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We often talk about developing the right kind of ecosystem to maximize earning miles and points. Credit card issuers like Chase offer a portfolio of products. These portfolios are geared towards catering to the needs of different types of customers, which businesses often define as customer segments. Given that we all love earning miles and points at a rapid pace, how do we go about maximizing earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points on our purchases?
Credit Card Partnerships
Banks, airlines and hotels have lucrative partnerships that suit their business needs. Depending on your travel patterns, you should decide on which team you want to be on. Do you fly Delta a lot and stay frequently at Hiltons? In that case, the Amex ecosystem would suit you better.
However, if you fly United or Southwest often and stay frequently at IHGs or Hyatts, then the Chase ecosystem would be the best for you. It’s vital that you formulate your credit card strategy based on your travel patterns and not the other way round. Instead of altering your purchase behavior, it’s key that you tailor your miles and points strategy based on your existing travel needs or patterns. Most importantly, how much are you willing to pay in annual fees?
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Ecosystem
If you want to maximize the rewards in the ecosystem, you need to identify a couple of things. What’s the lowest and highest rate of return you’re willing to accept on everyday spend? Secondly, how many cards are you looking to get in order to maximize points earning? With 5/24 and other restrictions, Chase has made it a lot tougher to get multiple of their credit cards and their amazing sign-up bonuses.
Before we outline how the ecosystem would look, let’s outline a few basic details. In my case, I’m looking for a minimum of 1.5x on my everyday spend. In addition to that, I’m looking to maximize spend on dining and travel.
|Card Name||Sign-up Bonus||Min Points Earning||Max Points Earning|
|Chase Ink Business Preferred||80,000 UR Points||1x||3x|
|Chase Ink Business Unlimited||50,000 UR Points||1.5x||1.5x|
|Chase Ink Cash||50,000 UR Points||1x||5x*|
|Chase Freedom||20,000 UR Points||1x||5x*|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||20,000 UR Points||1.5x||1.5x|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||60,000 UR points||1x||2x|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||50,000 UR Points||1x||3x|
* represents rotating bonus categories
If you are an out and out road warrior, then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best card for you. You’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend on travel and dining. You’ll also get Priority Pass select with two additional guests free of cost. If you travel frequently for work, then this card fits perfectly in your wallet. Pair this is the Freedom Unlimited card and you’ll earn a minimum of 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend in any category.
With this two card combination, you can earn a minimum of 1.5x on all spend and 3x on travel and dining. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee. So you’ll end up paying $550 out of pocket in fees for carrying these two cards. If the extra 0.5x isn’t of much value to you, then you can get the Chase Freedom Card instead. With this card, you’ll earn a maximum of 5x Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend up to $1,500 each quarter in rotating bonus categories.
However, if you’re a road warrior who travels frequently, it may be a bit of work for you to maximize the $1,500 in spend each quarter.
Occasional Business Traveler
If you run your own business and travel occasionally, then the Ink Business Preferred is the best option. Currently, you can earn a bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. If you pair this card with the Chase Ink Business Unlimited, you’ll earn a flat 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend in any category.
This way you can really maximize your Ultimate Rewards points earning. You’ll earn 3x on travel, shipping, advertising (with social media sites and search engines) and on internet, cable and phone services. With this two card combo, the only category you’ll miss out is the dining category. You’ll earn a flat 1.5x since you’ll use the Ink Business Unlimited for all other spend. However, unlike the road warrior, you’ll only spend $95 in annual fees.
If you can maximize bonus spend categories, then the Ink Business Cash is a fantastic option. You’ll earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend at office supply stores, internet, cable and phone services during a cardmember year. You can earn these bonus points for up to $25,000 spent during each cardmember year. This card also offers a generous 2x Ultimate Rewards points (up to $25,000 spent during each cardmember year) for each dollar spent on gas stations and restaurants.
You two card combo can also be the Ink Business Preferred and the Ink Business Cash. You’ll pay a total of $95 in annual fees. You’ll earn 3x on all travel, 5x on office supply and telecom purchases, 2x on dining and 1x on all other spend. If you carry all three cards mentioned in this section, you’ll still pay $95 in annual fees. The only difference will be that you’ll earn 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend on all other purchases.
If you are a family that takes at least a couple of trips every year, then you have a few different options. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, a family of 4 will still have to pay $32 for the fourth guest in order to gain access to the lounge for the whole family. If your family makes a few trips during the year and lounge access isn’t a deal breaker, then a three card combo can be useful for you.
Firstly, you can get the Chase Freedom card and maximize the rotating bonus categories each year. If you maximize the categories, you’ll earn a maximum of 7,500 bonus Ultimate Rewards points each quarter. Now, if you have the Freedom Unlimited Card as well, you’ll earn a flat 1.5x Ultimate Rewards point for each dollar you spend in all categories.
If you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points as a sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. With this card, you’ll earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend in the travel and dining category.
By leveraging this three card combo, you can maximize points earning when you’re not traveling by using the Freedom cards. When you’re hitting the road, you’ll earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points for each dollar you spend when you travel or dine out. This three card combo will cost you a total of only $95 in annual fees.
Please note that 5/24 and other restrictions may apply to Chase credit cards reviewed in this article
The Pundit’s Mantra
The Chase Sapphire Reserve clearly is packed with benefits but carries a $550 annual fee. If you don’t use Priority Pass lounges often and don’t redeem for travel through Chase’s portal, then the Chase Freedom Cards and the Ink Business Preferred are great options to carry in your wallet.
Also, if you are eligible, then the Chase Ink Business Preferred (80,000) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred (60,000) are currently offering the highest welcome bonuses in the business and personal credit card category respectively.
I’ve outlined my Chase card strategy in this post, especially after Chase increased the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve and as to why I downgraded to the Sapphire Preferred.
For me, it’s the Ink Business Preferred, Ink Business Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Preferred. What does your Chase card combo look like? Let us know in the comments section.