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A big part of any solid miles and points strategy is not just knowing which cards to get, but knowing which cards to keep for the long haul. One “family” of points that I think is particularly important to know how to maximize for the long haul is the Chase Ultimate Rewards family of points. Having a strategy for the long haul is even more important than it used to be now that it has become tougher for many to get approved for this family of Chase credit cards.
What Cards Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards?
There are currently four publicly available credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards (listed below), as well as a few cards that some will still have that are no longer publicly available. If you have one of the cards that is no longer publicly available my recommendations on which cards to hold onto may vary slightly.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card It has a $0 introductory annual fee the first year then $95 in subsequent years. It earns 2x points on travel and dining and 1x on most other purchases (3x on dining on First Fridays).
Points earned on the Sapphire Preferred are transferable to hotel and airline partners or can be used at 1.25 cents each toward travel via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This card is the one I most frequently recommend for miles and points beginners for the reasons outlined in this post.
Chase Freedom® This personal credit card earns 5x points on rotating bonus categories such as gas, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon, etc. each quarter up to a $1,500 max. You see this card often advertized as a “cash back” card, but the points it earns can actually be transferred to hotel and airline partners if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus, so it is a great companion for either of those cards. You can read this post for info how to combine and transfer Ultimate Reward poin
Why do Ultimate Rewards Points Matter So Much?
Chase Ultimate Reward points are such a big deal in the miles and points world largely because they are so flexible and easy to use. They are the sole credit card transfer partner to many programs like Hyatt, United, Southwest, etc. and you can also use them at a fixed value toward travel, gift cards, and statement credits if you so desired.
The full list of Ultimate Rewards transfer partners includes:
British Airways, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton Rewards, and Amtrak Guest Rewards.
Many, like myself, also like that the various Ultimate Rewards earning cards have such strong earning capabilities via various bonus categories. It is a lot easier to rack up points at a 5x points per dollar rate than a 1x rate!
What is the Best Combo of Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards?
You could, of course, keep all the Ultimate Reward cards that you have in order to really maximize the respective bonus categories, but I know in the real world eventually many like to pair down how many cards they hold that come with annual fees.
With this family of cards the only cards that permit hotel and airline transfers are the ones that come with an annual fee, so it is not possible to entirely get rid of annual fees (if that is your goal) and retain the transferable feature of this family of cards. However, you can keep just one Ultimate Rewards card that comes with an annual fee and then supplement that with one or two cards from that family that does not have an annual fee to increase the number of category bonuses you can earn. The goal then will likely be to minimize annual fees while still maximizing the number of categories you can earn at 2x – 5x instead of just 1x.
For example, if you kept the Chase Sapphire Preferred you could earn 2x on dining and travel via that card. You could then supplement that with 5x on the quarterly rotating categories from the annual-fee-free Chase Freedom and 5x at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV (and 2x at restaurants and hotels) all by paying just the annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred. I think for many that will be a pretty well-rounded solution and potentially the best solutio
If you really want to minimize the number of open cards your family holds, remember that only you or your spouse/domestic partner needs to have a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Sapphire Preferred in order to be able to transfer Ultimate Reward points to hotel and airline partners. The other partner could stick to the no-annual-fee products if they desired and you could still transfer their points from the Freedom to the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus/Bold Ultimate Rewards account.
If you find yourself wanting/needing an Ultimate Rewards card you had in the past in order to round out your current strategy, be aware that the terms often indicate that “This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.” Also take the time to read through recent reports of people with 4 or 5 new credit cards in the last 2 years having trouble getting these card products.
Which Chase Ultimate Rewards cards does your family use and hold onto for the long haul?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.