Chase Ink Bold or The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Beyond the Free Year

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I have to decide this month whether or not to keep my American Express Platinum card (if you are applying also consider the Mercedes Benz version as it has a higher sign-up bonus with just a slightly higher annual fee), so I have been taking a look at my overall credit card strategy when making that decision.  I’ll post more soon about what I am doing with my Platinum, but where I really started thinking was whether or not to keep both the Ink Bold and the Sapphire Preferred.  There is a lot of talk about signing up, but what to do after the free year is a topic that isn’t addressed quite as much.  While both cards were free the first year, they both will carry a $95 annual fee when they renew later in the year, so I wasn’t sure whether or not it makes sense to keep both of them.  I’m sure many others are in that same boat, so I thought it might be helpful to have a post about the merits of keeping one or both of the cards beyond the first year.

First, a quick rundown of the main benefits of each card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Annual fee waived the first year, then $95 annually
  • 40,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points after spending $3000 on the card in the first three months
  • Points transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott, and Priority Club
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Use of the Ultimate Rewards mall
  • 2x points on dining and travel expenses (airfare, hotels, cabs, rental cars, etc.)

Ink BoldSM

  • Annual fee waived the first year, then $95 annually
  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points (after spending $5,000 on card in the first three months)
  • Points transfer 1:1 to the same airline and hotel partners as the Sapphire Preferred
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Use of the Ultimate Rewards mall – though to more retailers and with some higher payouts than the Sapphire Preferred.  Check out this site by HikerT to learn more about the different payouts and retailers.
  • 5X points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, on cable and wireless service, and landline communications
  • 2x points on the first $50,000 spent annually on gas and hotels

It is also important to note that the Ink Bold is a business charge card and the Sapphire Preferred is a regular credit card, so it isn’t totally an apples to apples comparison for the two cards.  Other than that, the main differences in the cards for me are that the Sapphire Preferred gives 2x on dining.  I’m not sure how much I will end up putting on the Sapphire Preferred this year, but even if we charged $1000 per month in dining (and we usually don’t), that would still only be an extra 12,000 points from dining over the Ink Bold that gives 1x in that area.  I put rental cars on my United MileagePlus Explorer (try to get targeted for the 60K offer before going for the 40K) anyway because it has the best rental car coverage (primary instead of secondary), and I put airfare on my The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN since it gives 3x on airfare, so I don’t really care that much about those 2x travel categories.  Using the card for cab rides hasn’t worked out so well for me personally as I have often been told they want to imprint the card, and that can’t be done since the card has no raised numbers.

The Ink Bold gives 5x on office supply stores, cable and wireless, and landline expenses.  This is actually huge because I know in my family our cell phone family plan, landline, and cable come to about $500 per month (we have a home office and lots of folks on our family plan).  So, $500 per month comes to 30,000 bonus points per year for money we were going to spend anyway!  I still have the old Ink Bold that doesn’t give those bonus points, but I will be getting the new Ink Bold (and the related sign-up bonus) before the end of the year for sure!  In fact, it is without a doubt my next Chase application.  The 5x on office supply stores is also even better than it sounds because office supply stores like Staples and Office Max sell gift cards to restaurants, retail stores, Visa gift cards, and some travel related gift cards.  So, you earn 5x to other retailers, and then you can sometimes use those gift cards online to shop through the various shopping portals to earn even more points.  I highly recommend you check-out the Frequent Miler Laboratory to learn more about which retailers payout miles when using or buying gift cards.

The shots shown here were taken at an Office Max, but Staples reportedly has an even greater selection.

I do like that the Ink Bold has 2x on hotels since that is a big business expense for me.  I also like the 2x on gas.  The Amex Business Gold also awards 2x for gas, but I give the edge to Ultimate Rewards over Membership Rewards, so I will put more of my gas on the Ink Bold.  Unless of course it is a quarter where gas is 5x on the Chase Freedom® Visa , and then gas clearly goes on that card. 

Have I confused anyone yet?  Bottom line, I think for many folks, the Ink Bold may be a better card to keep than the Sapphire Preferred between those two cards – assuming that a person has both.  However, those two cards are not the only options – there are fee-free versions of both of those cards.  I think I will personally get the New Ink Bold this year since I still have the old one.  That will give me another free year, and then after that I will drop it down to a fee-free version of that card in order to keep similar benefits and the account history.  I will likely keep the Sapphire Preferred to retain my Ultimate Reward transfer options and keep the maximum benefit from the relationship between the Chase Freedom, Chase Checking, and Ultimate Rewards.  In case you are interested, the two fee-free versions of the Ink Business card are the Ink CashSM Business Card that awards similar benefits to the Ink Bold including 5x on the same categories (but with a $25K annual cap) and 2x on gas and dining, instead of hotels, and the Ink℠ Classic Business that is also fee-free, but gives 2x on gas and hotels instead of dining.

So, there is my strategy.  Keep the old Ink Bold until I get the new one later this year, then after the first fee-free year downgrade to a fee-free version of that card, plus keep the Sapphire Preferred indefinitely for the Ultimate Rewards benefits.  Of course, as cards and benefits change, that strategy may also change.  What is your Ink Bold and Sapphire Preferred strategy after the first free year?

Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for many of the cards in this post by using my links.  I only link to the best available public offer that I am aware of, and as always I greatly appreciate your support.

Comments

  1. I picked up some Exxon gift cards today at Office Depot. I am hoping that will start earning me 5X on gasoline purchases, using my Ink Bold card

  2. Keep in mind, it’s not really “5x” on office supply stores. It’s only 4x more than you would typically receive. It took me a hot minute to figure that out combing through my statement. I spent $1400 last statement, and only received 5600 bonus points. I was ready to argue what charge of mine didn’t get the “5x” bonus, till the rep said “you got 1 point for every dollar spent, then an additional 4 points for the office supply/communications spending”. D’oh. It breaks it out on the statement as “Points earned on Telecom and Office Supplies”, but it will only be 4x what you spent in those categories.

  3. How many Chase cards do you have now? So you have the old Ink card, you plan to downgrade it and then apply for the new Ink card? Hmm, maybe Chase will give you a hard time to give you two Business cards?

    My Sapphire comes up for renewal in May. I think I will keep it and go for the Bold sometime later this month and keep it for a year and then cancel it. I believe my Sapphire will become my go to card from now on. But, as always in this hobby, things can change…fast!

  4. One benefit of the Sapphire Preferred not listed here – if you call customer service you’ll get a live US based CSR that is empowered to fix things on your account – on your first phone call. For me, that is huge. We deal with so much incompetence with customer service in our “hobby” that when I come across a product that really provides good customer service, I’m willing to pony up and pay for it. Missing points from a purchase on the UR Mall or calling to get a bonus offer matched? In my experience they take care of it right away, no fuss. Again, in my experience the Sapphire Cust Svc is better than AMEX, and way better than Citi or Barclays. I can’t put a price on that, but I’m keeping the Sapphire Preferred (and Freedom) and will downgrade the Ink, when the time comes.

  5. I just got the new Ink Bold and am a little nervous about the spending requirements. I know about Amazon Payments, and others, but the thought of it does become a huge hassle. I’d thought of buying some Amex Gift cards. Are you suggesting that its smarter not to buy Amex Gift cards, but to instead purchase an assortment of other gift cards via Staples?

  6. @Kathy, the $5K spend requirement for Ink Bold is no problem. If you’re nearing the deadline to meet spend, just pre-pay your cable, cell phone, satellite, etc. bill for a year and get 5x to boot! That’s probably half the spend requirement for most folks. Similarly, check out Frequent Miler’s posts on buying FAR items at Staples. My only problem with Ink Bold is there are so many options to get 5x it’s going to be hard to stop once I hit the 5K.

  7. @mommypoints, I would disagree with your bottom line. If you are going pay the annual fee for one of the two cards there’s no question – Sapphire Preferred is the card to keep. There is no real downside to downgrading Ink Bold and keeping Sapphire Preferred (unless you spend more than 25K at office supply stores which I doubt applies to any of your readers). However, there is a downside to downgrading Sapphire Preferred and keeping Ink Bold – you lose the 7% bonus. Anyone that shops much at the UR mall knows how big that is. You don’t actually need to use Sapphire Preferred for the purchase (you could use your downgraded Ink). Why would anyone give up the 7%?

  8. Congratulations on another excellent entry to your blog. You are correct that there is little discourse on what to do when the “free” year is up!
    I am not a card churner, and even more importantly I am a senior citizen. In ten years the majority of my traveling will be behind me. The annual fee per card, which means nothing to me now as I am still working; will become a greater consideration when I no longer have earned income coming into my household.
    I am already working on a strategy to put the “correct” cards in my hands for the years when I will no longer be working. As much as I enjoy the benefits of current fee-based cards; by the time I stop working, probably most of the cards in my wallet will be fee free. 😉

  9. @Mark, if you only have one Ultimate Rewards account I believe you would lose the points if you don’t transfer them out first before you close it.

    @Beachmiles, good job!

    @DavidAL, very true – in fact that is true for everything. For example, airfare with the Amex Gold Business is 3x, but it is really just 2x or 1x more than others.

    @BBL, you got it!

    @gpapadop, this is my only Chase business card. I have four personals at the moment. I’m not sure yet if I will have two Inks at the same time. That really isn’t my goal, but when I apply for the new Ink later this year I will be happy to close my old one in order to get it. If they don’t ask me to do that then I may downgrade the old one at that time, or I may just get rid of it and stick with the new one then downgrade it after a year.

    @ChrisL, very true. I haven’t had to call in yet (other than to activate), but it is nice.

    @Kathy, agree with HikerT, that prepaying some of the 5x categories, like cell phone, is a good idea if you can afford to do it. Gift cards from Staples is also a good idea. The type of gc you buy from there is up to you. 😉

    @HikerT, good suggestions for Kathy. I think we are saying the same thing about what to do after the free year. My ultimate suggestion at the end is to keep the Sapphire Preferred and downgrade to a fee free version of the Ink Bold if you want to keep both cards, but don’t want an annual fee on both. Sorry if that wasn’t clear! Sounds like you have quite the system maxing out the 5x and 7%. 😉

    @John, glad you liked it. Agree that annual fees sting much harder on a fixed income. The fee-free versions of the Ink are good ones to consider keeping for the long-term!

  10. If you are spending $500 currently on cell phone and cable, you are probably spending too much. Check out howardforums.com. Your bill may atleast be halved.

  11. It sounds like we are in the exact same situation and made the exact same decision! I also have the Sapphire Preferred and the old Ink Bold (I’m starting to call it the Ink Old). I’ll also sign up for the new ink bold this year, pay the annual fee on the SP, and then downgrade to a no fee Ink before paying the annual fee on the new Ink Bold. My downgrade strategy is: sign up for a no fee Ink to get 25k bonus, then cancel the Ink Bold.

  12. Love the post and have 2 questions:
    I have Freedom, Ink and Sapphire all linked online. If I cancel the Sapphire, can I continue to combine my Freedom points into my Ink Ultimate Rewards? And if so, can I still do that with a downgraded Ink card?

  13. I would like to see your point of view in regards to the AMEX PLAT, I also got the 2nd year bill for $450 and have not made up my mind to keep it or cancel it.

  14. @Asen, that would be great. Between the business phone line, the iPhone family plan times 4, the super cable package for the football games, etc. it adds up for sure.

    @FrequentMiler, yeah signing up for a new no fee Ink to get the bonus may be what I do as well – it will just depend on inquiries and such at the time. 25K sign-up bonus is always tempting though. 😉

    @Nancy, you need to have at least one UR card, so if you downgraded the Ink, you would need to keep the Sapphire Preferred so you keep the ability to transfer to hotel and airline partners.

    @ORD-TGU, coming up soon. 😉 Shoot me an email if you want some thoughts before the post comes out.

  15. @mommypoints, I was referring to this statement: “Bottom line, I think for many folks, the Ink Bold may be a better card to keep than the Sapphire Preferred between those two cards – assuming that a person has both. The exception would be if…”.
     
    I guess I’m saying I don’t see any exceptions. If anything that bottom line should read, “Bottom line, the Sapphire Preferred is the card to keep for the 7% annual dividend on all points earned (including the UR mall), 2x points on dining and travel, no foreign exchange fees, and the ability to transfer points to hotel and airline partner. If you keep Sapphire Preferred you can downgrade your Ink Bold to a no fee Ink and keep all the other Ink benefits that Sapphire Preferred does not offer.”

  16. Another strategy in 2-person households is to stagger sign-ups for
    the same cards (while adding each other as authorized user each time)
    to extend the benefits and/or extend the 1st-annual fee being free.

    For example, one spouse gets Sapphire and/or Ink Bold, the other gets
    the dual card, both folks piling up points in one name, then switch roles near
    cancellation time.

    (Aside: this dual-spouse strategy worked marvelously for the 5% cash back
    AARP (fee-free) promos last year, each promo lasting 6 months but collecting
    5% back on *everything* for a year, including big ticket items like property and or
    income taxes (after netting out 2% or so), gift cards at grocery stores, etc.
    We were able to continue to collecting airmiles without undermining the 5% back
    by concentrating on apps that gave airmile bonuses for minimal spend.)

    The risks seen with staggering the bonuses/benefits on two cards over
    time is if they change substantially in 6 months or a year, or one person’s
    credit ratings diverge within that time, or the “it’s all mine” points/miles kitties
    just *have* to stay separate with little sharing.

  17. Everyone seems to be forgetting the 20% bonus with Chase checking account and the tier bonuses of the old Ink Bold card. My normal household spend of $25K per year on a primary card earns 50% bonus or total 12,500 UR bonus points . Much better compared to the Sapphire Preferred 7% bonus. Also the new Ink Bold or no-fee Ink cards do not offer this benefit, so I would hold on to the OLD Ink Bold card and pay the annual fee on it for transfer to travel partners, and downgrade to the Sapphire (non-preferred).

    @HikerT The SP 7% bonus on general spend of $25K would be 1750 UR points. To earn the difference (12500 – 1750 = 10750) in 7% SP bonus I would need to shop at UR mall going through SP card (not necessarily charging on SP) and earn (10750 / 0.07) = 153,571 points. Assuming 5X average earn in UR mall, that is UR mall shopping in amount of $30,714!!

    @Mommy Points @FrequentMiler
    To take this further, I will also use ChargeSmart to pay my monthly mortgage at 2.5% fees and hit the $50K spend per year. Additional $25K spend will earn 45,000 UR points (20% checking bonus + 15,000 points tier bonus) for $625 in fees. This works out to 62500/45000 = 1.38 cents/point. I remember TPG purchasing USAirways or Delta miles at 1.4 c/mile last year, surely UR points are more valuable and make it worth to pay the ChargeSmart fees.

    For 5X office supplies, and phone/cable/internet bills, just get another of the no-fee Ink cards. The Old Ink Bold card cannot be had once you give it up.

  18. @Hiker T, I get ya, I think….. We both agree that the best strategy is to keep the Sapphire Preferred and eventually downgrade to the fee-free version of the Ink. We differ in that if you are only going to have one or the other (for some strange reason) I say Ink Bold and you say Sapphire Preferred. 😉 It’s much more fun when we don’t all think the same thing anyway!

    @Loquitur, yes, that is a very good strategy for households where are two adults that are both willing and able to participate in the credit card game. 😉

  19. @ Mommy Points.

    FYI, the Chase Sapphire is every bit as good as the United Explorer card in regards to Automobile Rentals. It’s not a United Explorer perk, but rather a VISA SIGNATURE perk. Since the Sapphire is a Visa Signature card, you automatically get PRIMARY coverage on your automobile rentals as well.

    • @Gabriel, I had read (more than once) that the Sapphire Preferred does not offer primary auto coverage. It does have some auto coverage benefit, but not primary…..at least that is what I could find. Perhaps I should dig out my sign-up materials to double-check. Do you have a link to some info from Chase that verifies that? That would be great if it did offer primary, I just haven’t seen that.

  20. My Verizon wireless bill and Dish network sometimes do not report the category as telecom (wireless/telecommunications services, cable and satellite television, and radio services,) , therefore I do not get the 5x miles with my Chase Ink. I realize this is not the fault of the credit card, but any suggestions on how I can get these two companies to report as telecom? One month they do, next they don’t. Aargh!

    MP, thanks for the your thoughts on the two cards. I also feel more bloggers should give posts on” what should I do after the first year is up on my credit card”. I have been struggling with our (hubby and my) credit cards.

    And I feel one of us will keep Amex Spg and one will keep Chase Sapphire Preferred because of the 7% bonus on annual spend.

  21. @mommypoints, I’m all for different opinions but I’d appreciate it if you can explain why you think for many folks Ink Bold is the better card to keep? Are you talking about the old Ink Bold? If so you might want to clarify that in your blog post. You seemed to give highest priority to promoting the new Ink Bold (with only a passing reference to the old Ink Bold) so I would think you’re talking about the new card. Let me say it again, you can only come out behind if you keep the new Ink Bold vs. keeping Sapphire Preferred and downgrading the new Ink Bold. Or do you disagree with this?
     
    @Kroozer, good point about the checking bonus on the old Ink Bold. That could be a reason to keep the old Ink Bold. As far as the annual spend bonus on the old Ink Bold – that isn’t really a fair comparison to Sapphire Preferred unless you also account for the opportunity cost of putting all that spend on the old Ink Bold. For example, you may need to pass on a 75K AMEX offer that requires $10K of spend. Similarly, you need to reflect how much you are giving up by not putting that spend on a card that offers e.g. 2x on travel.

    • @Satsong, that is weird! So strange that it would vary month to month.

      @Hiker T, again, I think the long-term best plan is to have the Sapphire Preferred and a fee free version of the Ink Bold (after the first free year). However, for the purposes of an academic debate, I think if you were going to just have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold (and I mean the new Ink – the old is really only better for big spenders, which I am not), then I think the Ink Bold is better as 5x in those categories plus the ability to buy all sorts of gift cards as Staples or Office Max for 5x will result in more bonus points than just getting 2x on some things plus 7%. Most all of us have cell phones, cable, etc that is at least $200 per month (at least for families), so that is 12,000 points per year right there just on that conservative estimate. Add to that gas gift cards, travel, restaurant, etc from an office supply stores and you can easily have 10,000 – 20,000 extra points per year from that. It takes a lot of dining and 7% to get to that amount of bonus points. Travel doesn’t impress me as much since both do hotels and other common cards (like the Amex PRG) can match or beat airfare bonus points. That said, I really like the Sapphire Preferred, but I think many families will get more bonus points out of using the Ink appropriately than they will the Sapphire. Just my opinion. 😉 I know for sure my family would get more out of the new Ink. Of course, this is all academic because the better plan is to have the Sapphire Preferred and free Ink.

  22. I hear ya – if I could only have one I might choose Ink, but you do realize your blog post actually says “assuming that a person has both.” Maybe that was a typo? If you already have both you can just downgrade Ink and keep Sapphire, so that “bottom line” in your post just didn’t make any sense to me.

  23. That was a great and thorough post on the topic! I’ll have to make the decision later this year, as a holder of the Sapphire Preferred and the Old Ink Bold. I’m actually planning to keep both, with a slight twist…I’ll probably apply for the new Ink Bold, for the office supply benefit (and a 50k bonus), and cancel the old one. The Sapphire Preferred has become my backup primary card, basically if I’m not doing dining or travel, and the place doesn’t accept AMEX (if it does, I use the AMEX SPG), but I would make good use of the gift card benefits of the Ink Bold.

  24. Doesn’t the Chase Ink bold come with the 2 free airport lounge passes yearly? I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold (it’s in the mail) and AMEX Platinum. I plan to open Chase Biz checking account and apply for the Chase Freedom in the future. Do I need to have the Chase Sapphire preferred to receive all the bonus points with the combo of checking account, Freedom and Sapphire Preferred or could I downgrade to the Chase Sapphire?

    I plan on canceling the AMEX Plat when the annual fee comes up. I am interested in the airport lounge passes. Would it be best for me to apply for the Chase Sapphire (25k points) then cancel Sapphire Preferred and keep my Ink Bold?

  25. Hey MP, I am wondering what you think about this strategy for my husband and I going forward with the Amex Platinum cards. My $450 fee will be due soon, hitting with the next statement I presume. My husband’s is due in June. He and I have discussed the possibility of me getting rid of mine and he keeping his, so that he would continue to get lounge access as well as some other benefits. I don’t need the card as much for that since I don’t travel for business.

    However, I just recently had an idea which I wonder if it’s worthwhile posing as an option. What if we were to both cancel our Amex Plat cards, and then he can sign up for the Mercedes Benz Platinum? Yes, we’d still be getting hit with the annual fee, but we’d be getting 50,000 new bonus points (since this is a different product I assume we should get the bonus). To me, this offsets the $475 annual fee.

    I had this idea the other day and quite honestly was shocked that I hadn’t thought of it sooner, or that I hadn’t seen it proposed on any of the blogs. Of course, this still means that next year we’ll be faced with this dilemma all over again. But for now, it seems a good solution. Any down side you can see to my idea?

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