Evaluating my credit card portfolio - Chase

When pursuing points and miles using credit card sign-up bonuses, you soon accumulate a lot of credit cards. I was accustomed to carrying multiple cards before I became immersed in these rewards, but the number of cards I currently hold has tripled. As an early-year task, I decided to undertake a top-to-bottom review of my open accounts in order to decide if any should be closed. There are more than a few credit card products on the market that I would like to obtain, so I want to strategize how to adjust my card portfolio in 2018. In a series of posts, I will review the cards I hold from various issuers and decide if it's time to close any. Part of my review will assess how an existing card combines with any new cards I am considering. Because potential cards can impact a keep-or-cancel decision, I will mention relevant products that are on my radar, but I will postpone a full analysis until I am ready to adjust my collection. Previously, I provided background to frame my analyses and a review of my suite of American Express cards. Today, I want to review my outstanding Chase cards.

Evaluating my Credit Card Portfolio series

Chase rules

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Unlike American Express, Chase does not place a limit on how many cards you can hold. However, they do have a restriction that I consider far more of a barrier to obtaining their cards: the 5/24 rule. This rule is especially frustrating to those in the points and mile community who regularly add new cards to their wallet. From Cards For Travel:

While there is no official bank documentation outlining this policy, it’s widely referred to by points and miles collectors and important to understand. The gist of the 5/24 rule is this: If you have opened 5 or more new credit cards in the past 24 months (from any issuing bank), you will not be approved for a new credit card from Chase.

Note, this rules excludes any cards that do not appear on your personal credit report; this generally does not include Amex, Chase or Citi small business cards. 

Though not all Chase cards fall under the 5/24 rule, their best cards do. This restriction bit me when the Chase Sapphire Reserve was launched in August 2016 with a 100,000 point sign-up bonus (now a more pedestrian 50,000). I very badly wanted to add it to my wallet. Unfortunately, I was out of compliance with 5/24 and it was not until last fall that I was again eligible for Chase products subject to this rule.

For its Sapphire product line, Chase implemented a rule in August 2017 limiting cardholders to a single Sapphire product. From an internal employee memo, via Miles to Memories:

Going forward a customer may no longer have more than one Sapphire-branded credit card. For example, if a customer has a Sapphire Preferred card, they are no longer eligible for a Sapphire Reserve card....If an account is closed, a customer will not be eligible for any Sapphire-branded credit card if they have earned a cardmember bonus on a Sapphire-branded product within the last 24 months.

My cards

My Chase cards  (click to enlarge)

My Chase cards (click to enlarge)

I currently hold the following four Chase credit cards:

  • Chase British Airways Visa

  • Chase IHG Rewards

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred

Let's take a look at the benefits of these cards and the value I receive from each in order to decide whether to keep or cancel any of them.

Chase British Airways Visa Signature

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The Chase British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card is one of those cards I obtained purely for the sign-up bonus. Despite the co-branded airline, the card if beneficial to those of us in the United States. The features include:  

  • 3x Avios on British Airways purchases

  • 1x Avios on all other purchases

  • No foreign transaction fees for non-U.S. purchases

  • One Travel Together (companion) ticket when spending $30,000 on the card in a year

The annual fee is $95. Though not an official perk, British Airways offers cardholders a 10% discount on purchased round-trip tickets commencing from the US. This promotion could cover the annual fee for those who fly between the U.S. and London once or twice per year. For me, I receive no value from this discount since I rarely fly from the US to Europe on a paid ticket. 

In general, Avios can be a useful frequent flyer program for short U.S. domestic flights on BA’s oneworld partner American Airlines. However, a better value would be to put your spend on a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve that earns multiple Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on various categories. These Ultimate Rewards points can then be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to British Airways for Avios. Since there is little ongoing value to me from this card, my best option is to cancel the card. Doing so would make me eligible for the sign-up bonus again in the near future since previous cardmembers can earn the bonus again if they have not received a bonus in the previous 24 months.

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select

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I have written about how the Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is one of those rare card products that more-than-pays for itself every year. This is thanks to the annual free night certificate you receive upon paying your annual fee of only $49. Because the free night can be used at any IHG property with award availability and since I have not seen a decent hotel room priced at $49 per night in decades, carrying this card is an absolute no-brainer for anyone who travels even once a year. Even if you stay at a Holiday Inn Express next to the interstate in Middle of Nowhere, America, you will come out ahead. 

The free night is the highlight, but there are other benefits:

  • 5x IHG Rewards points on purchases with IHG hotels

  • 2x IHG Rewards points on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants

  • 1x IHG Rewards points on all other purchases

  • IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status

  • No foreign transaction fees

Without the anniversary night, the card would be far less compelling. Platinum status is nice to have, but it’s far less lucrative than elite status with other hotel programs. Also, IHG Rewards points aren’t particularly valuable and don’t have the flexibility of SPG Starpoints. As with the British Airways card, there are better cards on which to put any category of spend, including routine charges at IHG properties. However, thanks to the annual free night, I carry this card even though I never pull it out of my wallet unless there is an IHG promotion for bonus points when charging a stay to the card. So long as the free anniversary night remains a perk, I will keep this account open.

[Update: Between the time I began writing this article and when I posted it, Chase updated the terms of the anniversary free night certificate. From One Mile at a Time:

Unfortunately it looks like this will be changing going forward. For IHG anniversary free night certificates issued on May 1, 2018, or later, you can only redeem at properties that cost up to 40,000 points per night. IHG free night awards cost anywhere from 5,000 to 70,000 points per night, so this excludes many of IHG’s top properties.

There are no other changes to the card including the annual fee. 

This is disappointing since the certificate was so lucrative. The three properties where I have used my free nights are all on IHG's list of properties where you can no longer use the anniversary night. Unfortunately, these and many others on the list are centrally located hotels in major European cities. The confusing thing is that the Holiday Inn London - Bloomsbury where I will be using my anniversary night this summer is shown as ineligible. However, I booked a second night for my stay with 40,000 IHG Rewards points.  Not sure if entire properties are ineligible or only when a reward night requires 40,000+ points. I will reach out to IHG and report back if I get an answer.

Regardless, I still intend to keep this card. As I noted above, almost any IHG room will cost more than $49 per night. Even if I can only use it on a road trip to a fall college football game, I will still be in the black after considering the low annual fee.]

Chase Ink Business Preferred

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I was recently approved for this card so I can’t reasonably cancel at this time. However, though I have completed my initial spend and earned the sign-up bonus of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, the benefits of this card make it worth carrying. 

  • Category spending bonuses

    • 3x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in the following categories each account year:

      • Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets, and taxis

      • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, such as Google AdWords or Facebook

      • Internet, cable TV, and phone services

      • Shipping purchases

      • 1x Ultimate Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners

  • Cell phone protection - up to $600 per claim against covered theft or damage when you pay with your monthly bill with your Chase Ink Business Preferred card

  • Primary rental car insurance (business rentals only)

  • Purchase and extended warranty protection

  • No foreign transaction fees

The card has a $95 annual fee.  

I value the bonus points on internet and cable TV services - which I recently discovered includes Netflix - since I do not receive bonus points on this type of spend with any of my other other cards. Also, while I do earn triple points on travel with two of my Citibank cards, I slightly prefer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Citi ThankYou points due to the programs’ respective transfer partners. Also, the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal is one of the more valuable portals for earning additional points when making online purchases. The Chase Ink Business Preferred card will maintain its place in my wallet and is now be integrated into my day-to-day card strategy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card was one of my first cards applications once I seriously began to pursue points and miles. I have held this card since April 2015 and have enjoyed the following benefits since that time: 

  • 2x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel and dining

  • 1x Ultimate Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners

  • Redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.25 cents each toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • Primary rental car insurance

  • Trip cancellation/interruption, baggage delay and trip delay insurance coverages

  • Purchase and extended warranty protection

  • No foreign transaction fees

The card has a $95 annual fee.  

This has been my primary card for dining for the last few years. I could get a similar 2x points from a couple of my Citibank cards, but as noted above, I prefer Ultimate Rewards points. Based on its own merits, I would keep the Sapphire Preferred card, but I am seriously considering product swapping this card since I am anxious to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card while I am 5/24 compliant.

Strategically shifting my Chase card portfolio

There is no perfect flexible reward currency. There are gaps in each program’s transfer partner coverage, so it is good practice to have points spread across multiple programs. I have decent balances for American Express Membership Rewards points and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, but I significantly drew down my Chase and Citi balances for a couple of trips to Europe. Applying for the Ink Business Preferred, with its 80,000 point sign-up bonus was a step toward shoring up the Chase balance. In addition, because changes to Chase’s rules in recent years make obtaining new cards and their sign-up bonuses more challenging, I have some flexibility right now to adjust my Chase card portfolio. 

The biggest challenge is the 5/24 rule. If new card are not obtained in the “proper” order, you can find yourself frozen out of new Chase cards for as long as two years. I was long in the woods of this policy until last fall. My application once I was again 5/24-compliant was for the Ink Business Preferred. Chase business cards do not count toward 5/24, so I am actually no worse off after this application. My next step is very clear to me: apply for a card I have been wanting for a long time, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Though I missed the big 100,000 point sign-up bonus when the card launched, it still offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to new cardmembers. While the sign-up bonus is very attractive, this is a card I want long-term since it offers 3x points on dining, more than any other card I hold, as well as an annual $300 travel credit that I will use with ease. However, I can’t immediately apply because I run afoul of the rule prohibiting more than one Sapphire card product.

Because I already hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I must first either cancel the Preferred or product-swap it to another Chase product prior to submitting an application for the Reserve. This was exactly what we did with my wife’s Chase Sapphire Preferred last fall. She now has a Chase Freedom Unlimited card which offers 1.5% cash back in the form of Ultimate Rewards points. Rather than obtain the same card, I would like to swap to the Chase Freedom card as a complement to the Unlimited. The Chase Freedom only offers 1% cash back (1 Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent) on unbonused spending categories, but it offers 5x points on rotating categories each quarter. The second quarter’s categories include charges made via PayPal. In the past, warehouse clubs have been a bonus category, which would great for us since we spend a lot of money at Costco. Once I complete this conversion, I intend to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Eventually, there are other Chase cards I want. Some are subject to 5/24, some are not and some don’t count against 5/24 if I apply. These include:

  • Chase Ink Cash small business card (subject to 5/24 but no impact to 5/24 after application)

  • New Chase Iberia Visa (not subject to 5/24)

  • New Chase Aer Lingus Visa (assumed not subject to 5/24)

  • Chase Hyatt Card (not subject to 5/24)

  • Chase Marriott cards - consumer (subject to 5/24) and small business (not subject to 5/24)

For now, my next steps are as follows:

  1. Cancel British Airways card.

  2. Convert my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to the Chase Freedom card.

  3. Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

My next consumer card application will certainly be for the Sapphire Reserve. However, Amex small business cards don’t count against 5/24, so I applied yesterday for the new Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. I plan to apply for the Sapphire Reserve as I near completion of initial spend on the Amex card (assuming I am approved) since I do not like to be chasing too much initial spend at the same time and risk missing out on a new card bonus.