The power of the Chase Trifecta: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred and Freedom Unlimited

May 11, 2022

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Ever since we started covering the points-and-miles game here at The Points Guy, there’s been a continuous trend: Airlines and hotels have consistently devalued their programs and increased the number of miles and points needed for flights or award stays.

Related: Delta devalues SkyMiles again, partner award rates skyrocket

There’s still value to be found within the many rewards programs, but things like dynamic pricing, fuel surcharges and other costs of booking award flights and stays have gotten ridiculous in some instances. In the wake of all of these airline and hotel loyalty program devaluations — plus the recent increased price of airfare — the fixed-value and transferable currencies you can earn with credit cards have become even more valuable.

There are several major players in the world of rewards cards, but one product family that credit card experts continue to stay loyal to year after year is Chase. There are two main reasons: Chase Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly flexible and valuable, and Chase offers a very pair-able lineup that allows you to maximize both your earning and redemption strategy.

While all have standalone value, combining three complementary Chase cards can unlock a ton of of value across spending categories: the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Let’s walk through each of these cards and how they work together to create a really great credit card strategy.

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In This Post

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith)

Annual fee: $550

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. TPG values this bonus at $1,000.

Rewards rate: Earn 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals and 5 points per dollar on flights when purchasing through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best credit cards on the market. It comes with a great lineup of benefits, a portal redemption bonus and Chase’s fantastic transfer partners. Even if 3 points per dollar may not seem like that competitive of an earning rate, the travel bonus category includes pretty much everything under the sun like airplane tickets, hotels, commuter transportation, parking, ride-sharing and more. And to cover initial costs on those purchases, cardholders are given an annual $300 statement credit for travel spending.

Dining is also pretty broad, including all restaurants and even food-delivery services. On top of that, purchases made with Chase Dining through Ultimate Rewards will earn you as much as 10 points per dollar. These broad categories and boosted rewards rates give lots of opportunity to rack up points for someone who loves to eat out and travel.

The hefty $550 annual fee is offset by the $300 annual travel credit, effectively making the fee $250 per year. You’ll also get a Priority Pass Select membership, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit up to $100 and other perks such as primary rental car coverage, trip cancellation and delay coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, concierge service, access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection and more.

To give cardholders further incentive to carry the card, Chase has consistently added (or extended) benefits on the Sapphire Reserve in recent years. This includes:

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem your points for 50% more value through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and for eligible purchases through the Pay Yourself Back program — which was recently updated with new categories.

Of course, you can also transfer your points to one of 10 airline and three hotel partners to get potentially even more value from your points. With its flexibility and earning power, the Sapphire Reserve headlines Chase’s strong selection of cards and is a great addition to any points-chaser’s wallet.

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Ink Business Preferred

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $95

Sign-up bonus: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after account  opening. TPG values this bonus at $2,000.

Rewards rate: Earn 3 points per dollar on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on up to $150,000 in combined spending each account anniversary year) and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Many people’s spending categories go far beyond just travel and dining, so that’s where the second card in the trifecta comes in. With well-thought-out, broad categories, the Ink Business Preferred’s $150,000 limit is attainable for lots of small businesses, and earning 3 points per dollar on your major purchases is a great money-saver.

Along with the same primary rental car insurance as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Ink Preferred also offers a cellphone protection benefit. The card will pay to replace a damaged cellphone up to three times per year with just a $100 deductible so long as you pay the bill with your card. You can even protect your employees’ cellphones if their lines of service are included on the same bill.

And by paying the bill with the Ink Preferred, you’re earning 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent (until you hit the $150,000 spending threshold detailed above), since phone service is one of the card’s bonus categories.

You don’t need to be the owner of a large business to use this card. Anyone who has business expenses, from CEOs to freelancers and even babysitters and ride-share drivers, can apply for a business credit card.

Read our review of the Ink Business Preferred here.

APPLY HERE: Ink Business Preferred

Chase Freedom Unlimited

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on all purchases on up to $20,000 in your first year. You’ll get an extra $300 cash back if you maximize this offer.

Rewards rate: Earn 5% on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% on dining and drugstores, and an unlimited 1.5% on all other purchases.

Rounding out the trifecta is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This card is consistently an excellent option for anyone who wants a catch-all card for purchases that don’t fall into other bonus categories. And because you can transfer your points into an Ultimate Rewards account, the points earned by the Chase Freedom Unlimited are worth 2 cents each if you link the card to a normal Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

With the ability to earn 5% on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal and 3% on drugstores and dining, as well as 1.5% across all non-bonus spending (plus the extra 1.5% back in your first year) this card is an even better addition to your wallet.

If you carry a card like the Sapphire Preferred and are thinking about moving on, you may want to explore the option of downgrading to the Chase Freedom Unlimited instead of canceling it. And if you have the Sapphire Preferred and want the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll only be eligible for the sign-up bonus on the latter card if it’s been more than 48 months since you last received a Sapphire sign-up bonus.

If it’s been less than 48 months and you want the Reserve now, you can always upgrade your Sapphire Preferred card to the Sapphire Reserve, although you won’t get the sign-up bonus (50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months).

The ability to product-change cards from an issuer can also come in handy if you’re over Chase’s 5/24 rule, which prevents most cardholders from being approved for a credit card application if they’ve opened more than five accounts in the last 24 months. Even without its older sibling cards, this is still one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market today.

Read our review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited here.

APPLY HERE: Chase Freedom Unlimited

How these cards work together

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
Use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a suite on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Each of these cards covers a distinct area of spending and offers its own unique perks as part of a well-rounded credit card strategy. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve for travel and dining purchases, the Ink Business Preferred for any business expenses and the Freedom Unlimited for purchases that won’t earn bonus rewards with your other cards.

All of the points you earn with these three cards can be pooled so that you can redeem them for 1.5 cents each through the Chase travel portal or by transferring to one of Chase’s travel partners. When you’re booking economy award flights or award-night stays at hotels not listed as Chase transfer partners, you’ll likely get the most value by taking advantage of the travel portal redemption bonus. However, if you’re booking a premium-cabin award flight or redeeming for a Hyatt, IHG or Marriott hotel stay, you might want to transfer your points. Just make sure you’re comparing both options so that you’re getting the best value out of your Ultimate Rewards points and not missing out on any exclusive transfer bonuses.

With places continuing to relax restrictions and travel ramping back up, booking trips may be in your near future. These cards can work together to help you earn points on expenses that could be used for an excellent redemption down the road.

Other trifecta card options

Chase has a flexible credit card lineup, and it might make sense to replace one of the cards listed above with another Chase card based on your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

For example, if you already have the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Citi® Double Cash Card that earns at a higher rate on non-bonus spending, it might make more sense for you to have the Chase Freedom Flex instead of the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Another card with no annual fee, the Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly spending categories (activation required). Your bonus spending is capped at $1,500 a quarter, and categories range from gas stations to grocery stores, making it easy to maximize the card. Like the Freedom Unlimited, you’ll also earn 5% back on travel booked through the Chase portal and 3% on dining and drugstores.

Related: Credit card showdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Beginners who are wary of the $550 annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve (or who want to take advantage of a higher sign-up bonus) can replace it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. In exchange for a lower $95 annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred comes with a solid earning structure:

  • 5 points per dollar on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 3 points per dollar on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out.
  • 3 points per dollar on select streaming services.
  • 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).
  • 2 points per dollar on all other travel.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

The Sapphire Preferred only comes with a 25% redemption bonus and no lounge access. However, the Preferred does come with a higher sign-up bonus (80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening), and you’ll also enjoy a $50 annual statement credit for hotels booked through Chase Travel plus a 10% points bonus on your anniversary based on your previous year’s spending.

If you don’t travel enough to take full advantage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Sapphire Preferred is a solid replacement option.

Even if you do want the Reserve, it might be worth it to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred now, wait a year and then request to upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. While the Reserve does have higher earning and redeeming rates, with the Freedom Unlimited you can still get 3 points per dollar on dining and 5 points per dollar on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Plus, it may be worth it to hold off on the perks of the Reserve to nab this incredible sign-up bonus (worth $1,600 based on TPG’s valuations) on the Preferred.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Other Ink Business options

If you are a business owner who doesn’t spend within the Ink Business Preferred’s bonus categories, you can switch it for one of Chase’s other business cards. The Ink Business Cash Credit Card earns 5% (or 5 points per dollar) on the first $25,000 in combined spending at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. Plus, you’ll earn 2% (or 2 points per dollar) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.

Meanwhile, the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back (or 1.5 points per dollar) on every purchase.

Both of these alternate business card options earn a $750 bonus after you spend $7,500 in the first three months of account opening, which can become 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points if paired with either Sapphire card. Both of them also come with no annual fee.

Related: 5 ways you might be eligible for a business credit card without even knowing it

Personal Chase cards trifecta

If you don’t qualify for business credit cards, you can switch out the Ink Business Preferred for the Chase Freedom Flex to complete your trifecta. This would give you three personal credit cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred, Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited. Altogether, you’re only paying one annual fee (since the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited both come with no annual fee). And you’ll be able to earn 5 points per dollar on those rotating categories while still getting 1.5 points per dollar on non-bonus spending.

The Chase Trifecta is flexible. Again, it’s all about choosing the cards that reward you for the types of purchases you make.

Bottom line

The ultimate goal is to maximize every dollar you spend by putting your purchases on the right credit cards. Getting value out of the points-and-miles game isn’t exclusive to frequent flyers; you just need to be smart about how you spend your money.

If you can only get one card, go with one that will get you the biggest return based on your most frequent purchase categories. A card such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited may be a great option for many widespread spenders – it rewards across all purchases and has some excellent bonus categories for 2022.

But if travel is your focal point, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s bonuses on travel and dining purchases, increased redemption rates and luxury perks will better fit the needs of many on-the-go cardholders. Similarly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will get you great rates plus a bonus that will help jumpstart a nice points fund. And of course, those with business-related expenses could also earn tons of rewards with the Ink Business Preferred and its bonuses for shipping and advertising.

Just remember that all of these cards adhere to Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you don’t currently have these cards in your wallet, you’ll want to be strategic about when you apply for them versus other cards to make sure you won’t be denied due to too many account openings within the past two years.

Featured photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.