[The Chase Ink+ is no longer available to new applicants and offers contained within this article may no longer be available]
There aren’t many credit card trifectas out there, and certainly not many that that rival the benefit of this one. This combination of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink, and Freedom is definitely one of the best ways to rack up UR points in a hurry and be on your way to planning your next get-a-way. Here’s a quick look at how this trifecta operates and how you can take advantage of it.
So how does it work?
Before, I get into the bonus earning potential, let me explain how this credit card combo works.
First, you’ll need to apply and get approved for all three of these cards. The easiest card out of these three to get approved for is the Chase Freedom. It’s generally thought of as more of a beginner card but keep in mind that Chase does deny some applicants for the Freedom when they have no prior credit history. Thus, if you don’t have any credit card history you may want to try another route and build up some credit with a secured-credit card or some other card like the Discover It. On the other hand, if you have some credit history you typically don’t need a superb credit score to get approved for the Freedom. For most people with no history with Chase and with anything but a great credit score, the Freedom card is a solid entry point into working to get this trifecta.
The next step is usually to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP). The CSP is a Visa Signature card requiring a minimum of at least $5,000 in credit and requiring good to excellent credit. This usually means 720 and above but if you have established credit, it’s definitely possible to get approved even in the high 600s. If you have great credit you don’t need to bother with the Freedom first and can go straight for the CSP and possibly even combine your hard pulls by applying for the CSP and Freedom at the same time.
Ideally, you would have the Freedom and/or CSP for a while before applying for the Ink, although you don’t have to go for the cards in that order. The reason I suggest doing so is spelled out further in the link below for tips on getting approved for the Ink but the basic idea is to establish some credit history and spending patterns with these cards before applying for the Ink.
The most difficult card out of the three to get is the Chase Ink. This card comes in two forms the Chase Ink+ and the Ink Cash and there are some major differences between these two cards. The Ink+ allows for up to $50,000 in bonus category spending while the Cash only allows for $25,000, the Ink+ boasts a better sign-up bonus (usually around 50-70K); the Ink+ has a $95 annual fee while the Cash has no annual fee; the Ink+ is usually harder to get approved for; and finally, UR rewards from the Cash cannot be directly transferred to UR travel partners.
The thing that can be tricky is timing your applications with Chase to ensure that you get approved for these cards. If you apply too quickly or wait too long to apply, you may get denied for various reasons. Thus, check out my articles on tips for getting approved for the Ink+, and another article on the Sapphire Preferred vs. Freedom card.
As you’ll see in those articles, the key to getting them is sometimes a matter of timing your applications. Read up on those tips and you should have a good idea on how to go about applying for these cards.
Once you finally have all three cards you’re set to start earning points at a pretty remarkable rate. All three cards earn a standard 1x points for non-bonus category purchases which is less than what you can earn on many other cash-back cards. However, when you combine all of these cards together you can earn a ton through bonus category spending.
For example, you’ll be able to earn:
- 5x on all phone line, internet, cable expenses, and office supply stores.
- 5x on rotating categories each quarter like groceries, gas, restaurants, Amazon.com. Sometimes, Chase even adds a bonus to these like they have for November 2015, where you can earn 10X on Amazon.com purchases.
- 2x on all travel related expenses
- 2x on gas and hotels
- 2x on dining
This is a pretty amazing earning potential that a lot of people aren’t aware of. Remember, Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to all travel partners. So you can absolutely earn a ton of miles over the span of one year just by spending money as your normally would on bills, dining, and travel.
The Sign-up Bonuses
You can’t forget about the sign-up bonuses on these cards as you can really benefit from these. Right now the CSP is at 50K plus 5K for adding an authorized user and the Chase Ink+ is at 60K. The spend requirements for these bonuses are usually $4,000 and $5,000 within the first 3 months respectively. So let’s say you meet the minimum spend on these two cards, you’ve just earned 124K UR points (assuming no bonus categories were utilized)…. If you fly United, that’s enough for a roundtrip business class ticket from North America to Europe on a Saver Award and enough for two round trips from North America to Europe in economy on a Saver Award. And like I mentioned, that’s assuming no bonus spending was done to meet the spending requirements.
Cancelling or Downgrading the Chase Ink+ and CSP
A lot of people want to know if they should cancel or downgrade these cards when it’s time to pay the annual fee. First, just remember that the Chase Freedom card has no annual fee so you should always keep that trusty card open. However, both the CSP and the Ink+ have a $95 annual fee that’s usually waived the first year but may not be waived if you sign-up for the larger Ink+ bonus of 60-70K. (Some rather unlucky folks have a higher annual fee for the CSP due to signing up during some experimental phase for Chase.)
The key thing to remember is that you need at least one premier UR earning card (the CSP or the Ink+) in order to transfer your UR points to a travel partner. Otherwise, your earnings are pretty much limited to cash back or gift cards. Thus, the decision to downgrade usually means downgrading the Ink+ to the Ink Cash or the CSP to the regular Chase Sapphire card (some even downgrade the CSP to the Freedom and have two Freedoms).
Personally, I currently keep both the Ink+ and the CSP because I really like both cards, but if I had to downgrade one, it would probably be the Ink+ down to the Ink Cash. The only thing you really lose out on is that you can’t hit the $50,000 in bonus categories and are limited to $25,000 for total bonus earning spending. You lose out on other Ink+ benefits like no foreign transaction fees, no 2X on hotels but if you have the CSP you’re all covered for those categories and all other benefits like primary car insurance and amazing travel protections. Thus, in my opinion, if I had to downgrade one, it would be the Chase Ink+.
Once you’ve downgraded to the Chase Ink Cash, you now have only one $95 annual fee to pay for a trio of cards that essentially act as one super-card offering enormous bonus category earning potential. It’s a pretty amazing thing and if you favor any of the UR reward parters, this trifecta is absolutely meant for you!
Tip: If you think that you’ll be spending more than $25,000 a year in the 5x categories for the Chase Ink then you can always apply for the Ink Cash after you get approved for the Ink+ and then downgrade your Ink+ to an Ink Cash. By doing this, you’ll now still have the $50,000 a year bonus category spend limit but it’s essentially a work-a-round on the annual fee. And if you still have your CSP, you don’t lose out on 2x on hotels so all of your benefits are still intact!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.