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Once you’ve opened five credit cards from any bank in the last 24 months (not counting most business cards), Chase will likely deny you for all of their travel rewards credit cards. Pieced together through shared experiences online, people like us nailed down this trend a few years ago and dubbed it the 5/24 rule.

It’s important to consider Chase’s 5/24 rule if you plan on diving into this hobby–and by diving in I mean opening numerous cards over time–so you don’t cut yourself off from valuable sign up bonuses and the earning potential of a collection of Chase travel cards. Pick the ones you want and then move on to other banks. Below is a guide to choosing the right cards that will apply to most people: four different five-card combos depending on the type of traveler, consumer, and miles/points enthusiast you are.

Combo #1

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  2. Chase Freedom
  3. Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  4. One Chase Southwest consumer card
  5. Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

If you’re not interested in Southwest Rapid Rewards nor the companion pass/don’t live in city served by Southwest, then apply for:

Combo #2

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  2. Chase Freedom
  3. Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  4. Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
  5. Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

Not eligible for business credit cards? You sure? Ok, then here are the five consumer cards I’d go for.

Combo #3 (THIS POST)

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  2. Chase Freedom
  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  4. Chase United Explorer Card (when bonus is 50k or above)
  5. Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Bonus Combo for Points Omnivores: read more in the linked post. 

Today I’ll tell you a little about each card in Combo #3 and what you’d earn total from those cards. As the Sapphire Reserve and Freedom card were already covered in The Five Chase Cards You Should Apply For: Combo #1, I won’t repeat info about those cards here.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited®, like the Freedom, is marketed as a cash back card that earns 1.5% cash back on all spending, with an increased bonus offer for the first year of 3% cash back on the first $20,000 in spending. But what you actually earn is 3 (or 1.5) Ultimate Reward points per dollar spent on all purchases…indeed worth only 1 cent each if redeemed from the Freedom Unlimited account. Transfer those points to a Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Ink Business Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Preferred and the value of your 1 cent a piece Freedom Unlimited Ultimate Rewards will jump dramatically if you transfer them over to one of those accounts. All of those cards earn Ultimate Rewards that can be transferred to airline/hotel partners for high value redemptions on premium cabin/international awards (much higher than 1 cent a piece, more like two cents and up). Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred Ultimate Rewards points can also be redeemed for 1.25 cents a piece through the Chase travel portal. Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed for 1.5 cents a piece through the Chase travel portal. Read about transferring Ultimate Rewards here.

United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card is Chase’s co-branded United card. It comes with 40,000 United miles for spending $1,000 on the card within three months of opening it, and an additional 25,000 bonus miles for spending a total of $10,000 within six months of opening the card. That’s a total of 65k bonus United miles (plus you’d earn at least 11,000 miles for every dollar of spending),

Other perks of the card include…

  • 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants, hotels, and on United purchases
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • a free checked bag when ticket is purchased on card and flying United
  • Priority Boarding
  • 2 one-time passes each year to the United Club
  • 25% off United inflight purchases
  • More award space (more award space available to you compared to non-cardholders)

United miles’ biggest strengths are that economy and United Business Class awards are fairly priced and there is a good deal of award space compared to other programs. There are never any fuel surcharges on United awards, searching for award space and booking is easy, and you should be able to avoid close-in booking fees.

You can book award flights on any of these airlines with United miles and not have to worry about fuel surcharges flying any of them.
You can book award flights on any of these airlines with United miles and not have to worry about fuel surcharges flying any of them. 

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card comes with 100,000 bonus Marriott Rewards for spending $5,000 within three moths.

You can use Marriott points to book free nights (starting at 7,500 points a night) at thousands of hotels as the company, post SPG merger, has the biggest footprint in the world. You can also transfer them to airline miles of almost any type. You’ll earn at least 110,000 Marriott points for meeting the spending requirement for the bonus, which translates to 36,000 of almost any airline mile as you’ll get a 5k mile bonus for every 50k point increment you transfer. While 36k airline miles isn’t the most impressive bonus, it is valuable to have access to so many different types of miles in case you need to top off another account for a big award and/or want to use an obscure mileage price that otherwise is difficult to earn miles in.

It comes with a host of Marriott-centric benefits as well, like:

  • a Free Night award every year good at properties that cost up to 35k points a night
  • 6 points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
  • 2 points per dollar on everything else (which is not competitive… this isn’t a good card for everyday spend)
  • Silver Elite status
  • 15 Elite Night Credits per year

Whether or not you apply for this card should not be decided until you read about how doing so will affect your eligibility for American Express’ Starwood Preferred Guest consumer, business, and Luxury cards.

What You’ll Get Total From Combo #3

You’d earn 129,500 Ultimate Rewards from spending $24,500 over the course of a year to meet the minimum spending requirements for the sign up bonuses on the Sapphire Reserve, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited. You’d earn another 40,000 to 50,000 United miles depending on what the bonus is (it fluctuates often) for spending $2,000. And then you’d earn another 110,000 Marriott Rewards for spending $5,000. 

Your potential for return on spending would span the following category bonuses:

    • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on rotating categories (common categories are gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, PayPal and Apple Pay, restaurants, and Amazon)
    • 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on travel and dining
    • 2 United miles per dollar spent at restaurants, hotels, and on United purchases
    • 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties (for those more interested in miles, 6 Marriott points translates to 2 airline miles of almost any type)
    • 1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on ALL things

Timing of Applications

Don’t apply for more than two applications in a 30 day period. The general consensus is that Chase won’t, automatically at least, approve more than that. It is possible to get approved for more than that, but you’ll almost certainly have to put in a reconsideration phone call and Chase representatives are known for being rather difficult in that aspect. I recommend no more than two applications every 30 days.

If you’re concerned with your credit score dipping from hard inquiries, apply for two cards at the same time (on the same day), as the two hard credit inquiries should combine into one as long as both are personal cards or both are business cards. I’d recommend putting some time–at least three months if not four–between these double application days though, as Chase will shut down accounts for too many new accounts too quickly as it makes you look risky to lend more credit to.

Bottom Line

If you plan on pursuing miles and points as a hobby, it’s a no-brainer that your first five rewards cards should be issued by Chase. If you’re not interested in earning a Companion Pass and/or Rapid Rewards for Southwest flights and you’re not eligible for business cards, then the first five should be the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited®, United Explorer Card, and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.

I’ll discuss the bonus combo in an upcoming post.

The above recommendations will apply to the majority of people, but not everyone. If you have a very specific destination in mind and/or already have some rewards but need more to compliment, use our Credit Card Consultation Service. I’ll make sure you’re set up with the right cards.

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!

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