Understanding the differences between the Chase Ink cards

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The Chase Ink cards are among the most rewarding business cards out there, though understanding the differences can be a challenge. To confuse things Chase has four versions of the card, which even I have a hard time keeping track of, so I figured I’d make a post explaining the differences. The four types of cards are as follows:

The differences between these cards can be pretty subtle, so I’ll outline the benefits of each one individually:

Ink Bold® Business Charge Card

  • Type of card: charge card (meaning the balance has to be paid in full each month)
  • Sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months
  • Annual fee: $95, waived first year
  • Points currency: “premium” Ultimate Rewards points
  • Bonus categories: 5x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services; 2x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations
  • Foreign transaction fees: none

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

  • Type of card: credit card (meaning you can — though shouldn’t — pay the card off over time)
  • Sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months
  • Annual fee: $95, waived first year
  • Points currency: “premium” Ultimate Rewards points
  • Bonus categories: 5x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services; 2x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and for hotel accommodations
  • Foreign transaction fees: none

Chase Ink Classic

  • Type of card: credit card (meaning you can — though shouldn’t — pay the card off over time)
  • Annual fee: none
  • Points currency: “limited” Ultimate Rewards points
  • Foreign transaction fees: 3%

Chase Ink Cash

  • Type of card: credit card (meaning you can — though shouldn’t — pay the card off over time)
  • Sign-up bonus: 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 within three months
  • Annual fee: none
  • Points currency: “limited” Ultimate Rewards points
  • Bonus categories: 5x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services; 2x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants
  • Foreign transaction fees: 3%

So to put this in plain English, the Ink Bold and Ink Plus are very similar, and the Chase Ink Classic and Chase Ink Cash are very similar.

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card

Literally the only difference between these cards is that one is a credit card and one is a charge card, which shouldn’t matter to most of you because if you’re paying over time you shouldn’t be using a points accruing credit card. The good news is that you can earn the sign-up bonus on both cards, since they’re technically different products.

So what makes these cards so great? Well the 5x points on office supply stores, and on cellular phones, landline, internet, and cable TV services, double points on gas stations and hotel accommodation, and no foreign transaction fees makes this card very rewarding, especially given how valuable Ultimate Rewards points are.

And what’s totally awesome, as outlined by Frequent Miler, is that this opens up the door to earning 5x points on virtually all purchases, by purchasing pre-paid cards or gift cards at office supply stores. They typically sell everything from Starbucks gift cards to restaurant gift cards to American Express pre-paid cards, meaning you can earn 5x points on just about all of your purchases. Yes, 5x Ultimate Rewards points on virtually all your purchases.

Chase Ink Classic and Chase Ink Cash

On the plus side both of these cards don’t have an annual fee. As you can see for the most part these two cards are also very similar — they’re both credit cards, both have no annual fee, both have foreign transaction fees, both have a $25,000 cap on the bonus categories, and both don’t accrue “premium” Ultimate Rewards points. The only difference on the surface is that the Chase Ink Classic accrues 2x points on gas stations and for hotel accommodations, while the Chase Ink Cash accrues 2x points on gas stations and restaurants.

Now, if you actually look at the marketing materials for the Chase Ink Cash, you’ll see they market everything as being cash back. In reality they’re just trying to target those that are looking for cash instead of points, while you’re still accruing the same Ultimate Rewards “points” currency as the Chase Ink Classic which can be used towards travel.

“Premium” vs. “limited” Ultimate Rewards program

The major distinction here is that the Chase Ink Classic and Chase Ink Cash cards don’t give you access to the “premium” Ultimate Rewards program, which Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, and Ink Plus® Business Credit Card do give you access to. The “premium” Ultimate Rewards program includes a 20% bonus when redeeming points towards travel (each point gets you 1.2 cents towards travel instead of 1.0 cent per point) and the ability to transfer points to any of Ultimate Rewards’ transfer partners, including United, Korean Air, Hyatt, etc.

If you’re accruing points with the Chase Ink Classic and Chase Ink Cash you can only use them as cash towards travel (or other expenses, in the case of the Chase Ink Cash). BUT here’s the good news — if you have a Chase credit card that gives you access to the “premium” Ultimate Rewards program, you can transfer the points there at no cost and would get access to the “premium” program. For that matter, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to anyone’s “premium” Ultimate Rewards account, which would allow you to transfer points to partner airlines, etc.

So if you have the Ink Bold or Ink Plus card, it may very well make sense to instead get the Chase Ink Classic or Chase Ink Cash card after a year. Not only could you earn the sign-up bonus, but you’d also get a card with no annual fee. I wouldn’t do this, however, if you’re maxing out the $50,000 spend in any of the bonus categories or DON’T have another card that accrues “premium” Ultimate Rewards points, since your points would be devalued substantially if you couldn’t transfer them to Ultimate Rewards’ airline or hotel partners.

Anyway, hopefully the above makes sense and clears up some common misconceptions. If anyone has any questions, please let me know.

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Comments

  1. So should one get one of the no fee cards, build up their points and then upgrade to the Ink Plus to allow for transfer? Also can you downgrade from the Plus to either the Classic or Cash?

  2. @ Stephen — My strategy is the opposite because I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you have the Sapphire Preferred you can transfer points from any of the above cards to it, and get the full value of “premium” Ultimate Rewards points.

    So I’d first get the Ink Bold or Ink Plus for the bigger sign-up bonus, and then later get one of the lesser cards.

    I’ve read mixed reports lately as to whether or not you can downgrade. In the past it was possible, though lately some seem to have issues with it. That being said, Chase is usually willing to shift credit lines, so if you apply for the Ink Classic or Ink Cash new, chances are very good you’ll be approved for that by allocating some of your credit line from the Ink Plus.

  3. Is there any one which is easier to get approved for? Credit vs Charge? Also, if not approved do you think the reconsideration line will let me close a personal chase card or move limits around? Or is it different for a business card?

  4. @ Peetyrd — In theory a charge card should be easier to be approved for, given that you have to pay off the balance in full each month so there’s less risk for Chase.

    That being said, when I applied for the Ink Plus (a credit card), they shifted some of my credit line from a personal card to the business card, so if you have a credit line you’re willing to shift, you might be better off applying for a credit card.

  5. Hi Lucky;

    Nice post. I do have one concern.

    My understanding is that prepaid cards have no fraud protection, if they are stolen, you are out the money while it’s used fraudelently. Or if someone gets your pin code and card number, and uses it, you are stuck.

    Can you get a refund of the balance after you notify Amex of a theft of the card?

    Also, do the extended warranty applyif purchased by the prepaid card?

    As someone who has had credit card fraud multiple times, I’m hesitant about it. Of course, if you only have $500 on the card, it limits the potential damage.

    Overall a great post, explains a lot in a clear way.

  6. @ beachfan — It’s definitely a reasonable concern and something I consider, though at the same time I value Ultimate Rewards points at almost two cents each, so it’s like getting 10% back on all purchases. That’s the point at which I’m willing to take some risks when it comes to protection, especially since this isn’t a card with a $50,000 credit line or anything.

    Not too familiar with the protection benefits, though based on the AmEx Prepaid website:
    “Purchase Protection 4

    If an eligible item purchased with the Card is accidentally damaged, or is stolen, Purchase Protection can reimburse you—up to 90 days from the date of purchase.

    Protection if the Card is lost or stolen

    Feel safe knowing that if the Card is lost or stolen you won’t be responsible for fraudulent charges and American Express will replace the funds.”

    So it seems to have at least some protection…

  7. Good way of pricing the risk! It’s an additional 8 cents per $1 spent in pointsvalue (as you would get 2 cents anyway), which seems to be greater than the risk of fraud.

    Also, it does seem like there is both some fraud protection and warranty extension. Good to know!

    I’m off to Home Depot

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