Chase Ink Bonus Categories: Everything You Need To Know

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Chase has what I’d consider to be the best portfolio of business credit cards, which offer everything I look for in cards — great welcome bonuses, big spend category bonuses, and useful perks.

One of my favorite things about these cards is how they can supercharge your earning of Ultimate Rewards points, so in this post I wanted to look more closely at how the bonus categories on these cards work:

The Ink Cards have great welcome bonuses

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. At this point I have all three of these cards — I’ve had the Ink Cash for years, while I’ve acquired the Ink Preferred and Ink Unlimited in the past few 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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Rewards
British Airways Executive ClubRitz-Carlton Rewards
Iberia PlusWorld Of Hyatt
JetBlue TrueBlue
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 whatever 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.

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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Comments

  1. “you could earn it based on just $150,000 of advertising with social media spend, etc.”

    Oh, is that all?

    🙂

  2. So I did apply for the Ink card and was approved but it took a while and quite a bit of back and forth correspondence.

    The website for Ink / Chase Business is more unwieldy than the regular Chase. Sometimes transactions take a while to show up, other times they show up immediately; for example, transactions from yesterday have shown up but those from 4 days not; sometimes they disappear after showing up. Has anyone had this experience?

    Also, unrelated, do Amazon Gift cards count toward the minimum spend? I am getting gift cards for clients so it’s a legitimate expense, but wanted to know.

  3. I’ve personally been very happy with this card. I’ve noticed Chase is much more flexible with who/what it falls into it’s bonus categories and does not have as many limitations as Amex does. I’ve noticed many things get categorized as travel which I appreciate the most!

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