Dealing with the Chase 5/24 and BOA 3/12 Rules (2021)

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Many of the best travel and reward credit cards come from Chase and Bank of America. Unfortunately, because they both have hard caps on how many new cards you can get, you may need to take special steps to get approved for their cards. You'll often hear the Chase rule referred to as the "5/24 rule".

If you’ve already gotten 5 or more credit cards during the previous 24 months, Chase won't approve your credit card application (regardless of your credit score or income).

Bank of America has a similar rule for people who have gotten 3 or more credit cards in the past 12 months, although the limit rises to 7 for people who have a BOA banking relationship.

They don’t just count cards you received from Chase of Bank of America. They count all the (personal) cards you’ve received from any credit card company and even include cards for which you were simply added as an authorized user.

If you are following our advice, you are about to start applying for a set of new credit cards—to take advantage of their travel benefits, signup bonuses, and/or reward earning rates. Once you hit the these limits, you won’t be able to be approved for ANY Chase cards or personal Bank of America cards.

As a result, we recommend that everyone sign up for these cards first, and only after hitting the limit, continue on to other cards. Getting Bank of America cards is less critical for their banking customers (who have the higher 7/12 limit).

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Business credit cards usually don't count

Business credit cards can help you partially get around the Chase 5/24 and Bank of America rules.

  • Business credit cards usually don't count against the limits. Even though your personal credit report is used to approve you for new business cards, once you get them, most business cards aren't listed on your credit report and won't be counted towards the limits. Chase and Bank of America don't even count their own business cards, even though they obviously know that you have them.
  • The main exceptions are cards from Discover and Capital One (except the Spark CASH card) and some smaller banks, which do wind up getting reported on your personal report. You can check detailed information on Doctor of Credit.

  • As a result, you are free to get as many business cards as you want, without affecting your Chase 5/24 or Bank of America 3/12 or 7/12 status. That means that you can start taking advantage of cards from other banks before you finish getting all the Chase and Bank of America cards you want. For example, you could get the business version of the Delta Airlines card to start taking advantage of its checked bag benefit without using up one of your Chase and Bank of America "slots".
  • Most people are eligible to get small business cards. As long as you have any type of side business (like selling stuff on eBay or doing some independent contracting), you are entitled to sign up for small business credit cards. You don't need to be incorporated and, in most cases, you don't even need to have made any money yet. Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.
  • You need to get any Chase business cards BEFORE you hit the 5/24 limit. The way that Chase handles their own small business cards is confusing. If you have gotten 4 or fewer new cards over the past 24 months, you can apply for Chase small business cards and your 5/12 count won't change. But as soon as you get a 5th card, you'll no longer be able to get any Chase cards, even the business ones. In other words, even though the United Business Explorer and Chase Ink Preferred card don't count against the limit, as soon as you hit 5/24, you won't be able to get them.
  • It is different with Bank of America. Their 3/12 or 7/12 limit only affects their personal cards, so you can still apply for their small business cards after you've hit the limit.

  • It is often better to get the business version of a card (if one is available). If you are under the Chase's or Bank of America's limit, it won't use up any of your slots and you'll have the flexibility to take advantage of any Chase or Bank of America cards you may want later. If you over the limits, it may let you get back under them more quickly.

Maximize your slots

Since Bank of America and especially Chase have so many good credit cards, you'll want to get as you can before you hit these limits. Avoid signing up for other personal cards, until after your finished getting the Chase and Bank of America cards you want.

  1. Figure out how many remaining "slots" you have. You may need to look at your credit report, but try to figure out how many personal credit cards you've signed up for in the last 12 and 24 months, including cards where you are only an "authorized cardholder". For example, if you've signed up for a single personal card in the last year and another in the year before that, you have room for three more personal credit cards before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit, but only two more cards before hit the Bank of America 3/12 limit. Monitor Your Credit Score to Make Sure Everything is On Track.
  2. Depending on the timing of your previous cards, new slots might be opening up soon, and you may get more room to open additional cards before you hit the limits.

  3. Prioritize which affected cards to get. You need to decide the best use of your remaining slots. You may not have room to get all the cards you want. Perhaps you want to make sure to get a United Airlines card, the Hyatt card, a Sapphire card, and an Unlimited card. The mix of cards will be different for each person depending on where they live and how they travel.
  4. You may also need to make room for any critical Barclays, Capital One Wells Fargo, and U.S. Bank cards you really want. While they don't have hard rules, it can be hard to get approved by those bank once you've had a bunch of recent applications.

  5. If you are willing and able to get business cards, you can mix these in at any time. Prioritize signing up for any business cards that have useful benefits, so you can start using them as quickly as possible.
  6. If you have any leftover slots available, use them to get the Chase and Bank of America cards with the best possible signup offers. You won't be able to get these cards later, but you will still be able to get cards from most other banks.
  7. Make sure to get any Chase business cards before you hit the 5/24 limit. You don't need to get them right away, but you do need to get them before you apply for your 5th personal card in the last 24 months. You can get other business card signup offers either before or after you hit the 5/24 limit.

Once you've figured out which cards to get, you can get them in an order, as long as you're finished once you hit the limit. If your credit utilization is high, you might want to get a few personal cards first to improve your credit score.

If you are planning on collecting signup offers, you can view detailed plans on how to proceed.

Timing Your Applications

Chase limits you to a maximum of two new credit cards every month, but we wouldn't recommend getting more than one card per month or two. The faster you expand the amount of your credit with Chase, the more nervous Chase might get that you are going to become a credit risk. Mix in any any Bank of America, business, or other high-priority cards to slow down the speed at which you sign up for Chase cards.

Strategies to continue qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass

If you qualify for a Southwest companion pass by earning your signup bonuses towards the beginning of the year, you will have access to the pass for almost two years.

When the pass expires, most people will want to re-qualify for it. But to do that, you’ll need to be under the Chase 5/24 limit.

  • The simplest approach is to have one person stick to a smaller number of cards. Every two years, each person is eligible for a total of 5 personal cards. Assuming they are willing and able to get business cards, one person can get 5 personal cards, both Southwest business credit cards, and whatever other business cards they want, every two years.
  • With just personal cards, one person would need to reserve one of the 5 slots every two years for one of the Southwest cards and earn the remaining companion pass qualification requirements through other earning options.

    The other person doesn’t need to worry about the signup limit and can get as many cards as they want.

  • The skip-a-year method. Under this approach, you get all the credit cards which are most important to you, including the Southwest Airlines cards, during the first year. That way, you can be sure to get all the cards you want for your core credit card collection and collect all the best signup offers. Then, you stop signing up for new credit cards.
  • A year later, your Southwest pass will expire, but you won’t be able to immediately re-qualify. About two years after you finished your initial burst of signup activity, you’ll back under the limit and will be able to apply for the Southwest Airlines cards again. Depending on how quickly you acquired the other cards you want, you may only need to live without the pass for 12-18 months.

    And if you are willing and able to get business cards, you can get those at any point in the process.

Possibilities for bypassing the rule

If you are over the 5/24 limit, it is almost, but not completely, impossible to get approved for Chase cards.

  • If you are “pre-approved” in-branch, you will usually be able to get the card, even if you are over 5/24. You need to ask your banker to see if you are pre-approved for any cards and you need to fill out the application in the branch (not online). Just be aware that if you are over 5/24, there is a very low likelihood that you'll have any pre-approved offers.
  • Other pre-approved offers. On the "Offers for You" section of the Chase website, you may see credit card offers that are marked with a green star and "Already Approved" or a black star and "You're pre-qualified". If these offers state a fixed APR, not a range of percentages, they will bypass the normal 5/24 limits. If you use the United mobile application and you see a pre-qualified offer for the United Explorer card with a fixed APR, it should also bypass the 5/14 limits. Any other Chase offer, where it seems like you are pre-qualified or already approved, including all offers with an adjustable APR, will NOT bypass the limits.
  • If you have a more significant business, you may be able to get approved for more cards. You will need to have your own “Business Relationship Manager” at Chase and it will only work if you fill out a paper-based application form.
  • Being a Chase Private Client no longer exempts you from the rule. During the earlier days of the Chase 5/24 rule, Chase didn’t always apply the rule to its best customers. If you were a Chase Private Client, your application might still have gotten approved or you could have gotten approved by having your personal banker help you with the reconsideration process. While anything is possible, this has stopped working.

Getting under Chase 5/24 again

Our basic approach to the Chase 5/24 rule is simple. Sign up for as many affected cards as you can, move onto other cards, and don’t look back.

But if Chase cards are extremely important to you, you can use a one-year-on, two-years-off strategy.

With this approach, you go crazy with credit cards signups and then go (close to) cold turkey (with personal cards) for two years. At the end of your two-year abstinence, you can sign up for another set of Chase cards again, then a bunch of other credit cards, and then possibly go cold-turkey again.

During the two “down years”, you can always sign up for a particularly amazing or useful card. You’ll still get under the 5-card limit around the same time. You'll just wind up having room for one less Chase card, when you do. And you can still sign up for as many business cards as you want the entire time.

Also, there is no hard and fast rule about how long your active period should be. You could limit it to six months, so you can get Chase cards every 2.5 years; or you can lengthen it out to 2 years and get a set of Chase cards every four years.

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