The Best Combo of Ultimate Rewards Cards

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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.

We love using Ultimate Reward points at Hyatt properties in Hawaii!

We love using Ultimate Reward points at Hyatt properties in Hawaii!

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.

Disclaimer: The comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Uhm the Chase Sapphire card comes with 2x on dining… at least in the us ( I dont use it internationally anyway as there would be a foreign transaction fee) Might want to update your post… I personally have that mix.. ink bold + fee free sapphire card… dump all travel on the amex PRG for now.. its all a shifting game so we shall see what happens when my next af comes up on that.

    • sorry – i misread… I guess it makes sense you dont mention the free sapphire as its no longer available right? oops 🙂

  2. The Chase Ink Cash card does not earn points redeemable with Ultimate Rewards. That is what I was told by a Chase representative. Any one actually have the Ink Cash card that have been able to earn points to use with Ultimate Rewards?

    • It doesn’t earn transferable points on its own, but you need a premium card like the Ink Plus or Sapphire Preferred to then be able to transfer the points.

  3. Unfortunately, if you are reading this blog you already have more than five credit card applications in the past year or two. – Therefore you will no longer be qualified to be approved for them. 🙁

    • Travis, you would be surprised how many people that does not apply to that read this site. It is a real bummer for the rest of us though. 😉

    • Incorrect. I’ve got about 12 cards but only 2 in the last two years, 4 if you count authorized users. I was going pretty hard on applications until a couple small things snowballed and ruined my credit a couple years ago. I’ve held off on applications until I get it fixed but have been managing applications for my fiancé in the meantime. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everybody is in the same situation as you, even if it’s mostly true. 😉

      • Mwwalk, sorry to hear about some of your troubles, but glad your fiance has been able to keep on going. You are so right that everyone’s situation is different. It surprises me how diverse even readers of miles and points blogs can be!

  4. MP must have been thinking of readers like me when she wrote this since I found it quite timely for my particular situation, and I’ve been an almost daily reader of travel blogs for close to 5 years. This post will save me time.

  5. I applied for the Chase Freedom and was denied due to too many applications in the past 2 years. I wish I would have known the terms were changing on the Club Carlson card before I did that application! Oh well, at least my husband has the Freedom and I have the Sapphire.

  6. Still trying to decide whether to keep the Chase Sapphire after the first year. At first glance, it doesn’t seem worth the $95. Any thoughts? The Amex Starwood pays for itself through the offers but 5x on office supply stores and 2x on restaurants doesn’t really seem that fabulous once you account for the fee.

  7. Hi MP … Thank you so much for this extremely helpful post. I’ve been grappling with these very same questions. You read my mind! I’m sure there are plenty of us in the same boat, hoping to minimize annual fees, maximize spending leverage and preserve UR points flexibility. This post really nails it.

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