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The Hamilton of Credit Cards

NOTE: As of March 2017, the sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve has changed to 50,000 Ultimate Rewards. When this blog was first written, the bonus offered was 100,000.

As of August 2017, you can only sign up for one of the Chase Sapphire products, you have to choose, Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) or Chase Sapphire RESERVE (CSR).  If you were lucky to have gotten both CSP and CSR, no need to worry, you can keep both accounts. But if you’re just now about to embark in getting your first Sapphire card, you’ll need to wait 48 months after receiving a Sapphire sign-up bonus before signing up for a new Sapphire card.

Many have asked me about what’s a good credit card to get? If you’ve been following my blog, or have talked to me on a few occasions regarding how, when, and why I got in to the points game, you’d know that I only started this hobby back in 2014, just a little over 2 years ago. As a roookie, I made lots of mistakes, I didn’t do a lot of research initially. I applied for cards that I thought fit my travel lifestyle. The first few  cards that I got were:

  1. Barclays Hawaiian World Elite Mastercard – I figured, “Hey, we like going to Hawaii, so why not get this card?” So I applied.
  2. Chase Marriott Rewards Credit Card – I used to stay at Marriott-branded hotels during my business trips, and I received an offer to apply for this card, so I did.
  3. Chase United Explorer Card – I used to fly United Airlines during my business trips and it made sense to apply for this card, so I did.
  4. US Bank Club Carlson Visa – they offered the “Book One Night, and get the second night for free,” and I got very interested to apply, so I did.

I did earn great bonus points when I first signed up for these cards, but it wasn’t until after that when I realized that I should’ve done my homework more. If I could turn back time, if I knew then what I know now, I would start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here).

5/24 Rule and the Chase Sapphire Preferred

For those who are in this points-earning hobby, 5/24 does not stand for a date in the calendar per se. But, it has been the coined terminology for those who try and apply for Chase-branded credit cards. Chase has been quite strict with their applicants. The numbers 5/24 mean five credit cards opened in the past 24 months. Simply put, it means that “You will not be approved for this card if you have opened 5 or more bank cards in the past 24 months.” So you have to take a look at your portfolio of credit cards and count them, how many of them were opened within the past 24 months, including other card issuers and not just

By the time I had my eyes on the Chase Sapphire Preferred(the one that currently gives 60,000 bonus points after $4,000 minimum spend within 3 months – click here for more details or to apply), I had already gone over the 5/24 limit. In fact, I might have been around 14/24…don’t judge!!! Despite having:

  • an excellent credit score,
  • a clean track record of paying our bills timely and always in full,
  • decent annual income
  • extensive credit history
  • long relationship with Chase Bank

…that didn’t matter to Chase.  The fact that I have opened over 5 credit cards within the past 24 months, that was a factor for a denial. So I held off.

My wife, on the other hand, received a pre-approved offer for the  Chase Sapphire Preferred back in December 2015. She applied, got approved, added me as an authorized user. That was good enough to keep me points-happy for awhile. I told myself that I’ll just focus on other cards, and will wait when the time is right for me to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

How much do I value 60,000 bonus points?

Everyone’s got a way of putting a value on points earned with credit cards. Why or how much do I value the 56,000 points earned with the CSP? I’ll use our 2016 Maui trip as an example. In the summer of 2016, the cost of the ba4ec-img_3902tickets to Maui were around $745/person. Instead of paying for that absurd amount, I used my Chase Ultimate Rewards points. All I needed for one round trip ticket from LA to Maui was 25,000 points and $11 in fees. So, back to the 50,000 bonus points, that was good enough to get two round trip tickets from LA to Maui and we paid an extra $22 in total fees. With that example alone, I valued the 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewardsbonus points close to $1,500.

Credit Card 101 Quick Disclaimer

cc101-ad.jpgI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. My compadres and I who got in to this hobby will tell you that this hobby is NOT just about getting a credit card, spending frivolously on different items, and then choosing to just pay the minimum amount. NO!!! That’s not what this is about!!! I went in to this hobby knowing that whatever I charge, I will have to PAY IN FULL when the statement comes.

shopping.jpgA lot of people look at this as temptation to charge, and I can see what they mean about having all these cards. If you have that tendency, then this is probably not for you. There’s discipline involved. You have to know the rules. Know the deadlines, due dates, closing statement dates, etc.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve – the Hamilton ticket of credit cards

After being denied the CSP because of my 5/24 status, that didn’t stop me from opening up other cards with lucrative bonuses. So as you could imagine, that even pushed me way past the 5/24.

Then, in the summer of 2016, Chase offered theirsapphire_reserve_card new flagship credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve – 100,000 bonus points (so using my Hawaii trip example, that could be valued close to $3,000 or four round trip tickets to Hawaii).Some of the features that are of value to me:

  • $300 Travel Credit
  • Complimentary access to airport lounges
  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck Fee Credit (a $100 value)
  • 3x on travel and dining worldwide
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • $450 Annual Fee (not waived)

***as of March 2017, the bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is now at 50,000 points

Click for a list of the benefits from this card.

The annual fee is really something to think about. If you’re only after the card because of the 100,000 points, it’s probably worth getting just enough for the points. But you will get a bigger bang for your buck when you take advantage of the benefits I listed above.

img_0210I wanted that card so badly, but I knew it was out of reach. How difficult? Have you ever tried getting tickets to Hamilton? If you have, and failed, that’s how it feels like. If you have succeeded in getting tickets to Hamilton, for me, that would be the same feeling if approved the CSR. A lot of people want to watch the show, but couldn’t. Just like this card, lots of points chasers like me want it, but can’t have it because of Chase’s 5/24 rule.

Even Nancy herself was over 5/24, but not as much as me. So I had to do my research. There’s got to be a way. I joined a few subreddits that talked about these types of topics. I read different bloggers and other points-enthusiasts and their experience with the 5/24 rule and how to overcome it.


What I did for Chase

One advise was to use the Chase Private Client route. You need to meet a certain amount of  deposits and investments to the tune of at least $250,000. Ouch. I have our 401Ks that are over that amount, but it meant that I needed to move the funds to Chase and I wasn’t really ready to do that. So this is what I did.cpcradiocity2

Fortunately, I am a good guy. Yes, I am!!! Hahahaha!!! I sat down with a Chase Private Client (CPC) banker at the end of September. I told him that I’m not exactly a CPC, and that my goal was to increase my odds in getting CSP or CSR approved. Others have mentioned that CPC bankers can help push the envelope and talk to Chase Credit in case an application is questioned or denied.

Working with a Chase Private Banker without being a client – just be nice

At the end of September, Nancy and I did not have any Chase credit card pre approved offers. Not surprised. We knew that we were both way over 5/24. But we wanted to put the CPC banker to a test and see if negotiating on our behalf would work. Nancy applied on a Saturday, end of September, was not given instant approval. After a few days, we received a denial letter. Again, not surprised. We expected it.

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-10-08-35-pmOur CPC banker offered to call on our behalf for hopes of reconsideration. He mentioned to the credit department me that we have an excellent score, we pay our bills timely, we could move our balances around, and that we’ve been customers for so long. While it was all true, Chase held on to their decision of denying Nancy’s application. Again, we weren’t surprised. At least we knew that we tried using the route using Chase Private Client banking without having to transfer our investments to them. Since the denial, I’ve actually become friends with the banker. He, too, uses credit card bonus points to supplement his personal travels.

Check the last time you were approved a Chase credit card

Another factor is the last time you were approved for a Chase credit card. In our case, that was around May 2016. I’ve read that your chances do increase if the last time you were approved was greater than 6 months ago. November would’ve been the 6th month since our last approval. So that’s a good sign.

Back to research – lowering credit limits

Since we have opened lots of credit cards, we were given generous amount of credit line. Remember, we mainly opened the card to get the bonus. We are not buying things left and right…no, no, no! With the exception of a few cards that we use constantly, all other cards were set aside and not used. Thus, this led me to believe that maybe I needed to lower our credit limits on the cards that we are not even using. For example, it didn’t make sense to have a $10,000 credit line on X card and we were not even using the card. So I checked different bloggers and enthusiasts, and they said that it could help with getting preapprovals with Chase. I called and lowered most of my cards, and I believe I reduced them by $30,000. Done. However, I’m still plagued with the fact that I am over 5/24 (in fact, I might have been 14/24 – don’t judge). With Nancy’s case, we decided not to touch the credit lines on her cards as part of our test. I think Nancy was at 11/24.

Finally, I got an offer from Chase but….

After lowering my credit limits, and waiting for a couple of weeks, I was informed that I was pre approved with two Chase credit cards (Freedom Unlimited and Slate). I found out about this in early November. They weren’t exactly the card I was looking for so I did not take action. I was, however, happy with the fact that after lowering my credit limits, I started to see pre approvals, so there, I’m hopeful. Something worked with what I’ve done so far.

Mid-November came, and Nancy and I flew to Australia on vacation. While on vacation, of course, the thought of getting that coveted Chase Sapphire Reserve still lingered. Upon
returning from our vacation, I was back on my mission. On the day after Thanksgiving, I sat down with another Chase banker who informed me that I might want look at the cards where I was not the primary user but the Authorized User. I never thought about that.

What is an Authorized User (AU) exactly?

Some of the cards will give an additional bonus when you include an Authorized User (AU) on the account. They will only do a credit check on the main account holder, and not on the AU. However, they will require the social security number of the AU.

We added each other as AU where it made sense, meaning, only on cards that will give us additional benefit by adding the AU. We must’ve done this on 5-7 credit cards. Naturally, before taking swift action, I went back to the bloggers and points enthusiasts and they all concurred that removing ourselves as AUs could help in making us look good before Chase Credit. We made a few phone calls to all the credit cards where we are AUs for each other, and removed our AU status. We called Chase, American Express, Citi, Discover, and US Bank. Chase advised us that it will take about 3-5 business days for our credit report to be updated. This all took place by Friday, December 3rd. After removing ourselves as AUs, Nancy should be at 7/24, and I should be down to 8/24 or 9/24 – meaning, we’re not clearly out of the woods with the 5/24 rule. Remember, Chase wants you to not have more than 5 cards open in 24 months. Uggghhhh!!!

If patience is a virtue…

8245-Good-Things-Come-To-Those-Who-Wait.jpgIt was basically a waiting game. I was tempted to go early in the week to check but I didn’t. But, I had a feeling that if there was any chance for approval, that it will have to be with Nancy’s account and not mine since she has lesser credit cards.

Friday morning came, it was a week after we removed ourselves as AUs from many different card issuers. I checked mine, no surprise, I’m still pre approved for the same cards (Freedom Unlimited and Slate). So no luck yet with me. Although, I could push the envelope, apply for the card, and have one of the bankers follow-up on my behalf should I be denied. But I chose to hold off. Patience, I said. Patience.

The banker then checked Nancy’s account. After a few keystrokes, he said one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard, “You’re pre approved the Chase Sapphire Reserve!” BAM!!! Remember, she was declined just 60 days ago. Nancy then turned to me and asked, “do we have to apply today?” My eyes glared and stared at her and I said sternly, “we are doing this today!!!”  Are you kidding me? I worked hard for this! I wanted this! And it happened! We are not waiting another day! So just like that, Nancy’s CSR was processed, approved. The banker asked if I wanted to be added as an AU. I declined. Not right now. No need. I’ll wait for my turn.

To summarize, I did a lot of research to get to this stage.

  • Built a relationship with a Chase Private Client Banker
  • Lowered our Credit Limits
  • Removed ourselves as Authorized Users where possible
  • Research, research, research, and more research.

It paid off. I can’t promise that this will work for those who are over 5/24, but it’s definitely worth a try.

So as a final takeaway, you might be asking, “Jason, so do I apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Sapphire Preferred or both?

This is especially to those who are thinking of getting their first card, or their next card, going back to my statement, “If I knew then what I know now…” If I were talking to myself two years ago, this is what I would advise

  1. Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred first – you get 50,000 bonus points, and the annual fee is $95 (waived during the first year). For more details or to apply, click here.
  2. Next, get the coveted Chase Sapphire Reserve is also an option to get sooner rather than later because it’s all about opportunity cost. There is also a 50,000 bonus opportunity now, and if you forego that opportunity, it might not bScreen-Shot-2013-08-20-at-11.24.24-AM.pnge offered for awhile once Chase changes their bonus program. The benefits outweigh the $450 annual fee.
    • I’m a big fan of Global Entry (kinda like a FastPass
      access at Disneyland). You bypass long lines at the US airports when you return from a trip abroad. That alone is valued at $100.
    • The $300 annual travel credit is another biggie! Use the Reserve to pay for any travel related expense, Uber, taxi, subway, bus, airlines, trains, cruise, hotels, etc. My sis-in-law used her Reserve to pay for their timeshare maintenance fee, and Chase issued a credipp_select_card-c5159610-53fe-4ae3-a44a-a23b1fc2c46at two days later.
    • Airport Lounge Access….I love this perk with Priority Pass. We used to hate getting to the airport early because we’d just be waiting. But since getting Priority Passes, we’ve been treating ourselves to entering various airport lounges worldwide. We get to eat, relax, or shower (if needed)…all at no additional cost. Ok this all for now….hope this helps!

5 thoughts on “The Hamilton of Credit Cards

  1. Darling Husband and I do a lot of traveling. Ex-Military allows us to hitch-hike on military flights. Traveling this way means we often don’t know where we are going– and spend a good deal on clothes and last minute stuff. I needed this review!!!

    1. We have 4 kids, and it sure ain’t cheap to travel. We’ve gone to Hawaii for $11/person, London, Budapest, Prague for 2 for $300 (air and hotel included), stayed at $1000/per night hotel rooms for FREE…it’s crazy, but it’s all so true. Anything you need, questions? I can try to help.

  2. Hi Jason! Great blog. We were at the Beach Boy over the 4th of July, I thought we may cross path but I did follow your trip on Trip Adviser form.
    Do know if I add an authorized user, I assume they do not have to pay an annual fee? Thanks, Wayne

    1. Hi Wayne! Thanks for following our journey. Man, it would’ve been cool if we crossed paths. About your Auth User question, it depends on the card you have in mind. If you’re talking about Chase Sapphire Preferred, there is no add’l cost to add an AU, you pay an annual fee of $95 and you can add AUs at no extra cost. If it’s for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, there is an add’l cost – if I’m not mistaken, $75 per AU on top of the $450 annual fee…any other q’s let me know…hope this helps.

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