My Chase Credit Cards Strategy

Credit Cards Feb 3, 2021

I'll be unveiling my entire Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) credit cards setup for maximizing return on spend in this article! In just a few years, I've been able to earn over 700,000 UR points across my seven Chase UR cards. Before we begin, a little background on the UR system:

Background on Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR)

Similar to Amex Membership Rewards (MR), points and cashback earned with Chase's own credit cards (aka not co-branded cards from United, Hyatt, or Disney, etc.) can work together to collectively boost your returns across multiple categories (think Apple's ecosystem of Macs, iPhones, iPads, etc., where individual products work together using their respective strengths).

Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR)

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • All points from UR-earning cards can be combined into one account
  • Members of the same household can pool points together
  • Points never expire as long as you have at least one UR-earning card open
  • "Cashback" from lower-tier cards such as the Freedom can be transferred to higher tier Sapphire cards for higher value redemption and to be used as miles. You can also upgrade/downgrade your cards at any point after the first year.
  • Due to the 5/24 rule, it is recommended to prioritize getting Chase cards before other card issuers. Remember, unlike personal cards, business cards do not count towards the limit, but if you are above 5/24, you will not be approved for additional business cards.
  • For certain cards like the Freedom/Freedom Flex, there is currently no limit on having multiple of the same product, so in the event you wish to downgrade, this is a good option. Make sure to have already gotten your signup bonus first or else you may be losing out on future eligibility!

For more on Ultimate rewards, check out this article:

Best (and Worst) Ways To Use Your Chase Points
Great, you got a credit card (or several) and accumulated some points (HOORAY!).However, earning is only half the game. How you SPEND is a whole other topic andarguably more important as there are so many traps that can misguide you toredeeming your points for cheap. Today’s article will give yo…

Overview

Below is a quick summary of the Chase cards I have in my setup. Categories highlighted in yellow reflect the best rates for that specific category (e.g. groceries).


Personal Cards - Details

I'll be covering each of the personal cards in detail, what I mainly use them for, as well as the major perks associated with them.

Chase UR-earning Personal Cards

Sapphire Reserve [review]

  • $450 Annual Fee*
  • 60,000 point signup bonus - pro tip: since you can only get 1 Sapphire every 48 months, go for the Sapphire Preferred and do a product switch after the first year
  • 10x Lyft Rides, Bikes, Scooters
  • 3x Dining and Travel
  • Highlight: Travel is the best rate out of all Chase UR cards. However, the main benefits are for perks like the purchase protection, extended warranty, travel insurance, lounge access and ability to redeem points for higher value through the travel portal, or by transferring to partner airlines and hotels.

*$550 annual fee for new cardholders

Sapphire Preferred (Player 2)

  • $95 Annual Fee
  • 100,000 point signup bonus
  • Since I have the Sapphire Reserve, I am not eligible for the Preferred. However, the player 2 in my household can transfer points to me for higher value redemptions.
  • 2x Dining and Travel
  • Highlight: Best signup bonus, great purchase and travel protections, and ability to transfer to partner hotels and airlines. However, earning rates are not great. The best play here is to take advantage of the current 60,000 pt + $50 offer and, in a year, upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve or downgrade to any of the no annual fee cards.

Freedom (Closed to New Applicants)

  • No Annual Fee
  • 20,000 point signup bonus
  • The card is now closed to new applicants, replaced with the Freedom Flex
  • 5x Quarterly Rotating Categories
  • 3x Dining
  • 3x Drugstores
  • Highlight: use it since 5% quarterly rotating categories have a limit of up to $1500 spend per quarter, so having this card and the Freedom Flex allows for essentially doubling the allowed 5% quota.

Freedom Flex [review]

  • No Annual Fee
  • 20,000 point signup bonus
  • Considered a new product from the old Freedom (above), so if you have the old Freedom, you can apply for the Flex and get a separate signup bonus
  • 5x Quarterly Rotating Categories like gas, PayPal, wholesale clubs, etc.
  • 5x Groceries - limited time offer, first-year only
  • 3x Dining is great if you do not have the Sapphire Reserve
  • 3x Drugstores like CVS, Walgreens etc.
  • Highlight: 5% quarterly rotating categories are the best! If you signed up before January, you also received the limited time offer of 5% on groceries during your first cardmember year.

Freedom Unlimited [review]

  • No Annual Fee
  • 20,000 point signup bonus
  • 3x Dining
  • 3x Drugstores
  • 1.5x Everything Else
  • Highlight: 1.5x catch-all cards. I use this to pay for misc. bills such as rent (through PayPal key) or for online shopping that may not receive bonus multipliers under any other category. Dining and Drugstore categories are also very useful and competitive, especially for a no annual fee card.

UPDATE 2/3: Feb 2021 only, get 5x on gas on all Freedom cards, more info here.


Business Cards - Details

I'll be covering the main benefits of each of the business cards. A future article will discuss specifics on who is eligible and how to apply.

Chase UR-earning Business Cards

Ink Preferred [review]

  • $95 Annual Fee
  • 80,000 point signup bonus (currently 100,000 point offer but with significantly higher spend requirement)
  • Highlight: 3x on online advertising and shipping are unique categories, and the massive signup bonus is the highest out of all Chase UR earning cards. However, since I did not really spend much in the bonus categories, I have decided to cancel the card after the first year.

Ink Cash [review]

  • No Annual Fee
  • 50,000 point signup bonus (currently 70,000 point offer, but with significantly higher spend requirement)
  • 5x Office Supply Stores such as Staples, FedEx
  • 5x Internet, Cable, Phone Services
  • 2x Gas
  • Highlight: 5x on office supply stores like Staples is especially great because there are a lot of items you can buy (Hint: Amazon...). The telecommunications category also allows me to earn 5x points on my monthly AT&T internet bill as well as my T-Mobile phone plan. One of my favorite cards to keep long term!

Ink Unlimited [review]

  • No Annual Fee
  • 50,000 point signup bonus (currently 70,000 point offer but with significantly higher spend requirement)
  • 1.5x Everything else
  • Highlight: Mostly overlaps with the Freedom Unlimited personal card. I mainly got this for the signup bonus.

Additional Optimization

Here are a few other ways I use to maximize my point earnings and redemptions:

  • Shop Through Chase: The Chase shopping portal allows you to earn additional points (e.g. on an Apple purchase) on top of your regular credit card earnings simply by going through a link.
  • Moving Points to Sapphire Reserve:  Since points become at least 50% more valuable when redeemed using the Sapphire Reserve, I pool all points earned from my cards to this account.
  • Player 2: Having another person in your household can greatly up your Chase game as you can optimize by both getting signup bonuses, referral bonuses, as well as eliminate the need to both carry the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
  • Referral Bonuses: At no cost to the person being referred, the referrer will receive a referral bonus of 10,000-20,000 UR points when using their link to sign up. Just in 2020 alone, I earned more than 100,000 UR points! Note: If you receive bonuses from referrals, it may be considered taxable income! Points from signup bonuses and from normal spend are considered rebates, so those will not be subject to any taxes.
Source: Business Insider

Conclusion

In short, having multiple Chase UR earning cards can help cover a broad range of everyday spend categories such as groceries, dining, travel, drugstores, bills, etc. Most of the cards have no annual fee and all cards can easily be upgraded or downgraded in the future if your situation changes. After earning enough points, the premium Sapphire cards can help increase the value of your redemptions through the pooling of all points into the Sapphire account. For more information on how to best utilize Chase UR points, check out this article.


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