Maximizing Ultimate Rewards Points With Chase Checking Accounts & Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold Combo
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available.
Last week I wrote about maximizing point-earning with the Chase Freedom card's rotating quarterly 5x spend categories. The trick is to then transfer those "cash back" points into valuable Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card/Ink Bold Ultimate Rewards points which can be transferred to United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak. You do this by logging on to ultimaterewards.com -> Manage Ultimate Rewards -> Combine points, and send your Freedom points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred®/ Ink Bold account. (The Chase Freedom is no longer open to new applicants)
To further maximize Chase earning, you can get still more points by having Chase checking accounts (which are free if you have a direct deposit set up or $1,500 average daily balance) through the Chase Exclusives program.
Once you have a checking account you are eligible for an additional Freedom bonus of 10% on all purchases plus a 10 point per transaction bonus. So even a $1 pack of gum will earn you 12 points, a $20 shirt you'd get 32 points, $100 purchase would be 120 points and so on.
Most people who have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card/Freedom/Ink Bold + Checking account put almost all expenses on the Freedom card except:
1) Large dining and travel purchases, which get 2 x points plus a 7% bonus with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. A $100 meal would net 214 points with Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card versus 120 points with Freedom.
2) Spend at office supply stores, cable and wireless service, and landline communications since they get 5 points per dollar with Ink Bold. Gas and hotels get 2 points per dollar (though I'd put hotels on my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to also get the 7% annual dividend).
Also, if you got the old Ink Bold card before they instituted the 5x/2x spend categories in late November 2011, you should be enrolled in the Ink Bold Exclusives program which offers a 20% bonus on all spend with a 7,500-point bonus at $25,000 and another 15,000 point bonus at $50,000 and another 25,000 points at $100,000. I was able to get this card before the changes and I've been told that I will be rolled into the new Ink Bold card in April. I am going to apply for the new Ink Bold card to hopefully get the 50,000 point bonus on that card, since several TPG readers have informed me that it's possible.
I know this sounds confusing, but the bottom line is that Chase is investing heavily in their rewards programs and are actively encouraging creditworthy individuals to not only have personal credit cards, but also checking accounts and business accounts. While I generally don't recommend putting all of your points in one basket, Chase points are transferable to numerous programs and can even be redeemed for "any flight, anytime" at 1.25 cents a piece so it's a good base program to have. As a Chase personal, business, credit card, checking and auto loan customer, I also find having multiple accounts in good standing helps Chase to approve me for more cards, which helps maximize my yearly points accrual.
If you have no Chase cards right now, but want to create this power combination, I'd recommend first getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card which currently has a 50,000-point bonus after $4,000 spend within 3 months and the $95 annual fee waived the first year.
You can also apply for the Ink Bold, which also has a 50,000-point bonus after $5,000 in spend within 3 months, on the same day - you'll likely get auto-denied, but you can call the business reconsideration line (8am-8pm EST) and explain that you want the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for personal spend and Ink Bold for business. Just make sure you can spend the $8,000 within three months (here are some ways to maximize spend) and if you can't handle it, then wait at least one month before applying for the next card. You can then apply for the Ink Bold and Freedom on the same day since the Freedom currently comes with 20,000 bonus points (which some have had bumped to 30,000 by simply asking once you get the card) after $500 spend within 3 months and has no annual fee. Update: The Chase Freedom card's sign-up bonus is currently 10,000 points.
At any point you can open your Chase checking account, which will not negatively impact your credit (they'll just run a soft inquiry to verify your identity). Once you have all of these accounts open, you can confirm that you are enrolled in the Chase Exclusives program by sending a secure message by logging into Chase.com and then clicking the Secure Message Center -> Send New Message. They are generally very response and will write back within hours confirming your enrollment.
Then, spend as usual and watch the Ultimate Rewards points rack up. Remember, you can transfer your Freedom points to your Sapphire Preferred/Ink Bold accounts (or to anyone else's) by logging into ultimaterewards.com -> Manage Ultimate Rewards -> Combine points.
I've been a Chase customer for a long time (they have great coverage in major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami) and I love their online banking software, including the ability to deposit checks by taking a picture of them on your mobile phone.
As I wrote about yesterday, it's important to have solid everyday point earning opportunities because you shouldn't bank on sign-up bonuses fueling your account balances forever!