The PERFECT Credit Card Quadfecta, At Last!

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There are a lot of credit cards I use to maximize my return on everyday spend, though at the moment I think I may have the best card “portfolio” I’ve ever had from a single issuer, specifically with Chase. This is thanks in part to two new products that Chase has introduced in the past year. At the moment I have the following four Chase cards, all of which I’m able to earn Ultimate Rewards points on:

Of those cards, only the Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee ($450), while the rest have no annual fees. The best part is that the no annual fee cards ordinarily earn cashback as rewards, though in conjunction with a card accruing premium Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, those points can be converted into “premium” Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to the Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners.

How are these cards helping me maximize my return on spend?

These cards have some incredible category bonuses:

  • Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card: 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
  • Chase Freedom® Card: 5x points in rotating quarterly categories
  • Chase Freedom® Unlimited: 1.5x points on everyday spend
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3x points on dining and travel

How did I get approved for these cards?

chase-cards

Bottom line

In terms of my return on everyday spend, I don’t think I’ve ever done better than this:

  • 5x points at office supply stores, on cellular and internet services, and in rotating quarterly categories
  • 3x points on dining and travel
  • 2x points on gas
  • 1.5x points on everything else

That’s a pretty amazing return, especially since I value Ultimate Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, meaning I’m earning a minimum return of ~2.55% on my spend.

Does anyone else have the perfect Chase quadfecta of cards, and love this combination as much as I do?

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Comments

  1. Hey Ben — how did you manage to get the Sapphire Reserve — I would have assumed you’d have been blocked by 5/24. I went into a branch to try to get around this with absolutely no luck.

    Thanks,
    Todd

  2. I have some fine tuning to do. Right now I have:
    United MileagePlus Club
    Chase Sapphire Preferred
    Chase Ink Plus
    Chase Freedom Unlimited

    I’ve only had the Sapphire and Ink a few months so I’ll have to wait a little to get my ideal portfolio:
    United MileagePlus Club
    Chase Sapphire Reserve (new)
    Chase Ink Cash (formerly Ink Plus)
    Chase Freedom Unlimited
    Chase Freedom (formerly CSP)

  3. Lucky, did you have to “move” your points on your CSP to your CSR before converting the CSP down to Freedom Unlimited? can you call to downgrade as soon as the transfer is complete? I’m interested in making the same move but am paranoid of screwing it up and losing my CSP points. let us know if there’s anything “sneaky” about the process that we should be aware of. thank you!

  4. You can also downgrade an unneeded CSP to a second Freedom card if you routinely max out the $1500 quarterly bonuses.

  5. @ Brandon — Nope, didn’t even transfer the points. They converted into Freedom points, and then once I got the Reserve I could transfer those points back into “premium” Ultimate Rewards points.

  6. I get that it’s all within Chase but a strong plug could be made here for AmexEveryday preferred to cover gas, groceries, and everyday spend. Plus, always nice to diversify your points. And a no brainer if you don’t have a business to get the Ink for

  7. With the “Marriott merger good news”, I think I’d prefer to put my base spend on an SPG Amex card (for as long as it lasts). But I agree that for many readers getting 1.5x on Chase Freedom Unlimited is the best choice.

    (Also, I like the US Bank Flexperks Visa for its 3x points on charitable contributions – effectively up to 6% when FlexPoints are used for airfare.)

  8. What LS said, the key is diversity. The actual best current four card combo would be:

    Chase Ink Plus
    Citi Thank You Premier
    Amex Everyday Preferred
    Amex SPG

    That way you are generating points at all times in all four major transferrable point currencies.

  9. Chase Sapphire Reserve
    Chase Freedom

    Amex PRG
    Amex Blue Everyday

    More of a duo. I have long term plans to collect/maximize points/miles. Before I apply for another card (which I will eventually), I will wait for hard inquiries on my credit report from 2 years back to disappear. This increases my chances of being approved for cards and my credit score doesn’t take necessary hits.

  10. Hey Ben,
    A quick (somewhat) related question – i purchased flight tickets for travel in next February with chase sapphire preferred and do I need to have CRP card with me when I fly? I ask because I’m thinking about downgrading CRP to ink cash to complete quadfecta (I have freedom, unlimited and I just got approved for reserve). I can wait till February to downgrade if it’ll save me headaches at the airport (in case they demand to see my credit card I used to make purchase) but 5x earnings on internet and gas are so appealing right now. What do you advise? Thanks.

  11. @ Dan — You shouldn’t need the card. For the few airlines that do sometimes require cards, just having the same card number is fine (and you’ll have the same card number if you downgrade). You can also just take a picture of your current card, or physically just keep the old card if you want.

  12. Ben,
    I don’t have all four yet, but I’ve had the Sapphire Preferred for some time and now the Sapphire Reserve. I am thinking it’s probably best to downgrade my Sapphire Preferred to one of the Freedom cards. Is there one over the other you recommend I downgrade by Sapphire Preferred to first, until I apply for the other? Thanks!

  13. @Dan–don’t think you can downgrade a personal card to a small business card. If you try, let us know what happens.

  14. Robert – the Freedom Unlimited is easier (you get 1.5x on everything; no need to think about which card to use). If you’re willing to put in a little effort, and the categories match your spending, you can probably earn more points with the Freedom. (My own experience when I tried to maximize points for everything was that it was hard to find past charges when I needed to look them up – I wasn’t sure which card I had used. So now I’m less aggressive about maximizing points for every purchase; tend to keep all Category X purchases on the same card.)

  15. In currently using:
    CSR – all charges that earn 3x points
    AMEX EDP – Gas and groceries
    Freedom Unlimited (which I got when I downgraded the CSP) and AMEX EDP – Everything else

    I was a big fan of the SPG AMEX for years but it has been collecting dust recently since I got the AMEX EDP.

    @Eric and UAPhil…why continue to use the SPG AMEX over something like an EDP or the Freedom Unlimted for everyday spend? I realize it’s 1 SPG point = 3 MR points but is that really better than 1.5 UR or AMEX MR points? Maybe if you need points but I have over 950k SPG points so I am still a little worried Marriott might change things up in the future.

  16. My spending is either on CSR or Freedom. Gas goes on my Citi Costco card (4%). I try to keep it easy so my wife can buy with confidence and won’t need to call me every 20 min asking which card to use.

    As for my experience with the CSR card, I was declined on the Reserve card, I pulled me credit report to see why, since I had not opened 5 cards in the past 24 months. Turned out I was an authorized user on 3 of my wife’s accounts, those show up as open accounts and apparently Chase doesn’t look at anything beyond Open on the credit report since those clearly are labeled Auth User on Experian’s report (at least).

    I was finally able to speak with someone at Chase, after multiple attempts, and was approved for it. But be aware that it’s open cards or open auth users in the past 24 months, and does not apply to just Chase cards. I had only 1 Chase card in the past 24 months, the rest of mine were AMEX.

    I don’t remember how I got to the right rep, something in the lending dept (but I’m sure I had spoken to someone there on an earlier call, before I reviewed my credit report). He initially told me 5/24 was why I was declined. I told him that 3 of my current 6 in the past 24 were Auth Users so he actually pulled up my credit report to look at it. When he saw that was the case he seemed to say he’d approve me but gave me no final answer, that would come later from a different team. But he did verify that I’d be eligible for the 100k signup bonus, once I asked about it. About a week later the account showed up in my online banking and a few days after that my card arrived. No fancy packaging but it was a metal card right off the bat, plain white envelope with a few detailed benefits and terms papers.

  17. I have the Citi Prestige and Premiere which gives me 3 points per dollar on all travel including fuel, and luckily I own a trucking company which uses a lot of fuel!

    I also just recently got a US Bank Flexperks Amex Gold which gets me up to 6% back in dining and restaurants.

    I have an SPG Amex card for other spend.

    I don’t like to pay for holidays…lol

  18. My setep:
    Bank of America Cash Rewards (Platinum status) – Gas and groceries, 4.5% and 3% respectively.
    Amex Plat – Lounge access and Amex Offers
    Discover/Freedom – 5% categories
    *Citi Double Cash – Everything else, 2%.
    Barclays AA Aviator – Good for balance transfers (for when I need to float tuition payments before the employer reimburses), they’ve waived my annual fee 3 years in a row. They’re also the only ones to have never declined me overseas.

    *I just converted my Citi Hilton card to the Citi Couble cash so that will take over as my ‘other purchases’ card as that’s a total of 2%.

    I’m surprised (but not really) that no one ever mentions the BOA Cash Rewards card. If you’ve got a good chunk of money, 5.25%, 3.5% and 1.75% are fairly respectible.

  19. UA MileagePlus and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa: The Loyalty Game’s One-Stop Shop!

    Prior to my applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) visa, I had only applied for 1 credit card in 24 months, and even then the application was a trade of sort because I had canceled the HH Citi Reserve visa to acquire no-fee HH Citi visa instead (long story). This means that I am generally immune to getting excited about loyalty cards no matter how much they are hyped (viz. the Citi Prestige, which elicited only a big yawn)…that is until the CSR was launched!

    The reason I was excited by the CSR more than I have ever been by any loyalty card is that it immediately dawned on me that the CSR and UA MileagePlus COMBO would make playing the loyalty game for me a ONE-STOP shop, and the thinking went something like this:

    — I would purchase all my tickets with the CSR at united.com and get 3 URs/$, which would go into my CSR account.

    — In addition, ALL my everyday spend would be charged to the CSR, which would yearly earn me loads of additional URs, especial since “travel” and “dining”, which earn 3URs/$, were broadly defined. For instance, all my many, many taxicab rides in NYC would now be considered “travel” and would thus earn me 3 URs/$. I know this because here’s an entry in my CSR account for a taxi ride:

    Rewards earned with this transaction
    + 3 Points per $1 earned on travel: 35.28

    Also, I purchase a metro card for unlimited rides each month for $117.50, which is also payroll tax-deferred as a “commuter tax”! This will contribute $117.50 = 353 URs/month or 4230 URs/yr, steadily by simply doing what I would have done anyway.

    — At the same time, the airline tickets that I would purchase with the CSR, which would already have earned me 3 URs/$, would lead to actual flights, mainly on UA and mostly to intl destinations, which would earn me loads of UA flight miles, just like I am earning now.

    — On the redemption side, I would continue to redeem most my flights using only UA miles as I do now, leaving my URs to build up and accumulate in my CSR account for a whole year.

    — Because I would have loads of URs when I get ready to redeem, and URs transfer to, among other programs, Marriott Rewards points and HGP points, I would be able to top off those accounts to redeem stays where previously I have had to purchase points! Some may ask: “How about your #1 program, Hilton HHonors?” I don’t care about that. HH points are so easy to earn loads of, I have never needed to top off that account as I have my MR or HGP account, in which I do not earn significant points, but like to redeem points for stays at their hotels when they would give me better monetary value than HH or I travel to a city that does not have a Hilton presence (e.g. there are no Hilton hotels in Ho Chi Minh City or in Siem Reap, one of my favorite destinations, but there is a great Park Hyatt in each of those cities).

    — And, la piece de resistance is that for some of my travel within Asia, I would be able to redeem premium tickets on SQ with my URs as a Kisflyer member [just signed up after getting the CSR!], completely bypassing UA, through which getting award tickets on SQ has become so useless I have not flown with this great *A carrier in the last 2-3 years while in SE Asia. TG, which ain’t bad, has been it!

    The preceding is why I declared after being approved for the CSR that I’d dropped the number of credit cards in my wallet from 11 to just 3: [1] The CSR for virtually EVERYTHING but paying for stays at HH or MR hotels; [2] my Chase ATM card for quick cash; and [3] the Business Platinum Card from American Express just in case I need to purchase a “Dutch Master” painting at an auction and I need more dough than I would have in any of my visa accounts 🙂 [the AMEX Biz Plat has no set spending limit, although I am sure there is one that’s known only to AMEX.]

    Already, I have accumulated 120K UR points in my CSR account, which include the 100K signup bonus and the spend that I have charged to it so far. And to meet the CSR’s minimum spend, I purchased a United GlobalFirst ticket for my upcoming Year-end Asian Escapade(tm), which will not only get me the PQMs and PQDs I need to requalify my 1K status, but will also earn me 47,311 United flight or redeemable miles. So, in support of my model, I have ALREADY earned for the same spend on the CSR about 20K URs and 47K UA flight miles…in one month! 😉

    Who needs “a PERFECT Credit Card Quadfecta”, when one can accomplish much more with just one card!

    G’day!

  20. Maybe I am using “flight miles” ambiguously. I mean redeemable (RDM) miles earning through flying and not “distance” miles flown.

  21. Addendum: I forgot another important feature of my one-stop shop model:

    — There will also be the option to redeem UR points directly for airline tickets (UA, SQ, etc) or hotel stays as “cash”, which may even be better because I would get a redemption value of 1.5 cents/point, and because it is a “cash” transaction, I would also earn both elite-qualifying and redeemable hotel loyalty points or airline miles!!!

  22. A little confused, which Chase premium cards allow you to transfer points to airlines? CSR, Ink Plus, any others?

  23. @Boco: CSR, Ink Plus, CSP. But if you have any one of those three premium cards, all three other UR cards (Freedom, Ink Cash, Freedom Unlimited) can have their points transferred into your premium card account, and from there you can transfer the points to the airline and hotel programs.

    @Lucky: Thanks for this article! After approval for CSR, I was about to pull the trigger on cancelling CSP, but realized better off just downgrading to Freedom Unlimited!

  24. If I downgrade my CSP to a different product, is there a prorated annual fee refund? Also curious if the credit card number would change in this scenario, as I have a few chargs that are set up to automatically drop on this card every month.

  25.  Hi Guys; I’ll be attending the seminar in Chicago in a couple of weeks, but I have a question. When do the Chase bonus points show up in your acct.? I’ve made the spend on both the Preferred (have had this one for 3 months) and the Reserve cards (had this one for 1.5 months.) I haven’t seen the points bonuses in either acct. yet. Is that normal?Thanks, Gayle

  26. Hi Ben–I could’ve sworn I saw a post about consolidating your Ink Plus credit limit into your Ink Cash (while closing the Ink Plus).. did I dream that?

    I was going to wait, and downgrade my Ink Plus after a year, but I applied for a new Ink Cash in a scurry after the rumor of 5x going away–I didn’t want to risk not being able to convert my Ink Plus to a 5x Ink Cash after my year is up.

    Anyway, the problem was solved after approval, and now I’m looking to consolidate them into the Ink Cash. My questions is, do you know if I need to wait until after a year my Ink Plus is open to consolidate the CL and close?

    Any input is appreciated–thank you!

  27. Amex struck back with Blue Business Plus. If you combine this with a Business Platinum and Simply Cash Plus, it’s quite formidable.

  28. This combination is exactly what I have in my wallet. I still continue to cherry pick other cards to sign up for but, except for the Chase Hyatt and chase IHG cards, I don,t pay annual fees on any others–I cancel all the others before the next fee kicks in. I can’t think of a better strategy. But very open to suggestions!

  29. USAA Limitless – 2.5%
    Costco Visa – 3% food / travel
    Costco Visa – 4% gas
    Amazon Prime Visa – 5% on Amazon

    Short story…no spend less than 2.5% cash back

  30. I’m looking at the monitor through blood shot eyes. I woke up after all these years to realize I’ve been stupid with regard to rewards travel. I’ve been using an AMEX green card to earn my pts. To “maximize” I put almost everything on that card. I typical fly domestic two or three times a year on Delta…occasionally on Southwest….and am on par to fly to Europe every 4 years or less. I’m close to retirement..so Italy/Europe could become more frequent. Last year I put almost 12K on groceries, 6K on dining out and 2K on tickets. A total of 51K spent on my Amex. I have 245,000 MR points. I thought I was rocking and rolling but feel especially sick that I could have redeemed the PRG credit for baggage on Delta and actually paid nothing for having my wife on an additional card. Sorry for the length…but I’m super confused. I love AMEX service and think I would do very well with the PRG….but also think I would enjoy UR pts. At my spending rate of about 50K annually…would it work to be in both programs. Some combinations I’m considering: PRG and Barclay Arrival Plus, PRG and CSR, PRG and CSP…and a few other dizzy making options. All the miles lost from sleepwalking could have put me in First Class…something I’ve never experienced…or helped with another trip sooner. I know this isn’t a help line…but it appears people here have a better grasp on things than I do!

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