie mistake from us. I only hope the 100,000-point offer is still around when she's ready to apply again.

Apply here for the Chase Sapphire Preferred with a 100,000-point increased bonus!

Featured image by Getty Images/Westend61
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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