This is part of a series of Beginner Card Plans for people getting started with free travel. The ones below are also available:

This post rounds out the series by introducing a plan for cards as a couple.  Two is definitely better than one when it comes to credit card perks and bonuses.  Here are the assumptions made that just one of the pair has a business.

Applying for Business Credit Cards

To apply for a business credit card, you need to have a business. However, lots of people have businesses and do not know it. If you sell stuff on Craigslist or eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, coaching, writing, handyman services, owning rental property, renting on Airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you have officially registered your business.

When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business’ address and phone, and your social security number as the business’ Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.

Can I put personal expenses on business cards? I know lots of people do this. Most business credit card applications say that you need to use the card only for business purposes only. It’s also important to know that some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. So, steer clear if you don’t feel comfortable doing this.

For step-by-step instructions on applying for a business card, go here.

Go here to learn more about you being eligible for business credit cards. 

Rather than talk about the couple as “person 1” and “person 2”, let’s give them names:

  • Scott owns a business
  • Kelly doesn’t have a business and isn’t willing to sign up for business cards

The following assumptions about the couple:

  • Both have good credit scores
  • Neither has applied for any new credit cards in the past few years.
  • They spend about $2,500+ per month total via credit cards
  • Scott spends $2,000+ per month on his business
  • Scott has a business
  • Both want a simple approach to earning and spending rewards

Given the above, here’s a suggested a plan…

Plan overview

The easiest and quickest way to amass points and miles is through credit card signup bonuses.  Despite common beliefs, this won’t hurt your credit score long term as long as you pay your credit card bills in full each month. Also, avoid charging near your limit so your credit utilization is low relative to the amount of your available credit. In fact, many people see their credit score increase a few months after starting to sign up for multiple credit cards.

When you get started, if all goes well you’ll earn lots of rewards and your credit score will go up a bit (or remain relatively stable). On the other hand, once you’ve signed up for a bunch of cards, it will be harder to get approved for new cards from certain banks. Chase, in particular, has the dreaded 5/24 Rule. If you have opened 5 or more personal cards in the past 24 months, from any bank, Chase won’t approve you for any more cards. However, Chase business credit cards do not count towards your 5/24 total. Note: When you sign up for Travel Freely, there is a 5/24 counter on the card dashboard.

For that reason, anyone considering signing up for a bunch of credit cards should think seriously about starting with Chase. Chase has quite a few outstanding cards and it would be a shame to lose your ability to get those cards due to signing up for cards first from other banks.

Thoughts on strategy: In order to a) maximize approval odds; b) keep card applications very simple, and c) easily hit bonus spending, this plan will stagger applications between Scott and Kelly, and also between Scott and Scott’s Business. Each “entity” will be getting a new card(s) every 3-4 months. Balancing applications between both of them and the business should provide a lot of room between each respective application, thus ensuring long-term approval odds for years to come.

Important Note: Couples Double Up. It’s not widely known, but in this article I explain that a spouse is a free travel secret weapon because they have a separate credit profile. With a credit card, one person is always deemed the primary, and the other is the “authorized user.” Translation: Each person can get their own card and double up on the best rewards cards. So for this strategy, Scott and Kelly will double up on a few cards to maximize sign-up bonuses as primary cardholders.

With all this said, the plan below focuses on obtaining the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Chase Ink Business Preferred first, then the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, and a number of “must-have” Chase cards.

For the above reasons, the plan placed together focuses first on obtaining the Capital One Venture Rewards card and a number of “must-have” Chase cards:

  • Sapphire Preferred: Earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points for travel & dining. Points worth 1.25 cents each towards travel.  Points are transferable to a number of airline and hotel programs, including Southwest, United, and Hyatt. There is a premium version of the Sapphire card called the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, it comes with a $450 annual fee. Check out Preferred vs. Reserve article to compare.
  • Ink Business Preferred: Earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points for travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, and advertising with social media sites (up to $150K spend per year).
  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Great card overall for solid rewards for all spend, plus the ability to transfer rewards to airline miles.
  • Ink Business Cash: Earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points at office supplies and 5x cellular/landline/cable (on up to $25,000 in total purchases in 5x categories annually); and 2x gas and restaurants. Easy trick with this card is to get Amazon Gift Cards at Office Depot / Max to get 5x Chase points on your Amazon purchases.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card and Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Both tend to have excellent signup bonuses. Chase does not prohibit applicants from getting both business cards the way they do with Southwest personal cards. As a result, it can be easy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass so that you can add a companion to all of your Southwest flights for free while the pass is active. To get the pass, you must earn 125,000 points in a calendar year. Once you do, the pass will be active for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next! The best bet is to sign up for these cards in December or January so that points post to your account as soon as possible in the new year. Here’s a full strategy on the Southwest Companion Pass and why timing is so important.
  • United Explorer: considered as a “must-have” Chase card because it can be downgraded after a year to a no-fee United card which preserves this card’s best two features: a) Improved economy saver award availability, which makes it much easier to book international awards with United miles since it opens up space between airports domestically. And b) Last seat standard economy award availability. This feature is great for those occasions when you are stuck with no good way to get from one place to the other.
  • Ink Business Unlimited: Earn 1.5x Ultimate Rewards on all purchases. Great for ongoing business spending. Transfer miles to personal Sapphire or Ink Preferred account.
  • World of Hyatt: Keep for the annual free night certificate. Consider spending $15K per year for a second certificate, especially if you pursue Hyatt status since you’ll earn 2 elite qualifying nights with each $5K spend.

 

Hotel cards for two

Most hotel credit cards include a certificate for a free night stay which you get each year upon renewal. When a couple is involved, a cool option is to both have the card so that you can use the certificates for a weekend getaway every year for the price of just two annual fees.

It’s ideal for a couple to sign up for these cards back-to-back or close to the same month.  Usually, the certificates are good for only a year.  By signing up at the same time, the validity dates will be the same and it will be easier to plan 2-night getaways.

Staying under 5/24

Another advantage of being a couple is that it’s fairly easy for one of the two to stay under 5/24.  A person with a business can sign up for 2 personal cards each year plus any number of business cards (at least those that don’t contribute to 5/24) and can stay indefinitely under 5/24.  This is handy in case Chase comes out with any new “must have” cards.  In the plan I’ve detailed, Scott the business owner, will stay well under 5/24.

How much spend?

Most credit card offers require meeting spend requirements in order to earn a signup bonus.  And, in most cases, 3 months is the magical amount of time you have to meet those requirements. So, let’s look at how much spend our fictional couple can achieve every three months:

Since they spend $2500 per month on credit cards, the couple already spends $7,500 every 3 months.  We’ve also assumed that Scott spends $2,000 per month on his business. (If these numbers seem too high for you, there are many ways to use a credit card to pay taxes or use the third-party service Plastiq to pay other expenses). In case you’re wondering, Chase (and Amex) will NOT allow you to pay mortgage payments via third-party services. However, since federal taxes can be paid by credit card for a low fee (1.89% at the time of this writing), that’s an easy way for quarterly tax payers to add more credit card spend every 3 months to hit sign-up bonuses.

Preparation

Before signing up for any new cards, make sure you sign up for Travel Freely (it’s free).  This is our free web-based tool that walks you through the process of signing up for cards to earn big bonuses.  The tool keeps track of your cards including your 5/24 status, alerts you when time is running out to complete minimum spend, alerts you when annual fees are nearly due, and much more. Best of all, it’s free. =)

Sign up for Travel Freely

First set of cards

In Month #1, the plan is for Kelly and Scott’s Business to each sign up for the one card to start.

Kelly: Chase Sapphire Preferred (Learn More)

The Sapphire Preferred is Travel Freely’s #1 rated card for beginners. It earns Chase Ultimate Rewards that are have high value and flexibility. You can redeem points easily in the Chase Travel Portal or transfer to many well known hotel and airline transfer partners (including Southwest, United, Marriott, and Hyatt). Here’s more about why we like this card and a Comprehensive Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The following display shows the current Sapphire Preferred offer at the time you read this on the web:

80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Our #1 personal card is now even better with this huge sign-up bonus. Single best "starter card" for beginners and MVP card for free travelers.

Scott: Chase Ink Business Preferred (Learn More)

(Quick reminder: if you are a Southwest fan, go here to opt for Southwest cards if it’s early in the new year)

This has an incredible signup bonus that you won’t be able to get once you’re over 5/24 so it’s definitely worth getting as soon as possible. There is a first year annual fee, but you can downgrade this card after the first year to the no-fee Ink Business Unlimited (1.5X everywhere) or to a second Ink Cash card (in case the $25K cap on 5X spend is too limiting).

100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $15,000 in the first 3 months. A highly recommended business card card for signup bonus and 3X categories. All Ink cards can earn Ultimate Rewards or cash back.

Next Card

In Month #3 (two months after the first two applications), Kelly should hit her sign-up bonus spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. So, Scott is next to get his first personal card, which is also a Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Scott: Chase Sapphire Preferred (Learn More)

The Sapphire Preferred is Travel Freely’s #1 rated card for beginners. It earns Chase Ultimate Rewards that are have high value and flexibility. You can redeem points easily in the Chase Travel Portal or transfer to many well known hotel and airline transfer partners (including Southwest, United, Marriott, and Hyatt). Here’s more about why we like this card and a Comprehensive Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The following display shows the current Sapphire Preferred offer at the time you read this on the web:

80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Our #1 personal card is now even better with this huge sign-up bonus. Single best "starter card" for beginners and MVP card for free travelers.

Next Cards

In Month #5, they should be done hitting Scott’s sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Scott’s Business should have already earned the bonus for the Chase Ink Cash. It’s also been over 90 days since Kelly applied for her first card and Scott’s business applied for the Chase Ink Business Preferred.

Kelly: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Learn More)

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is particularly good for those starting out with credit card rewards. This card earns 2X everywhere, and points (they call them “miles”) are very easy to redeem. Simply charge travel to your card and then you can use “miles” to “erase” those statement charges at a value of 1 cent each. As you get more advanced, you can alternatively transfer points to airline partners.  If you know what you’re doing, this can lead to far more value from your points. Here’s more about why we like this card and a Comprehensive Guide to Capital One Miles.

The following display shows the current Capital One Venture Credit Card offer at the time you read this on the web:

50,000 Capital One Miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Best "no-thinking" starter card (or compliment to Chase Sapphire Preferred) for those who don't want to think when earning and redeeming miles.

Note: Capital One can be hard on approvals for those who have opened many new personal accounts. Even if you do have an excellent credit score, you can sometimes be denied. 

Scott’s Business: Chase Ink Business Cash (Learn More)

(Quick reminder: if you are a Southwest fan, go here to opt for Southwest cards if it’s early in the new year)

Many people are a huge fan of this card for its ability to earn 5X valuable Ultimate Rewards points in several categories of spend. Plus, there is no annual fee. Super Cool Tip: The Chase Ink Cash earns 5x points at office supply stores. Did you know they also sell lots of gift cards to your favorite stores at office supply stores? I use my Chase Ink Cash to buy Amazon gift cards. Then I load those cards to my Amazon account. My Amazon purchases are then essentially earning 5x Chase points! You can do this for any store like Home Depot, Lowe’s Apple, etc. if they sell gift cards. The max spends on 5x earning is $25k per year. 

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Awesome business card with no annual fee and 0% APR. 5x earning categories and your choice to receive cash back or points.

Next Card

In Month #7 (two months after Kelly and Scott’s Business’s last applications), Kelly should hit her sign-up bonus for the Capital One Venture card. So, Scott is ready to get his Venture card.

Scott: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Learn More)

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is particularly good for those starting out with credit card rewards. This card earns 2X everywhere, and points (they call them “miles”) are very easy to redeem. Simply charge travel to your card and then you can use “miles” to “erase” those statement charges at a value of 1 cent each. As you get more advanced, you can alternatively transfer points to airline partners.  If you know what you’re doing, this can lead to far more value from your points. Here’s more about why we like this card and a Comprehensive Guide to Capital One Miles.

The following display shows the current Capital One Venture Credit Card offer at the time you read this on the web:

50,000 Capital One Miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Best "no-thinking" starter card (or compliment to Chase Sapphire Preferred) for those who don't want to think when earning and redeeming miles.

Note: Capital One can be hard on approvals for those who have opened many new accounts. Even if you do have an excellent credit score, you can sometimes be denied. 

Next Cards

In Month #9, they should be done hitting Scott’s sign-up bonus on the Capital One Venture and Scott’s Business should have already earned the bonus for the Chase Ink Cash. It’s also been over 90 days since Kelly applied for her last card and Scott’s business applied for the Chase Ink Cash.

Kelly: Chase United Explorer Card (Learn More)

This card’s sign-up bonus can fluctuate based on the time of year. It could be good to skip this card and move on to the Southwest card if the offer is low. A low sign-up bonus for the United Explorer card is 30,000 – 40,000 miles and high is 50,000 – 60,000 miles. 

The following display shows the current United Explorer card offer at the time you read this on the web:

60,000 United MileagePlus Miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Good choice for United fans with a good signup bonus, free bag, and priority boarding benefits. You also get access to United saver level economy awards.

Scott’s Business: Chase Ink Business Unlimited (Learn More)

(Quick reminder: if you are a Southwest fan, go here to opt for Southwest cards if it’s early in the new year)

The Ink Business Unlimited is yet another excellent card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It earns 1.5 points per dollar for all spend. Points can be moved to the Sapphire Reserve card to make them much more valuable.

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. A no-brainer, great business card with a great bonus, no annual fee, and 0% offer. Your choice to receive 1.5% cash back or 1.5x points.

Next Card

In Month #11, they should be done hitting Kelly’s United card sign-up bonus and Scott should also have hit his bonus for the Chase Ink Unlimited. It’s also been over 90 days since Scott applied for his last card.

Scott: Chase World of Hyatt (Learn More)

My favorite hotel card is the World of Hyatt, but if you have other allegiances, then you could go for a Chase Marriott or IHG Premier. All of these cards comes with a free annual night on renewal of your annual fee, which is a value that justifies keeping the card long-term. Keep in mind that Amex also offers a Marriott card, so once you are over 5/24 it’s still possible to pick up a new Marriott card (the Amex version), but not an IHG or Hyatt card.

The following display shows the current offer at the time you read this on the web:

50,000 World of Hyatt Points after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months. Great card among hotel cards. Good signup bonus, high value points, and an annual free night.

Next Cards

In Month #13, they should be done hitting Scott’s sign-up bonus on the Chase World of Hyatt card. It’s also been over 90 days since Kelly applied for her last card and Scott’s business applied for the Chase Ink Cash.

Kelly: Chase World of Hyatt (Learn More)

My favorite hotel card is the World of Hyatt, but if you have other allegiances, then you could go for a Chase Marriott or IHG Premier. All of these cards comes with a free annual night on renewal of your annual fee, which is a value that justifies keeping the card long-term. Keep in mind that Amex also offers a Marriott card, so once you are over 5/24 it’s still possible to pick up a new Marriott card (the Amex version), but not an IHG or Hyatt card.

The following display shows the current offer at the time you read this on the web:

50,000 World of Hyatt Points after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months. Great card among hotel cards. Good signup bonus, high value points, and an annual free night.

Scott’s Business: Chase United Explorer Business (Learn More)

(Quick reminder: if you are a Southwest fan, go here to opt for Southwest cards if it’s early in the new year)

The Ink Business Unlimited is yet another excellent card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It earns 1.5 points per dollar for all spend. Points can be moved to the Sapphire Reserve card to make them much more valuable.

60,000 United MileagePlus Miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. For business owners with high monthly spending, this is worth a strong look with the big signup bonus and ongoing benefits.

TBD – Scott’s Business: Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Business Cards

Best strategy is to sign up for both of these cards early in a new year so that your points post to your account as soon as possible in the new year. Chase does not prohibit applicants from getting both business cards the way they do with Southwest personal cards.

Both cards tend to have excellent signup bonuses, so it can be easy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass with these two cards. To get the pass, you must earn 125,000 points in a calendar year. Once you do, the pass will be active for 2-for-1 travel for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next! . Here’s a full strategy on the Southwest Companion Pass and why timing is so important.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card 

70,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Highest bonus among the Southwest business cards. You are eligible even if you have the Southwest Premier Business card. Great to combine with personal card for Companion Pass.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card

60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Great Southwest business card with lowest annual fee. High signup bonus and good way to combine with personal card for Companion Pass.

If the timing isn’t right for these cards, move on and come back when timing is best.

Add it all up

Assuming success at getting approved for all of the above cards, average sign-up bonus offers, and that you met the spend requirements, in total we’re looking at over 600,000+ points and miles worth of sign-up bonuses points (not counting points additionally earned from spend). A rough estimate would put that amount of reards at over $7,500 in free travel!

In addition, Scott and Kelly will now get free night certificates each year from their Hyatt and/or Marriott cards.  They can use these free night certificates to book weekend getaways each year. 

Next steps

At the end of the 15 months described above, Kelly will be at 4/24 (i.e. Jordan will have opened 4 cards in the past 24 months).  Kelly can apply for one more Chase card before she would need to move on to apply for cards from other banks. Otherwise, Kelly won’t get approved for additional cards from Chase until Kelly’s 5/24 number drops under 5/24.

Scott, on the other hand, will be at only 3/24 since none of the Chase business cards that Scott signed up for count towards 5/24.  Scott can continue to sign up for 2 consumer cards per year, and any number of business cards (except for those from certain banks like Capital One) and still stay under 5/24.  This is great because Chase may introduce a new “must have” card in the future and this will leave Scott available to apply for it.

Slow and Steady is the Simplest Way to Travel Freely

Jumping into the world of credit cards and sign-up bonuses can be intimidating to some people, especially those who are brand new to free travel and are a bit suspicious. Nothing in life can be free, right? Well, this is one of those rare cases because so many other people carry a balance on their cards. The banks are fine with giving away big bonuses because a large amount of people end up paying enormous fees in interest (and they still charge merchants 2-3% on every swipe!).

Confused? Here’s a Simple 1-2-3 Plan for a Beginner

Travel Freely Members average $500+ in free travel with their first card bonus. Business owners average $800. You can be booking your free travel in as little as 3-4 months.

First of all, Sign up for Travel Freely (for free) to access the Get Started Guide.

1. APPLY – Get ONE great card from your CardGenie Recommendations.

2. EARN – Put all your regular spending on the card and hit your bonus.

3. TRAVEL – Use our Resources page and free guides to book your first free travel! 

Just want a list of the best cards? Here are our best monthly offers and our list of overall card recommendations.

 

Your next vacation could be free with TRAVEL FREELY.