What to Evaluate When Signing Up for Credit Cards

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Its been more than 6 months since my mother signed up for a credit card. I’ve been busy helping my in-laws get started with this hobby and working on other things. Thankfully, I have a calendar system that keeps track of my family’s sign up history and a reminder said “its time to make good use of your resources”. This includes of course, leveraging underutilized good credit to take advantage of sign up bonuses, which results in reduced life or travel expenses.

Here is the workflow:

  1. What’s the strategy?
  2. What’s on the schedule?
  3. Has anything changed with her strategy?
  4. What cards does she have?
  5. Check credit score + inquiries.
  6. Narrow down choices with final internet research.
  7. Add referral bonus if applicable.
  8. Apply (use incognito/private mode).

Start with Strategy

When I help get people started on this program, the first thing I do is help them understand what they want. Do they want to spend less money overall (cash back)? Do they want premium travel experiences (high-value point redemptions)? Or do they want to take a couple of domestic trips a year to see friends and family (flexible points currency)? I encourage people to be clear in what they want in order to derive maximum satisfaction out of this journey.

My mother wants to take one or two major trips per year, but the destination could either be domestic or international. Thus, her strategy is to target Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for maximum flexibility and transferability.

She’s been at this hobby for a couple of years now, so we developed a project schedule/tracker that documents current/past cards as well as future cards to consider that align with her strategy.  According to her schedule, the Ink Plus is up next. Her strategy has not changed, and has been reinforced due to Chase’ upcoming 5/24 rules that only allow credit card approvals to those who have had 5 or less inquiries within 24 months. I normally encourage 2-3 cards per application to efficiently ‘batch’ work, including documentation overhead and meeting minimum spend requirements. Furthermore, some credit bureaus will combine multiple inquiries, allowing you to qualify for more cards on the long run.

If I apply for two chase personal cards in the same day, those credit pulls get combined into one, which reduces my overall credit inquiries, increasing my chances of approval for future cards. Note that this works in-kind only (2 business inquiries -> 1 business inquiries, 2 personal inquires -> 1 personal inquiries). So, I wanted to find another business card in addition to the Ink Plus.

The Chase Marriott Rewards card seemed lucrative, but the business version costs $14 more in annual fee, and does not include the 7.5k bonus points for adding an authorized user. Both versions had $3k minimum spend requirement (MSR), and I value that more than a pull, so I decided to go for the personal version. I also wanted to combine an inquiry, so I added in the Chase Freedom card, too.

So the three cards I was looking at was the Chase Ink Plus, the Marriott Personal, and the Chase Freedom.

Final due diligence

I then checked her credit scores and made sure she has less than 5 inquires in 24 months. I also performed light internet research to understand risks and approval chances based on other’s experiences. I learned to add this step the hard way when I applied for Chase cards the week after the 5/24 rule was implemented suddenly and news started to spread on the forums. I was denied and I could have saved a hard pull. After reading through the forums I realized that the card that was most important was the Ink Plus. It is also difficult to be approved for more than 2 Chase cards in one day.

Hence, I decided to go for just the Ink Plus. Since my father already has the Ink Plus, I could use his account to refer my mother and gain bonus points. It takes up to seven days for that email to be generated.

When she receives the referral email by next Thursday, she will setup incognito mode on her browser and apply for the Ink Plus!