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Credit card companies have a special ability to confuse customers by naming multiple card products similarly while tweaking the benefits of each offering, sometimes just minimally. To the average consumer, it can be very difficult to figure out the best product for their particular needs.
Chase just recently revamped their Ink Bold business card offering with the launch of the new Ink Plus product, so I thought I’d compare and contrast the differences between the four major Ink cards: Bold With Ultimate Rewards, Plus, Cash and Classic. Leveraging the Ink Bold cards and their 5/2/1 point-earning structure is a central strategy towards maximizing my Ultimate Rewards points, which I think is one of the most valuable points currencies out there. I’ve written several times on how I maximize the amount of points I earn by using Ink Bold, Sapphire Preferred, Freedom and Chase Checking accounts, and a little bit of coordination and understanding when to use each card for what type of purchase can pay off in the long run. With that, here’s a high level analysis of the Ink Bold card offering:
Premium = Ability to Transfer to Partners
Ink Bold With Ultimate Rewards and Ink Plus are the “premium” Ink Bold cards in that they have $95 annual fees (both waived for the first year), but accrue points into Ultimate Rewards, which allows partner transfers to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak. Both award 5 points per dollar spent on office supplies/cell phone/internet/landline/TV spend on office supplies (up to $50,000 per year), 2 points per dollar on gas stations and hotels (up to $50,000 annually) and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
These cards are nearly identical. The main difference is that Ink Plus is a credit card and Ink Bold With Ultimate Rewards is a charge card. Charge cards often give bigger spending power, but require full payment every month or else you get hit with high fees and penalties. Credit cards generally have pre-set limits, but if you need to carry a balance, the cost is less (though still not a bargain). Both sign-up bonuses are the same at 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points, and you can get the sign-up bonus on both cards for a potential 100,000-point payday, which I recently did in my last round of applications.
In the past 11 months I’ve actually gotten the 50,000-point sign-up bonus three times: one Ink Exclusives card (now discontinued), an Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards and most recently the Ink Plus. My Ink Plus application was not approved right away – I had to call the reconsideration line and explain that I needed the Ink Plus card to get the flexibility to pay over time if I ever needed it. Which card is better? It really depends on your needs, but I prefer the Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards simply because I always pay my balances off every month (or else the value of the points earned is negated by the interest paid), though the Ink Plus makes sense to those whose businesses may need the flexibility to carry balances from time to time.
Basic = No Annual Fee With Lucrative Earning Potential
Ink Cash and Classic are the no annual fee cards that come with a 20,000-point sign-up bonus for the Ink Classic and $200 cash back for the Ink Cash. They also offer 5x bonus spending on office supplies/cell/internet/landline/TV, but the Ink Cash rewards 2x points on gas and restaurants while the the Ink Classic’s 2x is gas and hotels. On top of that Ink Classic points accrue into Ultimate Rewards vs. cash back only on the Ink Cash card.
In general, the Cash card is geared towards non-travelers, though cardholders actually earn their cash back in the form of Ultimate Rewards points which you can still use for travel; and the Ink Classic is travel focused, giving two LOUNGE club passes per year. If you have a card that’s enrolled in Ultimate Rewards (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards or Ink Plus), Chase will allow you to combine points between all of your accounts (see a screenshot of my Ultimate Rewards login page below), even if one of your Ultimate Rewards cards is not a “premium” card. So if you have either the Ink Cash or the Ink Classic you can combine those points into a premium account that will make them transferable to partners. The main difference to note between the two cards is in their 2x category spending bonuses, so when deciding which one to get, it would be most useful to determine whether you’ll be spending more on restaurants or hotels, and that will help you choose which card to apply for in order to maximize your earning.
Chase will allow a personal and business card to be approved in the same day, so if you are getting a personal card, you may want to think about one of these Ink products. You can use your social security number and apply as a sole proprietor even if your business is in its very early stages without revenue. It’s always better to keep any potential business expenses separate from your personal spend and the banks realize that, even for the smallest of businesses.