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- The Points Guy
- The best way to earn points quickly is to make sure that you’re earning bonus points for spending in certain categories – like dining or travel – whenever possible.
- Because this can get complicated, the easiest way is to come up with an easy-to-follow strategy ahead of time that will fit most situations.
- When you’re just getting started, or if you want to keep things simple, pick a single rewards program, and maximize earning within that.
- A perfect trifecta of Chase cards – a Sapphire-branded personal card (the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve), the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited – makes it easy to maximize the return on everyday spending.
- You can also collect big sign-up bonuses on these cards to get a head start.
One of the tricks to earning points and miles quickly isn’t a trick at all – it’s just making sure to use the right cards for the right purchases.
That’s because various credit cards offer bonus points on different categories. One card might offer 2x points at restaurants and 1x point at grocery stores (and everywhere else), while another might offer 1.5x points at grocery stores, or 3x on flights, and so on.
Keeping track of categories and cards can get confusing, but every time you use the wrong card at the wrong category of merchant, you leave rewards – basically free money – on the table.
The good news is that with most of the major credit card rewards programs, you can pool your points if you have multiple cards in that program. By optimizing your card strategy, you can use the right cards for the right categories and have all the points drop into one common pool, ready for you to redeem for travel, transfer to frequent flyer programs, or, if you prefer, exchange for cash back (even though that’s usually a lower value for your points).
The best thing to do is come up with a simple strategy for which cards to use, and have those ready to go in your wallet.
If you collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it’s easy to assemble a winning lineup of cards to earn the most points possible on your purchases. I’m a fan of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program because it combines a great variety of cards that help you earn points quickly, with valuable ways to redeem points – other dynamic rewards programs that lets you pool points from multiple cards include American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi Thank You points.
Read on to see the ultimate lineup of Ultimate Rewards earning Chase cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve
First is the earning ability. The Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on all dining and travel, while the Sapphire Reserve earns 3x points on the same. The categories are defined fairly broadly, with dining including things like restaurants, bars, restaurant-delivery services, cafes, and more, and travel including everything from subways, taxis, ride-sharing apps, and buses, to airfare, hotels, cruises, Airbnb, and more.
Second is the redemption ability. The cards both let you transfer points to Chase’s partnering frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs – although transferring points is the most complicated way to use them, it’s also the most lucrative. For example, by transferring points from my Chase cards to United Airlines, I was able to fly back from Japan in first class.
If transferring points isn’t for you, the next best option is to use them to book travel through Chase’s website. The Chase travel portal works just like any other travel-booking website, like Expedia or Priceline. The difference is that you can pay partially or in full with your Chase points.
Plus, when you use points to book travel through Chase, you’ll get a bonus – 25% with the Sapphire Preferred, and 50% with the Reserve. Chase values points at 1¢ each as cash, that means that when you book travel, they’ll be worth 1.25¢ each if you have a Preferred card, or 1.5¢ each if you’re a Reserve cardholder.
Finally, you can exchange points for cash in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit, or for gift cards to various merchants. Regardless of which card you have, points are worth 1¢ each this way.
Both cards offer hefty sign-up bonuses.
Keep in mind that you can’t earn the bonus on one card while you currently hold the other, and you can’t earn it if you’ve already received a sign-up bonus on a Sapphire-branded card in the past 48 months.
While the Sapphire Reserve earns more points and gives you a bigger bonus when you book travel, it also has a higher annual fee – $450, compared to the Preferred’s $95. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that the Reserve also offers a statement credit on your first $300 of spending on travel each year. When you subtract that credit, the annual fee is actually $150.
For more about how to decide whether the Preferred or Reserve is better for you, be sure to read this guide.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred
While the Ink Business Preferred is aimed at small business owners, more people qualify for it than you might expect. A ton of different things count as small businesses, including freelancing (in just about any capacity), side gigs, and even selling things on Amazon or eBay. As long as it’s something, it counts – you just use your own name as the business name.
The Ink Business Preferred offers 3x points on the first $150,000 you spend each cardmember year on internet, cable, and phone services, shipping and mailing, travel, and advertising purchases with social media platforms or search engines. After that, you earn 1x point on everything.
As a business owner, chances are those categories will come in useful. Plus, earning 3x points on utilities like internet and your cell phone is lucrative – I know that I spend more on that category than I wish I did.
Speaking of cell phones – the Ink Business Preferred has the added perk of offering loss and damage protection for your cell phone as long as you use the card to pay your monthly bill (plus you’ll earn 3x points).
Best of all, the card offers a massive 80,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. If you also have a Sapphire Reserve, that’s worth $1,200 on travel – or potentially more transferred to partners. That’s more than enough to offset the card’s $95 annual fee.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited
The final card in the Chase trifecta, the Freedom Unlimited is a simple, no-annual-fee card that earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, without any caps.
However, that “cash back” actually comes in the form of 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. If you don’t have any other Chase cards, the only real way to use them is for cash back. However, if you also have a card like the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, or an Ink, you can move points from your Freedom Unlimited to that card, and use them to book travel at the higher rate, or transfer them to partners.
I use the Freedom Unlimited for just about any purchase that isn’t covered by the bonus category on another card. That way, I’m never getting less than 1.5 points per dollar spent – that adds up quickly, especially considering that I pool the points on my Sapphire Reserve.
Instead of a traditional sign-up bonus, the card offers double the normal earning rate – 3%, or 3x points – on up to $20,000 of spend in your first year.
With three Chase cards in your wallet, you can ensure that you’re earning 1.5-3 points on every single dollar you spend. Since those points are worth more than 1¢ each when you use them to book travel through Chase, and potentially more when you transfer them to airline partners, that translates to a fantastic return.
Also, keep in mind that we’re focusing on rewards, not things like interest rates. That’s because interest and late fees far outweigh the value of any rewards you earn. When you’re working to earn credit card rewards, it’s important to practice financial discipline when targeting credit card rewards – paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay is the best course of action. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.