This is a post in my series ranking the top travel credit cards from the major banks. Other posts include: My Ranking of the Top American Express Travel Credit Cards, My Ranking of the Top Citi Credit Card Offers, My Ranking of the Top US Bank Travel Credit Cards.
Kind of like the weather across much of the US this past week, the credit card market has been heating up lately, and not surprisingly, a lot of the top offers are from Chase. With so many options out there and so many reader emails asking me my opinions on each, I thought I’d lay out the top Chase consumer and business credit card offers of the moment all in one place taking into account not only sign-up bonuses but also long-term earning potential, other perks, annual fees and the expiration date of each offer.
Before I get to the cards themselves, I thought I’d take a moment to answer some of the more frequently asked questions.
Just how many Chase cards can you have?
The great thing is, there’s no set limit. When Chase evaluates you for a credit card offer, instead of looking at how many cards you have, they look at you as a consumer with an overall credit line that you can shift back and forth among credit card accounts – both personal and business.
How much credit will Chase let you get?
This is a complicated question. It depends on your unique personal situation and credit conditions, and no one can tell you for sure. The way Chase determines your credit limit involves a mixture of automated computer systems and personal evaluation by their representatives and credit analysts to make a decision based on your credit worthiness. The beauty of this setup is that even if a “computer” says no and you don’t get approved instantly online, you can always call their reconsideration lines – 1-888-245-0625 (personal cards) and 1-800-453-9719 (business cards) – and talk to a live credit analyst to discuss your applications.
Chase is well aware that they have a lot of competitive credit card products out there on the market and their main goal is to get as much of your spending as possible, so getting the cards you need might just be a matter of discussing with Chase why you need that particular credit card as well as outlining what you’re going to do for them, like bringing in some of your expenditures from other credit issuers to Chase. It also never hurts to understand the benefits of the card you’re applying for so that when asked why you need it when you have so many other cards you have a ready answer that’s better than just the sign-up bonus
Can you apply for two cards in one day?
Yes, the answer is many TPG readers (myself included) have reported success doing so. Would I recommend more than that? No. You want to take a long-term approach and make it seem like you’re not absolutely desperate for credit.
Up until this point, Chase has never made me close a card in order to open a new one, but I always keep that option in my back pocket. Chase has, however, allowed me to shift around credit lines to get more credit on certain cards, like when I was recently batting for the $30,000 spending threshold on the British Airways Visa for the “Travel Together” companion ticket, I was able to shift some of the larger limits on my Ink cards to my BA card in order to put some large purchases on it and hit the threshold.
Although like a lot of people I love the credit card sign up bonuses, I’m a big Chase fan in general with multiple checking accounts and even an auto loan because I believe in maintaining a healthy long-term relationship with Chase through a diverse range of accounts.
So Many Offers to Choose From!
Here are the top reward credit card offers from Chase at the moment with my best effort to rank them based on overall value. No one card is perfect for everyone, so I’ll do my best to peg an overall value of the offer and card potential and also give some variables that may make the card more or less valuable to you so you have the information you need to make the best decision for your circumstances.
I don’t have a crystal ball for future offers, but I’ll also give my predictions on whether each bonus will increases or decrease over time, so even if you are going for multiple cards, you can make a plan that allows you to maximize your sign up bonuses.
You’ll see that I list both business and personal cards. Chase is very flexible about allowing individuals to open business credit cards and filing as sole proprietorship with their own social security, and even if you think you might open a business in the future, it’s a good idea to separate your personal expenses from your business ones.
Chase offers a lot of other small business resources since they want to bring you on as a client from the very beginning, which is great because it essentially doubles some of the bonus opportunities you’re able to take advantage of.
Your valuations will differ from mine. That’s because each redemption is different. It really all depends on what you spend money on and what you hope to use your points for. So please feel free to share your comments, but understand I’m not trying to guarantee anyone they’ll get exactly these values. It’s really about how savvy you are with your points – both earning and redeeming them. I tried to value these points conservatively, and a lot of people will be able to get a lot more than what I’ve outlined below – and I welcome your feedback on your own use of points.
Also note, when making these calculations, I am not including the benchmark base spending of 1 mile/point per dollar spent, just anything above that, for instance .25 Avios per dollar or 1.14 with the Sapphire Preferred thanks to bonus spending categories and the 7% annual dividend.
So without further ado, here are my rankings of the top Chase credit card offers of the moment, with rationale for each explianed below:
1) Ink Bold and Ink Plus: $687.50-$7,000 in value
2) British Airways Visa: $1,612-$2,612
3) Southwest Visa: $900-$2,000 (depending on Companion Pass qualification)
4) Fairmont Visa: $950
5) Sapphire Preferred: $860-$1,000
6) Ritz-Carlton Visa: $905
7) United Explorer: $900-$1,300
8) Hyatt Visa: $700-$1,000
9) Priority Club: $520-$750
10) Marriott Premier: $500
11) United Club: $225-$775
12) Freedom: $340-$680
Note: Many of these are my affiliate links, but to the best of my knowledge I have highlighted the best offers out there. If anyone knows of better public offers, please share them and I will update the post with them. As always, this is a free site, so I greatly appreciate it if you use my links.
1. Ink Bold and Ink Plus
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months
Category Spending Bonuses: 5x points on up to $50,000 at office supplies/cell phone/internet/landline/TV; 2x on up to $50,000 at gas stations and hotels
Card Perks: 1.25 cents per point when redeeming for airfare, hotel, car rentals and cruises with pay-with points; no foreign transaction fees, 2 lounge passes per year; Ultimate Rewards shopping portal offers lucrative spending bonuses.
Transfer Partners: British Airways, United, Southwest, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, Amtrak.
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $95
Value Ranges: Since points can be redeemed at 1.25 cents each for travel and you’re accruing 55,000 points by meeting the spending requirement, you will get at least $687.50 in value. If you can max out the 5x and 2x spending categories, you’re looking at 350,000 points altogether per card. So if you were to spend $50,000 on each bonus category with one of these cards, you’d earn 300,000 bonus points plus the 50,000-point sign-up bonus (in addition to the 100,000 “base” points), equivalent to $4,375. I personally value my Ultimate Rewards points closer to 2 cents per point since I get great values redeeming for premium rewards with United and Hyatt in particular. You’re looking at $7,000 in value by maxing out all the card benefits. So the value range will be $687.50-$7,000 depending on how much spending you can put on the card. And that’s just for a single card. Remember, though, it’s possible to have both cards – you can always get one now and one down the road and double your earning potential.
Expiration: None from my understanding, no short term changes planned to this offer.
2. British Airways Visa
Sign-up Ponus: Potential 100,000 Avios. 50,000 Avios after $1,000 in spend in 3 months, 25,000 Avios after $10,000 spend in 12 months, and 25,000 more Avios after $20,000 total spend within 12 months
Spending Bonuses: 1.25 Avios per $1 on all purchases, 2.5 Avios per $1 on all British Airways purchases
Card Perks: “Travel Together” companion ticket with $30,000 spend per calendar year; 10% discount on British Airways purchases; Chip & Signature technology; no foreign transaction fees.
Transfer Partners: Can’t transfer your points to other programs, but can redeem them on BA’s Oneworld partners like American, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, as well as non-alliance partners such as Aer Lingus and Alaska
Annual Fee: $95
Value Ranges: There are no fixed-value redemptions, so there really is a huge range here. Relatively speaking, for short-haul redemptions using Avios, it’s not uncommon to get up to 3 cents per Avios in value even for economy awards, but on certain redemptions like transatlantic awards on British Airways and American, there are steep surcharges and fees which bring down the value of awards, so I conservatively value those redemptions at about 1.5 cents per Avios.
If you can hit the $30,000 in spend to get the Travel Together ticket, I value that minimally at $1,000 and potentially much more depending on whether you redeem for business or first class awards.
Variables: This card is clearly weighted toward heavy spenders, if you struggle with meeting minimum spend and hitting these thresholds, you may want to steer away from it. But even if you get the 50,000 Avios with $1,000 in 3 months, that is more than enough for 3 roundtrip awards from New York to Miami on American. I value that at about $750. Subtracting the $95 annual fee, that would give this card at least $655 in value. If you can hit the $30,000 in spend for the companion ticket you earn 137,500 Avios including the full bonus. Subtracting the standard 1 Avios/dollar spending, your “bonus” Avios would be a total of 107,500. At 1.5 cents apiece (conservatively), you’re getting $1,612.50 in value plus an extra $1,000 for the companion ticket for a total of $2,612.50. That’s my low-end valuation. On $30,000 in spend that’s just under a 9% return in value, which is pretty incredible.
Expiration: February 27, 2013.
3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa
Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months
Spending Bonuses: 2 points per $1 on Southwest and AirTran, 1 point per $1 on everything else
Card Perks: Sign-up bonus points count toward Companion Pass qualification
Annual Fee: $69 not waived
Value Ranges: At most you’ll get 1.8 cents per point in Wanna Get Away fares. So 50,000 points is $900. The Companion Pass is difficult to value, but even if you just use three times a year to save $250 per itinerary, that’s $750 in value. I know people who use these passes for over $2,000 in value per year, and if you can snag the Companion Pass in January, it will essentially be good for 2 years until the end of 2014, so you’re easily looking at between $1,500-$5,000 in value.
Variables: Limited international route network, no first class on Southwest, first class on AirTran not impressive. If you’re looking to redeem your miles for international and premium awards, Southwest may not be for you.
Expiration: December 6, 2012 (tomorrow!), though the 50,000-point sign-up bonuses may kick around outside of the affiliate networks for a little while.
4. Fairmont Visa
Sign-up Bonus: 2 free nights with free breakfast at any Fairmont in the world when you spend $1,000 in 3 months
Spending Bonuses: 5 points per $1 at Fairmont hotels; 2 points per $1 on airlines, car rentals and mass transit and commuting expenses.
Card Perks: Automatic Fairmont Premier elite status, 2 free airline lounge visit passes per year, 1 free night at any Fairmont every anniversary of cardmembership when you spend $12,000 or more, no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Free: $95
Value Ranges: Fairmonts tend to be pretty high-end and the stays include breakfast, so I’ll conservatively value a free night at $350. That means you get $700 in value with the sign-up and minimum spend bonus, then another $200 in value by spending $12,000 within a year. Add on $25 each to the two lounge passes and your value on this card is around $950.
5. Sapphire Preferred
Sign-up bonus: 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months
Spending Bonuses: 2 points per $1 on travel (flights, hotels, car rentals, subway, parking, taxis, etc.) and restaurants (basically any food establishment and catering) with no maximum caps
Card Perks: 1.25 cents per point when redeeming with pay-with-points for airfare, hotel, car rentals and cruises; 7% annual points dividend even on points already redeemed; no foreign transaction fees; extra earning potential through the Ultimate Rewards earning mall; Ultimate Rewards Exclusives experience redemptions
Transfer Partners: British Airways, United, Southwest, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, Amtrak.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Value Ranges: The 43,000 bonus points you’d earn meeting the minimum spending requirement plus the bonus are worth a minimum of $537.50 when redeemed for travel with pay with points. However, I’d put Hyatt and United redemptions at 2 cents per point, so you’re looking at $860 at least, and if you spend a lot of money on travel and dining, like I do, the 2.14 points per $1 total earning on those (including the 7% annual benefit) puts your earning potential even higher.
Variables: This card is really valuable for those who eat out and travel a lot, and even those who spend a lot on mass transit (which counts as travel). Say you spend $12,000 per year on travel and dining. That’s an extra 13,680 points per year (on top of the 12,000 base points of 1 point per $1), which is $171 dollars more to put toward pay-with-points travel; or $273.60 with those 2-cent-per-point redemptions. But scale up from there if you spend more on travel and dining.
Expiration: No expiration, but it used to be 50,000 points, so if it does change I hope it increases, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.
6. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
Sign-up Bonus: 70,000 points received after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, enough for a complimentary night stay at any participating Ritz-Carlton.
Spending Bonuses: Earn 5 points per $1 spent at The Ritz-Carlton hotels, 2 points per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies and restaurants.
Card Perks: $100 hotel credit for qualifying dining, spa, and hotel recreational activities during every two-night stay or longer; upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level three times annually and enjoy a dedicated concierge and complimentary food and beverage presentations; automatic Gold elite status your first year, which entitles you to complimentary room upgrades, priority late checkout, a 25% bonus on Ritz-Carlton Rewards membership base points and more; $200 annual credit for airline incidentals, such as baggage fees and in-flight meals; complimentary airport lounge access to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide; no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $395
Value Ranges: That 70,000 points is enough for a free night at any Ritz-Carlton (or two at low tier properties), so I’ll put a value of about $600 on it, then add in the $100 hotel credit for 2 stays a year, an upgrade to a club level room at about $100 per stay, the $200 airline fee and lounge access at $200 per year and you’re looking at an overall value of about $1,300 minus the $395 annual fee and you get $905.
7. United Explorer
Sign-up Bonus: 30,000 miles with $1,000 spend in 3 months plus 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user and an additional 10,000 bonus miles every calendar year you spend $25,000.
Spending Bonuses: 2 points per $1 on United, 1 point per $1 on everything else
Card Perks: First checked bag free, priority boarding, two annual United Cllub passes, primary auto rental coverage and purchase protection.
Annual Fee: $95 waived for first year
Value Range: I value United miles at 2 cents each. I think they’re the most valuable miles out there thanks to low fees, one-way awards, and plenty of great Star Alliance partners. Scoring 35,000 miles as a bonus is a no brainer (just be sure you spend at least $1,001 since the additional cardholder must also make a purchase). At 2 cents each that’s $700 and if you spent enough to earn the extra 10,000-mile bonus, that would be worth an additional $200 for a total of $900. Plus lounge passes at my valuation of $50 for two, and then add in free checked bags for you and one companion at $50 for the year (let’s say you only check 2 bags) gets us up to $1,000 in value. Also certain MileagePlus members – including myself as a Platinum – might get a better offer such as 50,000 miles for $1,000 in 3 months, plus 5,000 for an authorized user plus 10,000 for spending $20,000 for a potential 65,000 mile bonus – $1,300 in my valuation.
Variables: If you don’t have United elite status, this card could save you money on every flight where you check a bag. United Club passes cost $50 per day, but I’d peg them at a value of $25 conservatively (what I’d pay for lounge access). Primary auto rental insurance can save you around $20 a day if you don’t have coverage otherwise and would need to purchase it.
Expiration: The 30,000-mile offer probably isn’t going to get any lower. I might wait to get targeted with a better offer because a potential 65,000-mile payday is so much better, if you’re not looking for United miles in a hurry, I’d wait.
8. Hyatt Card
Sign-up Bonus: Two free nights at any Hyatt in the world when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Those nights are in a suite for Diamond members of Hyatt Gold Passport. For existing Platinum members it includes 2 suite upgrades good for up to a week each on paid stays.
Spending Bonuses: 3 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent with your Hyatt Card at all Hyatt properties; 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies; 1 point per $1 on everything else
Card Perks: Automatic Platinum status, 2 stays/5 nights’ credit toward elite status at $20,000 annual spend, additional 3 stays/5 nights at $40,000 annual spend; one free night at a Category 1-4 each cardmembership anniversary; no foreign transaction fees.
Transfer Partners: None (Hyatt points can be transferred to airlines but at unfavorable ratios at least compared to comparable Starwood, Amex Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points).
Annual Fee: $75, though many Hyatt Gold Passport members have been offered a version with the fee waived when making a booking on the Gold Passport site and clicking on the credit card link through there.
Value Ranges: Varies based on your elite status at the time of application and how much you value suites. I’d gladly pay $150 a night extra at top hotels for a suite, so for me being a Diamond, that’s like $300 additional in value. The two suite upgrades for existing Platinums could be worth easily $125 each, or $250 altogether at the very least. These are good at any category hotel including Hyatt’s top-tier properties like Park Hyatt Maldives and Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. Conservatively speaking, I think it would be easy to use the free nights for two $350/night stays, reaping $700 minimum, plus the add-ons. The free annual night at a Category 1-4 is worth up to around $150, which negates the $75 annual fee for the first 2 years. The 2x points at restaurants and on airline tickets isn’t particularly great considering you get 2.14 points per $1 using the Sapphire Preferred.
Expiration: I don’t expect this offer to change anytime soon. I think Chase is testing waiving the first annual fee, so that might become the standard, but I don’t see Hyatt making this offer less lucrative. If you don’t need the free nights soon and want to wait on this one, I don’t think you will be missing out.
9. Priority Club Select Visa
Sign-up Bonus: 60,000 points after first use (80,000 targeted offers are frequently sent out, so check your email before applying)
Spending Bonuses: 5 points per $1 at Priority Club hotels; 2 points per $1 at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; 1 point per $1 on everything else
Card Perks: Automatic Platinum status, 10% rebate on Priority Club point redemptions up to 100,000 points back each year; annual free night e-certificate
Annual Fee: $49 waived the first year.
Value Ranges: Those 60,000 points can be purchased at $420 directly from Priority Club and the free night from your first anniversary for another $150 or so minus the $49 annual fee, you’d be getting just over $520 in value in the first year on this card- more if you redeem points and get the 10% back.
10. Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in first 3 months of account opening plus 1 free night stay in a Category 1-5 property
Spending Bonuses: Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Marriott locations; 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies & restaurants; 1 point for every $1 spent on other purchases
Card Perks: Smart Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees, 1 free night stay in a Category 1-4 property each year upon account anniversary, automatic Silver Elite status and 15 nights’ credit toward elite status.
Annual Fee: $85 waived the first year.
Value Ranges: I’d value those 50,000 sign-up bonus points at about $350, and the free night in a Category 1-4 hotel at another $150, so you’re getting $500 in value the first year and an additional $150 or so each year thanks to that anniversary free night.
Expiration: None for now.
11. United MileagePlus Club Card
Sign-up Bonus: $95 statement credit after first purchase.
Spending Bonuses: 1.5 United miles on all purchases.
Card Perks: First and second checked bags free, no foreign transaction fees, Hyatt Platinum status, priority check in, security, boarding and baggage as if you were an elite flyer, United Club access, no close-in booking fees on award tickets saving you $75 per booking.
Annual Fee: $395 (Though there seems to be a targeted offer for this card with the first year’s annual fee waived that United elites have received.)
Value Range: United Club access is $475 (it goes up to $500 on January 1, 2013) plus $50 initiation for $525 total. So with that value plus the $95 statement credit minus the $395 annual fee, that’s $225 in value plus $100 in bag perks and $150 in close-in booking fees for $475 ($775 if you get the first year waived offer).
Variables: If you were to spend $10,000 on the card in a year, you would basically get a bonus 5,000 miles (above the usual earning rate of 1 mile per $1) valued at about $100 (since I value United miles at 2 cents each), and then let’s say you check two bags twice over the year for another $100 in value, plus book two close-in award tickets at $75 each. Your total value would be $500.
Sign-up Bonus: $100 cash back when you spend $500 in 3 months
Spending Bonuses: Quarterly rotating categories where you can earn 5 points per $1 up to a maximum of $1,500 per quarter.
Card Perks: 0% intro APR for 15 month
Annual fee: $0
Value Ranges: You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points you earn with the Freedom card at a value of 1 cent per point for travel, so 10,000 points = $100 (or more if you transfer to a Sapphire/Ink account). 30,000 5x points a year (minus 6,000 base spend to get there) = an additional $240 in value for a total of $340- $680 in value (depending on being able to transfer points to Sapphire Preferred/Ink Bold for premium transfers0)
Variables: If you have one of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards such as the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold, you can combine the Ultimate Rewards points you earn with your Freedom with those and then transfer them to any of Ultimate Rewards’ transfer partners.
Expiration: 10,000 points has been the base bonus, but I got this under a limited-time 30,000-point offer. I have also seen 20,000-point bonuses, so the chance of its going up is good. It might be worth waiting to get this card until the bonus goes up, though there’s an opportunity cost on not being able to max out the 5x bonus spending categories.