There are some credit cards that are hugely valuable independently, while there are other cards that are most valuable in conjunction with other cards.
For example, The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express is extremely valuable even independently. The card has no annual fee (Rates & Fees) and offers 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, limited to the first $50,000 spent annually. The way I see it, that’s the best return on non-bonused spend that’s offered by any card.
Conversely, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has no annual fee and offers 1.5x points per dollar spent, with each point redeemable for a penny. Independently that’s not a terribly lucrative card, since you can do better than a 1.5% cash back card. However, in conjunction with another card earning Ultimate Rewards points, you can get a lot more value out of the card. For example, if you have the card in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, then you can redeem each point for 1.5 cents towards the cost of a travel purchase. Suddenly the card goes from offering a return of 1.5% to offering a return of 2.25% towards travel (since you’re earning 1.5x points per dollar spent, with each point being worth 1.5 cents).
When it comes to getting the best possible combination of credit cards, I don’t think there’s anything better than a combination of four Chase cards, where you have three cards with no annual fee, and one card with an annual fee. This is the exact card setup I have, and I love it.
The perfect Chase four card combination
Here’s the perfect combination of four Chase cards, in my opinion:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card ($450 annual fee) or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (no annual fee)
- Chase Freedom® Card (no annual fee)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® (no annual fee)
What makes this card combination so good? Each of these cards has different bonus categories that can pool together to offer a great return on spend. For example, I have the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred, and when you add it all up, I’m earning:
- 5x points in rotating quarterly categories with the Freedom
- 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, with the Ink Cash
- 3x points on dining and travel with the Sapphire Reserve
- 1.5x points on everyday purchases with the Freedom Unlimited
Personally I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each (for the ability to transfer them to the Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners), though at a minimum you should be able to get 1.5 cents of value per point, since that’s how much value you get when redeeming for travel purchases with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card.
Assuming a “return” of 1.5 cents per Ultimate Rewards point, that means you’re earning:
- 7.5% in rotating quarterly categories with the Freedom
- 7.5% 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, with the Ink Cash
- 4.5% on dining and travel with the Sapphire Reserve
- 2.25% on everyday purchases with the Freedom Unlimited
That’s pretty incredible, when you consider that you’re paying a single annual fee. Note that in order to maximize the value on all of the no annual fee cards you need a card accruing transferable Ultimate Rewards points, which include the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
The cost of having the Sapphire Reserve is nowhere near $450 per year
If you choose the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card over the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you are paying a $450 annual fee, though in reality it’s not costing you nearly that much. The card offers a $300 annual travel credit that’s automatically applied, and which anyone who has this card should get full use out of. To me that lowers the real annual cost of having this card to $150 per year, and that’s not accounting for the great benefits like a Priority Pass membership with unlimited guesting privileges, and more.
How to get all four of these cards
All of these cards are subjected to the 5/24 rule, so you typically won’t be approved for them if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. In terms of applying for these cards, there are a few things to be aware of:
- Nowadays you can only be approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card if you don’t have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and vice versa
- On the plus side, you can product change between any of the personal cards, meaning that you could downgrade either the Reserve or Preferred to a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited if you wanted to
- You can earn the bonuses and have both the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (if you do apply for multiple cards, I recommend applying for Chase business cards before Chase personal cards)
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are valuable independently, the way to really maximize the value of these cards is to pair them with a no annual fee card that has great bonus categories. I’m thrilled with my combination of four Chase cards, only one of which has an annual fee. If you don’t have some or all of these cards, I highly recommend doing whatever you can to get them.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).