Accumulate Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Quickly by Building a Credit Card Combo Accumulate Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Quickly by Building a Credit Card Combo

Accumulate Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Quickly by Building a Credit Card Combo

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Outside of collecting big signup bonuses, earning the maximum number of points for every purchase should be the goal for points and miles enthusiasts. However, with so many credit cards available with different earning rates and benefits, it’s easy to overcomplicate the process.

If you want the highest return on spending without holding many credit cards, you need to simplify your credit card strategy to focus on two factors:

  • Earn high-value points redeemable for flexible rewards.
  • Earn the highest number of points possible for each purchase.

By creating a Chase credit card combo, you can quickly earn high amounts of Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to 14 travel partners for flight and hotel award redemptions at a better value than just sticking to a single airline or hotel loyalty program. In addition, Chase cards offer excellent point-earning and redemption rates and fantastic travel benefits.

Build a Winning Ultimate Rewards Credit Card Combination

Chase currently offers three cards that earn Ultimate Rewards directly:

Additionally, these cards earn cash back, which you can combine with Ultimate Rewards if you have one of the cards above, and none of these cards have an annual fee:

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Credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash

Choosing a few of these cards to maximize point-earning rates on your purchases is an easy way to quickly earn Ultimate Rewards points. However, you must hold at least one of the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Preferred in order to earn Ultimate Rewards that you can redeem with transfer partners. Otherwise, you will earn cash back instead of points, and you can only redeem in other (typically less valuable) ways.

Ultimate Rewards 2-Card Strategy

If you desire a simple rewards strategy to minimize the number of cards in your wallet, we recommend combining the Sapphire Reserve with the Freedom Unlimited.

Excluding new cardmember offers and temporary promotions, the Freedom Unlimited‘s base earning rate is 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases, making it one of the most rewarding cards available for everyday spending. The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on travel and dining, has an annual $300 travel credit, elevated redemption rate of 1.5¢ per point when booking through the Chase Travel Portal, complimentary lounge access with Priority Pass, credit to reimburse your application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and no foreign transaction fees.

With this strategy, you have a high-earning card combo that provides outstanding travel benefits and the ability to transfer points to partners, while only needing two cards in your wallet.

Maximizing your earnings

Make sure to use your Sapphire Reserve for dining and travel purchases (including things rideshare apps) to earn 3 points per $1 spent (or up to 10x if booking travel in Chase's portal). Utilize your Freedom Unlimited for drugstore purchases (3x) and all other purchases (minimum 1.5x). Then, you can combine the rewards online to have all Ultimate Rewards points, rather than a mix of points and cash back.

Keep in mind, you'll want to use your Sapphire Reserve for any foreign transactions as the Freedom Unlimited has a foreign transaction fee.

Total annual fees:

  • Sapphire Reserve: $550
  • Freedom Unlimited: $0

Note: If you’re new to earning points and miles, or don’t think you’ll take full advantage of the travel benefits associated with the Sapphire Reserve, you can replace it with the Sapphire Preferred, which comes with a lower annual fee of $95. The Sapphire Preferred earns 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (2X on other travel); 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out; 3X points on streaming services; 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs); and 1X on all other purchases.

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Credit: Austin Distel/Unsplash

Ultimate Rewards 3-Card Strategy

By adding the Freedom Flex to go with the Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited, you can take advantage of rotating quarterly 5% category bonuses, valid on the first $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, and continue to convert cash-back earnings into points for travel redemptions.

Maximizing your earnings

Use your Freedom Flex on purchases covered by a quarterly category bonus (5x), your Sapphire Reserve for dining (3x) and travel (3x–10x, depending on what and where you book), and your Freedom Unlimited for drugstore purchases (3x) as well as all other purchases (1.5x).

Note: The Freedom Flex and the Freedom Unlimited both pass along foreign transaction fees, so you'll want to avoid their use for such transactions.

Total annual fees:

  • Sapphire Reserve: $550
  • Freedom Unlimited: $0
  • Freedom Flex: $0

Ultimate Rewards 4 (or 5)-Card Strategy

To take advantage of a four- or five-card strategy, you’ll need to qualify for Chase’s small business cards: They are the Ink Preferred, Ink Unlimited, or Ink Cash.

Related: Comparing Chase Ink Business Cards — Which One Is Right for You?

The Ink Preferred earns 3x points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year, in addition to offering cell phone insurance covering up to $1,000 per claim. This card also has access to transfer partners, while the cards below don't (unless you have an eligible card to pair it with).

The Ink Cash earns 5% cash back at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services and 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year. Points earned on Ink Cash can be transferred to the Ink Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Sapphire Preferred for transfer partner redemptions.

The Ink Unlimited earns a flat 1.5% (1.5x points) on all purchases, with no limit on the amount of cash back/points you can earn.

While Chase also has the Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card, its cash-back earnings cannot be transferred into Ultimate Rewards.

The best 4 or 5 Chase card combo

Our pick for the best Ultimate Rewards credit card combo is the premium Sapphire Reserve with these no-annual-fee cards: Freedom Unlimited, Freedom Flex, and Ink Cash. Taking the three-card combo above and adding the Ink Cash adds earnings of up to 5x at office supply stores and internet, cable, and phone bills, plus up to 2x back at gas stations.

Maximizing your earnings

Take the logic from our previous examples and apply it to the 5x and 2x earning categories associated with the Ink Cash, as well as with the 3x earning categories on the Ink Preferred. Doing so will determine which Chase business card will earn you more points from your spending habits.

You can use the table below to see which Chase card earns the highest number of points in common spending categories:

Spending CategoryChase Card To UsePoint Earning Rate
Travel (purchased outside of Chase)Sapphire Reserve3x
DiningSapphire Reserve / Sapphire Preferred3x
Travel (purchased via Chase)Freedom Unlimited5x
DrugstoresFreedom Unlimited3x
All other purchasesFreedom Unlimited1.5x
Quarterly spending categoriesFreedom Flex5x
Online grocery purchasesSapphire Preferred3x
Streaming servicesSapphire Preferred3x
Office supply storesInk Cash5x
Internet, cable, and phone billsInk Cash5x
Gas stationsInk Cash2x
ShippingInk Preferred3x
AdvertisingInk Preferred3x

Total annual fees:

  • Sapphire Reserve: $550
  • Freedom Unlimited: $0
  • Freedom Flex: $0
  • Ink Preferred: $95
  • Ink Cash: $0
  • Ink Unlimited: $0

When points are effectively worth between 1 and 2 cents apiece, you need to spend a lot to make up for annual fees, so ensure you keep the combined cost of your cards as low as possible.

Related: 22 Different Ways To Redeem Ultimate Rewards

Be Aware of Chase Application Restrictions

Note that there are application restrictions when applying for Chase credit cards.

  • 5/24: If you’ve opened five or more new credit cards in the previous 24 months (across any card issuer), it's unlikely that you'll be approved for any Chase credit cards. While applications for Chase business cards also are subject to the 5/24 rule, the 5/24 rule does not count opening a Chase business card as one of the five cards opened in the last 24 months. If you plan on utilizing Chase cards to earn points and miles, we strongly recommend picking up all the Ultimate Rewards earning cards you can while under the 5/24 limit.
  • Sapphire cards: Chase prevents applicants who currently hold a Sapphire card, or have received a bonus for one in the previous 48 months, from applying for another card within the Sapphire family of cards. If you have or have had one of the Sapphire products, watch out.
  • 2/30: Chase typically won't approve you for more than two cards in 30 days, and there is a maximum approval of one business card in a 30-day period. This information isn't published anywhere; it's crowdsourced and based on the information we've gathered, along with information provided by our readers.

Check out our post on understanding credit card application rules and restrictions to learn more.

Final Thoughts

Chasing big signup bonuses across multiple rewards programs can help you accumulate a substantial balance of points and miles quickly. However, long-term award travel success is achieved by maximizing the return on everyday spending. By building a combination of Ultimate Rewards credit cards and using the right one for each purchase, you can maximize how many points you earn each year. This speeds up the process of accumulating enough points for premium airline and hotel redemptions.

Have a favorite Ultimate Rewards earning combo? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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  • Jameel Nicholson says:

    I can confirm that Chase will approve you for two cards in the same week, if you stagger it. I applied for the Sapphire Preferred on Tuesday, then the Freedom Unlimited on Sunday, and got approved for both on Monday (it wasn’t an instant approval, because they had to call me and verify my identity prior to giving the cards because I have active fraud alerts due to the Equifax data breach). I have been strategically gunning for the Chase quartet, and will get the Ink Cash and the Freedom in 6 months, once I’m out of 5/24.

    After that, the only card I’m still going to *Chase* is the World of Hyatt card, and then it’s on to the next objective.

  • I have an Amex Platinum for which the annual fee just hit. Reading this blog, I’m now wondering if I should get a CSR instead of renewing. Or combining it with an United Mileage Plus Explorer card to free up additional Saver award inventory as mentioned in another blog.

    The main thing I’m going to miss if I do this are the Amex Centurion Lounges.

    • Depends a lot on your redemption plans and how you like to travel. We hold a Platinum Business Card for the lounge access and the elite status benefits it awards us. With two young kids and no longer traveling full-time, we don’t travel enough to earn status organically, so the lounge access and elite status benefits come in handy the few times a year we travel internationally. It’s not a card we put a lot of spend on as other cards have much better bonus categories that fit our spending patterns, but we hold it for the perks. You need to weigh up the cost of holding the card vs. how much value you get from the card benefits.

  • trying to decide if I want to renew my reserve…. without the bonus, tough decision

  • Great article! Thanks for all the tips!

  • Jennifer Finney says:

    I have an old Chase Sapphire card from 2005. I believe it’s pre-Reserve, etc. I have two questions. First, is there any way to know if I would be approved for a Sapphire Reserve if I have good credit with only one new card opened in last two years? Secondly, if so, will my current points be transferable to a Sapphire Reserve or do I need to open one of the other new cards mentioned above?

  • Bryan Austin says:

    I have the CSR and a small business Chase Ink. If I could pick up one or two more cards right now, should I get the Chase Fredom/Freedom Unlimited or go to the Ink Preferred

  • Had decided to use this strategy a few days ago. I have the CFU for 5x, the CIC for 5x internet cable and phone then the CFU for 1.5 all other. Still trying to decide which Sapphire though. Any ideas?

    And would be nice to have something better than 1.5 for groceries.

  • I currently have the CSR, and the Marriott Premier Plus. Is there any reason to keep my Amex SPG card now that Marriott has taken over? By the way, we are very disappointed in what Marriott has done to the SPG program! Yes they trippled your existing SPG points, but also raised the number of points required by 3.30%.

  • The CSR, Freedom, and Unlimited card combination can’t be beat. UR still has the best domestic travel partners and best value.

  • Eileen Kerrigan says:

    Is it possible to PC the Slate card to a Freedom Unlimited? Right now the Slate is just gathering dust, and the FU would certainly be more useful.

  • If I have the Chase Ink Business Plus, should I switch to the Ink Business Preferred? Will I get the 80K bonus?

  • Thanks for the info, great strategies!
    Building up on the UR 5 card strategy.

  • I’m 4/24 as of 2/13/18. I will be 3/24 on 2/16/18 and 2/24 on 3/16/18. I have a SW personal and a SW business card. I applied for and was approved for both SW cards in October 2017. I want get to 5/24 in the next few months. Thinking CSR, Ink. I’m asking for suggestions, both personal and business Chase cards, to apply for. It seem that I read somewhere that if planned properly a person can actually get to 6/24. Maybe applying for 2 cards on the same day after I reach 4/24? All suggestions are greatly appreciated.

  • This is definitely a great credit card strategy.

  • I still need to pick up a Freedom Unlimited. Hoping for a preapproval.

  • I love the UR rewards. Great to see it’s still in the top!

  • Thanks for these strategies. That 5/24 rule is tough one to overcome.

  • Glad I read this. I am going to try the three card Chase strategy. I hope the Chase Reserve card will offer one of there 100,000 mile bonus signup again soon. Thanks!

  • I converted an old card to the Freedom, so I have two Freedoms, so I can spend $3K per quarter in bonus categories, which helps accumulate points even faster.

  • Another nice thing about the CSR is how broad the “travel” merchant classification is; ride-sharing, airbnb, tolls etc. all count, so it’s fairly easy to get your money’s worth out of the travel credit.

  • thanks for the amazingly super advice!

  • Lee Ann Bixler says:

    Great article. I especially like the 3 Card strategy. Thanks for the information.

  • omg! This post has made the light bulb finally go off in my head!!! yes I can now see why to have the Freedom unlimited, freedom and sapphire preferred cards..I see why I should have the reserve but cannot just wrap around the AF. But genius! But with the three cards I may just drive my husband insane with all the charges across multi cards. Any suggestions for his sanity? lol!

  • It is so hard to keep within the 5/24 rules to get Chase cards. There are so many opportunities that one doesn’t wish to pass on and wait two years.

  • Wow. Lots of points to be had!

  • Great research and portfolio. I need to rebalance my cards for maximum effect.

  • UR may be the best currency out there at the moment!

  • There are definitely lots of ways you can play this. While UR are awesome, I’m still a little weary of putting all my eggs in the same basket!

  • The CSR and two freedom cards has served me really, really well. I use the amex EDP heavily as well.

    Some people think I’m nuts…but those points have been racking up!

  • I like the 2 card and 3 card strategies

  • Thanks. I’m waiting for my 5/24 time to expire so I can move forwards.

  • ioanna sioutis says:

    Very helpful advice thx

  • Great strategies, thanks for consolidating all this information. Makes it much easier to understand, and really helpful for leading newbies like me in the right direction to maximize rewards!

  • It always amazes me that a great number of people don’t even realise that they can earn so many benefits just by paying for products and services with a credit card.

  • Mr and UR and I’m good to go.

  • Do you think the Chase Freedom Unlimited will waive its FX fees? Would love to see this feature.

  • Bernard Say says:

    I am allergic to paying annual fees so this would only work for me the first year if they have no annual fee for the first year.

    • You should take some allergy medication. Some cards with fees are worth every penny!

      • Couldn’t agree more Howie, especially when you consider that after making use of the annual travel credit, the maximum net AF on the CSR is only $150. For the myriad of benefits the card offers, that one is a no-brainer.

    • The 300 dollar travel credit can be triggered twice in your first year. Or rather, you can trigger it in the beginning of the first month of your 2nd year whereas the annual fee doesn’t trigger until the END of that 13th month statement.

      Which means if you time it right you’re straight up getting $600 of travel credit for the $450 annual fee, and that doesn’t even count the points bonus and other benefits.

      • David Grainger says:

        You may want to check your data on this point. I believe Chase closed this loophole. I believe you now get the $300 every card year, not calendar year. The card still makes sense if you are going to use the travel portal. 1.5 bonus on value through this portal. If you have no plans after year 1 to use the features of the card, you can always product change at the end of the first year to a CF or CFU (which carry no annual fees) and then product change back to the CSR when you wish to use the benefits. You will then pay the annual fee, but would get a new $300 travel credit and all other values as well.

  • Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • This is a pretty solid combo. Thanks for the info.

  • UR points are really great. Wish I’d discovered them sooner!

  • KRIPAL SINGH says:

    This is a great strategy but it requires lot of work for little money .

  • The biggest non category rewards are on Bank of America’s Travel Rewards and Preferred Rewards cards , if you keep a balance with Bank Of America, including Merrill Lynch. If you have $100,000, your 1.5% is increased by 75% to 2.625%,, redeemable as cash (among options). An easy and cheap way to maintain the balance needed to get the bonus is open a Merrill Edge discount online brokerage account, including an IRA.

  • Great article! I wish I had something like this when I was first starting out in miles and points. I look forward to future articles about the other flexible points programs.

  • It’s funny I haven’t used the Freedom Unlimited at all for several months now… yes it’s 2.25% if I redeem it through the CSR portal, but at this point I’d rather just put it in a 2% cashback card.

    Meanwhile, let’s say you put 4000 dollars on everyday spend. If you put it on a Freedom Unlimited, that gets you 6000 points.

    If at least 500 of those 4000 dollars each month falls on a Chase Freedom bonus category (or 125 dollars/quarter), you are better off using the Chase Freedom over the Freedom Unlimited. At 5% for gas this quarter, I think most commuters can hit that just this quarter.

    Of course the correct answer is to have both the Freedom and the Freedom Unlimited (in addition to your premium card).

  • great strategy when not opening new cards!

  • I got the CSR first, followed by the CFU and CF as soon as I hit the minimum spend for the bonus. Should hit the CF bonus minimum this week. Next up will be the Ink Cash, and then before the wife and I travel to Europe for our honeymoon, the Ink Preferred, so that I can take advantage of its zero forex fees while piling on the minimum spend.

  • I dont think I travel enough to need the multiple cards.

  • I also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Freedom. I have been holding off on the Freedom Unlimited as I hope a big sign up bonus offer will be placed into the marketplace by our good friends at Chase.

  • Strategies are unique to each person’s spend patterns, needs, and value. Always great to discuss and weigh the options.

  • Definitely helps to pick up the UR cards before going over 5/24

  • I have the CSR and the Chase Freedom, I would like to get the Freedom Unlimited too, however I am under the 5/24 rule.

  • The great thing is that despite all our different needs/goals/desires, there’s almost certainly a credit card strategy that works best for all of us individually.

  • Nice! I’ve been looking to optimize my card situation — would love to start following this model.

  • Many of these cards do not provide good value.

  • good advice, but maybe add the Fidelity 2% cash back card and the PFCU 5% rebate on gasoline card?

  • great advice, I’ve been following this pretty much for a year and love how many ultimate rewards ive been able to rack up!

  • The wife & I employ a 4-card strategy. I hold the CSR, Freedom Unlimited (converted from CSP), and Ink Cash (converted from Ink Plus), while she also hods the CSR, and the Freedom (converted from CSP). This basically covers all the bases for us, ensuring we’re doing better than 1 point per $1 on essentially every dollar we spend through our Chase cards, and more often than not, 3-5 points per $1.