Maximize your wallet with the perfect quartet of Chase cards
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The Chase Sapphire Reserve eluded me for more than a year, thanks to the 5/24 rule that pretty much prevents you from getting approved for a Chase card if you’ve opened five or more accounts in the last 24 months.
However, once I was eligible for approval, I finally put together what I believe to be the perfect quartet of Chase credit cards to help me get the most out of the Ultimate Rewards program. Even if you’re unwilling to pay the hefty annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve, you can still get many of the same rewards by holding the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Today I want to go through this magical combination to demonstrate just how lucrative it can be. Let’s start by taking a look at the best Chase credits cards overall.
The best Chase credit cards of 2019
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for dining and travel
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best overall mid-tier card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for non-bonus spending
- Chase Freedom®: Best for rotating bonus categories
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card: Best for telecom and office supplies
Comparison of the best Chase credit cards of 2019
|Credit Card||Bonus||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months||$450|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months||$95|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$150 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months||$0|
|Chase Freedom||$150 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months||$0|
|Ink Business Cash Credit Card||$500 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months||$0|
From this group, you can only have either the Sapphire Reserve or the Sapphire Preferred — not both (we’ll discuss how to choose one over the other shortly). It’s also worth pointing out that three of these Chase credit cards are technically billed as cash back credit cards.
Although they’re rewarding in their own right, they take on exceptional value when they’re paired with a full-fledged Ultimate Rewards credit card such as the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred. This is because the program lets you combine Ultimate Rewards points between accounts, allowing you to convert your cash-back points to fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points. That’s one of the main reasons this quartet of cards is so powerful.
That being said, this collection of Chase credit cards may not be the right choice for everyone. The Points Guy himself has written about his perfect Chase trifecta before, while contributor Ethan Steinberg has covered his perfect Amex trifecta and contributor Katie Genter proposed a trio of cash-back, no-annual-fee cards.
It all depends on where you spend your money on a regular basis, how you want to redeem the points and miles you earn, and how you value the various perks provided on the best travel credit cards. As always, be sure to evaluate your spending habits and redemption goals to select cards that fit your situation.
How do these four cards help me maximize the Ultimate Rewards program? Here’s a rundown of my major categories of expenses:
Best Chase Credit Cards
My wife and I love to eat out, and the Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on these purchases. Based on TPG’s valuations, that’s a fantastic return of 6%. I’ve also found that Chase tends to be quite broad in how it defines restaurant purchases. I’ve even had bars (that serve no food) and my local private yacht club post as restaurant transactions, so this is a fantastic way to boost your earnings across a variety of merchants. In a typical month, I’d guess that we spend roughly $1,500 on dining out, which translates to $18,000 per year. This means that, during a year, I’ll take home 48,000 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $960.
“Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.”
As you can see, this includes purchases that fall under travel with most cards, like airlines, hotels and car rentals. However, it also includes tolls, paid parking and even Airbnb.
This is another category where my wife and I spend a decent amount of money every month, roughly $750 by my recent estimate. Over the course of the year, this translates to 27,000 points, worth $540.
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Reserve
READ MORE: TPG’s Chase Sapphire Reserve review
As noted above, the one objection people sometimes have to this Chase quartet is the cost of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. At $450 annually, it’s not a cheap card, though $300 of that cost is effectively recouped each year through the card’s annual travel credit. Still, not everyone wants to lay out $450 up front for a credit card, so as a backup option, you could substitute the Chase Sapphire Preferred for the Sapphire Reserve.
The Sapphire Preferred comes with a much more reasonable $95 annual fee (though no travel credit), and since the card earns 2x bonus points for the same travel and dining purchases as the Sapphire Reserve, you’re only giving up 1x bonus points in those categories.
So if you’re nervous about taking on an expensive credit card like the Sapphire Reserve or you don’t expect to have enough yearly travel and dining expenses to make the extra bonus points worth it, swap in the Chase Sapphire Preferred for your quartet. It’ll still provide a ton of value — including the option to convert cash-back points into fully-transferable ones.
Note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is currently offering new cardholders a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. It also includes an array of similar perks to the Sapphire Reserve, including primary car rental coverage, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation/interruption protection.
Apply Here: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
READ MORE: TPG’s Chase Sapphire Preferred review
Another lucrative rewards credit card from Chase is the Freedom Unlimited, which offers $150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months. The Freedom Unlimited is a great option for purchases that don’t fall into the typical bonus categories offered by other cards.
If you can pair this card with a premium card like the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred, you’re getting a 3% return on non-bonus spending — for me, non-bonus spending includes my monthly utility bill, charges for my daughter’s after-school care and my monthly Crossfit membership. I put about $1,000 per month on this card. Over the course of the year, my monthly spending nets me 18,000 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $360.
Apply Here: Chase Freedom Unlimited
READ MORE: TPG’s Chase Freedom Unlimited review
The final card in my quartet is the Chase Freedom, a no-annual-fee credit card that offers 5% cash back (5x points) at merchants that rotate each quarter. For Q4 2019 (through Dec. 31, 2019) you can earn the bonus at department stores and on PayPal and Chase Pay purchases.
In each quarter you activate, you earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in eligible purchases in the bonus category, then 1% cash back on all other purchases. I generally max out the bonus categories each quarter (before shifting my spending back to other, more rewarding options). This translates to 7,500 points per quarter or 30,000 points per year, worth $600.
Apply Here: Chase Freedom
READ MORE: TPG’s full Chase Freedom credit card review
One of the most lucrative small-business credit cards is the Ink Cash. It’s my go-to card for my monthly phone, internet and cable bills in my home office as well as purchases at office supply stores. All of these will earn 5% cash back (5x points) on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each year.
As mentioned above, the points you earn on this card are technically only redeemable for cash back at a rate of one cent each, but when you transfer them to the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred, they immediately become transferable to partners like Hyatt and United. As a result, this gives you a fantastic return of 10% on these purchases.
I spend about $400 per month on telecommunications and about $250 per month at office supply stores. This boosts my Ultimate Rewards balance each year by another 39,000 points, worth $780.
Apply Here: Ink Business Cash Credit Card
READ MORE: TPG’s Ink Business Cash credit card review
Maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards
Given the spending habits outlined above, how much value do I get from these four cards (using the CSR versus the CSP)? If you add up my earnings, I’m taking home roughly 162,000 Ultimate Rewards points every year. This haul is worth $3,240, and with yearly spending of $52,800, that equates to an incredible return of 6.14%.
Even when you take out the $150 effective annual fee that I’m paying on the Sapphire Reserve, it’s still nearly 6%, and even that doesn’t factor in the additional perks on the Sapphire Reserve card such as Priority Pass membership and primary car rental coverage. It also excludes any bonuses earned from the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, a simple, yet effective, strategy for boosting your earnings even higher.
However, I don’t put every dollar I spend on one of these four cards. There are a couple of others that offer an even better return on purchases with certain merchants or categories:
- When I book airfare directly with an airline, I sometimes use my Platinum Card® from American Express, because it offers 5x points on these purchases, a return of 10% based on TPG’s valuations. Remember that The Platinum Card doesn’t offer trip delay protection, baggage delay protection or trip interruption / cancellation insurance — three useful travel protections that are offered by the Sapphire Reserve.
- I’ll use an eligible Amex card when an Amex Offer gives me bonus points or additional savings.
- If a merchant accepts Amex for a non-bonus category purchase, I’ll usually swipe my Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express, which earns 2x points on all purchases up to $50,000 each year; then 1x. This gives me a return of 4% on these purchases.
- Finally, if I’ve recently opened another credit card and am working toward earning a bonus, I’ll use that card to ensure I hit the minimum spending requirement.
Will business credit cards add to my Chase 5/24 count?
In most cases, small-business credit cards will not add to your Chase 5/24 count because they don’t appear on your personal credit report. This actually includes Chase business credit cards, as well. So if you’re at 4/24 (four credits cards opened in the past 24 months) and you open the Ink Cash card, you’ll still be under 5/24 even though you just opened a Chase card.
However, if you open a business card with Discover or Capital One that account will be reported to your personal credit report and will add to your Chase 5/24 total.
If my application is denied is there anything I can do to get approved?
Yes, if your credit card application is denied you can call the Chase reconsideration line to speak to a specialist about why it was declined. If you’re not over 5/24, it is possible to have the decision reversed. For example, Chase will extend you a certain amount of credit based on your income and if you’ve already reached that limit your application can be denied. However, it’s possible to move credit from existing accounts to the new account. So, as an example, instead of having all of your $20,000 in credit attached to a single card you could move half of that to a new account to facilitate the approval.
The Chase reconsideration line for personal cards is 888-270-2127; for business cards, it’s 800-453-9719.
What credit score will I need in order to be approved for these Chase credit cards?
There is no exact science as to what credit score you’ll need to successfully apply for any Chase credit card because your credit score isn’t the only factor the bank takes into consideration. That being said, having a score of at least 700 will give you the best chances of being approved for the top chase credit cards. Of course, it’s possible to be approved with a slightly lower score, it’s just not as likely.
How many Chase credit cards can I have at one time?
Chase doesn’t have an official limit on the number of Chase cards one person can have and many TPG staff have had eight or more Chase credit cards at the same time. But Chase does limit the amount of credit it will extend to you. As a general rule of thumb you can be approved for one personal card and one business card within 90 days, but even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are also different application rules for specific Chase cards. As I mentioned before, you can only hold one Sapphire card at a time. You can only have a single personal Southwest credit card, however, you can hold both a Southwest business and personal card, which is a great way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. And if you open the Ink Cash, you’re still eligible for the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
For more details on the ins and outs of Chase’s application rules, read our guide on credit card application restrictions.
Everyone has their own thoughts on what makes up the best set of travel rewards credit cards, and you may not want to deal with the hassle of tracking multiple cards to be used in different scenarios.
To really make the most of your everyday purchases, it’s important to evaluate your portfolio of cards and identify the best combination to maximize your earning rates. Some folks prefer swapping in the Chase Sapphire Preferred over the Sapphire Reserve, but by carrying the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited and Ink Business Cash Credit Card, I firmly believe that I have the perfect combination of Ultimate Rewards credit cards in my wallet.
SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®