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

Jul 11, 2020

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The award travel community isn’t immune from the dangers of groupthink, and there are some things we accept as gospel without ever stopping to question them. Perhaps the most well-known example is Chase’s 5/24 rule, which means that this issuer 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.

Please note that if you do decide to forego a 5/24 slot and apply for a non-Chase credit card, this is not a decision you should make lightly. Even in all the situations 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 that derives 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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In This Post

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, while others are targeted online by going through the CardMatch tool.

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. These targeted offers are only valid for a limited amount of time and subject to change at anytime — 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 reading: 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 the 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.

Related reading: 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 $200 bonus after spending $500 in their first three months. That’s a solid enough offer to pick up the card, but most of the 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.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited 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 need specific miles for an upcoming trip

Qsuites photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy
Qatar Airways’ coveted Qsuites. (Photo by Emily McNutt/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/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 Korean Air, Etihad, Cathay Pacific and JAL. 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 American Airlines business credit cards, such as the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® and the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard to earn AA miles without using up a 5/24 slot.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum and AAdvantage Aviator Business cards 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

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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 a number of airline partners (mostly at a 2:1.5 ratio) or using them at a rate of 1 cent each to erase eligible travel purchases made with your card. This hybrid approach gives you a higher baseline earning rate than most Chase cards, and lets you switch between fixed-value redemptions 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.

Chase makes it easy to pair your cards for maximum value.(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
Chase Ink business cards should be an important part of your 5/24 strategy. (Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Looking only at personal credit cards, everyone should get either a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve (unfortunately you can’t get both), a Freedom Unlimited and maybe a Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) 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? The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.          

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 recent 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 because 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 reading: 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 welcome offers such as the 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.

Featured photo by The Points Guy

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