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Three of the best Chase credit cards for maximizing everyday spend are no annual fee cards (which is rare, because typically no annual fee cards don’t offer a competitive return on spend). Specifically, I’m talking about the:
- Chase Freedom® Card, which offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which offers 1.5x points on all purchases
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, which offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants
These are all technically cash back cards, though in conjunction with a card accruing Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, those points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio.
So, what’s the best way to acquire these no annual fee cards?
Remember Chase’s “5/24” rule
Keep in mind that Chase has what’s commonly referred to as the “5/24” rule, where you typically won’t be approved for a new Chase card if you’ve opened more than five accounts in the past 24 months. So that’s the major restriction when it comes to applying for Chase cards, and it’s why I recommend applying for Chase cards ahead of other cards, even if other cards have bigger bonuses.
It can make sense to apply directly for Chase no annual fee cards
So the obvious option is to just apply directly for the card you want. Personally I’d first pick up a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, or Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, given the big bonuses and great return on spend. Furthermore, in order to unlock the full potential of the no annual fee cards, you also need a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points.
While the above no annual fee cards offer big return on spend, they don’t offer massive sign-up bonuses:
- The Chase Freedom® Card offers 15,000 points after spending $500 within three months
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 15,000 points after spending $500 within three months
- The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card offers 30,000 points after spending $3,000 within three months
The sign-up bonuses on the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are pretty solid for no annual fee cards, and the bonus on the Ink Business Cash is very good for a no annual fee card, in my opinion.
So the most obvious choice is to just apply for the card you want directly.
Can you downgrade Chase cards to a no annual fee option?
There’s one other potential option for acquiring some of these cards indirectly:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can typically be downgraded to the Chase Freedom® Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- However, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card typically can’t be downgraded to the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
Do keep in mind that even when a product change is allowed, it’s typically not permitted within the first year of card membership. So if you get the Sapphire Preferred now, you wouldn’t be able to downgrade it to the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited for at least a year.
Still, this is something many may find worthwhile. For example, I used to have the Sapphire Preferred, and then when I signed up for the Sapphire Reserve, I decided to downgrade the Preferred to the Freedom Unlimited.
I know it’s tempting to apply for the credit cards with the biggest bonuses first, but it also makes sense to view maximizing miles & points as a long term mission. Sure, the sign-up bonus on a card like the Chase Freedom® Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited® may not be as big as the bonus on some other cards, but long term you still may earn the most points by acquiring one of those.
If you value the benefits of the cards but don’t want to apply for them directly, at least have a plan for how you can downgrade other products to them.