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When should you ignore Chase's 5/24 rule?

May 24, 2021
11 min read
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Sometimes, there are things we accept as gospel without ever stopping to question them.

Perhaps the most well-known example in the points and miles world is Chase's 5/24 rule. That rule means that Chase will reject you for nearly all of its credit cards if you've opened five or more cards across all banks in the previous 24 months, excluding most business cards. If you're new to the points and miles world and don't fully understand 5/24 or its implications, start by reading our ultimate guide to Chase's 5/24 rule.

If you decide to forego a 5/24 slot and apply for a non-Chase credit card, it's not a decision you should make lightly. Even in all the situations that I'll mention below, you should spend a few days thinking it over instead of rushing to apply right away. You might even want to ask for advice in the TPG Lounge to make sure you're making the right decision.

Once you go over 5/24, there's a massive opportunity cost to get back under it.

The logic derived from the 5/24 rule is that you should make sure that your first five credit card applications are with Chase and Chase only. Still, there are a few times when it might make sense to ignore the overarching 5/24 rule and focus on making the best decisions for you as an individual. Today, we'll take a look at a few such cases.

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When does it make sense to ignore 5/24?

You receive an incredible targeted offer

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

While most of the best credit card offers are publicly available for anyone to apply for, you might receive a targeted offer from time to time in the mail or online. Many of these offers aren't worth wasting a 5/24 slot over, but there's one that certainly can be.

I'm talking about the elusive 100,000-point welcome offer after spending $5,000 in the first three months on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Some people receive mailers with a unique code inviting them to apply for this deal. At the same time, other lucky individuals may be targeted for an up to 125k-point Platinum Card® from American Express welcome offer by going through the CardMatch tool.

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TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making this offer worth a sweet $2,000. And since Amex only allows you to earn a welcome offer on a credit card once per lifetime, many people wait to apply for the Platinum card until they receive this 100,000-point offer (or higher).

The Platinum Card's current public offer is 75,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first six months of card membership.

These targeted offers are only valid for a limited amount of time and subject to change at any time — with CardMatch, the offer might even disappear if you exit your browser and come back five minutes later. So if you're lucky enough to get this offer, it might be worth foregoing a 5/24 spot in order to apply.

Related: The Platinum Card from American Express review

You're playing in "two-player mode"

If you're lucky enough to be playing in "two-player mode," meaning you have a spouse and family you can team up with to accumulate points faster, you might find that you don't need all of your 5/24 slots.

Take Chase Freedom Unlimited as an example. I consider this to be one of the best credit cards Chase offers, and it was actually the third card I ever applied for. This no-annual-fee card earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back (or 1.5x points Ultimate Rewards points if you pair it with the right cards) on purchases, with no limits or bonus categories to worry about.

You’ll now also earn 5% back on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and 3% back on drugstores.

Related: Ultimate guide to points pooling and sharing

The biggest downside to the Freedom Unlimited is that the sign-up bonus is relatively weak.

New applicants will earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in their first three months. That's a solid enough offer to pick up the card, but most of Freedom Unlimited's value comes from its long-term return on everyday spending. To put it another way, you probably don't need two of these in your family. Player one can get a Freedom Unlimited and add Player two as an authorized user so they can still maximize their combined spending.

You need specific miles for an upcoming trip

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

I always say that the people who are most successful when it comes to award travel are the ones who have a plan.

Depending on what you're trying to achieve, Chase Ultimate Rewards points might not be the best way to get you there. A prime example of this would be Qatar Qsuites, which is undeniably the world's best business class product and a great experience for couples traveling together. If you have your eyes set on this double bed in the sky, your best bet is to book with American Airlines AAdvantage miles. In fact, Chase points would be of no use here. Chase's only Oneworld transfer partners are Iberia and British Airways, but the distance-based Avios award charts will make flights from the U.S. to Doha (DOH) unreasonably expensive.

The same is true for plenty of other luxury airlines, including Etihad, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. If you have your heart set on a certain aspirational premium cabin redemption, you might need to look outside the Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem to find the miles you need.

Pro tip: Consider applying for business credit cards that can still keep you under 5/24, such as the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to earn valuable points or miles.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

You're interested in earning cash back

While you can use the Chase Freedom Unlimited as a cash-back card (that's actually how it's marketed),

Chase doesn't offer the most robust cash-back card portfolio. When it comes to pure cash back, ideally you want a card that earns a minimum of 2% on every purchase. Cash back generally offers a lower return than points to begin with, so you can't afford to sacrifice another 0.5%.

Maybe you opt for the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 2% cash back; 1% back at the time of your purchase and another 1% back when you pay your bill (though you can now convert these into transferable ThankYou Points as well).

Related: Best cash-back credit cards of 2020

Or maybe you take a hybrid approach. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card isn't a true cash-back card, but it does earn 2x miles on all purchases. You have the option of transferring these miles to 17 airline and hotel partners or redeeming them for fixed-value redemptions. This hybrid approach gives you a higher baseline earning rate than most Chase cards and lets you switch between fixed-value and transferable points as you please.

You're not eligible for business cards

When you start thinking about the best ways to use your 5/24 slots, you'll quickly realize that Chase's lineup of Ink business credit cards are an important element. While there's a good chance that you're eligible for a business credit card even if you don't realize it, many people are either not eligible or not interested in dealing with the extra hassle of applying for business credit cards.

Looking only at personal credit cards, everyone should get either a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve (unfortunately, you can't get both), a Freedom Unlimited and maybe a Chase Freedom Flex as well. At this point, you've used up two or three of your five slots and covered all your bases in terms of core Ultimate Rewards earning cards, so what's next? The World of Hyatt Credit Card? A United card or maybe a Marriott card?

None of these are bad choices, but they aren't necessarily a given either. The Hyatt credit card is great unless you're fiercely loyal to Hilton, in which case it does you no good. Maybe you fly American instead of United or don't want to collect MileagePlus miles after United's switch to dynamic award pricing. This will be a much more personal decision, but when it comes to using 5/24 slots on cobranded credit cards, it's time to think for yourself instead of following the herd.

When should you stick with 5/24?

Like I said before, abandoning 5/24 is not something you should do lightly. Even if you feel tempted to, make sure you're not falling into one of these traps.

You can't imagine opening 5 credit cards

If you're new to the world of points and miles, you might not have had five credit cards in your entire life up until now and it can be hard to imagine opening that many in just two years. I felt the exact same way when I started this journey in my sophomore year of college — I didn't think I would ever be able to open cards that quickly. Go figure. I ended up opening about 15 cards in my first year, and the one 5/24 slot I wasted on a non-Chase card still haunts me to this day.

You're new to travel rewards and don't fully understand 5/24

One common reason I hear for why people ignore the 5/24 rule is that they a) don't know that it exists, or; b) are so new to the points and miles world they don't really understand the implications of it.

If you're rushing to apply for new credit cards, you're more likely to make a costly mistake, both in terms of your point strategy and your long-term credit score. If you slow down and take your time, you'll get better results overall.

Related: Making these decisions early on helped me build a lasting credit score while earning points and miles

You don't have a clear card strategy in place

Last -- but certainly not least -- it's easy to ignore 5/24 if you don't have a clear credit card strategy in place. While some elevated sign-up bonuses or welcome offers such as the targeted 100,000 points on the Amex Platinum might be worth changing your plans over, you shouldn't jump at every shiny welcome offer you see without having a clear plan in place.

Almost every card you want will still be around after you finish filling your 5/24 slots, so there's no reason to jump the gun.

Bottom line

There are two different ways to look at the 5/24 rule. While it's an unfortunate restriction, it also makes it easy in the beginning because your choices are relatively limited to just Chase cards. 99% of the time, it makes sense to apply for Chase cards first, but there are a number of times when you'll come out ahead if you deviate from the 5/24 rule.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong.

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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