As of right now, here are the 3 credit cards I’ll always be carrying: Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited. These cards earn Ultimate Rewards points from Chase and each card is different in the way you earn. The biggest benefit with these cards is that you can combine the Ultimate Rewards points into one huge sum. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you are able to unlock the most value since you can transfer those points directly to many frequent flier programs (United, Southwest, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Flying Blue, etc). Here is a run down of each of the cards. For the sake of disclosure, I want to point out that I don’t have any financial relationship with Chase related to this website and everything I post is for your own benefit.
- Annual Fee: None
- Sign up bonus: 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $500 over 3 months. This is equivalent to $150 cash back.
- The best thing about this card is that it has quarterly categories which reward you with 5 points per dollar for up to $1,500 of spending. All other spending will get you 1 point per dollar. For example, from Jan-March, the quarterly categories are gas stations and commuter transportation (commuter passenger trains, subways, metro, buses, taxis, and ferries). When you are filling up your car or paying for a train ticket, remember to use this card to get 5 points per dollar.
- Many people who have don’t have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred will use the Ultimate Rewards points earned on this card to get cash back.
- This is also a card of choice for those who do not want to pay an annual fee for a credit card. It does have value as a cash back card but again, you will unlock the most value when pairing it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Annual Fee: None
- Sign up bonus: 15,000 points after $500 spent over the first 3 months. This is equivalent to $150 cash back.
- If I’m purchasing something that doesn’t fall into the dining or travel categories (Which Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards me with 3 points per dollar) or something that doesn’t fall in the Chase Freedom quarterly categories (gas stations and commuter costs for this quarter which rewards me 5 points per dollar), I’ll find myself using the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This card gets you 1.5 points per dollar on every single purchase. This is my go-to card for purchases at Wal-Mart, Target, cell phone bills, cable bills, electricity bills, and just about any bills where you don’t get incentives to use a different credit card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Annual Fee: $95 (1st year is waived)
- Sign up bonus: 50,000 points after $4,000 spent over 1st 3 months.
- Earn 2 points per dollar on anything travel and 2 points per dollar on dining. 1 point per dollar on everything else
- Ability to transfer points directly to many frequent flier programs (United, Southwest, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Flying Blue, etc) as well as hotels (Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz Carlton). Just like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the ability to transfer to airline partners as well as hotel partners is really what gives this card its value.
- This used to be my favorite card prior to the debut of the Chase Sapphire Reserve 3 months ago. Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers everything this card does plus a lot more, I will be downgrading the Chase Saphire Preferred in the coming weeks.
- This card is a good option for those who want a year to test out the card before committing to paying an annual fee. While the benefits are not nearly as robust as its successor, the cheaper annual fee of $95 and the ability to add an authorized at no additional cost is appealing.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Annual Fee: $450 (1st year not waived)
- Sign up bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 over the first 3 months. If you go to a Chase branch and apply there, you have until March to get 100,000 points instead. If you’re on the fence and you live in an area with Chase branches, you still have time.
- $300 travel credit per year. Chase is very generous with this. Flights, hotels, tolls, car rentals, parking costs, public transit, Uber, Lyft, taxi all qualify
- $85 credit for TSA pre-check or $100 credit for Global Entry.
- Earn 3 points per dollar on anything travel (listed above) and 3 points per dollar on dining. This can be anything from fast food, to fine dining. And yes, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and mom and pop coffee shops count as well.
- Elite membership for Avis and National Car rental. I booked as an Avis Preferred member via the credit card benefit and I was able to skip the long line at Avis’s general car rental counter at Lihue Airport in Kauai. It easily saved me 45 minutes.
- Priority Pass membership which gives you unlimited access to 900+ lounges at airports across the world. You can also bring one guest. To pay for a 1 day pass at a Priority Pass lounge costs $75.
- Ability to transfer points directly to many frequent flier programs (United, Southwest, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, etc) as well as hotels (Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz Carlton). In my opinion, this feature is what really makes this card valuable. You will get a lot more value for your points when transferring to a frequent flier program and then using that to book an award flight.
- It’s understandable that the annual fee might turn some people off. Just remember, if you are spending a combined $300 on flights, hotels, E-Z Pass/I-Pass/Any Tolls, car rentals, Uber, Lyft, etc, the annual fee is technically $150 since your first $300 related to travel is reimbursed.
- Important to note that adding an authorized user will cost an additional $75 per year.