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Monday March 18, 2019, marks the final day of Chase's limited-time 50,000-mile offer on the United℠ Explorer Business Card.
Now, we typically recommend jumping on limited-time offers while they are live, but, in this case, we’re taking the contrarian position of recommending folks don’t apply for this card. Why? Because there are at least two other Chase business cards, subject to the same eligibility criteria, that we think offer better value (and tens of thousands more points) over the long-term.
Which cards are we talking about? Two of the stars of Chase’s business card portfolio, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card. Outside of cardholder benefits when you are flying United, these cards out-earn and outperform the United Business Card on almost every front.
That’s not to say the offer on the United Business Card doesn’t provide top value. The 50,000 mile offer is the highest bonus we’ve seen to date on this card, plus the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. But, you’re leaving serious value on the table applying for the United Business Card unless you already hold one or both of the Ink cards listed above.
More Points & Better Perks with Chase Ink Rewards Cards
While the United Business Card is an excellent option for United fans, from a long-term perspective, you get a much better overall package with Chase’s lineup of Ink business rewards cards. Since March 2017, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has consistently offered the most valuable publicly available signup bonus of any card on the market, and when you factor in annual fees, the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card is not far behind.
Here’s a quick recap of the welcome offers on the Chase Ink cards:
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card – Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card – Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
While the bonus on the Ink Business Unlimited is marketed as cash back, when it hits your account it's awarded as 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points which you can combine with points earned on other Ultimate Rewards earning cards.
The Ink Preferred has taken the top spot in our comparison of small business rewards cards since its release late in 2016. Why? Putting aside the impressive signup bonus, cardholders earn 3x points on the first $150,000 each account year in a broad range of expense categories that includes travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases made on social media sites and search engines, and you only wear a $95 annual fee.
Where the United Business Card earns 2x miles on United purchases and 1 point per dollar on other travel expenses, the Ink Preferred earns 3x points on ALL travel expenses, including United purchases, with points transferring to United at 1:1 ratio. You effectively get one more United mile per dollar when swiping the Ink Preferred for United purchases than you would get swiping United's co-brand card.
The Ink Preferred features a full suite of travel and purchase protection benefits including:
- Cell phone protection up to $600 per claim, including employee cell phone accounts paid with the card. There is a $100 deductible, and you can make up to 3 claims per year.
- Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver when renting for business purposes
- Trip Delay, Baggage Delay, and Trip Interruption & Cancelation Insurance
- Purchase Protection and Extended Warranty benefits
Keep in mind, to transfer points earned on the Ink Business Unlimited to airline and hotel partners, you need to hold an Ultimate Rewards earning card that charges an annual fee. This includes the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and Ink Preferred cards.
Putting all three cards head to head, it’s relatively easy to see the additional value the Ink Preferred offers over the United Business Card. What’s not so obvious is the points earning potential of the Ink Business Unlimited. It punches well above its weight for a no annual fee card. We'll dig into a quick comparison to demonstrate the value of holding Chase’s Ink cards year on year.
We’re using very conservative numbers here, roughly $5,000 in business expenses per month, but if your expenses are greater, the difference only becomes more obvious. Particularly in year two as the annual fee kicks in on the United Business Card.
- Signup bonus = 80,000 points
- $5,000 x 12 = $60,000
- $45,000 @ 1x points = 45,000 points
- $15,000 @ 3x points = 45,000 points
- 1st year = 164,412 points (170K minus the $95 annual fee – 5,588 miles @ 1.7¢ each)
- 2nd year = 84,412 points (90K minus the $95 annual fee – 5,588 miles @ 1.7¢ each)
- 2 year total points = 248,824 Ultimate Rewards points
- Signup bonus = 50,000 points
- $5,000 x 12 = $60,000
- $60,000 @ 1.5x points = 90,000 points (no bonus categories)
- 1st year = 140,000 points
- 2nd year = 90,000 points (no annual fee to account for)
- 2 year total points = 230,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- Signup bonus = 50,000 miles
- $5,000 x 12 = $60,000
- $52,000 @ 1x mile = 52,000 miles
- $8,000 @ 2x miles = 16,000 miles
- 1st year = 143,000 miles
- 2nd year = 61,214 miles (68K minus the $95 annual fee – 6,786 miles @ 1.4¢ each)
- 2 year total miles = 204,214 United miles
We’ve given the Ink Preferred an additional $7,000 in bonus spend as the 3x categories pick up a much wider range of expenses than the United card, plus most folks will already have a card earning better than 2x on dining which rules out a lot of bonus spend on the United Business Card.
This is a basic comparison making some pretty broad and conservative assumptions, that also doesn’t factor in the higher value we place on Ultimate Rewards. But, it demonstrates the importance of analyzing your spend and calculating the longterm return before you start applying for cards, as the results may surprise you.
United Business Card Signup Bonus and Card Benefits
Now, if you already hold one or more of the cards above, particularly the Ink Preferred which we see as the highest value business card available in the Chase roster of rewards cards. Or, you're a tried and true United loyalist who can get oversized value from the perks offered on the United Business Card, and you’re under 5/24, then this is a top offer worth pursuing.
The limited-time 50,000-mile bonus on the United℠ Explorer Business Card is the highest bonus we’ve ever seen offered on this card. If you value United miles at a conservative 1.3-1.4 cents each, those miles are worth roughly $975-$1,050 towards award flights on United or Star Alliance partners like ANA, Singapore Airlines, Asiana, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.
The card offers plenty of perks for United fans, including:
- Free first checked bag for the primary cardholder and a companion on the same reservation if you purchase the ticket with your United card.
- Two complimentary United Club Passes worth up to $100 per year in value.
- Expanded award availability. One of the most overlooked and poorly understood benefits of holding United co-brand cards.
Where the United Business Card falls flat is the return on spend. You’ll earn 2x miles on United purchases and at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores, and just 1x mile per dollar spent on other purchases. Outside of the welcome bonus, this is a card you acquire for the United perks rather than the potential return on spend.
Qualifying For Chase Business Cards
Chase business cards are subject to many of the same application restrictions as their consumer counterparts, chief amongst them being Chase's 5/24 policy. Chase won’t approve you for new personal or business cards if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards in the previous 24 months.
The primary difference between applying for business and consumer cards is that business cards from Chase won’t add to your 5/24 count. If you’re currently sitting under 5/24, you could potentially apply for the Ink Preferred or United Business Card, and 6 months down the track apply for the Ink Business Unlimited to maximize your points on non-bonus business expenses, without adding to your 5/24 total.
Another benefit of applying for Chase business cards is that unlike the restrictions placed on the Sapphire family of cards, there is currently no restriction on acquiring multiple cards within the Chase Ink lineup. You can collect all the Ink rewards cards over time and earn bonus points on a massive range of business expenses, plus a minimum 1.5x points on non-bonus purchases via the Ink Business Unlimited.
While you will need a legitimate business to qualify for these cards, they are all aimed squarely at small business owners, including those operating under sole proprietorships. Provided you have legitimate business spend and can produce documents outlining your expenses; you’re in a position to apply for a business card.
If your long-term goal is to collect as many United miles as possible, you’ll earn thousands more miles a year by applying for one or more Ink business rewards cards, particularly the Ink Preferred which we rate as the best small business card available today. The card delivers what we consider the highest value signup bonus currently available at 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points, a set of functional bonus categories on up to $150,000 per year in business expenses, and you can transfer points to 11 different hotel and airline partners—including United Mileage Plus.
Alternatively, the 50,000-mile offer on the United Business Card wraps up on March 18, 2019. If you already hold all the Ink cards you need and think you’ll maximize the benefits on offer, you might want to get an application in while the bonus is at an all-time high.
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