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The question I’m asked most from newbies who want to start earning miles and points for travel is: “Which card should I get first/next?”

My answer is always a Chase card first.

Why? In late 2015, Chase implemented what’s known as the ‘5/24’ rule for their best premium credit cards and then expanded it to ALL of their credit cards in November 2018.

The rule is that Chase won’t approve you for their credit cards no matter what your credit score is if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months.  And the 5 credit cards are from any issuer (not just Chase).  Don’t even waste your time applying if you are over the limit.

Not sure how many credit cards that you have opened in the past 24 months – here’s an easy way to check your 5/24 status.

#1 – Chase Sapphire

The first Chase card I recommend is either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The choice of which is up to you depending on the current welcome offer and how comfortable you are with the annual fee.  While the Reserve does have a much higher annual fee, it comes with a boatload of benefits.  You just have to determine if the added benefits are worth the higher annual fee. to you – I think they definitely do.

Why not get both?  Unfortunately Chase typically limits you to only one Sapphire card by including this language on applications:

This product is not available to either current cardmembers of any Sapphire credit card, or previous cardmembers who received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire credit card within the last 48 months.

I personally applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred since it had a slightly higher welcome offer at the time I applied.  But I will probably request to upgrade it to the Reserve after the first year as I feel the benefits more much more than the annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This is arguably the best all-around card for beginners.  The 60,000 80,000 point welcome offer is worth at least $1000 when used on the Chase Travel portal to book travel.  But I prefer to get even more value from the points by transferring them to Chase's travel partners such as Hyatt, United, and Southwest.

The card also offers 2 points per dollar for all travel & dining purchases, no foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad, and includes primary rental car coverage so you can decline rental car companies insurance.

The card's annual fee is only $95.  Learn more and apply here.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card was named 'Best Premium Travel Credit Card' for 2019 by MONEY Magazine.  It has a great mix of benefits and points earning potential which more than cover the high $550 annual fee. 

Currently, the 50,000 point welcome offer is worth at least $750 when used on the Chase Travel portal to book travel.  But I prefer to get even more value from the points by transferring them to Chase's travel partners such as Hyatt, United, and Southwest.

This card also comes with a $300 annual travel credit - just use your card for travel items and get reimbursed by statement credit.  It also includes access to 1000+ airport lounges and also gives you a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

The card also offers 3 points per dollar for all travel & dining purchases, no foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad, and includes primary rental car coverage so you can decline rental car companies insurance.

New for 2020, this card gives you one year complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value) and the ability to earn 10X points on Lyft rides.  Also new for 2020, it gives you $120 in Doordash statement credits ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021).

The card's annual fee is $550 but I think you will agree the benefits are worth much more than the annual fee.  Learn more and apply here.

#2 & (#3) – Chase Co-Branded Hotel Cards

Chase partners with a bunch of different airlines and hotels to offer co-branded credit cards.  The cards you choice will be of personal preference and which airline hub city you live closest to.

Let’s dig into hotel cards first – my favorite of these three is Hyatt.  I also have and keep the IHG card.

Chase World of Hyatt

Definitely my favorite of the Chase hotel cards.  The Chase World of Hyatt card currently there is a 50,000 point bonus after spending $6000 in the first 6 months of account opening (earn 25,000 points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months, then another 25,000 points after spending a total of $6000 in 6 months).

Hyatt has one the best award charts of all the hotel chains with free night awards starting at just 5,000 points.   

This card also gives you a free night certificate (good at any category 1-4) each year when you renew.

The card's annual fee is only $95.  Learn more and apply here.

IHG Rewards Club Premier

There is currently an 140,000 bonus point offer after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.  The IHG award chart ranges from 10,000 points all the way up to 70,000 points per night at the higher end hotels.

There are two reasons why you should want to get this card and keep it long term.  First, you get a free night certificate each year (limited to hotels 40,000 points and less).  And second when you redeem points for three nights, you get a 4th night FREE!

You also earn up to 25 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels.

Also worth mentioning is getting Platinum Elite status in IHG's program just for having this card along with a $100 credit every four years for your Global Entry or TSA Pre check fees.

The card's annual fee is only $89 but is waived the first yearLearn more and apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card is currently offerring 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Like Hyatt and IHG, you also get a free night certificate each year (limited to hotels 35,000 points and less).  This card also earns 6X points per dollar spent at Marriotts.

Just having this card gets you Marriott Silver Elite status.  And you can spend your way to Gold Elite by spending $35,000 on the card each account year.  It also gives you 15 Elite Night credits each year to qualify for status.

The card's annual fee is $95.  Learn more and apply here.

#3 & (#4) – Chase Co-Branded AIRLINE Cards

Which airline card you will most likely be dependent upon where you live as you will probably fly the airline which has the most flights from your home airport.

I’m kind of lucky – I live just under an hour from three major airports – Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Dulles (IAD), and Reagan National Airport (DCA).  Southwest has by far the most flights at BWI while Dulles is one of United’s hubs.  American Airlines has the most flights from DCA.

Unfortunately Chase does not partner with Delta (but American Express does).  I personally have the United Card and am planning to get the Southwest card shortly.

If you fly American mostly, you will probably want to look at the Avios cards by British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Spain’s Iberia.  These airlines are in the same alliance with American Airlines so you can use the Avios miles to fly on American Airlines flights.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card has a $149 annual fee and is currently offering a 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months.

This card also gives you a $75 annual Southwest credit each year along with 7500 points each year on your cardmember anniversary.  Southwest points are generally worth 1.6 cents each so 7500 points is worth $120.

It also gives you four upgraded boarding positions each year. These are actually better than purchasing early bird since you will get boarding position A1-A15 when you purchase this at the check-in counter or ticket counter.  While early bird is usually $15-$25, upgraded boardings cost $30-$50. For simplicity, let’s just say these are worth $15 (like the cheapest early bird).

$120 (7500 miles) + $60 (upgraded boarding) + $75 (annual credit) = $255 value vs $149 annual fee.

Learn more and apply here.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card has a $99 annual fee and is currently offering a 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months.

This card gives 6000 points each year on your cardmember anniversary.  Southwest points are generally worth 1.6 cents each so 6000 points is worth $96.  The value of these points just about covers the $99 annual fee.

It also earns 2X points on all Southwest purchases and 1X points on everything else.

Learn more and apply here.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card has a $69 annual fee and is currently offering a 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months.

This card gives 3000 points each year on your cardmember anniversary.  Southwest points are generally worth 1.6 cents each so 3000 points is worth $48.  The value of these points cover most of the $69 annual fee.

It also earns 2X points on all Southwest purchases and 1X points on everything else.

Learn more and apply here.

United Explorer MileagePlus

The United Explorer card is currently a 60,000 bonus miles offer after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.  Plus earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6000 in 6 months.

When you book your United ticket with this card, your first checked bag is free.  The card also earns 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, hotel stays, and United purchases.  You also get 25% back on inflight United purchases (food/wife/etc)

Having the card also gets your priority boarding and 2 one-time passes each year to the United Club.  Finally it also gives you a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.  Learn more and apply here.

Chase United Club Infinite

The United Club Infinite card is a high end airline card with a large annual fee that offers a plethora of benefits, credits, and perks which may easily outweigh the cost of the annual fee for some.  Currently there is a $0 intro annual fee ($525 after the first year).

First, if your home airport has a United Club, this card provides you (and travel companions) with a United Club membership (up to a $650 value per year).  You will get to access all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.

Having this card also get you (and one companion) your first and second checked bags for free.  It also gives you a 25% back as a statement credit on United food, beverage, and wi-fi onboard purchases.

You also earn 4X miles on all United purchases; 2X miles on all other travel purchases, 2X miles on restaurants and eligible delivery services such as GrubHub and DoorDash.  And 1X mile on all other purchases.

Finally it also gives you a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

The card's annual fee is $525 after the first year.  Learn more and apply here.

#5 – Chase Freedom

The last Chase card you will want to consider is either the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited card.  Both have no annual fees and earn Chase Ultimate Rewards which can be transferred to airline and hotel partners if you have one of Chase’s premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve.

I personally have the Chase Freedom Flex and use it very frequently to maximize the 5X points on rotating categories each quarter.

 Chase Freeom Flex

There is currently a $200 bonus (20,000 points) after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Earn 5X points on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.  Also earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase.   Finally earn 5X on up to $1500 each quarter in rotating categories (Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Amazon.com, etc).  That's a ton of 5X categories!

This card also earns 3X points on dining at restaurants and 3X points at drugstores.   1X points on all other purchases.

Points are worth 1¢ each (20,000 points = $150) unless you hold a Chase Premium Ultimate Rewards card (such as the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve) where you can transfer points to airlines and hotels or convert to cash at a 1.25% or 1.5% rate!

No Annual Fee.  Learn more and apply here.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

This card earns a solid 5% on travel booked at Chase travel site, 3% on dining at restaurants and drug stores and 1.5% Ultimate Reward points on ALL other purchases.

There is currently a $200 bonus (20,000 points) after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.  Also, this card is currently offering 5X points on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 in the first year.

There is also a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.

Points are worth 1¢ each (15,000 points = $150) unless you hold a Chase Premium Ultimate Rewards card (such as the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve) where you can transfer points to airlines and hotels.

No Annual Fee.  Learn more and apply here.

NEED TO KNOWS

  • You should apply for Chase credit cards first since Chase will not approve you for their credit cards in you have opened five or more credit cards by any issuer in the past 24 months.
  • Not sure of your 5/24 status, here’s how to check it.
  • Chase will only allow you to hold one of their Sapphire (Preferred or Reserve) at a time.
  • Which co-branded cards you apply for will typically depend on your personal preference (hotel chain you like) and where you live (which airline hub is closest).
  • Chase Freedom no annual fee cards are a great way to boost your Chase Utimate Rewards balance and can be transferred to travel parnters if you hold a Sapphire card.
  • Thanks for supporting this blog (and sending me on more trips:-) if you use the links above to apply for any of these cards at the Card Ratings website.

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