The Five Chase Cards You Should Apply For: Combo #3


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 many (but not 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. Sapphire Reserve
  2. Freedom
  3. Ink Business Preferred
  4. One Southwest consumer card
  5. Southwest Business 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. Sapphire Reserve
  2. Freedom
  3. Ink Business Preferred
  4. Ink Business Cash
  5. Ink Business Unlimited

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Credit Cards.

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. Sapphire Reserve
  2. Freedom
  3. Freedom Unlimited
  4. United MileagePlus Explorer Card (when bonus rises to 50k)
  5. Marriott Rewards Premier Plus

Expect more info on the bonus combo for serious points omnivores in the near future.

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.

Freedom Unlimited

The Freedom Unlimited, like the Freedom, is marketed as a cash back card. But if you also have a Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred, or Sapphire Preferred, 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.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card’s sign-up bonus waivers between 50,000 and 40,000 United miles for spending $3,000 and $2,000 respectively within three months of opening the account. I would wait to apply until either….

A) the public offer is 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 in three months,

B) or there is an equal or better offer inside your MileagePlus account, which you can check by logging into

That being said, the 50k offer usually doesn’t waive the $95 annual fee the first year, while the 40k offer does. Depending on how much you value United miles/what you’re going to use them for, it may not be worth waiting on the 50k offer thanks to that $95 annual fee.

I value United miles at 1.6 cents each, so a 50k bonus is worth $800 to me and a 40k bonus is worth $640. 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 Rewards Premier Plus

The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus comes with 75,000 bonus Marriott Rewards for spending $3,000 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 81,000 Marriott points for meeting the spending requirement for the bonus, which translates to 32,000 of almost any airline mile as you’ll get a 5k mile bonus for every 50k point increment you transfer.

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 (beginning in 2019)

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. It might be worth foregoing for the ability to open one or more of those sooner.

What You’ll Get Total From Combo #3

Not considering category bonuses nor the bonuses for adding authorized users, you’d earn 157,000 Ultimate Rewards from spending $9,500 to meet the minimum spending requirements for the sign up bonuses on the Sapphire Reserve, Freedom, and Ink Business Preferred. 

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 two months if not three–between these double application days though, as Chase has been shutting down accounts recently for too many new accounts too quickly (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 Sapphire Reserve, the Freedom, the United MileagePlus Explorer, and the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus.

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 Free Credit Card Consultation Service. I’ll make sure you’re set up with the right cards.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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  1. I recently opened the Ink Business Cash. There is a hard credit pull even though it’s a business card.

    Looking forward to an extra 50k rewards and no annual fee!

  2. Yes, that’s how business card applications work. Not sure what made you think they wouldn’t pull the credit report of the applicant.


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