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A Tearful Farewell to My Rapid Rewards Points

This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream

Doctor of Credit blog warned us this day was coming. Many people said that Chase would never place such harsh restrictions on its co-branded credit cards. I was swayed by the naysayers, and I did not apply for a Southwest Airlines credit card before the sky started falling. Doctor of Credit, I will never doubt you again!

If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the lowdown: Last year, Chase bank started making it more difficult for people to be approved for some credit cards. If you had opened more than 4 new credit cards within the past 24 months, you would not be approved for certain Chase credit cards that were earning Ultimate Rewards (known as Chase 5/24 rule). This was probably done to cut down on churners/miles & points hobbyists who were earning tons of rewards from new sign-up bonuses without keeping the cards long-term.

Doctor of Credit predicted that Chase would expand those harsher requirements to its co-branded cards (i.e. partner cards with airlines and hotels) in April, and when that month came and went, many people breathed a sigh of relief. However, Chase implemented the tighter restrictions at the end of May instead, and now many cards are impossible to acquire under these new rules.

weeping

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at freedigitalphotos.net

^^That is me weeping!

While my husband and I are not hard-core churners, we each apply for 3-4 new cards per year that are recommended by bloggers when there are increased sign-up bonuses. We also frequently add each other as authorized users on our spouse’s cards to help us complete the minimum spending faster, so over the past 24 months we have opened over 8 new credit cards, well over Chase’s new standard for approval.

Southwest points have been my family’s bread and butter for award tickets, and the bottom line is that my family’s run with Rapid Rewards currency is coming to a screeching halt. Over the past few years, between my husband and I, we’ve  had 4 personal Southwest credit cards, 2 business cards and 3 Companion passes.

Although we have paid over $500 in total annual fees for those 6 cards and Chase has received a few percentage points from our purchases, the bank has probably not made much money from us. We never carry a balance, so Chase doesn’t make anything from interest or late fees. We have been on the winning side of this relationship, with our points providing us many almost-free trips as a family of five.

Our Southwest Rapid Rewards points have taken us numerous times to Orlando, Denver and New York. We live near Dallas, a Southwest hub, so we have gotten some very lucrative redemptions with our stash. Last year, when we had two Companion passes, we flew our family of five to Denver for only 18,345 points and to Orlando for just 33,969 points.

Those same flights on American or United would have cost us 125,000 miles for each destination! I see many miles and points hobbyists pooh-poohing Southwest Airlines online because they only fly business or first class. But for my family’s situation, Southwest points were a total boon!

nancy in florida

One of our adventures in Florida

So what’s the plan now?

The silver lining to this situation is that I have  Chase Ink Plus business card, which earns Ultimate Rewards currency that can be converted to Rapid Rewards. This alone will not provide us with the amount of Southwest points we had accumulated in prior years, but at least it’s something.

I had just booked flights to Denver for Thanksgiving on Southwest before finding out about the new 5/24 changes, but  canceled those and booked similar flights on American using British Airways Avios that I got from my Amex Platinum card earlier this year. Flights to Denver from Dallas cost 7,500 Avios instead of 12,500 AA miles. I plan on saving those refunded Southwest points to get my family to Tampa for Spring Break next year.

There are a few Chase co-branded credit cards that are not (yet) subject to the 5/24 rule, including British Airways, Hyatt and Fairmont cards. There are some rumors that these cards may eventually be part of the 5/24 rule, so I applied for a Chase British Airways Visa Signature (see “Support the Site” link at the top of the blog).

Dallas is also an American Airlines hub, and my family can fly to both Denver and Florida for 7,500 miles using British Airways Avios on American Airlines flights. It’s not as great of a redemption as most of our Southwest trips were, and we can’t use any Companion passes, but it’s still better than paying 12,500 miles for each flight. I hope that my husband will also be approved for the British Airways card so that we can start to build up even more miles.

I’m not sure what our long-term plan will be. We can either continue to apply for non-Chase cards when the bonuses are lucrative, or hold off on applying for any new cards so that we can re-qualify for the Chase Southwest card in 1-2 years. We both still have high scores and no credit card debt. However, we will probably not take as many trips in the future, and we may need to start paying cash (gasp!) for Southwest flights if they are the best option.

Southwest has some rock-bottom prices from Dallas when the planes are not full, and we’ve seen $36 one-way fares to both Denver and Orlando. We may need to be more flexible in our travel times to visit family in order to jump on the lowest prices.

Southwest, it’s been a great ride! We will miss your points for sure.

Is anyone else adversely affected by Chase’s 5/24 rule and inability to get Southwest credit card? What are your plans to keep traveling with miles and points?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

16 thoughts on “A Tearful Farewell to My Rapid Rewards Points

  1. Yes, I could have written your article! The SW CC has been so good to our family of five also. I just received my last SW CC in March. We have been faithful about using, closing, and churning them every 2 years. My husband will now discontinue the churning game (we only do 4 a year also) and I will continue. This will allow him to qualify for another Chase card in 2 years. It’s impossible to complain when SW and Air Tran cards have taken us on multiple trips to Aruba and Orlando. I’m grateful for the memories!

    • Michelle–that sounds like a great plan that I need to consider for my family as well. I’m glad you had some fabulous vacations via Southwest!

    • I haven’t considered Spirit because of nightmare stories but I believe they do fly out of Boston. Is a 20k reward offer about the best I can do or do they up it at certain times of the year? Thanks for the suggestion.

      • @Michelle @Nancy 20K roundtrip award is their standard price. If you have Spirit co-branded card, you can fly for as low as 2,500 miles one-way during off-season on short routes. You probably have seen my post on comparing Spirit and Southwest, but in case you’ve missed it //milesforfamily.com/2015/10/05/the-battle-of-free-spirit-and-southwest-rapid-rewards/
        Basically, yes, the biggest issue with off-peak awards is that most fall on the dates the kids are in school. So, they would only be good for short trips. One decent possibility is MLK weekend which falls in the off-peak pricing. Most folks can take the kids out of school for a day or two, and it could make for a nice getaway to Florida, possibly Caribbean if you can combine two off-peak awards. As in, 2,500 miles to Florida, plus 2,500 miles one-way to Caribbean.
        My cousin-in-law and her husband just flew Spirit Air from Fort Lauderdale (main hub) to San Juan and had no problems whatsoever. Of course, I can’t guarantee that every Spirit flight will go well. But I honestly don’t believe they are as bad as people say they are. Obviously, I would pick Southwest with all things being equal. I think majority of people hate all the fees that Spirit has, but that’s how they can keep the prices down. It’s an option I encourage you to look into. One possibility is to take a flight by yourself or with your spouse and see how it goes. If it’s not horrible, consider bringing the kids the next time.

    • Hmmmmm….maybe on Spirit. The issue I have is that the great redemptions seem to be in the off-season, and with my oldest starting middle school we won’t be able to travel during school much anymore. Maybe I need to look into it further.

  2. I can’t qualify for Chase right now bc of 5/24 rule. I have the Chase Mileage Plus though. I’ve had it for years and have been wondering if I should cancel it to avoid paying more annual fees or keep it — just because it won’t be so easy to get back. Any thoughts?

    • @Amanda I would try to convert it to another card, like Chase Freedom or even Chase Freedom Unlimited. Chase Mileage Plus card isn’t bad, but it’s mostly a good fit for those who fly United frequently. You get free bags and few other perks, like more award seat availability. Also, when you charge $24K per year, you get a mileage bonus. If none of those things apply to you, then no reason to keep paying the annual fee. I would rather have Chase Sapphire Preferred if given a choice, another possible conversion option. At least, UR points are flexible and you can transfer them to various programs.

      • I called and asked for another option and they suggested: United MileagePlus Rewards Visa
        Non-Signature card. No annual fee and I could still get United miles (at a lower rate) if I just use it regularly (which I probably wouldn’t much as always spending for bonuses), but I like to have United miles. Not that I fly United a lot, but you know, they partner with Air NZ, which I do hope to fly a lot! I don’t think I’d want to just convert to Chase Sapphire Preferred because I should save that for one day that I could get a sign up bonus, right? Can’t apply for it right now due to 5/24, but you never know what the future could hold! I wonder if there’s any kind of sign up bonus that I could be getting with United Mileage Plus Rewards Visa Non-Signature? I’m guessing they probably reserve their bonuses for the Explorer? I’ll ask them. But any info you have is appreciated! Thanks!

  3. But then again, if there is a bonus offered with United MIleage Plus Rewards Visa Non-Signature card, I probably couldn’t get it anyway, due to the 5/24 rule! Duh! This hobby is confusing!

    • @Amanda I think your best option might be converting to United Rewards card. I actually didn’t realize they still offer that option. I don’t believe it comes with any sign-up bonus, so you wouldn’t be losing anything. At least it would give you an option to pick up some United miles for topping off an account for specific award. Going forward, you might also want to keep an eye on Membership Rewards card bonuses. As long as you have access to Star Alliance, you should be able to redeem points on Air New Zealand. I don’t believe the airline adds a huge fuel surcharge to awards, but I’m not 100% sure. United miles are best because you never pay any fuel surcharges.

      • Thanks Leana. I will start watching the Membership Rewards cards! And I feel better about my decision now that I have your blessing! I hate to make a quick decision in this hobby that you later regret!

    • @Amanda No worries! Definitely no sense in paying an annual fee on United card if you hardly ever use it. I’ll need to do some research in Air New Zealand. I know they are stingy with awards in business class, but economy is usually better. Either way, if you invest in flexible points, as in SPG or MR points, you should be able to leverage them for flights to US. Of course, there is always an option of just watching for amazing deals and mistake fares.

      • I don’t even think about business class, as much as I would love it. I need to hoard all the miles I can get! American has just started direct flights between LA and Auckland as well. Note to self: SPG or MR points! I’ll remember. Thanks again!

    • @Amanda I didn’t know about American starting flights to Auckland. Nice! That should give you more options. MR points don’t transfer to AAdvantage, but you may be able to use Etihad program, which partners with American. Either way, having options is a good thing!

  4. Pingback: The Credit Card that Enticed Me to Give Up my 5/24 Holding Pattern - Miles For Family

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