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The best ways to use your Chase 5/24 slots

April 26, 2021
10 min read
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The world of travel rewards can leave you inundated with acronyms and endless credit-card bonus offers. Only you can decide what cards are right for your wallet, but Chase's restrictions on credit-card acquisitions might actually give you a helpful push in the right direction when you're picking your first few rewards cards.

One big restriction you may encounter is Chase's 5/24 rule. This Chase rule (that isn't published externally, but is still very real), says you'll automatically be rejected for a new card if you've opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months across all banks. If you're not familiar with the 5/24 rule, I strongly suggest starting with this guide to see which cards are counted and which cards it affects.

Related: How to calculate your 5/24 standing

The consequence of this rule (coupled with the fact that Chase issues some of the best credit cards on the market) is that people who are new to travel rewards should consider starting with Chase cards before moving on to other issuers. Once you go over 5/24, it takes time and discipline to get back under, so you're better off picking up the Chase cards you want before applying for others.

Today, we'll look at the best ways to use up your five slots with Chase.

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Which Sapphire card is right for you?

The first thing you want to consider when building a multi-card strategy is which card is going to be your anchor. This is the one card you would keep if you had to discard the rest. It needs to be a card that offers strong bonus categories, transferable points and a decent selection of perks and benefits. Chase offers two of the best anchor cards on the market, although you're only allowed to hold one of them at a time: the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Related: Sapphire showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

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If you're starting from scratch, in 99.9% of cases you should get a Sapphire Preferred or a Sapphire Reserve as your first card. You can check out this guide to help you pick between the more entry-level Sapphire Preferred and the premium Sapphire Reserve, but here's a concise overview:

CardChase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve®
Annual fee$95$550
Earning rates5x on travel when booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3x points on dining, 3x points on select streaming services, 3x points on  online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart and target),2x points on travel and  and 1x on most everything else3x points on travel and dining, and 1x on most everything else
Sign-up bonus60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
Point value for Ultimate Rewards portal redemptions1.25 cents1.5 cents
CreditsN/A$300 annual travel credit; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application-fee credit
Lounge accessN/APriority Pass Select
Authorized user fee$0$75

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

A taste of Freedom

Sign-up bonuses come and go, so you'll need a card that gives you strong bonuses in useful everyday categories to keep those points rolling in for years to come. Chase offers two great cards in this category, and although they're technically cash-back cards, you can convert your rewards into fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points if you also hold a premium Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve or even the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited -- come with relatively low sign-up bonuses (earn $200 after spending $500 or more within three months from account opening). The sign-up bonus is awarded as 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points that you can transfer to your Sapphire card. But you get them for their everyday earning capabilities that go as high as 5x points per dollar.

Related: Credit card showdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

But because these cards don't have annual fees, you can keep them open forever without paying anything out of pocket.

For the long term, the Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5x points on your purchases, with no caps or bonus categories to worry about, while the Freedom Flex offers 5% on your first $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories (activation required).

The categories rotate each month but have historically included retailers such as gas stations, internet, cable and phone services, select streaming services, grocery stores, department stores, restaurants and more. You do need to register your card every quarter for the rotating 5x bonuses, but Chase (and TPG) will send you plenty of reminders.

Between everyday spending on the Freedom Unlimited and the 5% bonus categories on the Freedom Flex, most people can fit one or both of these cards into their rewards plan.

If you can't decide which one you want, you can check out this head-to-head comparison to see how the math breaks down.

Related: Chase Freedom Unlimited review

Related: Chase Freedom Flex review

The incredible value of Ink business cards

Many people who are in the early stages of building a credit card strategy with Chase make the assumption that they won't be eligible for a small business card.

Although Chase has been known to ask for documentation of your business activity (including, but not limited to, a proof of Employee Identification Number or bills demonstrating business activity), you might be surprised to learn that you qualify for a business credit card if you have a part-time tutoring or child care job, sell products on eBay or Etsy or a host of other side-hustle activities.

Related: Reader question: Do I need a business to get a business credit card?

Don't ignore Chase's lineup of Ink business credit cards or you might not be able to get them later. If there's any way you can get an Ink, you may want one to round out your perfect Chase Trifecta.

The largest currently available bonus actually doesn't come from the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve -- it comes from the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

New applicants can currently earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, in addition to earning 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on: travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. The Ink Preferred only has a $95 annual fee, and also comes with a 25% bonus when redeeming your points directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

Related: Business credit cards that don't count under Chase's 5/24 rule

You can also pick between the no-annual-fee Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card and Ink Business Cash Credit Card. Both cards offer a bonus of $900 (or 90,000 points) after spending $6,000 in the first three months of account opening. Like the Freedom Flex/Chase Freedom Unlimited, you'll need to also hold a premium Ultimate Rewards-earning card in order to transfer these rewards to airline and hotel partners.

The Ink Business Unlimited is very similar to the Freedom Unlimited, offering 1.5x back on all purchases, while the Ink Cash earns 5x on up to $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year and 2x on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.

For a complete breakdown of the different Ink business credit cards, make sure to check out this guide.

Related: Chase Ink Business Preferred Review

Related: Ink Business Unlimited Review

Related: Ink Business Cash Review

Hyatt, Marriott, United or IHG?

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Your first priority with your 5/24 slots should likely be Ultimate Rewards-earning cards, but Chase also offers a number of great cobranded airline and hotel cards for you to pick from. If you've secured a Sapphire, a Chase Freedom Unlimited and an Ink or two and still have a spot left, you might want to consider these options:

  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x bonus points total spent on purchases that normally earn 1x point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from your account opening. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • United Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Quest Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 175,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Related: What to do after you reach 5/24

Bottom line

The Chase 5/24 rule can sometimes feel like a punitive restriction, but it can help you narrow the field of cards to pick from first as you round out your ideal wallet. You can mix and match the bonus categories as you see fit, but remember that most people only get one shot at applying for Chase cards, so you'll want to do your best to pick long-term keepers and not waste valuable wallet slots on frivolous applications.

Related: How to calculate your 5/24 standing

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with an 60,000-point bonus.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve with a 60,000-point bonus.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

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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