One Year of Earning and Burning With the Ink Business Unlimited
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New travel rewards credit cards don’t come around that frequently, but when it happens, they tend to cause a bit of a stir. In some cases, the general reaction is underwhelming, while the rare card creates so much buzz that the issuer actually runs out of material to make it! In any case, these new products offer a great way to boost your earnings and unlock valuable redemptions, especially if you’re in the market for a new primary card. Today I’ll continue my series that analyzes just how rewarding a single card can be during the first year by looking one that just launched in May 2018.
Previous entries have looked at personal cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Southwest Premier Card as well as small business cards like the Ink Business Preferred and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. Today’s post will continue along the lines of cards targeted to small businesses as I evaluate how much value you can get from the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card in just a single year of cardmembership.
Welcome Bonus and Benefits
The card is currently offering $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. You’ll also earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases on the card. While this may not seem too enticing on the surface, bear in mind that cash back is awarded in the form of points. If you also happen to have a “premium” Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can actually combine those points and turn your cash-back earnings into fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points. This more than doubles the value of the sign-up offer, to $1,050 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
(Check out my guide to combining Ultimate Rewards points for full details on this process.)
The new card also carries no annual fee, so it would be a great option if you’re just getting started with your company and want to keep your business expenses separate from your personal ones. In addition, you’ll enjoy 0% APR for the first 12 months (a variable APR of 15.49% – 21.49% applies thereafter), allowing you to freely use the card for initial investments even if you don’t expect revenue for several months. However, the card is almost certainly subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, and it also imposes a 3% foreign transaction fee, so keep both of those items in mind as you’re deciding when to apply and when to swipe the card.
So if you open the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card, earn the sign-up offer and use the card exclusively for the first year, where does that leave you? Obviously, the answer depends on your spending patterns, and this is complicated by the fact that this is a business credit card. There’s a huge variety of business models out there, some with limited credit card spending opportunity and others that can easily spend six figures on a card in a year. As a result, I had to make some assumptions about your particular business profile:
- You spend a total of $50,000 across the year.
- You currently have a “premium” Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Reserve.
As always, your spending habits may differ substantially from these assumptions, so feel free to adjust them to more accurately reflect your earning potential with the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card.
Here’s a quick table that shows how these spending patterns in the first year of cardmembership translate to Ultimate Rewards points:
As you can see, this sample small business owner would take home 125,000 Ultimate Rewards points in a single year. That’s quite a haul!
What does this get you?
Of course, earning points is one thing, but knowing how to redeem them for maximum value is a completely different story. Fortunately, the Ultimate Rewards program has a variety of valuable redemptions, most of which involve transferring to the program’s partners.
Here’s a sample of what you can get from one year of using the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card:
1. $1,250 in Cash Back
The first option is actually the least exciting but can be very appealing to a small business owner. As noted above, the points you earn on the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card are technically restricted to cash-back awards, though you can combine them with points earned on cards like the Ink Business Preferred or Sapphire Reserve to essentially “convert” them into fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points. This allows you to utilize the full power of the program’s transfer partners for terrific redemptions like the ones to follow.
However, if you’re running a small business, you may not want to sift through those complexities. You also may not carry a card like the ones noted above. If you’d rather just pump cash back into your business, you’ll have $1,250 to do just that after a year of using the card. With $50,000 in spending, that equates to an overall return of 2.5%. Not too shabby!
Of course, you can get even more value from the card by converting the earnings to Ultimate Rewards points and going after some of the following redemption options…
2. Up to Five Round-Trip Tickets to Hawaii
If you’re looking to book trips to the Aloha state, the Ultimate Rewards program has two terrific options. The most lucrative is specific to West Coast residents. If you transfer your points to British Airways, you’re able to take advantage of the carrier’s distance-based award chart, and it just so happens that the Hawaiian islands are all less than 3,000 miles from major West Coast airports. Since British Airways partners with both American and Alaska, you’re able to book round-trip coach tickets for just 25,000 Avios from Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX), Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN) and Oakland (OAK), to name just a few. Just note that Alaska awards using Avios must be booked over the phone, and you may have to call for American flights as well due a website issue.
For cardholders in other parts of the country, there are two other great transfer options for getting to Hawaii: Korean’s SkyPass and the Flying Blue program of Air France and KLM. Since these carriers all belong to SkyTeam, you can book Delta award tickets through each program. Korean has the better award rate at 25,000 miles for round-trip economy tickets (compared to 30,000 for Flying Blue), though bear in mind that Korean’s award booking process isn’t easy. For both programs, these rates are valid on flights from any US airport, giving you four or even five round-trip award flights to Hawaii.
For more details, check out my post on planning a trip to Hawaii using Ultimate Rewards points.
3. Up to 25 Nights in Hyatt Properties
Another great redemption option through the Ultimate Rewards program is to transfer your points to World of Hyatt. The program has very reasonable redemption rates that start at just 5,000 points per night for a Category 1 property, though even top-tier locations like the Park Hyatt Zurich would only set you back just 30,000 points for a free night. Here’s a breakdown of how many nights you could get across the program’s property spectrum with a year’s worth of points from the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card:
- Category 1 (5,000 points/night): 25 nights
- Category 2 (8,000 points/night): 15 nights
- Category 3 (12,000 points/night): 10 nights
- Category 4 (15,000 points/night): 8 nights
- Category 5 (20,000 points/night): 6 nights
- Category 6 (25,000 points/night): 5 nights
- Category 7 (30,000 points/night): 4 nights
I’m particularly intrigued by the option to book a five-night stay at a Category 6 property like the Park Hyatt Maldives. A quick search of dates for this fall shows some rates at $1,000 per night, giving you over $5,000 of value. Remember too that this doesn’t even consider the program’s Cash + Points option, so if you’re willing to spend some additional money out of pocket for your stays, you can extend the value of these earnings even further.
4. Round-Trip First-Class Award Ticket to Japan on ANA
Another potentially lucrative option would involve transferring your points to Virgin Atlantic. The carrier partners with ANA and charges just 120,000 miles for a round-trip first class ticket to Japan from the eastern and central US as well as Europe (it’s 110,000 from Canada and the West Coast). This is a terrific value, as United would charge 220,000 miles for the exact same itinerary! You’d enjoy some terrific amenities and could even wind up on the carrier’s Star Wars-themed plane. Just bear in mind that you can’t book one-way flights through the Flying Club program, so you’ll need to find dates with round-trip award availability.
5. A (Long) Weekend Trip to New York City With Airfare From Multiple US Cities
A final option to consider is an entire trip with both flights and hotels, and you have a tailor-made weekend jaunt to the Big Apple with this haul of points. For flights, one of the most economical options would be for those readers east of the Mississippi and would again utilize British Airways. Flights of 1,151 miles or less in distance require just 7,500 Avios each way, so if you can find availability on American, you and your spouse/significant other/friend could fly there and back from cities like Charlotte (CLT), Miami (MIA) and Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) for a total of 30,000 points.
You also could consider transferring to Southwest Rapid Rewards, as the carrier serves both New York-LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR). Even though Southwest follows a revenue-based redemption scheme, you can still get some great value on Wanna Get Away fares. At a very quick glance, I was able to find round-trip tickets from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Newark (EWR) for a random weekend in the summer for just 16,000 points apiece.
For hotels, Hyatt again makes for a great redemption option, as I’ve had terrific stays at both the Andaz Fifth Avenue and Andaz Wall Street. Each of those properties requires just 25,000 points for a free night, though a couple of other Hyatt hotels in Manhattan are just 20,000 points. However, you also have the option of transferring points to Marriott, which can unlock additional redemptions through either Marriott Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest (though the two programs will be integrated under a single award chart in August 2018). While I’d recommend going the Hyatt route, it’s always nice to have alternatives, depending on where you’d like to stay.
I have been a long-time fan of the Ultimate Rewards program, and I currently carry what I humbly believe is the perfect quartet of Chase cards to maximize my earnings. The Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card is just the newest option for earning these valuable points, and by opening and using the card exclusively for just a single year, you’ll unlock a wide variety of valuable rewards. Even though the card is targeted for small business owners, you may be able to get approved as a sole proprietorship by using your Social Security number. However, as noted above, the card should be subject to Chase’s notorious 5/24 rule.
Keep in mind too that the above calculation may be even a bit too conservative:
- The calculation assumes a certain level of spending. If plan to put more than $50,000 on the card in the first year, then your earnings will be even higher.
- The calculation assumes that you don’t make any purchases through an online shopping portal. The Ultimate Rewards shopping portal allows you to earn bonus points at close to 300 online retailers, a nice way to boost your earnings even more.
- The calculation assumes that you only open one card. There are many others that will earn you bonus Ultimate Rewards points in certain categories, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Freedom. These cards (and others like them) can be used right alongside the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card to boost your balances even higher.
Regardless of these last few items, hopefully you’re able to see just how rewarding a single new credit card can be in the first year of cardmembership.
Know before you go.
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Earn $500 after $3,000 spent within the first three months. That's equivalent to 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have another rewards earning card like the Ink Business Preferred, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Similar to the Freedom Unlimited, this card earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and has no annual fee - a no-brainer for small business owners!
- Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- No Annual Fee