When people first begin to think about churning one of the first questions that I often hear is “What card do I get first?” The answer depends on if the person already has a credit history or not. The first card that I got to churn for miles would likely be impossible as someone’s first card.
Therefore I will outline two well trodden paths to maximizing the point return in the first few months of churning.
No Previous Credit History
In all honesty, this makes getting points and miles quickly rather difficult. The first thing to keep in mind though, is the Chase 5/24 Rule. All of Chase’s and many Chase co-branded cards fall under the rule that you must have gotten fewer than 5 new credit card accounts in the past 24 months to qualify. This rule has not yet been copied at other banks, which makes Chase cards the first priority when starting out.
The first card that I would recommend getting is the Chase Freedom. It offers revolving quarterly 5% bonus categories on common categories of spending like gas stations and wholesale clubs. It is a cash-back credit card, but this can be converted into Ultimate Rewards (UR) points when coupled with a UR earning card. The current bonus is $150 after $500 spend, which will later translate to 15,000 UR points. Your chances of approval are greatly increased if you have a checking or savings account at Chase.
After a year or so using this card, it is likely safe to try for the first UR earning card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This is the standby of the churning world. First year annual fee is waived, and the bonus is 50,000 UR points after $4,000 in spend in the first three months. It is vitally important that you make this bonus to give you the first cache of points in your arsenal.
After another four to five months, the next step that I would take is to apply for the United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. There are often targeted offers for 50,000 miles after $1,000 or $3,000 in spend. This is a good choice if you need to fly internationally. If not, apply for the Southwest credit cards at the beginning of the year in order to try and qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass which entitles you to get a free ticket for a named companion each time you pay for a ticket on Southwest.
If continuing on the UR path, I would highly recommend getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It is Chase’s highest end publicly available credit card. The 100,000 point bonus for online applications is now gone, but will still be available in-branch until March 12, 2017. The $450 annual fee is not waived, but is effectively reduced to $150 by the $300 annual travel credit which is instantly applied to a variety of travel-related costs.
Filling the final 5/24 slot is a difficult decision. By this time the Sapphire Preferred should be almost a year old, and it can be product changed down to the no annual fee Sapphire, Freedom, or Freedom Unlimited after the one year mark passes.
I personally would fill the final slot with the United Club card since there is currently an elevated bonus available on it. Whichever card you choose in the end, make sure it compliments your travel needs.
Chase 5/24 Affected Credit Cards:
- Chase Slate
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Ink Cash (Business)
- Chase Ink Plus (Business)
- Chase Ink Preferred (Business)
- Chase United Explorer
- Chase United Club
- Chase United Explorer Business
- Chase Marriott
- Chase Southwest Plus
- Chase Southwest Premier
- Chase Southwest Premier Business
- Chase IHG
- Chase Hyatt
- Chase Fairmont
- Chase Ritz-Carlton
- Chase Marriott Business
- Chase British Airways
- Chase Disney Rewards
- Chase Disney Premier
- Chase Amazon
- Chase AARP