If your goal was to earn as many bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points as possible, hopefully you’ve already signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards. Thanks to new Chase restrictions, you can only earn one sign-up bonus on a Sapphire card every 24 months. Getting bonuses for the Sapphire Preferred and the Reserve is now a thing of the past.
This continues a trend of Chase being stingier with bonuses on its Sapphire cards. Apparently, it decided that the influx of new customers from the launch of the Sapphire Reserve was enough.
What does this mean for you? Let’s start by looking at how this fits in with Chase’s previous restrictions.
Limits to Bonus Opportunities: From Old Rules to New Chase Restrictions
Chase’s first major credit card restriction was the 5/24 rule, which started around the middle of 2015. It’s easy to understand on the surface. If you’ve opened five or more credit cards within the past 24 months, Chase won’t approve you for a new card. You could have a credit score over 800 and a six-figure income, but it won’t matter. You’ll need to wait until you go under that 5/24 mark to get a new Chase card.
Although the 5/24 rule doesn’t apply to all of Chase’s credit cards, it covers the most valuable ones. It’s sometimes possible to get around this rule if you apply for a card in-branch, but that’s hit or miss.
Next up was Chase reducing the value of the Sapphire Reserve in early 2017. It started with dropping the sign-up bonus from 100,000 to 50,000 points. We all knew that massive bonus wasn’t going to last.
Then it adjusted the Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit, basing it on membership year instead of calendar year. This took away the possibility of double dipping (getting two $300 travel credits after paying just one $450 annual fee).
And now there’s this new restriction on Sapphire card sign-up bonuses. You can also only have one Sapphire card at a time. If you upgrade or downgrade a Sapphire card, you won’t get a sign-up bonus on the card you switch to.
Comparing Bonus Opportunities Before and After These Changes
The result of these new Chase restrictions is less potential bonuses for new applicants.
By timing everything correctly, it was possible to earn 250,000 bonus UR points over the previous year. You would need to:
- Get the Sapphire Reserve when the bonus was 100,000 points.
- Get the Sapphire Preferred with its current bonus of 50,000 points.
- Get the Ink Business Preferred with the in-branch 100,000-point offer (otherwise you’d earn 80,000 points).
If you start gunning for UR points now, the most you can earn is 130,000 bonus points. The Ink Preferred earns you 80,000, and either the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred earn you 50,000. Still good, but nothing amazing.
Managing Your Chase Credit Cards
If you already have the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, this latest change won’t affect you much.
But if you don’t have one or both of those cards, then you won’t be able to stack their respective bonuses.
So, what’s the right strategy to maximize your points if you fall into the latter category?
What I would do is get one of the Sapphire cards, followed by the Ink Preferred. This starts the timer, so to speak. If Chase drops another Sapphire card with a massive bonus two years down the road, you’ll be past that 24-month mark and can take advantage. Here’s how that would work:
- Transfer all your UR points to the Ink Preferred to avoid losing any when you cancel your Sapphire card.
- Cancel the Sapphire card, since you can’t have more than one.
- Apply for the hypothetical new Sapphire card to get the bonus.
You could do this even without Chase releasing a new Sapphire card. Just get one Sapphire card now, cancel it after two years using the method above, and apply for the other one.
Don’t Let Bonus Opportunities Pass You By
The lesson in all this is to jump on bonus opportunities as soon as you can. The best deals are fleeting. It makes sense that Chase now restricts sign-up bonuses on its Sapphire cards. Chase won’t need to dish out as many bonus points, and the restrictions have minimal effect on its target market (which certainly isn’t the churners looking to earn as many points as they can).
The move won’t hurt Chase at all, because it still has some of the top bonuses and cards. It’s a bummer for those just entering the churning game, but new opportunities always come around.