Since writing the post on my credit card strategy for 2013, I’ve gotten several questions about the Chase Sapphire Preferred versus Chase Ink cards, which s better and which should someone focus on?
They’re very similar cards, the Sapphire Preferred is a personal card and the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus are small business cards. Ink Bold is a charge card (must be paid in full each month) and Ink Plus is a credit card (can carry a balance, but you shouldn’t).
But the question is about benefits and points-earning, is Sapphire Preferred or the Ink cards better?
To answer this question, I think it’s important to understand something that I talk about frequently, the different kinds of value that a credit card can provide. And then to understand the benefits that are similar and those that are different between these cards.
There are three different reasons for getting a credit card. There are:
- Those you get just for the signup bonus, but you don’t want to keep spending on them after you’ve earned the bonus
- Those you get for the benefit of having the card, it’s not great for putting spend on
- Those that are rewarding for your spend
Sapphire Preferred offers a signup bonus of 40,000 points after $3000 spend within 3 months. Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus each offer signup bonuses of 50,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months. These are some of the best signup bonuses in the market. So certainly they satisfy criteria one.
The classic cards with the best benefits — cards you might as well get but don’t necessarily want to actually use — are the American Express Platinum and Mercedes Benz American Express Platinum which are the best way in my view to get airline lounge access with most airlines other than United, and the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card which offers Hilton HHonors Gold status just for having the card.
The Ink cards do come with a lounge access benefit, and a couple of free lounge visits per year. This does have value, but isn’t the primary focus of these cards. Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus have good signup bonuses, aren’t benefits-focused (although Sapphire Preferred’s purchase protection paid to fix the cracked screen on my cell phone), rather they are all about strong value for spending.
Fast Earning Through Strong Category Bonuses
Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar on all travel (airfare, hotel, rental car, even tolls and taxis) and for restaurant spending.
It provides a 7% annual bonus on points earned, meaning bonus categories really earn 2.14 points per dollar.
The Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards earn 2 points per dollar on hotel spending but not on the rest of travel (air, rental cars, etc) or dining. There’s also no 7% annual bonus.
They do offer a whopping 5 points per dollar, though, on telecommunications (such as cell phone, and cable TV charges) and office supplies. I buy gift cards at office supply stores so that I can earn 5 points per dollar on all of my spend, and if I need to cash out a card’s balance I use Amazon Payments or add the funds to Kiva (make a loan, do some good in the world, and then withdraw the funds when the loan is paid back — I do have to cover the float while I wait for that payback)
Each of Ink Bold and Ink Plus will earn up to 250,000 points with this bonus category spend.
So which is better for earning? It depends on how much you spend on airfare and dining (bonused by Chase Sapphire Preferred) versus on telecommunications and office supplies (bonused by Ink Bold and Ink Plus).
If you spend $235 a month on telecommunications (eg $100 a month on cell phone, $135 a month on cable television) then to ‘break even’ on bonus earning from the Ink Bold or Ink Plus, you would need to spend $810 a month on Sapphire’s unique bonus categories — such as on restaurant spend and airfare (if you use Sapphire Preferred rather than American Express Premier Rewards Gold which earns triple points for air).
So the question is, do you spend 3.5 times as much or more on telecommunications and office supplies as you do on restaurants and non-hotel travel? If so, Ink Bold and Ink Plus earns better than Sapphire Preferred.
Redemption: Chase Ultimate Rewards are One of the Most Valuable Points Currencies
The value of the points with Sapphire Preferred and the Ink cards are the same, since they all earn Ultimate Rewards points that are transferrable to miles and points in a variety of programs.
That’s especially valuable, you want to choose the program to earn in that best matches your reward goals.
With flexible points that transfer to a variety of programs, you can choose later based on the award you want at the time, and maximize your chances to get that award (since one program may not have availability, but another one you can transfer to might). You double or even triple your likelihood of success.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to several airlines including ones in all three alliances (United, British Airways, Korean Air, plus Southwest), to several hotel programs (Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club) and to Amtrak.
In several cases the points even transfer instantly, that’s been my experience with United, British Airways, Korean (though others report a small delay), and Hyatt. That’s great for booking an award, my big frustration with a great program like Starwood Preferred Guest is the time it takes for points to show up in a mileage program. An award might be available when you initiate the transfer but gone by the time miles are available for spending. Chase’s speed is a real benefit as well.
Since the Sapphire Preferred and Ink cards earn these same points, though, that doesn’t help us choose between them.
My Solution is to Get Both
Chase limits how many cards you can get in a short period of time. Many people sign up for a new card every 90 days. But you can get approved for a personal and a small business card at the same time, you don’t have to wait.
I use Sapphire Preferred for all of my dining spend. I use an Ink card for telecommunications and office supplies. Either card is great for hotels, including outside the United States because there are no foreign currency transaction fees.
And I make the most of the category bonuses for both cards. There are also slight differences in the bonus points earned through the Ultimate Rewards online shopping portal, so having both sets of cards let you take advantage of better bonuses.
If you haven’t had either Ink Bold or Ink Plus yet, I’d probably start with Ink Bold — because if you want to sign up later for Ink Plus, I think there’s a reasonable explanation of why (the option to pay over time) whereas it’s harder for me to come up with a compelling reason to get Ink Bold as a replacement for the Ink Plus card. The cards are otherwise indistinguishable from each other.
Of course if you’ve already had Ink Bold, you can get Ink Plus and the concomitant 50,000 point signup bonus after $5000 spend within 3 months.
Note that many of the cards on the list above do offer me referral credit if you use the links provided. As always I only offer the best offers I’m aware of. And I do very much appreciate it when you use these links, so thank you in advance.