Chase Ink Bonus Categories: Everything You Need To Know

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Chase has one of the best portfolios of business credit cards, which offer just about everything I look for in credit cards — great welcome bonuses, big spend category bonuses, and useful perks. Last week I wrote about the excellent car rental coverage offered by all three of these cards, and in this post I wanted to look more closely at the bonus categories offered by these cards, which in my opinion is one of their primary draws.

The Ink Cards have great welcome bonuses

To recap, these three cards have huge welcome bonuses that can earn you up to 180,000 Ultimate Rewards points:

I consider the 80,000 point welcome bonus on the Ink Preferred to be the single best welcome bonus out there right now (I value 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points at $1,360), while I consider the 50,000 point welcome bonuses on the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited to be the best bonuses right now on no annual fee cards.

Best of all, you’re potentially eligible for all three of the cards. For example, my dad has managed to acquire all three of these cards over the past several months.

Understanding the Chase Ink Card bonus categories

Long term the most value you’ll probably get out of these cards involves the generous bonus categories they offer. The best thing is that you can have all three of these cards, so you can mix and match the bonus categories to really maximize your spend.

Ink Business Preferred bonus categories

The Ink Business Preferred offers up to 3x points on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.

This bonus category is available for up to $150,000 of combined purchases per cardmember year. That means that you earn 3x points on up to $150,000 purchases in those categories, regardless of how that spend is split up. In other words, you could earn 3x points for $75,000 of travel spend and $75,000 of internet spend, you could earn it based on just $150,000 of advertising with social media spend, etc.

The Ink Business Preferred doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, so the card is also ideal for earning bonus points while abroad.

To be thorough, let’s look at how Chase defines each of these bonus categories, for which you can earn 3x points. Here’s what they say about the travel bonus category:

Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages. Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, educational merchants arranging travel, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of gift cards, points or miles does not qualify in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the travel category.

Then here’s what they say about the shipping bonus category:

Merchants in the shipping category specialize in mailing packages, hauling freight, and transporting goods or documents. Shipping merchants include couriers, postal and freight shipping companies, express shipping services and mailbox stores. Please note that purchases at some merchants will not qualify. Examples include merchants who sell a wide variety of general goods but also ship items, including office supply stores that also mail packages. Also, purchases, or portions of purchases, that are not processed by the merchant as shipping purchases will not qualify. These include the additional cost to ship something you buy, or using a third party (such as Amazon) for bulk warehousing and shipping. Merchants that primarily sell boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap or other shipping supplies are also not included in this category.

Then here’s what they say about the internet, cable, and phone services bonus category:

Only purchases for internet, cable, satellite television, radio, cellular, wireless data, and landline services will qualify. Please note that purchases of equipment are not included. In addition, if you purchase or pay for your internet, cable and satellite television, phone or related services in a merchant’s store that is not classified by the merchant in the applicable services category, the purchase or payment will not qualify; for example, phone bill payments in a merchant’s store that is classified as a telephone equipment store.

Then here’s what they say about the social media and search engine bonus category:

Merchants in the social media and search engine advertising category include social media websites (such as Facebook and Twitter) and online search engines (such as Google AdWords and Microsoft Bing Ads) that advertise a business, brand, products or services. Please note, advertising purchases that are not made directly from a social media website or online search engine merchant may not qualify; for example, advertising purchases made through a third party such as an ad agency or web designer offering related services. Also, purchases from social media websites or online search engines that are not for advertising will not qualify; for example, subscription or app purchase.

Ink Business Cash bonus categories

The Ink Business Cash offers up to 5x points on office supply stores, internet, cable, and phones services, and up to 2x points on restaurants and gas stations.

The 5x points bonus categories are capped at a total of $25,000 in combined purchases, and the 2x points bonus categories are capped at a total of $25,000 in combined purchases.

The terms associated with the 5x points on internet, cable, and phone services, are the same as the restrictions on the Ink Business Preferred. Then here’s what they say about the office supply store bonus category:

Merchants in the office supply stores category specialize in selling a variety of office supplies, from larger office supply stores to smaller stationary stores. Please note that some larger merchants that sell a wide variety of general goods which may include office supplies, for example, discount stores, department stores, or electronics stores, are not included in this category. Also, merchants and wholesale distributors that specialize in only a few large office supplies, such as computer software and hardware, office furniture, photocopiers, and office equipment, are not included even if they also sell some smaller office supplies.

Then here’s what they say about the gas station category:

Merchants in the gas stations category sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station, and may or may not sell other goods or services at their location. Please note that some merchants that do not specialize in selling automotive gasoline are not included in this category; for example, truck stops, boat marinas, oil and propane distributors, and home heating companies.

And lastly the restaurant category:

Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments. Please note that some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category. In addition, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category.

The Ink Business Unlimited bonus category

The Ink Business Unlimited offers a flat 1.5x points on all purchases, with no caps. That makes this the best of the three cards for spending money in any category that otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for a bonus.

If you had all three Chase Ink Cards

If you were to have the Ink Business PreferredInk Business Cash, and Ink Business Unlimited, you’d be earning points at the following rates:

  • 5x points on office supply stores, internet, cable, and phones services
  • 3x points on travel, shipping purchases, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
  • 2x points on restaurants and gas stations
  • 1.5x points on everything else

Those bonus categories have some caps, as I outlined above. Those are some incredible bonus categories. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so by my math you’re earning:

  • An 8.5% return on office supply stores, internet, cable, and phones services
  • A 5.1% return on travel, shipping purchases, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
  • A 3.4% return on restaurants and gas stations
  • A 2.55% return on everything else

Why you might want to forgo 5x points in one category

You might notice that both the Ink Business Preferred and Ink Business Cash offer bonus points for internet, cable, and phone services (3x points and 5x points, respectively). While putting that spend on the Ink Cash might seem like the obvious choice, there’s one potentially very valuable reason to instead use the Ink Preferred.

That’s because the Ink Preferred offers an incredible cell phone protection plan that is only valid if you use that card to pay your cell phone bill. With this benefit, you can get up to $600 per claim in cell phone protection against covered theft or damage for you and your employees listed on your monthly cell phone bill. You’re limited to three claims in a 12 month period, with a $100 deductible per claim.

You can learn all about this benefit here, but I think it could be very worthwhile to forgo 2x points per dollar to get this great coverage.

Do these cards earn cash back or points?

Above I refer to the currency earned on all of these cards as points, though if you’re looking at the application of the Ink Business Cash or Ink Business Unlimited, you may notice that the bonus categories and welcome bonuses refer to cash back. In other words, the welcome bonus that I refer to as 50,000 points is marketed as offering $500 cash back, and the 5x points that I refer to is marketed as 5% cash back.

That’s because if used independently, those two cards earn cash back rather than travel rewards.

This is where there’s a trick that can greatly increase the value of your Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited points. If you have these cards in conjunction with another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, then you can do significantly better. These cards include the following:

If you have the Ink Cash or Ink Unlimited in conjunction with one of those cards, suddenly your points are much more valuable. At a minimum:

That increases the value of your points by 25-50% right there, and you can potentially get even more value out of your points by transferring them to one of the Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel partners (which is my preferred redemption, and where I get the valuation of 1.7 cents per point). This includes the following partners:

Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Rewards
British Airways Executive ClubRitz-Carlton Rewards
Iberia PlusWorld Of Hyatt
Korean Air SkyPass
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Transferring points between cards is easy and can be done online. You can learn more about that process in this post.

How should you fill out a Chase business credit card application?

Those who already have business credit cards are probably familiar with the application process, but for those who aren’t, here’s what you need to know. It can be intimidating to apply for your first business credit card, though even if you’re a small business or sole proprietorship, you should be eligible. When applying for a Chase business card, you’ll be asked the following questions, in addition to the typical personal questions about your income, Social Security Number, etc.:

  • Legal name of business
  • Business mailing address & phone number
  • Type of business
  • Tax identification number
  • Number of employees
  • Annual business revenue/sales
  • Years in business

If you’re a sole proprietorship, how should you approach this? First of all, and most importantly, answer everything truthfully. I think the concern that a lot of people have is that they think they need an incorporated business, a separate office, etc., in order to be considered for a business card. That’s not the case:

  • You can use your name as the legal name of your business
  • The business mailing address and phone number can be the same as your personal address and phone number
  • If you’re a sole proprietorship, you can select that as your type of business
  • For the tax identification number, you can put your social security number
  • For number of employees, saying just one is perfectly fine
  • For your annual business revenue, there’s nothing with saying zero, or whatver the amount is
  • For years in business, there’s no shame in saying that it’s new, that it has been 1-2 years, etc.

While a lot of people are intimidated by applying for their first business card, I think most are pleasantly surprised by the results. Again, the most important thing is to always be truthful on the application.

Bottom line

We’ve seen so many great business credit cards introduced lately, and the Ink Business PreferredInk Business Cash, and Ink Business Unlimited, are a fantastic trio. Not only do these cards have great welcome bonuses, but they’re extremely rewarding for everyday spend, and offer some great perks as well.

Hopefully the above answers any questions you guys may have had about the bonus categories and the transferability of points.

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  1. Thanks. Its always good to validate what you have already told us many times.

    What with a double negatives being thrown around and uneducated white Americans that can hardly speak clear English on TV all the time. Clarification multiple times is good.

    ESL lessons for all white Republicans.

  2. Great write up and summary of everything we need to know about Chase Ink business cards.

    I have the old Chase Ink Plus. I was just approved for the Chase Ink Preferred. And now that I am below 5/24, in a few days I’m going to apply for the Chase Ink Cash or Unlimited. Not sure which one though. I’ll probably apply for the Unlimited because my Ink Plus has similar bonus categories as the Ink Cash. What do you think?

    Also… If I end up downgrading my Chase Ink Plus card to a Chase Ink Cash card (to avoid the annual fee), will I still be eligible to earn the 50k sign up bonus if I applied for a new Chase Ink Cash card later? Or do you think I should sign up first, earn the bonus, then downgrade my Ink Plus later? Thanks!

  3. @ Daniel — Tough to say which is better, but if you still have the Ink Plus then I’d say the Ink Unlimited is probably a better complement. If you downgrade the Ink Plus to the Ink Cash then you could earn the welcome bonus at some point in the future, though not for the downgrade. The welcome bonus isn’t available to those who have the card currently or have received a bonus on it in the past 24 months.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. @ TravelinWilly — I didn’t mention it since it’s no longer open to new cardmembers. Generally the Ink Plus is most similar to the Ink Cash, given the bonus categories it offers.

  5. @Ben – Thank you, as always, for being so helpful.

    My Ink Bold morphed into an Ink Business Plus a couple of months ago, and still gets 5x points on office supply stores.

  6. I had always assumed that paying for gas counted towards the bonus but apparently it does not. Beware all drivers!

  7. Ink is the Best cheap lots of value I have the $95 SW so 6k points a keeper 4 me . I didn’t realize they switched to Visa that’s why they gave me a new card.

    Inker 4ever Good post.

  8. Since Ink Biz Plus cost $95 and Ink Cash is Free, any reason I shouldn’t switch?

    Should I actually switch or just cancel and reapply? I’m OK in the 5/24 sense….

  9. @ itsadian — Assuming you have another card earning Ultimate Rewards points then I think the Ink Cash is definitely the better option. I’m not 100% sure if you’d be able to product change (you’d have to call to be sure), though you’d only be eligible for the bonus if you applied outright.

  10. Advice sought! I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve personal card, and a Chase Ink Business Preferred. I have already received the 80k bonus on my Ink, which I transferred to my CSR account. I am not interested in keeping the Ink for another year because of the $95 annual fee. (I am not spending as much as expected in bonus categories, and not coming anywhere close to the $150,000 bonus limit.) I would rather have an Ink Business Cash or Unlimited because they don’t carry a fee. So should I cancel the Ink Preferred or downgrade?

    If I cancel, will I lose my 80k sign-up bonus and other earned points on the Ink Preferred? Note again I already transferred them to my CSR account – but I’m still worried.

    If I downgrade, my understanding is that I will miss out on the 50k sign-up bonus from the card I downgrade too. Thanks so much in advance!

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