I’ve written frequently about the Ink Bold and Ink Plus small business cards from Chase — they’re great because they earn Ultimate Rewards points which transfer to several airline and hotel programs, because they have no foreign currency transaction fees and earn double points on hotels and gas.
But mostly they’re rock stars because they earn 5 points per dollar on telecommunications (cell phone, internet, cable and satellite TV) and office supply spending and also because they have big 50,000 point signup bonuses after spending $5000 on the card within 3 months.
Both cards have $0 annual fees the first year.
But I haven’t written about their no annual fee cousins before.
Ink Cash and the nearly-identical Ink Classic offer sign up bonuses of 20,000 points apiece, each after $3,000 spend in 3 months. And both no annual fee cards have the same double and quintuple points categories.
While the Ink Bold and Ink Plus will bonus you for up to $50,000 in spending in those categories, Ink Classic and Ink Cash will award bonus points on up to $25,000 in spending per year.
Which Card is Right for You?
The Ink Bold and Ink Plus are nearly identical cards. The primary difference is that Ink Bold is a ‘charge card’ where you have to pay off the balance in full each month. Ink Plus is a credit card where you should pay off the balance in full each month.
Those cards offer a bigger signup bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and a higher limit for category bonuses.
Many folks are tempted by the big signup bonus, and I agree that’s worth it. I think Ink Bold and Ink Plus are great cards for the first year where the annual fee is $0. But then you have to evaluate whether it makes sense to pay the $95 annual fee for the card after the first year.
If you’re a big spending on telecommunications and office supplies — whatever those office supply stores sell — then they’re certainly worth it because the 5x spending categories are outstanding.
But if you are like most, maybe spending no more than $3000 to $4000 a year on telecommunications and perhaps with an ability to spend another $6000 to $8000 at office supply stores (including Starbucks, Amazon, and iTunes gift cards) then after the first year the Ink Cash card is a great solution. You get the same 5x bonuses without the annual fee.
If You Downgrade to Ink Cash You Also Want a Sapphire Preferred Card
The real value in Chase Ultimate Rewards is transferring to airline miles and hotel points, not in redeeming points directly for paid airfare.
Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United, Korean, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak. In general the most lucrative transfer partners are United and Hyatt, though British Airways is good for short haul non-stop flights and Korean offers outstanding award availability in premium cabins.
But you can only transfer to other points programs if you have one of their premium cards — like Ink Bold or Ink Plus, or like Chase Sapphire Preferred.
And you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points between accounts. So if you earn points on the personal no annual fee Chase Freedom card, you can transfer those points to an Ink Bold account. Or if you earn points on the no annual fee Ink Cash card you can transfer them over to a Chase Sapphire Preferred account.
For folks that aren’t going insanely hog wild at office stores, Ink Cash is a great replacement for the Ink Bold and Ink Plus after the first year. That’s a way to still earn 5 points per dollar, while saving the annual fee (and while picking up another, albeit more modest, signup bonus). And you can move the points earned with Ink Cash over to a Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s Ultimate Rewards account and transfer them onto airline miles or hotel points.
(Cards in this post offer referral credit to me if you use my links when getting approved, which I greatly appreciate.)