Which Signup Bonuses to Get First (2019)

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  HomeCredit Card Signup Bonuses: The Easiest Path to Free Airplane Tickets and Hotel Nights

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There are dozens of cards that have valuable signup bonuses. Which ones should you get first?

Unfortunately, there isn't a single exact answer that works for everyone. It depends on an ever changing set of promotional offers, the types of points you're likely to find most valuable, how easily you can meet spending requirements, and which cards you want to quickly obtain so you can start to take advantage of their unique travel benefits. Your priorities may also change based on a specific type of points you want for an upcoming trip.

But, even though there isn't a fixed order to follow, there are useful guidelines to help you optimize your signup bonus activity.



Collecting both personal and business cards

Signing up for business credit cards, alongside personal cards, lets you maximize the rewards you can collect from signup bonuses; and even the smallest part-time business qualifies you to get small business credit cards. Any kind of side gig works, the business doesn't need to be incorporated, and you don't even need to be making any money yet. Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.

If you aren't able or willing to get business cards, you should jump down to the our personal card only guide below. There's still plenty of opportunity to easily collect hundreds of thousands of rewards points for free travel, just not as much as if you can also incorporate business cards into your plans.

Before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit

Once you've hit a limit of 5 new personal credit cards (from any bank) over the previous 24 months, Chase won't approve you for any of their cards (personal or business). Since Chase offers some of the best available travel and rewards credit cards, you want to make sure you get as many Chase cards as possible before you hit the limit and need to move onto cards from other banks. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.

  • Determine how many "5/24 slots" you have left. You may need to look at your credit report, but try to figure out how many credit cards you've signed up for in the last two years, including cards where you are only an "authorized cardholder". But, most business cards don't count. For example, if you've signed up for two personal cards in the last two years, you have room for three more personal credit cards before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit. If it has been nearly two years since you've signed up for one or more of your current cards, new slots might be open up soon, and you may get more room to open additional cards before you hit the limit. Monitor Your Credit Score to Make Sure Everything is On Track.
  • Determine the total number of Chase cards you are comfortable getting. If you get too many credit cards from Chase, you risk having Chase shut down all your existing accounts, rather than just denying your application. Unfortunately, there isn't a solid pattern in what Chase deems acceptable and what they don't. You need to balance this uncertain risk against the extra value you would get by collecting as many of Chase's valuable signup bonuses as possible. We suggest getting a maximum of eight total cards (personal and business) from Chase. You might be able to get more, and you could conceivably get shut down from less.
  • Prioritize the Chase cards that are most important to you—getting the business version of the card whenever possible.. You want to focus on getting all these cards before you hit the 5/24 limit and are blocked from getting additional Chase cards. Most people should have enough slots to get all the cards they want to add to their core credit collection (remember there is a maximum limit of personal cards based on your available 5/24 slots and a separate maximum limit of total Chase cards based on the number you are comfortable with).
  • If you want the Southwest Companion Pass, get the Southwest Performance Business Card and probably the Southwest Premier Business Card. You might want to time your applications for near the beginning of the year to maximize the amount of time you can take advantage of your pass. If you won't get good value from the pass, save these slots for Chase cards that have better signup offers.

    If you frequently fly on United, get the United Explorer Business Card for its free checked bag benefit, ability to access additional award inventory, and other United Airlines benefits.

    If over the next few years, there is a good chance you might choose to spend extra money on the Hyatt Credit Card to earn extra elite night credits, get that card. If you frequently stay at hotels in the Hyatt program, a small number of extra nights may get you to the next higher status level. Even if not, it is still a pretty good choice because of its annual free night certificate and valuable signup bonus. It is only available as a personal card.

    If you want the preserve the option to follow our standard advice for everyday spending (once you move on from focusing most of energy on collecting lots of signup bonuses), get the Ink Preferred Card. It is has the most valuable signup bonus of any Chase card and can be converted to the Ink Unlimited card at the end of the first year.

    Also get one of the Chase Sapphire cards (you can't receive the signup bonus on both). Like with the Ink Preferred, even if you aren't 100% sure you want the card, you are still using the slot to collect one of Chase's best signup offers. The Sapphire Preferred usually has a slightly better signup bonus, you can always convert it to the Sapphire Reserve at some point in the future, and you aren't likely to need the Sapphire Reserve's lounge access over the first few years (because you'll have it from other cards). However, if you want to take immediate advantage of the Sapphire Reserve's best-in-class travel insurance benefits on rental cars and airfare, it can easily be worth the extra $55 in effective fees per year and the slightly smaller signup offer. Both cards can also be downgraded to a no-annual-fee Freedom or Freedom Unlimited card at the end of the first year, and then quickly converted to a Sapphire Reserve, when you eventually decide you want one.

    For example, you may need to reserve space for 2 personal cards (likely a Sapphire Card and the Hyatt card) and 3 to 6 total cards from Chase.

  • If you have room, we recommend getting the Altitude Reserve Card right away. It offers a valuable 4.5% reward rate on purchases made with mobile wallets (such as Apple Pay). With a Samsung phone or watch, you can earn this mobile wallet reward rate at any location where you would "swipe" your card, even if they don't explicitly accept mobile wallet payments.
  • The Altitude Reserve is difficult to get once you start collecting other cards. So, if you would have remaining 5/24 slots available after reserving space for the critical personal cards you want from Chase, it is probably worthwhile using one of these slots for the Altitude Reserve. You'll give up the option to use that slot for one of the Chase personal cards, but you'll probably get to sign up for an additional Chase business card instead (since your total number of Chase cards is limited).

  • Keep signing up for Chase cards until you have the maximum number you are comfortable with—the Ink cards usually have the most valuable signup bonuses. Once you are done getting the Chase cards that are most important to you, you can use any remaining slots to collect the cards with the most valuable signup bonuses or travel benefits. For example, if you determined that you could get 4 new personal cards before hitting the Chase 5/24 limit, decided that you were comfortable with a total of 8 new Chase cards, and you prioritized getting 2 personal cards and 2 business cards from Chase (plus the Altitude Reserve), you have room for 4 more cards, of which a maximum of 1 can be a personal card.
  • The most valuable Chase signup offer is from the Ink Preferred Card (80,000 Ultimate Reward points)—and you can probably get more than one. You can keep signing up for this card, until you either hit the maximum number of Chase cards or until you are denied. Use an EIN for your first application and a SSN for the second application. To maximize the chances you'll get approved, lower your credit limits on your existing Chase cards before applying for each new card. You can convert the Ink Preferred to no-annual-fee Ink Unlimited and Ink Cash cards after the first year.

    If you can't get approved for another Ink Preferred card and haven't already gotten a Sapphire card, your next most valuable signup offer is from the Sapphire Preferred Card.

    After that, your next most valuable offers are probably from the Ink Cash Card or Ink Unlimited Card, which both have signup offers of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. You may be able to get multiple versions of each these cards, so feel free to try for additional copies, in the unlikely event that you are getting approved for them, and not for the more lucrative Ink Preferred.

    If you occasionally fly on Southwest and aren't likely to use your points for premium-cabin frequent flyer tickets, earning 70,000 Southwest Airlines points with the Southwest Performance Business Card is probably more valuable than earning 50,000 Ultimate Reward points.

  • Instead of using your remaining slots to simply collect the most valuable Chase signup bonuses, you may want to get some Chase cards that have valuable ongoing benefits. You'll receive a less valuable bonus when you first sign up, but the other benefits will pay dividends over time. Depending on how many 5/24 slots you started with and how many personal cards you have already prioritized, you may not have room to substitute many of these cards. With our ongoing example, if you started with room for 4 new personal cards and are reserving space for a Sapphire card, the Hyatt card, and the Altitude Reserve, you only have room to substitute one of these cards instead of just getting another Chase business card.
  • If it wasn't already part of your plan, consider getting the Hyatt Credit Card. The signup bonus is almost as good as the bonus on the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited cards, and you'll get a free hotel night certificate each year you have the card and some elite status benefits.

    The British Airways Credit Card is another intriguing option. Its base 50,000 Avios signup bonus is less valuable than the signup offers on the Southwest Business, Ink, and Sapphire cards, but it comes with credits to offset British Airlines award surcharges, which can make it worthwhile for people who might fly British Airways (or other Oneworld airlines) to or within Europe on a frequent basis. You also have the option of spending a bunch of extra money on it and earning an extra 50,000 point bonus. If you aren't a big spender or a frequent flyer program master, we'd stick to one of the other options.

    The Iberia Credit Card and Aer Lingus Card would be excellent options if you know you'll have the opportunity to use their companion benefits during your initial year. The value of these benefits would easily outweigh the value of the extra points you could earn with other cards.

    Some people might want to consider using one of their slots for the IHG Select Card to receive its annual free night certificates and high-level status. IHG Platinum status doesn't provide much in the way of benefits, but it can sometimes be useful for matching to high level status in other hotel programs.

    The situation with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card is more complicated. Some people will want to make sure to have at least one Marriott card in order to get an extra 15 elite night credits every year towards Marriott Platinum status. You could always get one of the Marriott credit cards from Amex, but holding onto one of those cards will take up one of five Amex credit card slots (which may eventually hold you back from maximizing your Amex signup opportunities). For people who want multiple Marriott certificates each year, the Chase Marriott card gives you an extra certificate, while not taking up a precious Amex credit card slot. Advanced users who are willing to deal with extra complications, likely to want the elite night credits, and have the room for an additional personal card before hitting 5/24, might get the Marriott card instead of one of the Chase card with a more valuable signup bonus.

    If you will have a personal slot leftover, you might want to get one of the ThankYou rewards cards early in the process. You can only receive one bonus from these cards every 24 months, and applying early starts the clock to qualifying for another bonus.

  • Apply for any particularly useful business cards at any time, so you can start taking advantage of their travel benefits. Business cards from Amex, Citibank, Bank of America and Barclays won't count towards your 5/24 limit. Unlike with the personal versions of these cards, there is no reason to wait till after you are over the 5/24 limit to start taking advantage of their benefits.
  • If you frequently fly on an airline and value free checked bags (or the Alaska and Delta companion certificates), prioritize getting business version of their credit card, such as the Delta Business Gold Card or Delta Business Platinum Card, American Airlines Business Card or Aviator Business Card, Alaska Airlines Business Card, or JetBlue Business Credit Card. You don't need to rush to get airline cards that are only interesting for their signup bonuses.

    You should probably get the Amex Platinum Business Card to start taking advantage of the Hilton Gold breakfast benefit, extended airport lounge benefits, and Fine Hotels and Resorts program. The annual fee is huge, but so is the signup bonus. At the end of the first year, you can cancel it and switch to one of the personal cards. Ideally, wait for awhile to see if you can get an offer higher than the normal 75,000 mile offer.

    If you aren't already getting the Chase Marriott card, you might want to get Amex's Marriott Bonvoy Business Card to start getting the extra 15 Marriott elite night credits per year and start the clock towards getting a Marriott free night certificate each year.

  • You can get the cards from this phase in whatever order you want. Just be sure to get all the Chase cards before you get the final personal card that will make you hit the 5/24 limit.
    • If you want the Altitude Reserve, get that as one of your first cards. We'd sign up for a Chase card first and get the Altitude Reserve as your next card. This lets you spread out your Chase applications a little, while still letting you apply for the Altitude Reserve before you get too many other cards. It also gives you a little time to open a U.S. Bank checking account (if necessary) to qualify for the card.
    • Get the cards that have the most valuable ongoing benefits early, so you can start taking advantage of those benefits. If you are planning to use one of your slots on a Citi ThankYou card, try to get that early to start Citibank's 24 month clock.
    • Get the Chase cards that are most important to you, before you focus on the ones with the best signup offers. If you start out just focusing on collecting the most valuable bonuses, there is a small risk that Chase will stop approving new applications before you get all the Chase cards that you really want. You should be able to lower credit limits or close some existing cards, but there really isn't a reason not to just prioritize your highest-priority cards first.
    • Evenly mix in the business cards from other banks. You can technically signup for two Chase cards every month, but we recommend spacing your Chase applications, so that you leaving at least 1.5 to 2 months between applications. This lower velocity might reduce the chance of a Chase shut down. By switching between Chase and non-Chase cards, you'll naturally spread out your Chase applications over time.

Right after you hit 5/24

  • Sign up for a few cards that are hard to get later. Capital One and Wells Fargo are stingy about approving anyone who is collecting credit cards. In addition, Capital One doesn't like customers who have good credit and pay their bills every month. So there is a good chance you can't get approved for their cards. But, now is the most likely time (at least till you eventually start slowing down). The longer you wait, the harder it will get.
  • The Capital One Venture Card has a valuable signup bonus, the ability to transfer your points to airline partners, and the added benefit of bonus rewards on Hotels.com purchases. Try to get it right after you hit 5/24.

    Some of the Spark business cards often have the most valuable signup bonuses of any of the Capital One and Wells Fargo cards. Even though they are business cards, they will show up on your personal credit report, so don't get them until after you have hit the 5/24 limit, unless you want to use one of your 5/24 slots. The "miles" version is better than the "cash" version, but if you get approved, you can try to apply for the other one about six months later.

    This is the most likely time to get approved for a Wells Fargo card. We suggest starting with the Wells Fargo Propel Card. The normal signup bonus of 30,000 points isn't that great. But, if you can also get approved for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, the point are worth 1.5 cents each. You'll need to wait 15 months between applying for different Wells Fargo cards.

  • Get the clock started with the major credit card companies. Most credit card companies have rules that require you to spread out your applications over time. If you want to collect signup bonuses at a quick pace, you'll want to "get the clock going" with each of these companies.
  • You can only get the signup bonus for one Citibank ThankYou card every 24 months. If you didn't already get one while you were under 5/24, get whichever of the ThankYou rewards cards that currently has the best signup bonus, and start the clock until you can pick up your next bonus.

    Bank of America limits you to a total of four personal cards every two years. The sooner you apply for your first one or two cards, the sooner you can get more. You want to get on a pace of about two new Bank of America cards per year. Choose a Bank of America card that is most valuable for your individual circumstances, and then get another one a few months later. If you frequently travel on Amtrak, you should choose the Amtrak Credit Card. If you can get good value from its companion certificate, you should probably choose the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. Otherwise, you probably want the BOA Premium Rewards Card.

    American Express will only allow you to have a total of five credit cards at a time and wants you to keep each card for at least of year. That effectively limits you to five credit cards a year. But if you want to hold onto a few of these cards, you'll be limited to even fewer signup bonuses per year. It is a good idea to start the clock with one or two of the Hilton or Delta cards. The Amex Platinum, Gold, and Green cards are "charge" cards and don't count against the five card limit.

  • Prioritize earning the points you need. Despite any other advice, if you need a certain type of points for an upcoming trip, prioritize any associated signup bonuses. Don't forget that you may be able to covert Membership Rewards or other transferable points to the points you need.
  • Take advantage of good promotional offers when they are available. We will try to keep you updated on our best offers page.

Then...

  • Continue to take advantage of any particularly good promotional offers. It isn't particularly important to sign up for cards in a particular order, so take advantage of any good special offers—they may not be available later.
  • Replace your Amex Platinum card every year. As you work your way through the signup bonuses, you'll maintain access to the Platinum card's valuable unique benefits. Unless you find a better than normal offer for the regular version, you should ideally start with the Morgan Stanley version. Unfortunately, you'll need to temporarily set up an small Access investment account to qualify (and keep it open for the year you have the card). But, this gives you more time to find a better offer for the regular version and the Morgan Stanley version could go away at any time. Save the Schwab version for last in case you decide you want to use it to cash out your Membership Reward points.
  • Keep working your way through the offerings of the major banks (other than Amex).
    • Get a new Citi Thankyou card every two years. You can convert older unwanted versions of these cards to the Rewards+ card, rather than cancelling them, so they won't reset your clock.
    • Get the American Airlines Platinum Card. You are only eligible for the bonus on the personal once every four years. Unlike the ThankYou cards, cancelling this card won't reset the clock for earning another bonus. The American Airlines Business Card version is on its own four year clock. If you want the checked bag benefit, spread out your applications. If you just want the miles, you can sign up for both at around the same time.
    • Sign up for up to two new Bank of America personal cards every year. You can't collect another signup bonus for the Alaska Airlines Credit Card or BOA Premium Rewards Card until two years after you cancel these cards. So cancel them after a few months or a year, and cycle through them every 2.5 to 3 years (hold onto the Alaska card if you are getting good ongong value from the companion certificates). Bank of America has a number of other cards which offer valuable signup bonuses, like the Amtrak Credit Card, and Sonesta Hotels Credt Card, and you can earn the signup bonuses on each of these cards multiple times. As a result, there is always a new card to get.
    • Keep getting more copies of the Alaska Airlines Business Card. Unlike with the personal version, there is no limit to the total number of these cards, and Bank of America doesn't apply their 2/3/4 limits to business cards. If you can use extra companion certificates, hold onto extra copies. Otherwise, just get them for their points and get rid of them later.
    • Sign up for the Aviator Red Card and consider some of the other Barclays cards, such as the JetBlue Plus Credit Card.
  • Slowly work through the many different Amex cards. Amex is relatively indifferent to the total number of cards you have or applied for. Since you can only receive each American Express bonus once per lifetime, there is no rush to work your way through all their different offers. But, if a great promotional offer is available, or one of their cards is being discontinued, you'll want to fit it into your plans, rather than waiting. On the other hand, because of Amex's 5 credit card limit (discussed above), you don't want to save signing up for them all until later.
  • Don't forget about the valuable cards that come from the smaller companies, like the Avianca Vuela Card and Cathay Pacific Credit Card.

Collecting only personal cards

If you aren't able or willing to get business cards, you'll miss out on some opportunities, but there are can still collect dozens of valuable signup offers.

Before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit

Once you've hit a limit of 5 new personal credit cards (from any bank) over the previous 24 months, Chase won't approve you for any of their cards. Since Chase offers some of the best available travel and rewards credit cards, you want to make sure you get as many Chase cards as possible before you hit the limit and need to move onto cards from other banks. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.

  • Determine how many "slots" you have left. You may need to look at your credit report, but try to figure out how many credit cards you've signed up for in the last two years, including cards where you are only an "authorized cardholder". For example, if you've signed up for two personal cards in the last two years, you have room for three more personal credit cards before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit. If it has been nearly two years since you've signed up for one or more of your current cards, new slots might be open up soon, and you may get more room to open additional cards before you hit the limit. Monitor Your Credit Score to Make Sure Everything is On Track.
  • Get any Chase cards that are most important to you before you hit the 5 card limit. If you are collecting signup bonuses, it will be a long time till you will be under the 5/24 limit and will have another opportunity to get these cards.
  • If you frequently fly on United, make sure to get the United Explorer Credit Card for its free checked bag benefit, ability to access additional award inventory, and other United Airlines benefits.

    If over the next few years, there is a good chance you might choose to spend extra money on the Hyatt Credit Card to earn extra elite night credits, get that card. If you frequently stay at hotels in the Hyatt program, a small number of extra nights may get you to the next higher status level. Even if not, it is still a pretty good choice because of its annual free night certificate and valuable signup bonus.

    If you want to preserve the option to follow our standard advice for everyday spending (once you move on from focusing most of energy on collecting lots of signup bonuses), make sure to get both the Sapphire Reserve Card and the Freedom Unlimited Card (or the Freedom card if it has a better signup bonus at the time). The Sapphire Preferred may have a slightly better signup bonus, but it is nice to have access to airport lounges, and it might be awhile before you have an opportunity to get another card that has an airport lounge benefit.

    If you are confident that you will be concentrating on signup bonuses for the next few years, these cards can be a lower priority, as most of your credit card spending will be focused on meeting the minimum spending requirement to qualify for new signup bonuses. At the point where you stop collecting new signup bonuses, you can take advantage of other everyday spending options (or wait until you fall under the 5/24 limit to get them). But, if you have enough slots we strongly recommend getting them both.

    If you value the Southwest Companion Pass and believe you can earn the large number of extra points you would need to qualify with only one credit card signup bonus, make sure to get the Southwest Priority Card.
  • Consider getting the Altitude Reserve Card right away. It offers a valuable 4.5% reward rate on purchases made with mobile wallets (such as Apple Pay). With a Samsung phone or watch, you can earn this mobile wallet reward rate at any location where you would "swipe" your card, even if they don't explicitly accept mobile wallet payments.
  • The Altitude Reserve is difficult to get once you start collecting other cards. So, if you don't need all of your 5/24 slots for critical cards, it might be worth squeezing it in. If want the card and are feeling lucky, you can postpone it, until just after you hit 5/24, so that you can get an extra Chase card instead.

  • Fill in any remaining slots with the best of the remaining Chase cards. After prioritizing the cards you definitely want to get, you should use any remaining slots to collect the best most valuable signup bonuses or best benefits.
  • The signup bonuses on the Sapphire cards are generally the most valuable of all the Chase cards, but you can only get one of them (during any 24 month period). If you want quick access to airport lounges, get the Sapphire Reserve Card. Otherwise, the Sapphire Preferred Card has a more value signup offer.

    Another good option for most everyone is the Hyatt Credit Card. Not only do you get the signup bonus, you get a valuable free night certificate each year (and the ability to earn another one with $15,000 in spending) plus some elite status benefits.

    If you occasionally fly Southwest, the Southwest credit cards provide a solid signup bonus. With Southwest, you don't need to find award space, you can use their points, at a value of about 1.4 cents each, to pay for any ticket. As a result, it is easy to cash out your points. The signup bonuses fluctuate between 40,0000 and 60,000 points. Signing up at the high end of the range makes this card particularly worthwhile.

    There are three different versions, but you can only earn the signup bonus on one (in any 24 month period). Assuming they have the same signup offer, if you don't fly Southwest frequently, we recommend the Plus version. It has the lowest annual fee. If you fly more frequently. If you fly Southwest more frequently, the extra benefits from the Priority version are worth the higher annual fee.

    The British Airways Credit Card is another intriguing option. Its base 50,000 Avios signup bonus is less valuable than the signup offers on the Southwest Business, Ink, and Sapphire cards, but it comes with credits to offset British Airlines award surcharges, which can make it worthwhile for people who might fly British Airways (or other Oneworld airlines) to or within Europe on a frequent basis. You also have the option of spending a bunch of extra money on it and earning an extra 50,000 point bonus. If you aren't a big spender or a frequent flyer program master, we'd stick to one of the other options.

    The Iberia Credit Card and Aer Lingus Card would be excellent options if you know you'll have the opportunity to use their companion benefits during your initial year. The value of these benefits would easily outweigh the value of the extra points you could earn with other cards.

    Some people might want to consider using one of their slots for the IHG Select Card to receive its annual free night certificates and high-level status. IHG Platinum status doesn't provide much in the way of benefits, but it can sometimes be useful for matching to high level status in other hotel programs. With its standard signup bonus, you are giving up a few hundred dollars of value, by getting this instead of a Chase card with a better signup offer. But, there are frequently promotional offers that can make this card a better choice.

    The situation with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card is more complicated. Some people will want to make sure to have at least one Marriott card in order to get an extra 15 elite night credits every year towards Marriott Platinum status. You could always get the Amex Brilliant version, but holding onto that card will take up one of five Amex credit card slots (which may eventually hold you back from maximizing your Amex signup opportunities) and you'll need to make sure you are able to use the credit each year to offset the annual fee. In addition, people who want two Marriott certificates each year, will want to get both cards.

    If the elite night credits and free night certificate appeal to you, and you have room, we would recommend getting the Chase card, even though you will be giving up another worthwhile Chase signup bonus. It provides more flexibility with American Express down the road. If there are other Chase cards you really want, skip it. You'll still be able to get a Marriott card from Amex.

  • You can get these cards in any order. Once you figure out how you want to use your available slots, the order you get these cards isn't important. You only need to make sure to get the most important cards before you wind up hitting the limit. If you are getting the Southwest airlines card, get it around the beginning of the year you plan to qualify. Prioritize the card in the order you want to start taking advantage of their ongoing benefits.
  • If you decide to squeeze in the Altitude Reserve, get that as one of your first cards. We'd sign up for a Chase card first and get the Altitude Reserve as your next card. This lets you spread out your Chase applications a little, while still letting you apply for the Altitude Reserve before you get too many other cards. It also gives you a little time to open a U.S. Bank checking account (if necessary) to qualify for the card.

  • We recommend limiting yourself to only one new Chase card every 1.5 to 2 months. At this rate, signing up for four cards would take a total of five or six months. The official Chase limit is two personal cards in any 30 day period. But, even if you can generate enough spending to signup for the cards this quickly, there is some risk that Chase may get nervous and shut down your accounts.

Right after hitting 5/24

After you've hit the 5/24 limit, you'll need to move on from the Chase cards.

  • Sign up for a few cards that are hard to get later. Capital One and Wells Fargo are stingy about approving anyone who is collecting credit cards. In addition, Capital One doesn't like customers who have good credit and pay their bills every month. So there is a good chance you can't get approved for their cards. But, now is the most likely time (at least till you eventually start slowing down). The longer you wait, the harder it will get.
  • The Capital One Venture Card has a valuable signup bonus, the ability to transfer your points to airline partners, and the added benefit of bonus rewards on Hotels.com purchases. Try to get it right after you hit the 5/24 limit.

    This is the most likely time to get approved for a Wells Fargo card. We suggest starting with the Wells Fargo Propel Card. The normal signup bonus of 30,000 points isn't that great. But, if you can also get approved for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, the point are worth 1.5 cents each. You'll need to wait 15 months between applying for different Wells Fargo cards.

  • Get any remaining cards that you want for their ongoing travel benefits. If you held up getting these cards while you were under 5/24 (so that you could get fit in more Chase cards), you don't need to wait any longer.
  • If you value the checked bag benefit, you might want to get started with the credit card for the airline(s) you fly the most, such as the Delta Gold Credit Card or Delta Platinum Credit Card, American Airlines Platinum Card or Aviator Red Card, Alaska Airlines Credit Card, or JetBlue Plus Credit Card. . This is especially true if you live in Alaska Airlines or Delta territory, and want to start receiving companion certificates.

    You probably want to get started with your first Amex Platinum Card to start enjoying access to additional airport lounges, the Hilton Gold breakfast benefit, and the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. By signing up for a different version of the Amex Platinum card each year, you can maintain continuous access to these benefits, while offsetting the high annual fees with signup bonuses.

    Unless you find a better than normal offer for the regular version, you should ideally start with the Morgan Stanley version. Unfortunately, you'll need to temporarily set up an small Access investment account to qualify (and keep it open for the year you have the card). But, this gives you more time to find a better offer for the regular version and the Morgan Stanley version could go away at any time. Save the Schwab version for last in case you decide you want to use it to cash out your Membership Reward points.

    If you feel you can get good use of hotel certificates, you should prioritize getting the Hilton Aspire Credit Card, so you can start earning free night certificates (which can be used at very expensive hotels). The card has a high annual fee, but a set of included credits can lower it significantly. The Hilton Surpass card requires you to spend $15,000 per year to get your certificate. Since you want to use your spending to qualify for signup bonuses, it is better to save this card for later.

    Amex will only let you have 5 credit cards at any one time (but the Platinum, Gold, and Green cards don't count against this limit). If you do decide to get and hold onto this card for the ongoing benefits, it will take up one of the slots. Since you need to hold onto Amex cards for an entire year, giving up a slot will slow down your efforts to collect Amex signup bonuses.

    If you do get at least one of the Hilton cards, it might change the prioritization of the Amex Platinum card (mentioned immediately above), as they also provide the free Hilton breakfast benefit.

    If you didn't get the Chase Marriott card when you you were under 5/24, and you want the 15 elite night credits and free night certificate, you probably want to get the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card. Like the Hilton Aspire, it has a high annual fee, but the Marriott hotel credit is extremely easy to use to drop the annual fee. Also, like the Hilton Aspire, it will take up one of your available slots.

    The other cards that have hotel certificate (other than Radisson) are all from Chase, competed for 5/24 slots with other Chase cards, and are no longer available at this stage.

  • Get the clock started with the major credit card companies. Most credit card companies have rules that require you to spread out your applications over time. If you want to collect signup bonuses at a quick pace, you'll want to "get the clock going" with each of these companies.
    • You can only get the signup bonus for one Citibank ThankYou card every 24 months. Get whichever of the ThankYou rewards cards that currently has the best signup bonus, ans start the clock until you can pick up your next bonus.
    • Bank of America limits you to a total of four personal cards every two years. The sooner you apply for your first one or two cards, the sooner you can get more. You want to get on a pace of about two new Bank of America cards per year. Choose a Bank of America card that is most valuable for your individual circumstances, and then get another one a few months later. If you frequently travel on Amtrak, it probably means the Amtrak Credit Card, or if you can use the companion certificate, that probably means the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. Otherwise, it is likely the BOA Premium Rewards Card.
    • American Express will only allow you to have a total of five credit cards at a time and wants you to keep each card for at least of year. That effectively limits you to five credit cards a year. It is a good idea to start the clock with one or two of the Hilton or Delta cards. The Amex Platinum, Gold, and Green cards are "charge" cards and don't count against the five card limit.
  • Prioritize earning the points you need. Despite any other advice, if you need a certain type of points for an upcoming trip, prioritize any associated signup bonuses. Don't forget that you may be able to covert Membership Rewards or other transferable points to the points you need.
  • Take advantage of good promotional offers when they are available. We will try to keep you updated on our best offers page.

Then...

  • Continue to take advantage of any particularly good promotional offers. It isn't particularly important to sign up for cards in a particular order, so take advantage of any good special offers—they may not be available later.
  • Replace your Amex Platinum card every year. As you work your way through the signup bonuses, you'll maintain access to the Platinum card's valuable unique benefits.
  • Keep working your way through the offerings of the major banks (other than Amex).
    • Get a new Citi Thankyou card every two years. You can convert older unwanted versions of these cards to the Rewards+ card, rather than cancelling them, so they won't reset your clock.
    • Get the American Airlines Platinum Card. You are only eligible for the bonus once every four years. But, unlike the ThankYou cards, cancelling this card won't reset the clock for earning another bonus.
    • Sign up for up to two new Bank of America personal cards every year. You can't collect another signup bonus for the Alaska Airlines Credit Card or BOA Premium Rewards Card until two years after you cancel these cards. So cancel them after a few months or a year, and cycle through them every 2.5 to 3 years (hold onto the Alaska card if you are getting good ongong value from the companion certificates). Bank of America has a number of other cards which offer valuable signup bonuses, like the Amtrak Credit Card, and Sonesta Hotels Credt Card, and you can earn the signup bonuses on each of these cards multiple times. As a result, there is always a new card to get.
    • Sign up for the Aviator Red Card and consider some of the other Barclays cards, such as the JetBlue Plus Credit Card.
  • Slowly work through the many different Amex cards. Amex is relatively indifferent to the total number of cards you have or applied for. Since you can only receive each American Express bonus once per lifetime, there is no rush to work your way through all their different offers. But, if a great promotional offer is available, or one of their cards is being discontinued, you'll want to fit it into your plans, rather than waiting. On the other hand, because of Amex's 5 credit card limit (discussed above), you don't want to save signing up for them all until later.
  • Don't forget about the valuable cards that come from the smaller companies, like the Avianca Vuela Card and Cathay Pacific Credit Card.



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