Are Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth foregoing credit card churning for 2 years?


Reader Harvson asks via Ask TaggingMiles:

I’ve been in this hobby for a few years now, but have dialed back flying and MSing because the former leaves me feeling guilty (as we’ve discussed) and working on the latter seems like a waste of time.

Most of my miles/points spending and saving comes through the credit card route.

I was recently denied my second CSP from Chase for too many new accounts; the first I had 2011-2013 (paid the ann. fee once), then downgraded to regular Sapphire and continued to use it for restaurants until cancelling it in 2014. Have about 35k UR points on the Freedom, and only other Chase card is a sock drawer-ed IHG.

At what point, for those who have been in the hobby for a while and have gone through multiple card products and issuers, does it make sense to forego 4+ applications over a 24-month period in order to prepare for a successful UR card (CSP/Freedom)? Does it ever make sense? (Note: I’ve shut down some outside consulting I did, so I no longer have a business.)

Harvson is right. The game is changing, banks are cracking down on churning.

I’ve written a bit about Chase’s disturbing change, that is, that they’re not approving folks for Ultimate Rewards cards (Ink Plus, Sapphire Preferred, even the Freedom), if they have more than 4 or 5 new accounts in the previous 2 years (roughly). Its a somewhat strict change that Chase has made, which doesn’t help, when added to American Express’ once in a lifetime policy, too.

But, I think his question is two parts.

1. Are Chase Ultimate Rewards cards worth foregoing others?

2. What may be a better option?

Are Chase Ultimate Rewards worth it?

Chase Ultimate Rewards are great, I find them to be very useful for transfer to Hyatt, United, Korean Air, or Singapore Airlines. The thing is though, Korean Air you can also transfer to, from SPG, and Singapore, well, you can transfer to them from any of the transferable points currencies (Thank You Points, Membership Rewards, SPG, I think even Diner’s Club). So that leaves Hyatt and United. If you’re not traveling a whole lot, will Hyatt or United points help? Not so sure.

What would he be giving up?

If you ignore American Express personal cards, given the lifetime bonus limitation, that leaves you with non-UR Chase cards (e.g. United, Marriott, British Airways, etc), Citi and Bank of America. Yes, there are others like USBank, which could be useful, but, I’m not the hugest fan of. But, you do have Citi, and Citi has been especially generous over the last 18-24 months. I think that’s a huge loss. Same thing with Bank of America and Alaska.

The Verdict

I love Ultimate Rewards points. I really do. Between my wife and I, I think we’ve got 3 freedoms and a good number of Inks, no Chase Sapphire Preferreds at the moment though, and I don’t see that changing. But, if I were in Harvson’s position, I would (1) maximize the quarterly 5x on the Freedom he does have, and (2) continue to pursue credit card sign-on bonuses from Citi and Bank of America. Why? Because I think he’ll get greater bang for the buck, and I have a suspicion that Chase will likely change the policy. Will it be in the next 24 months? I’m not sure. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

The one thing I haven’t talked at all about though, is goals. Everything I’ve offered is in the view that the goal is miles/points for travel. But not for a specific trip. Now, if Harvson is really looking to fly a particular airline, or to a location that isn’t well served, that could change the math. The challenge with that, is that a lot can change in 24 months.

What do you think? Are Ultimate Rewards Points worth foregoing churning for 2 years?

14 thoughts on “Are Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth foregoing credit card churning for 2 years?

  1. I’ve been trying to think of an angle with Chase meself. I wonder if they would let me trade in a card I have at this time for the card I actually now want. I’ve had the old one for several years but recently got denied due to the same thing of too many credit card applications and new cards.

    Has anyone had any luck with getting someone at Chase to go for that kind of thing? I’d even be willing to forego the bonus at the beginning.

      • I have had a Chase Amazon points card for years. Got a nice credit limit on it yet a month or two back they turned me down for a different card because I had applied for (and gotten most of them) too many other credit cards. I’ve erred somewhat in learning this MS thing, etc but what can ya say?

        • So, if you’ve got a card that would be a logical upgrade or downgrade, e.g. Freedom that may be an upgrade to Sapphire Preferred, that might be an option, but maybe wait a bit, and call before applying. Other than that, it may not be feasible, e.g. Amazon to Chase Sapphire Preferred, I suspect wouldn’t work.

          • Well, just to update you, after 3 or 4 calls to people in a far away land that did not understand what I wanted to ask, then finally ended up a guy who spoke real english who explained that no matter what I did, I had to fill out an online application.

            Then I got a brainstorm and asked, what if I was a blind person or disabled? He says then you can apply over the phone. Ah-ha! That is what I wanted to start with. But then explained I wanted to switch from one card to another instead of a brand new application since I had the card I have for 10 years. Nope, no can do.

            So now I will wait for a quiet morning when I have lots of time and try approaching this from the cancellation angle. I can use the points on the Amazon card for travel after all, it turns out, but at a penny on the card earned from a dollar spend with little to no bonus action and the bump I got years ago long gone of course.

            Otherwise I am way past Chase’s quota of applications to get a new card and even got turned down from them recently.

            We shall see and I will let you know how it goes when I eventually give this a try.

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  3. At first glance I thought you were saying you could transfer points from Korean Air to SPG. I about jumped out of my skin, then reality set in. Sigh.

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  5. If it were just Chase cards that give UR points I would say No it’s not worth it. But Chase is not approving apps for any of their cards (United, BA, Marriott etc) if you have too many new accounts in the past 24 months.

    • @Laura – As I understand it, Chase is still approving non-UR cards, I was approved just last month for a Hyatt card, and I do a fair amount of churning.

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