Home Money 6 Best Chase Travel Credit Cards to Start Travel Hacking

6 Best Chase Travel Credit Cards to Start Travel Hacking

by Charles
travel hacking chase credit cards

Chase travel credit cards are the number one recommended way to start your travel hacking “wallet” and begin accumulating those points. Why is this? Well they have some of the best transfer partners in the industry for flights and hotels plus, very generous sign up bonuses, and a few pesky rules that don’t make them a good choice once you’ve started travel credit card churning.

This is part 1 of a series I am writing for travel hacking. Follow the link to see part 2 where I go into how to use Chase points for travel: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for Airlines and Hotels Using Transfer Partners.

First let’s break down some of these rules.

Travel credit cards and the Chase 5/24 rule

This rule says you can only apply for a certain number of cards every couple of years. The 5 stands for 5 or more credit cards opened. The 24 stands for 24 months. Putting it together, you can not apply for a Chase credit card if you have opened 5 or more new credit cards within the last 24 months. Chase will automatically deny your application.

What is counted towards the “5”?

  1. New credit card accounts – the most obvious, credit cards you apply for that are sent to your credit report will count towards the 5. This includes all credit card companies, not just Chase.
  2. Authorized users – You don’t have to be the one who applied, if you are added as an authorized user then this will count towards your 5. Some have had luck calling and disputing this to get it removed.

Luckily, there are some exceptions to the rule.

5/24 rule exceptions

Business cards – Most business cards don’t count towards the 5/24 because the majority of them don’t post to your credit report. (Because you have a separate business credit score) This is true for the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. It’s important to note that Chase Business Cards are still affected by the 5/24 rule, they just don’t count towards this. Meaning, if you are close to the 5 card limit, open the business card before a personal card to get the max benefit.

The Chase 2/30 rule

This one follows the same format, except it means you can’t apply for more than 2 cards within 30 days without automatically being rejected. A good tip is to apply for the two cards on the same day to minimize the number of hard pulls on your credit report. This works if you are applying for two cards from the same company.

Chase Travel Credit Cards

travel credit cards

Now that we got the rules out of the way, let’s get into the actual cards. A reminder that most of these travel credit cards will require an excellent credit score. I wouldn’t recommend applying if your credit score is less than 700.

A quick note on sign up bonuses. Not every link is created equal. You can have multiple links to credit cards that have different offers including sign up bonuses. While at the time of this writing I tried to include the best links to sign up bonuses, there may be better ones by the time you are reading this. I use Doctor of Credit best current credit card sign up bonus page to check for the current best offers.

Chase Ink Business Preferred

The Chase Ink Business Preferred is leading the pack with its hefty 100k sign up bonus. Yes, it is a business card, but if you have a side hustle or LLC you can sign up.

Details of the Chase Ink Business Preferred:

  • 100,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • $95 annual fee NOT waived the first year.
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases.
  • Earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel and purchase protection
  • Points worth 25% more on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Full card details

Applying for a business card when you don’t have a ‘business’

Chances are you do have a business, and you just haven’t thought of it that way. Do you sell your old things on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, OfferUp, or any other platform? Do you rent a property? Is there anything you do that earns money outside of your job? If so, then you have small business revenue.

The application will ask for various items, let me explain them in more detail if you don’t actually have a “real” business.

  • Legal name of business – You should put your own name here. Your business name will be you since we will be applying as a sole proprietor (UNLESS, you have a registered LLC)
  • Type of business – Like mentioned before, you will be a sole proprietor. Essentially it means you are the sole owner of the business.
  • Tax identification number – This will be your social security number or EIN if you have an LLC.
  • Business category/type – Just select the one that most closely relates to what you do to earn any extra money.
  • Number of employees – Make sure to put only 1 here. Remember, you are a sole proprietor.
  • Business revenue and years in business – A good middle point here is about $2000 and 2 years.

After you apply, there is a good chance you won’t be instantly approved. If you do congrats you’re done! If you don’t get instant approval, they’ll give you a number you can call. This is the important part, wait it out. There is a good chance that you will get automatic approval within a week or two. If the automatic approval never comes through then you’ll have to wait for the denial call.

If you are expecting a denial call then refer to this guide – What to Expect in a Chase Business Recon Phone Call.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best, if not the best personal cards, for starting your travel hacking journey. This is due to the fairly high sign up bonus accompanied by a lower purchase requirement with some great benefits. If people are unsure of travel hacking or feign slight interest, I always direct them to this card.

Details of the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • 60,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • $95 annual fee waived the first year.
  • Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants- from airfare and hotels to fine dining and cafés.
  • Earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel and purchase protection.
  • Points worth 25% more on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.

Full card details.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best for frequent fliers. Don’t be swayed by the high annual fee because there are ways to re-coup it from traveling. A nice bonus to this card is the access to all the airport lounges. Layovers can be had in luxury with this one.

Details of the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • 50,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • $450 annual fee NOT waived the first year.
  • $300 annual travel credit – if you know you’ll take full advantage of this every year, then the true annual fee is $150 a year.
  • Earn 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants- from airfare and hotels to fine dining and cafés.
  • Earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel and purchase protection.
  • Global entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement.
  • Airport lounge access.
  • Points worth 50% more on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.

Full card details.

You can only pick 1 Sapphire card: Reserve vs Preferred?

Unfortunately, consumers can only have one Sapphire card at a time. It’s important before you apply to either one that you compare each card against the other and decide which one will suit you the best.

If you fly often and know you will use the $300 credit for travel for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and like the additional benefits of the card, then I would recommend this one over the Preferred. In addition, you get 50% value from the Chase travel portal over the 25% of the Preferred.

Otherwise if you aren’t traveling as much, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred may be the better choice for you.

You might be able to get both Sapphire cards at the same time!

There has been reports of success from people applying for both cards on the same day. Before you try this take some things into consideration.

  1. Have you applied for any other cards in the past 30 days? Make sure to not exceed the 2/30 rule.
  2. Will you be able to meet the minimum spend requirement? $8,000 in 4 months?

If you are okay with these two requirements then try the following:

  1. Open two separate browsers. Preferably two incognito browsers.
  2. Fill out the application for each card in each separate browser.
  3. Finally, hit submit application for both at the same time.

With some luck you’ll soon be the owner of two brand new Sapphire credit cards! These are some of the best travel credit cards currently out there.

Chase Southwest Cards and the Companion Pass

Before we go into the details of the Southwest travel credit cards let’s first talk about the Companion Pass.

The Southwest companion pass allows you to choose 1 person to fly with you for free, minus any applicable taxes and fees, for the remaining calendar year you earn the pass and the following calendar year. That means if you earn the companion pass in January, you’ll have almost 2 years where someone can fly Southwest with you for free. We made this happen in 2020 and our pass will be good all the way through 2021.

Your companion can also change during the year. Southwest allows you to change your companion 3 times per year. So your first year you can take 4 different people and the second you can take 3.  Note that you are limited to Southwest only flights. Check out there flight map to see if they travel to destinations you would be interested in.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

To earn the Companion Pass you can fly 100 one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in 1 calendar year. The most common way people acquire the pass is by applying to 2 Chase Southwest cards within the same calendar year. Depending on the current sign up bonus offered, you can achieve the 125,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements. Other times you need to refer a friend or make additional purchases to meet the 125,000 points. Let’s get into the actual cards now so you can see how exactly to do this.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Details of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card:

  • 40,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • $99 annual fee NOT waived the first year.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates, seat restrictions, bags fly free, and no change fees.
  • 6,000 bonus points on cardmember anniversary
  • 10,000 bonus points for referring a friend

Full card details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Details of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card:

  • 40,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • $69 annual fee NOT waived the first year
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 3% foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates, seat restrictions, bags fly free, and no change fees
  • 3,000 bonus points on cardmember anniversary
  • 10,000 bonus points for referring a friend

Full card details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Details of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card:

  • 60,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • $99 annual fee NOT waived the first year
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates, seat restrictions, bags fly free, and no change fees
  • 6,000 bonus points on cardmember anniversary

Full card details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Details of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card:

  • 70,000 point sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Plus, an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months
  • $199 annual fee NOT waived the first year
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates, seat restrictions, bags fly free, and no change fees
  • 9,000 bonus points on cardmember anniversary

Full card details.

Annual fees and how to avoid them

As you may have noticed, every single one of these cards have annual fees. While the first non-waived annual fee has to be incurred, there are ways to prevent them from occurring the next year:

  • You can cancel the credit card before the 1 year anniversary. Some points to consider: You’ll ideally want to spend all your points before you cancel your card. If you own the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Ink Business for example, you can transfer the points from one card to the other. It takes a full 2 years from account closing to be eligible for sign up bonuses on the same card. Also consider the hit on your credit score, if you want to keep your score higher consider the second option.
  • Downgrade your credit card to one without an annual fee. You can call the card company and most times they can downgrade you to a different credit card within the same company. The same advice should be followed for spending or transferring the points before doing this. As an example you can call and downgrade a Chase Sapphire Reserve to a Chase Freedom card with no annual fee. The downside is the Chase Freedom doesn’t allow you to redeem points using transfer partners, which is the best way to redeem Ultimate Reward points for travel.

Recommended order of obtaining the Chase travel credit cards

travel credit cards

Now that we have everything listed out, here is my recommended order for applying for travel credit cards. I will include a spouse/partner here as well since this works even better with two people. Especially with the Southwest companion pass!

  1. Chase Ink Business Preferred – The best one to start with due to it not counting against the 5/24 rule. It has the highest sign up bonus as well with only a $99 annual fee.
  2. Repeat for partner. Don’t forget to use the refer a friend bonus.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, or both – depending on your needs, pick the one best suited for you. If you can pull off the combined spending requirement then go for both at the same time with the trick I outlined above.
  4. Repeat for partner. Don’t forget to use the refer a friend bonus.
  5. Pick 2 Chase Southwest Cards – I mentioned multiple ways you can get the 110,000 Rapid Reward points required to get the companion pass. Pick the 2 credit cards and strategy you want to go with. Preferably choose to get the Southwest companion pass at the start of the year to maximize the amount of time you have it. If you plan to use the companion pass right away, then it may be worth it to get this earlier on in the list.
  6. Repeat for partner after the previous companion pass expires. Don’t forget to use the refer a friend bonus.

Travel credit card guide final thoughts

There you have it. Hopefully this answers most of your questions regarding what Chase travel credit cards to get.

Don’t forget to check out the next part of my travel hacking series where I explain how to actually use these points for travel: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for Airlines and Hotels Using Transfer Partners.

5 comments

Bill Dennis March 7, 2018 - 7:42 am

What about doing a piece on how to purchase a cell phone,Charles? So many, especially “oldsters” like us, are totally flummoxed when piloting this consumer skyway.

Good info on credit cards.

Reply
Charles March 7, 2018 - 8:08 am

Hi Bill, I wrote briefly on cell phones on this one Phone Churning: How I Got the Pixel 2 XL for Free. It is a good start for how to keep your phone upgraded at little to no extra cost. I’ll consider writing something more detailed on purchasing cell phones, it’s an interesting idea. Thanks for the suggestion!

Reply
Matt FIREList March 10, 2018 - 10:38 pm

Great list! I’ve been looking for a new card and wasn’t aware I could use the business card with my sole proprietorship. 80,000 points!

Reply
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early March 17, 2018 - 11:15 am

Is somehow never heard about the 2/30 Chase rule. Not that I can see a situation where we’d want to open two cards at once under one name, but you never know.

Reply
Charles March 17, 2018 - 11:56 am

Yeah I don’t think many people open more than 2 cards in a month. At least I hope they don’t haha.

Reply

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