Maximizing Ultimate Rewards With The Chase Ink Credit Cards

by on March 13, 2013 · 35 comments

in Chase, Credit Cards, TPG Contributors, Ultimate Rewards

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Chase Ink credit cards has expired. View the current offers here – Ink Plus, Ink Bold, Ink Cash.  

Today, TPG contributor Jason Steele takes a close look at the Chase Ink family of cards and how you can maximize their huge earning potential by educating yourself about their category spending bonuses and annual limits.

As readers know, the Chase Ink family of cards – including the Ink Bold, Ink Plus and Ink Cash and Ink Classic  –  represents one of the most outstanding arsenals of travel credit cards to earn free travel because the points are earned into Ultimate Rewards, which offers many redemption opportunities like transfers to Hyatt and United (for Plus and Bold cardholders). But since the withdrawal of certain prepaid products from a particular office supply store, where the Ink cards earn you 5x points per $1, it has become more challenging than ever to earn as many points as possible from these cards.

With so much at stake, here are the basics towards maximizing the amount of Ultimate Rewards points you can rake in with this family of products:

1. Maximizing the sign-up bonuses: You can get them for all four Ink cards.  Ink is available in four flavors: Ink Plus, Ink Bold, Ink Cash, and Ink Classic. Of course, the Plus and the Bold are currently offering 50,000-point sign-up bonuses when you spend $5,000 in 3 months (it used to be $10,000 and may go back to that level at some point) and have $50,000 annual limits on 5x and 2x category purchases. With Ink Classic and Ink Cash the sign up bonuses are 20,000 points each when you spend $3,000 in 3 months, and the 2x and 5x category limits are $25,000 per year. These are business cards, but you can apply with your social security number as a sole proprietor if you have or are planning to start a small business of your own (see this post for more information). Even though these are business cards, each application will be a hard inquiry on your credit, so it is critical to make sure your score is strong and you pay off your bills on-time and in-full every month, or else you’ll be hit with finance charges that will easily negate the value of the points earned- especially on the charge card products, like the Ink Bold.

Why get just one Ink card when you can get all four?

Why get just one Ink card when you can get all four?

While the returns diminish with the Ink Classic and the Ink Cash cards, it still may be worth the effort to sign up for these cards. For one, these cards have no annual fee, so you can hold these for the long term with no costs. And although the Ink Classic and the Ink Cash cards do not, by themselves, offer point transfers to hotel and airline programs, cardholders can transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned on these cards to other the Ultimate Rewards accounts of their other Chase cards that offer this option, Ink Bold, Ink Plus, Sapphire Preferred, and Palladium.

Additionally, it is also possible to get the same product more than once for multiple businesses. You would need to have a separate Employer Identification Number, or at least a separate business name, but it is possible. The advantage here is both the additional sign-up bonuses as well as the ability to spend beyond annual limits of a single card on purchases in both the 5x and 2x bonus categories.

2. Understanding and maximize the annual bonus category limits. The Ink cards all have two separate annual limits on bonus spending categories. Ink Bold and Plus have $50,000 annual limits on qualifying purchases with the 5x categories and a separate $50,000 annual limit on eligible purchases within the 2x categories so if you maxed both out, you’d be spending a cool $100,000 and earning 350,000 points total on each card. The bonus limits are separate for each account.

Ink Bold feat

You could earn up to 250,000 bonus points by maxing out the Ink Plus and Ink Bold’s bonus spending categories.

Likewise, the Ink Classic and Ink Cash cards have $25,000 limits for 2x and 5x purchases, so if you were to spend a total of $50,000 maxing out both bonus categories, you’d earn a total of 175,000 points. With all cards, once these limits are met, purchases continue to earn one point per dollar spent.

Most importantly, these limits are based on the account anniversary, not the calendar year. So if you received approval for your Ink card in July, that account’s annual limit will reset on the first statement closing date of the following July.

3. Play by the rules, but don’t be afraid to maximize bonus categories. People are a little freaked out that Chase will consider it abuse to earn hundreds of thousands of points with the 5x categories on their Ink cards, just as they cracked down on those who used automated scripts to generate 10 points per transaction on the Freedom card when that benefit was still available via the Chase Exclusives program.

One of the Ink cards' best features is their bonus spending categories.

I have read countless people proclaim in forums and on blogs that spending only in the 5x category might also be considered abuse that can get your account shut down. In contrast, I have searched far and wide to find any documented case of this and I have found none.

Furthermore, this passive observation is consistent with both my experiences and several firsthand accounts of those making the vast majority of purchases in the 5x category. Our experiences show that this behavior will not, by itself, cause you to run afoul of Chase.  For example, one person told me that he had made $50,000 of mobile phone purchases for his business without problems (Yes, I know that the terms exclude equipment purchases but bonuses are computed based on merchant category codes, not the specific items purchased and it worked for him). I also have firsthand knowledge of others who have maxed out the $50,000 annual limit on purchases from office supply stores and Internet services.

I am a big fan of Chase and make many purchases across multiple Chase cards. Yet I also maximize my earning of Ultimate Rewards points by making qualifying 5x and 2x purchases on my Ink cards while putting other spending on my Sapphire Preferred in its bonus earning categories, and other cards as is optimal to earn rewards. Even though the vast majority of purchases on my Ink cards were in the 5x and 2x categories, I have never had a problem. Chase places annual points earning limits on these products for a reason, and cardholders are well within the terms of these products, even when they reach these limits.

By understanding the nuances of the Ink family of reward cards, you can earn as many Ultimate Rewards points as possible. Stay tuned for my next post in which I’ll be discussing various facets of the Ink cards including specific strategies on maximizing those bonus categories.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Hoas

    Dear Points Guy,

    Can I apply for all 3 cards and get all three bonuses ?

  • John

    Have the Business Ink Bold and also Citi Thank You Points Premier. Both have annual fees due this month (did churn a year ago). We are getting ready to buy a house so will postpone next churn until after that process. My credit rating is around 760.

    What are my options to keep points or best redemption (about 170K combined). The fees are around $220 combined? Have not called each card yet and have a little time to decide.

    THANKS Mr. Points Guy!


  • NS

    It seems as though no one ever addresses the terms that clearly state “I agree this is a business account and shall only be used for business purposes and not for personal, family or household use.” Buying personal items (and gift cards) would then not be “playing by the rules”

  • brian(J)

    I applied for a received the Sapphire and the Ink Bold about a month apart. Then 3 months later I got the Ink Plus. I also have the Hyatt, United, and Priority cards from Chase. I had and closed the Brit Air as well and my wife has all those as well.

    I am now considering how to go about closing the Sapphire and the Ink Bold. I have a legit biz that generates about 10,000 UR points/month but there is no way I could ever get close to maximizing any spend category with one card.

  • Jason Steele

    How can Chase know or prove what you used your purchases for?

  • Jason Steele

    Certainly call and ask for the annual fee to be waived, it can’t hurt. Beyond that, you could transfer the points and close the cards, but I found find the annual fees to be worth retaining the flexibility to transfer to the best partner for your future needs.

  • Jason Steele

    There are four Ink cards, and you can receive all of them. I don’t think that you would receive them all on the same day, however.

  • RT

    I am an officer in a non-profit, and I frequently buy items for the charity on my personal card, and am reimbursed later. Do you think its possible to get a business card using the non-profit as the business. I don’t own the non-profit.

    Related question would be – is it possible to get a business card with the name of the company you work for (but have no ownership interest in), to use to cover your work expenses? I once got an invitation from Amex to apply for a business card like had the name of the company where I work. Guess I should have tried it then to see if it would work.

  • Niobe Lathis

    When would it ever be a good value to transfer to United? Logically, the best deal you can get on United would be a 20,000 mile ticket… such tickets are rarely priced higher than $180 which would be the threshold for using miles vs ultimate points.

    Is my logic sound?

  • Ranron22

    I’m an employee of a non-profit (a church) and had no trouble getting both Ink Bold and Ink Plus.

  • Jason Steele

    I have used business cards for company travel, but I usually just put my name on the card, not the company’s. Same would go for a non-profit.

  • Jason Steele

    Look for awards for last minute travel and premium class international flights. I can see 4-8 cents per point/mile for those redemption. Multiply that by 5 and you have some serious credit card rewards!

  • Jfbruin2

    B-class to Europe…100,000 miles for $10,000+ retail value.

  • Liquidusx

    Are there Visa and Mastercard versions of each card? If so, I believe Chase counts those as separate products for bonus purposes. I didn’t see an option on the application but I got a Mastercard version of the Ink Bold.

  • thepointsguy

    The inks are all MasterCard, to my knowledge

  • thepointsguy

    Business/first and last minute trips can get you many cents per point

  • JakePB

    Jason, although I’m guessing this will be covered in an upcoming post, I have a question I’m hoping you’ll answer. I am about to purchase some electronics from Staples and want to maximize using my Ink. Should I go in-store and buy Staples GCs and then use those to purchase via the UR Mall to double dip? Not certain how to work it! Thanks.

  • SC

    Is there a way to combine a personal Sapphire Preferred account’s UR points with those from a business Ink Bold? It seems like you cannot add the Ink Bold to your personal Chase account… Thanks!

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  • Jorge E.

    Not true, just recently with 20,000 points I purchased a $2400 1 way ticket from Lima, Peru to Mcallen, TX. Now that is miles with a lot of value.

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  • rockingsd

    Hi, have started following these articles recently. Thanks for great articles sharing knowledge. I recently applied for a Chase INK Plus card, and am awaiting its arrival. I see that you have been mentioning, the 50K bonus points are worth like 1000$. Can you please let me know the best way to redeem these bonus points, once I qualify for the required spend and get them in my account. Thanks.

  • WC

    We already opened Chase Business Exclusives Ink Rewards in the past. Can we still open Ink Bold Business Card and qualify for this bonus?

  • studd

    I have an Ink card that claims that I earn Ink rewards or Ink Cash. Can I transfer these to my or my partners Ink Ultimate Rewards? I do not see that option offered.

  • workaround

    I’ve seen a similar question, but no answer to this: Can reward points sitting in an Ink Cash or Ink Classic account be converted/transferred into frequent flyer or other more useable Ultimate Reward points? We have a new Chase Sapphire Pref card, but bonus points won’t be awarded in time for our travel plans (MileagePlus). My boss is willing to let me use the 60,000 points in their Ink cash now and I transfer Ultimate Rewards points to replace them when I earn them. Her Ink Cash acct website doesn’t look to have the transfer options that my Sapphire Pref does. What to do?

  • workaround

    Referring to my original post below: boss is willing to open another acct to accommodate me getting her reward points at this time (extraordinary, huh?). I don’t want her to do that, but if it’s the ONLY option… I’d like to know. Again, best to work with the accounts that exist now.

  • workaround

    Sorry if this re-posts – I hit refresh and it looked like my comments didn’t post.
    * I’ve seen a similar question, but no answer. I’m hoping there’s a way to convert/transfer Ink Cash reward points into MileagePlus or useable Ultimate Rewards points. SITUATION: We have a new Sapphire Pref card and have met the spending criteria but points won’t post in time for our travel plans. My extraordinary boss is will to transfer 60,000 points from her Ink Cash for me to use now (MileagePlus), then I “reimburse” the Ultimate Rewards points when they appear on my account. I can clearly do the transfer back, but her Ink Cash account website doesn’t appear to have the “manage Ult Rewards” or transfer options I have thru Sapph Pref. She’s also willing to open a new acct to facilitate this, but I don’t want that – just use existing accounts. Any way to accomplish this?

  • SC

    I just wanted to share with everybody that you can combine the corporate/business account (Chase Ink Bold) with personal accounts (checking/savings, Freedom, Sapphire Preferred) to share/combine points. What happens is all the accounts get moved into a single username/password to login to the website.

  • Eddie

    Just canceled my Ink Bold after 11 months. The best retention offer I could get was 10,000 points for $5K spend in 90 days. I averaged about $1,200/month of real spend on the card.

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  • mizliz

    SC, how is this done?

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