The Best Combination Of Four Credit Cards Out There

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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 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:

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® CardChase 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:

Bottom line

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.

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Comments

  1. Hey Lucky, love your blog, thanks
    for the great info. I’ll have this combination in a couple weeks when I downgrade my Ink preferred! 🙂

    Also, looks like you may have used a 1.7 cent valuation for UR points, then switched to 1.5 halfway through on the return on spend part.

  2. Is there a resource for viewing past rotating categories for the Freedom card? Trying to figure out if it is worth getting the card or not. Already have CSR and CFU but am at 4/24 and don’t want to waste it on a card I may not have use for.

  3. I would love someone to evaluate the ‘quality’ of rotating categories offered by different cards. Discover, USBank, others, all also offer a similar product with rotating 5% categories. But which one actually gives us the best alignment with a typical consumer spend pattern?

  4. Any advantage of having Ink Business Cash or Ink Business Preferred over the Ink Bold?

    Also, do you know if Ink Bold is considered an Ultimate Rewards product?

  5. @ marcus — The Freedom offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, and 1x on everything else. The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5x on everything.

  6. @Tiffany Don’t forget the CFU now earns 3X points on everything the first year for new accounts!

  7. @Matt Thanks so much! As soon as the site comes back up I’ll check it out. They seem to be down right at this moment.

  8. @ Ed. C — Only for certain new accounts (who applied using that link). The core features and earning structure of the card haven’t changed, and I wouldn’t want to confuse anyone.

  9. @ TravelinWilly — Well, the Ink Cash has no annual fee, which can be a benefit, though it has lower category maximums if you spend a lot at Office Supply stores. The Ink Preferred has entirely different bonus categories, and is a credit card, not a charge card, so it’s quite a bit different than the Bold.

    And yes, the Bold is a premium Ultimate Rewards card.

  10. humm … I was not allowed to product change my Preferred to either Freedom cards. I could only product change to the no annual fee Sapphire card. Is it just my luck – or has others actually been able to change from a Sapphire Reserve or Preferred to one of the Freedom card (without going to a Sapphire no annual fee card, first)?

  11. @kimj You have to wait until you’ve had the card for a year to product change to a Freedom. DP indicate you can change to a Sapphire and then change that to a Freedom or FU within a year.

  12. Have 3 out of 4 of these cards. Waiting on the CSR for a better signup bonus than what is out there now..

  13. Does anyone know if apps such as Plastiq or Venmo would generate 5 points per dollar on the Ink? For instance Venmo codes as “Business services – internet services”, so there is a lot of potential if this works.

  14. Trying to decide how best to product change my Ink and Preferred cards. I can’t apply for any more Chase cards. I want to keep my 5pts bonus so downgrading my Ink to Cash makes sense but if I downgrade my Preferred to Freedom I have no way of keeping my points, correct? In that case should I upgrade to the Reserve? Or, is there a no annual fee Saphire?

  15. @KimJ I Secured Messaged (SM) Chase to product change (PC) to the regular sapphire, and then waited a week, SM again to PC to the Freedom Unlimited (FU). Chase wouldn’t let me PC directly from sapphire preferred to FU.

  16. CF Unlimited doesn’t provide price protection, so CSR is still better for big ticket items. This leaves minimal general spend for CF Unlimited.

  17. trying to figure out why that’s such a good combo for someone who’s basically never in the USA. surely there are better ways to accrue non-bonused spending points abroad than sapphire reserve?

  18. Thanks for the feedback on the process for product changing my Preferred to Freedom. Sounds like I need to be a little more patient!

  19. RBD, price protection is (was) on its way out for the CSR. Check out doctor of credit’s blog. Apparently Chase is dropping this for all its entire card portfolio.

  20. My husband has the Chase Preferred card since September 2016. Am I correct in thinking that after 2 years (Sept 2018) he can downgrade this card to Freedom Unlimited and then he would qualify for the sign up bonus for the Reserve?

  21. KimJ I changed my Sapphire Preferred to a Freedom. I did it to keep my length of credit history, since mine has dropped as I cancelled old cards. But a bonus I didn’t think of is I don’t have an additional card showing toward 5/24.

    Between my husband and myself, we have all 4. That’s another way to take advantage of all 4 if you have 5/24 issues, spread the cards between you. Then just get AU on the CSR for the one who doesn’t have it.

  22. Concerning definitions of a couple of categories for increased earnings. Does “gas station” mean anywhere you buy gas? Where I live there aren’t any real “gas stations” – just convenience stores, grocery stores, Sam’s Clubs, Walmart, etc. that have gas pumps. Some are store branded and some are independent contracted. (Probably showing my age, but there used to be REAL gas stations around).
    For “grocery stores” (rotating bonus on the Freedom card) does that also mean Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Costco where you can buy groceries?

  23. @DW

    For me, AMEX side looks as follows:
    1. Platinum – $550 annual, 5x MR for airline (direct or via AMEX) & hotel (only via AMEX)/1x everything else Extra benefit (like Chase CSP; $200 Airline credit is not for flights just incidentals… luggage/inflight/etc, Access to Centurion Lounges and Priority Pass Membership)
    2a. Everyday Card – 2x MR Supermarkets, 1xMR everything else $0 annual OR (my preference)
    2b. Everyday Preferred – 3x MR Supermarkets, 2x MR Gas stations, 1x MR everything else $95 annual
    3. Blue Business – 2x MR< $50K / 1x MR everything else $0 annual fee
    I could argue this is the trifecta to cover most of Chase (albeit nod in my book still goes to Chase and UR) and would add the following which increases things due to annual fee
    4. Business Gold Rewards – 3x MR for 1 of the below categories and 2x MR for the other 4
    * Airfare purchased directly from airlines
    * U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
    * U.S. purchases for shipping
    * U.S. purchases at gas stations
    * U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers
    Business Gold though has a $175 annual, waived for 1st year.

    By adding the #4, I would then lean to 2a Everyday without a fee

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