Talking about points and miles for travel and helping others get into this hobby are two of my favorite things to do, and some of the questions I get asked on a daily basis are:
Which card should I get next?
What’s the best order to apply for credit cards?
I'm short on time — can you just tell me which card might be right for me?
If you have any of those questions, this one’s for you. You can use it as a roadmap or a starting point, whichever you prefer.
Know Before You Start
Following this strategy could get you an estimated $7,287 in travel, assuming you’re approved for all these cards. But before we dive in, a few important disclaimers.
- This is just one strategy. There are of course several strategies you can use, this is just what I think works best and typically recommend to others. It optimizes your Chase 5/24 status to earn you a sizable stack of points and miles.
- Sign-up bonuses fluctuate. Sign-up bonuses are promotional and can change or end at any time.
- Chase UR points are transferrable. You're not limited to redeeming your Chase UR points only in the Chase portal, you can also transfer them to several airline and hotel partners.
- Know your acronyms. If there's an acronym you don't recognize, this glossary is a good resource.
- Don't overspend just to earn points. Spending more than you should just to earn points is a bad idea and could hurt your credit. If you need it, here's a list of ideas on how to meet the MSR.
Issuers like Chase have unofficial guidelines that can affect the cards you sign up for. Here are some key ones to understand.
- Chase 5/24. Understanding your Chase 5/24 status is important. Essentially, if you have signed up for 5 new accounts in the past 24 months, your chances of being approved for a Chase credit card within that time period are slim to none.
- Chase 1/30. The 1/30 rule is short for "1 card every 30 days," meaning your chances of being approved for a Chase business card are slim to none if you've applied for any card in the last 30 days.
- Chase 2/30. In addition to the 5/24 rule, the 2/30 rule is a guideline for spacing out your applications. Your chances of being approved are slim to none if you've applied for 2 personal cards (or 1 business card) in the last 30 days.
This method assumes:
- Your Chase status is 0/24, meaning you’ve applied for 0 credit cards in the last 24 months
- You’re able to meet the MSR on time for each card
- Your credit score is 700+ (excellent credit is ideal)
Alright, let’s go!
1. Track Your Progress
Start a spreadsheet to keep track of your cards, dates of accounts opened, bonuses, etc. Here’s the template Team FBZ uses.
2. Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Spend $4,000 in the first three months to meet minimum spending requirement (MSR) and earn 50,000 bonus points, plus 4,000 Ultimate Reward (UR) points.
Total earned = 54,000 UR points
Ongoing Card Benefits: Both Sapphire cards offer tremendous long term value. Two of my favorite benefits for the Sapphire Reserve are lounge access with Priority Pass and the 6-hour trip delay protection. I've used both benefits several times when travel gets delayed. Also, earning 3x points on travel and a $300 annual travel credit makes this card a keeper. The Sapphire Preferred comes in a close second, offering a lower annual fee and 2x points earned on travel. Both of these cards offer primary car rental coverage which can save upwards of $16 per day on car rentals.
3. Sign up for the Chase Ink Business Preferred (if you qualify)
Spend $5,000 in the first three months to meet MSR and earn 80,000 bonus points, plus 5,000 UR points.
Total earned = 85,000 UR points
Ongoing Card Benefits: You'll be hardpressed to find a business card that offers more long term value. It has cell phone protection and insurance when you use it to pay your bill, a low $95 annual fee, and you earn 3x UR points for every $1 spent on select categories.
4. Sign up for a Southwest Priority, Southwest Premier or Southwest Plus Card
Spend $2,000 in the first three months to meet MSR and earn 50,000 bonus points, plus 2,000 SW points.
Total earned = 52,000 SW points
Ongoing Card Benefits: If you fly domestically, to the Caribbean, or to Central America, Southwest Airlines is hard to beat in price and service. Plus, these cards can help you get one step closer to earning the coveted Companion Pass (more on that below). You can also earn generous rewards on travel and everyday spending. Each card also offers a different anniversary bonus, meaning you'll automatically earn rewards for being a loyal cardmember.
5. Sign up for the Southwest Business Card (if you qualify)
Spend $3,000 in the first three months to meet MSR and earn 60,000 bonus points, plus 3,000 SW points.
Total earned = 63,000 SW points
Ongoing Card Benefits: same as above
Congrats! At this point, you’ll not only have 115,000 SW points to book flights with, but you’ll also have earned the Southwest Companion Pass which entitles you to buy-one-get-one-free flights for up to two years.
6. Sign up for the Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited Card
Spend $500 in the first three months to meet MSR and earn $150 bonus, which translates to 15,000 bonus points, plus 500 UR points.
Total = 15,500 UR points
Ongoing Card Benefits: Keeping a spot in my wallet for the Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited is an easy decision. Besides having no annual fees, both options offer some of the best cash back rewards available. Couple one of these with a Sapphire and Ink card and you'll have a highly valuable combination of rewards cards.
7. Sign up for the Chase United Explorer Card
Spend $2,000 in the first three months to meet MSR and earn 40,000 bonus points, plus 2,000 United Miles.
Total earned = 42,000 United Miles
Ongoing Card Benefits: This is another card that any frequent flyer can easily find valuable. The benefit of free checked bags alone can save you up to $120 per roundtrip, which more than covers the $95 annual fee. Coupled with 2 annual United Club passes, priority boarding, and miles that never expire and you’ve got yourself a winning card.
8. Sign up for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
Spend $3,000 in the first three months to meet MSR and earn 75,000 bonus points, plus 3,000 Marriott points.
Total earned = 78,000 Marriott points
Ongoing Card Benefits: With Marriott owning thousands of locations worldwide, there's no shortage of places to book wherever you're traveling. On top of earning 6x at any of their properties, the free annual night and automatic gold status easily justify the $95 annual fee.
9. Sign up for one additional Chase-affiliated hotel credit card of your choice
Let’s go with The World of Hyatt Credit Card. Spend $3,000 in the first three months and a total of $6,000 in the first six months to meet MSR and earn 50,000 bonus points, plus 6,000 Hyatt points.
Total earned = 56,000 Hyatt points
Ongoing Card Benefits: All these cards offer amazing value, but I especially love The World of Hyatt card. Hyatt offers one of the most valuable award charts available today, so having this co-branded hotel card is very appealing. The points are easy to earn, it has a low $95 annual fee, and you get 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary.
10. You've Reached 5/24
At this point, you’ve maxed out your 5/24 status (assuming you got the cards mentioned above) and can begin opening non-Chase cards that aren’t affected by 5/24, like Amex cards, Capital One cards, etc. See other good options here.
There you have it, 10 quick and easy steps to becoming a pro at award travel.
By following this strategy, you'll end up with an estimated:
- 154,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points - estimated to be worth at least $2,317 in travel
- 115,000 Southwest Airlines miles - estimated to be enough for up to 10 RT flights, plus the Southwest Companion Pass ($3,680 value)
- 42,000 United miles - estimated to be worth $588 in travel
- 78,000 Marriott points - estimated to be worth $702 in booked stays
- 56,000 Hyatt points - estimated to be enough for up to 8 nights
If you have questions or what to discuss further, join and ask in our Facebook group, FBZ Elite - Travel and Points.
The Bottom Line
Almost anyone can do this — even if you're short on time.
By following the steps above, you’ll earn roughly $7,287 is travel rewards, after spending $24,500 on MSR. That’s more than 30 percent return for spending money you would have otherwise spent.