New Chase 48 Month Sapphire Rule: What to do now and going forward

Welcome to another edition of Shop Talk where we discuss what’s going on in our personal points & miles space and highlight what we think is interesting in the broader space as well. This is the kind of “Shop Talk” many of you are engaged in on a daily basis, so feel free to discuss with us in the comments section.

Chase recently updated the signup bonus eligibility terms on the Sapphire cards, increasing the waiting period from 24 months to 48 months:

This product is available to you if you do not have any Sapphire card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in the past 48 months.

We’ve written about strategies involving these cards before so it’s time for an update:

To be clear, when Chase mentions “Sapphire cards” we’re talking about two cards: The $95 annual fee Sapphire Preferred and the $450 Sapphire Reserve. Both cards currently have 50,000 point signup bonuses.

This new 48 month restriction is on top of Chase’s 5/24 policy whereby you won’t be approved for a new Chase Ultimate Rewards card if you’ve gotten 5 or more new credit cards across all banks in the past 24 months.

So this change requires us to consider our strategy with Chase in the near-term and in the long-term. What immediate actions should we take? Where does Chase fit into our strategies going forward? We’ll discuss that here today.

Robert: This is disappointing news for someone who might soon be under 5/24. Because you’ve been on a credit card diet, forsaking other good cards, and Lucy moved the football just as you were about to kick it.

To say this only affects churners is a bit of an overstatement. This change affects friends in real life who are barely into credit cards and just looking to optimize their game. People who might be up for reviewing their cards once a year but otherwise aren’t particularly active in the pursuit of points & miles. That’s why I think this is worth discussing: It affects a lot of people.

Sam: This is definitely worth discussing here.  I think that the ‘blow’ is a little less dramatic than is being reported by some.  This 48 month rule still doesn’t put Chase as more restrictive than American Express.  While American Express has stuck with ‘lifetime’ language for years now I’d bet most readers have seen targeted and no-lifetime language offers.  Chase is already being flexible with this rule–referrals (as of today) still have the 24 month language. 

Before I get into some of my additional strategies to counter this I’d like to talk about my personal situation.  I hold a CSP and was going to go for a CSP when my wife dipped below 5/24. I had cooled off to that idea–but now I think I’m going to move forward with that plan.  How about you Robert? What’s your plan moving forward?

Robert: I’m in a similar situation. I was thinking of going for a Sapphire Preferred for my wife when she goes below 5/24 as well. But that’s not until early next year, and I fear by then referral links will also carry the 48 month language.

For someone who is under 5/24 and between 24 and 48 months since their last Sapphire signup bonus – it’s pretty clear they should go for a Sapphire soon through a referral link. And refer their spouse if in a similar situation.

This has me thinking of a couple things though:

  1. Is it still worth getting under 5/24?
  2. What’s the desired set of Chase cards for low and high effort points enthusiasts going forward?

Let’s tackle the first question first: What do you think, is 5/24 worth aspiring to?

Sam: Great questions. My initial reaction, and one I’m sure many readers might be feeling was, “totally not worth getting under 5/24 anymore.”  As I sat and thought deeper about it I have to say that…this doesn’t really change things much. I’m certainly never going to find myself back below 5/24 (barring some type of horrendous shutdown by all major banks).

I do keep my wife around 5/25. The reason I do this is two fold. First, to keep her portfolio of cards simpler than the hot mess that is mine. She’s not fully invested in this game, and doesn’t want to juggle cards, phone calls to banks, and all the day to day stuff I find some excitement in.  And second, to keep her eligible for excellent Chase card offers that come up from time to time.

This 48 month change doesn’t change my first reason for keeping under 5/24 at all–and it also doesn’t really change the second, except maybe with respect to a future Sapphire card.  Even then, as I mentioned above I can see Chase doing targeted/no-48 language offers moving forward. Being under 5/24 at least in two player doesn’t mean missing out on all the fun. This year has seen a rise of great business credit card applications, including one large bonuses from Chase this year, and American Express as well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether it is worth getting under 5/24

Robert: What you say about spousal enthusiasm and wanting to keep things simpler for her cards rings true with me too. It’s not like I set out for her to be close to 4/24: It happened because I’m just naturally slower to pull the trigger on her behalf. And I especially don’t want her cards to be as high-involvement on an ongoing basis.

I’m struck by the irony of chasing 5/24. I mean, the way things are going there’s a good chance you’ll arrive starving to a depleted buffet.

By that I mean they could very well turn all of their 5/24 cards into 48 month cards within families (say, Freedom/Sapphire/Ink). That would really be limiting.

And if they eliminated point transfers between cards, wow, that would really make me re-think whether URs are the world’s finest point currency.

Further, I think a lot of people are concerned about Chase looking at their spend patterns and having a new card application trigger a shutdown. From datapoints I’m sure we’ve all seen it seems this fear is warranted. For example, the Hyatt card with its 60,000 point signup bonus is juicy and not subject to 5/24 from what I’ve heard. Yet, people are afraid to apply for the card.

If someone is afraid to spend on their 5x/3x cards and you’re afraid to apply for new cards with them…why are you trying to get under 5/24? It seems you’d still be concerned once you got there.

But let’s talk about a casual user. A person who is just trying to step up their game a little and optimize their credit card portfolio to reward their spending patterns. Maybe some reimbursed business travel & dining. Typical household expenses.

I think that person can still do very well with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Let’s talk about this in “low effort” mode first. What’s the desired lineup of cards we’d suggest someone aspire to? And how should they get there with these new rules?

Sam:  I think I agree with you here. Chase is walking a tightrope–they’re trying to put in place policies to make things more favorable to their bottom line–but they make the changes in a somewhat mysterious way.  And there’s not a crystal clear line drawn in the sand saying what leads to shutdown and what doesn’t. And so this has a suppressive effect, with rumor taking over hard evidence.

I think it is telling that we’re seeing the news of Chase’s credit card changes on mainstream media–which can only lead to mainstream fear.  I’ve spoken with readers who haven’t applied for *any* cards at all since Chase’s 5/24 announcements. They’re just too paralyzed over the idea of eyes on their spending/accounts that they’re foregoing anything more because what they have now is too good to lose. The irony of this is that higher income/spending individuals are likely going to feel more pressure to not get shut down, even as those are the customers Chase would probably want to retain more than any other.

My personal take is:

  • There’s no real way to know what Chase is looking for. We can either live in fear of that, or feel emboldened by it
  • All of these *tweaks* and the inevitable bad press that comes from them don’t really dissuade the HH. The kind of person with 6 Ink Preferred in their entire family’s name cranking the $150k a year at 3x UR angle is going to do that until shutdown no matter what.
  • These changes do stop someone who’s just getting into this game from going bigger.

And maybe that’s Chase’s hustle here–they don’t want more of us but they’ll let those of us who are still around continue to exist, slowly picking off a few to scare others off?

I think everyone should always optimize to what benefits them the most. That means 5/24, 48 months, or any other restrictions should not be considered in the short term.  That’s especially true of a casual user, someone who really wants 1 or 2 cards to put everything on.  The chances of a casual card user being shut down are almost 0%, even with an occasional out of bounds purchase.  This discussion reminds me, there’s an awful lot of good advice in this Shop Talk Post we did last month:

Best Credit Cards for Unbonused Spend [After the AmEx SPG Devalues]

So much of the above post would be useful in this discussion I’d almost call it recommended reading for today as well.

If you’re talking Chase cards only, I’m struggling to find a compelling set of consumer cards for everyday spending.  Someone with high reimbursed travel could do well with a CSR, and a Freedom Unlimited for personal non bonus spend. That’s not exactly one card for everything however. If we’re talking about wanting one single card I think you need to break away from Chase and go with either a 2-3% CB card and just pay cash for the actual savings that would result from seeing dollars leave your wallet.

Robert: I’d recommend a casual player explore the Ultimate Rewards program rather than cashback. Especially if they have some reimbursed business spend (or meaningful dining and travel spend). And definitely if they’re interested in traveling internationally. The upside of miles for international travel is still strong.

So, I’d get a Sapphire Reserve if I spent enough on travel and dining to make the 3x earned on those worth the effective ~$150 annual fee. Sapphire Preferred otherwise.

Then I’d also get a Freedom Unlimited for 1.5x everywhere with uplift through the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred.

Then a Freedom 5x if I had the patience to juggle cards for 5x quarterly categories.

Turning it up to “medium” effort would mean doing the same for a spouse once comfortable. This doubles the usefulness of the time you spend considering this stuff. Plus you get refer-a-friend bonuses.

“High” effort would mean going for Ink small business cards. Terrific signup bonuses like 80,000 on the Ink Preferred. And 50,000 on the Ink Cash for 5x at office supply stores and telecom.

Put that all together and I think it’s still the best program going. Even with this new 48 month restriction.

The problem with just a straight cashback card, even a good one, is the lack of signup bonuses and the lack of upside when redeeming for international flights. Especially premium cabins.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of figuring out what your demand schedule looks like and aligning your earning to fund those travel goals. And determining how much bandwidth you’re willing to invest in this game.

Sam: It is hard for me to even put myself into the shoes of someone so casual to this game, but I agree that Ultimate Rewards would likely be the best program to start in.  Only holding Chase cares is extremely conservative/risk averse. As you mention above Robert, doing that would mean leaving plenty of sign up bonuses on the table. Those sign up bonuses are likely the meat of any low to medium effort strategy.  They’re injections of large quantities of points/miles/money and are hard to match except at the highest of high effort spenders.

One thing is for certain: holding onto Chase cards is now becoming more important than ever before. This blog long ago advocated never spending on an Annual fee. That’s become unrealistic given Chase rules such as 5/24 and this new Chase 48 month Sapphire rule.  More prudent advice would be to consider whether you can downgrade during a low period of need and upgrade later. So long as you hold something in the major families (Freedom to CSP/CSR, INK Cash to Ink Preferred etc) and barring major changes that strategy should work. For medium effort player a downgrade/upgrade might be a good way to ‘pause’ for a while as you pursue other sign up bonuses.

If you’re a High effort kind of person you’re likely going full speed ahead on all of your cards, and in that situation the real utility of the CSR is that extra .25x uplift the card offers all of your UR.  And with coming enhancements to the Chase UR Travel portal, getting more value out of your UR is something that might just get easer to do.

Whatever level you fall into, now is as good a time as any to come up with a personal Chase strategy!

That’s a wrap for this edition of Shop Talk. Reach out to us on Twitter @Milenomics and @RobertDwyer or leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you.

About the author

– Written by Robert Dwyer, contributor at Milenomics. Connect with me on Twitter @RobertDwyer


  1. I’m justifying two CSRs and my logic might not be sound, but especially now with the 48-month thing, I can see hanging onto both.

    My husband’s card is a long-term keeper due to his work travel and me wanting primary rental car coverage (though I know I can get it with CSP or maybe some AmEx cards). Were it not for his work travel, I could potentially stagger our Sapphires.

    Mine is admittedly harder to justify, and perhaps I could be an AU on his. But. Since I got mine while they were doing the $300/credit per calendar year, I can squeeze more out of it.


    March 2017: $450 AF; $300 travel credit; $85 TSA credit. Net $65
    Feb 2018: $300 credit. Net -$235
    March 2018: $450 AF, net $215
    Feb 2019: $300 travel credit, net -$85
    March 2019: $450 AF, net $365
    Feb 2020: $300 travel credit, net $65
    March 2020: $450 AF, net $515
    Feb 2021: $300 credit; net $215

    I think the prime time for me to downgrade is in Feb 2020. I could then apply for CSP in March 2021 for the sign-up bonus, or a CSR again perhaps.

    All of this math is of course only looking at the travel credit which I do value at face value as it is so easy to redeem it without going out of my way, and that TSA pre-check which I used. The 3x UR and other card perks, not to mention the 100k sign-up bonus, are above and beyond.

    All that to say — if these are the rules this bank wants us to play by, I can handle that. I am ok with paying an annual fee if I am getting value out of it. I want to be a long-term customer at Chase, Discover, and AmEx and I will stay in my lane with those banks. Others? I could take or leave, depending on what they can offer me.

    1. Kacie: That’s the kind of analysis I wish everyone would consider. An additional wrinkle: you can always press pause on that timeline by downgrading to a wonderful 5x Freedom or Freedom unlimited.

      I also think Chase wants people to reach for these cards first in their wallet. I know there certainly are friends of mine who do so. They like the look of the card, they’re hooked on the points without doing the kind of in-depth analysis you’re clearly a fan of. 1x UR is a money maker for Chase even if you pay the balance in full every month. I’d even wager lots of people hold balances and pay interest charges on their CSR/CSP.

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