With all the flurry this week over the increased signup bonuses for Chase's Ink line of small business cards, I realized that even I was having trouble keeping track of all the different Ultimate-rewards earning cards issued by Chase. In case there's anyone else in the same situation, lets take a systematic look at all 7 cards.
While some of the cards are personal cards and some are small business cards, that's a less important distinction than between the fixed-value and flexible Ultimate Rewards points they earn:
The Freedom and Sapphire personal cards and Ink Cash and Ink Classic small business cards earn Ultimate Rewards points that cannot be transferred to Chase's travel partners unless you first move them to the Ultimate Rewards account associated with one of the 3 flexible cards. They can be redeemed for cash, gift cards, or paid travel – except the Ink Cash, whose points can only be redeemed for cash.
The next, arguably even more distinction between the cards is the constellation of overlapping bonus categories:
Since you only need to hold one flexible Ultimate Rewards card in order to convert all your points into flexible points, for 95% of travelers it doesn't make sense to pay more than one $95 annual fee (note that this analysis only applies once the first, fee-free year has elapsed).
Which annual fee should that be? The Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus? The chart above makes clear that the most relevant question is: how much do you intend to spend at gas stations and office supply stores? If you'll spend more than $25,000, you'll need to either carry an Ink Bold or Plus, or both an Ink Cash and Ink Classic, since each card's $25,000 cap on 2x earnings is counted separately.
The ability to manufacture Ultimate Rewards points at 0.4 cents each is what made me assess the Ink cards as the second best tool for buying Vanilla Reload Network reload cards at gas stations. This is an incredibly lucrative opportunity: the question is to what extent you plan on taking advantage of it.
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