When you’re just getting into miles and points, one of the first things you check when looking at a new card is the welcome bonus. I mean, who wouldn’t? If you’re going to give a new card a try, a little (or big) incentive can go a long way.
Let’s be honest, I would have jumped at the opportunity to get it if weren’t for the pesky Chase 5/24 rule. That being said, I have often wondered whether the Chase Ink Cash might be a better card for those who already have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
When we consider the earning ability of the Ink Cash, I think many of you will find it provides a better return on our spend. Personally, I’ve held the Chase Ink Plus card for over two years now. It’s no longer available for application, but it’s very similar to the Ink Cash.
Don’t get me wrong, the Ink Preferred will be amazing for some business owners but I want to take a look at why the Ink Cash might be a better alternative for many small businesses.
Let’s start with a quick review of what each card offers.
Chase Ink Cash
- Welcome bonus: $900 cash back
- Minimum spend requirement: $6,000 in 3 months
- 5% bonus categories: office supply stores, internet, cable TV, mobile phone and landline up to $25,000 spent per cardmember year
- 2% bonus categories: restaurants and gas stations up to $25,000 spent per cardmember year
- Annual fee: $0
Chase Ink Preferred
- Welcome bonus: 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Minimum spend requirement: $15,000 in 3 months
- 3X bonus categories: travel, internet, cable, mobile phone and landline, digital ads and shipping up to $150,000 per cardmember year
- Annual fee: $95 (not waived the first year)
- Points transfer to airline and hotel partners
- Points worth 1.25 cents each in the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
The argument for the Chase Ink Cash
Sure, the welcome bonus for the Ink Cash isn’t as high as the Ink Preferred but stick with me. The Ink Cash has bonus categories that could be very valuable to you. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bonus on any card than the 5X bonus category.
5x bonus categories are the best in the industry
Just about everyone has internet, TV and mobile phone expenses these days. Heck, I’m glued to my phone and laptop on a daily basis. Both cards can earn you bonus points for paying these expenses, but the 5X earned by the Ink Cash is clearly superior to the 3X of the Ink Preferred.
The 5X you earn at office supply stores is clearly a winner for those with brick and mortar offices. The list of items you can get at Staples or Office Depot is too long to list, but you can pretty much get everything you need such as office furniture, ink cartridges, tablets, laptops, paper, pens, and more.
It would be a tragedy to leave so many points on the table! Take it from me. Before I got into miles and points, I worked on political campaigns. I bought out a Staples AND an Office Depot of all their folding chairs and tables when setting up a campaign office.
Picked. Them. Clean.
That doesn’t even count the massive amount of supplies I bought throughout the campaign. I could have earned thousands upon thousands of Ultimate Rewards points without breaking a sweat.
I’m over it. Really, I am. 🙂
Turn everyday purchases into 5x categories
Okay, back to the good stuff. For the more creative out there, there’s another great way to utilize the office supply store bonus category.
You can turn the spend you do at other stores into 5X categories just by buying gift cards to stores such as GAP, Whole Foods and Home Depot.
If you use Amazon regularly, earning 5X on Amazon gift cards could be a huge boost to your points-earning ability. I actually know a couple business owners who purchase tons of stuff from Amazon and do this to earn more points on these purchases.
Earn 5X Ultimate Rewards on Southwest and Delta flights
Here’s a favorite of mine, buy Southwest and Delta gift cards when you need to get a cash ticket. If you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, you probably use them for cash tickets as they provide trip delay insurance and other travel protections.
Well, all you have to do is put a tiny bit of the airfare purchase on either card to be protected. This means you can use Southwest or Delta gift cards to pay for the rest to earn 5X instead of 3X with the Sapphire Reserve or 2X with the Sapphire Preferred. It’s the best of both worlds!
The only Ultimate Rewards card with a gas station bonus
Finally, the Ink Cash earns 2X on all gas station purchases. It’s the only card in the Ultimate Rewards family with gas stations as a bonus category — the Ink Plus does too but, as mentioned above, it’s no longer available.
Turn your cash back into flexible points
Now, you probably noticed the welcome bonus and bonus categories are cash back. This is only the case if you don’t have a card that earns Ultimate Rewards and has an annual fee — Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred.
For those who don’t have one of these cards and are just starting to explore the options, the Ink Cash is an easy way to dip a toe in the pool. You can simply utilize great cash back bonus categories or get a card to pair with it so that you can transfer the points to partners.
If you combine the points you earn from the Ink Cash under one of the premium cards mentioned above, your points instantly become flexible points that can be transferred to partners.
Aer Lingus AerClub
IHG One Rewards
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
World of Hyatt
British Airways Executive Club
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
I recognize that the Ink Preferred’s 3X on travel and digital ads could be lucrative for some of you. Additionally, the $150,000 spend limit on the 3X categories is much higher than the $25,000 limit on the Ink Cash’s 5X categories. If you have tons of mobile phone and internet expenses, that might be important to you.
However, for many people, I would be willing to guess that the Ink Cash will earn more points over time.
How my Ink card helps me earn Ultimate Rewards
As I mentioned earlier, I have the Ink Plus Card which is very similar to the Ink Cash. It earns 5X at office supply stores and on internet and mobile phone purchases as well as 2X at gas stations.
I regularly take advantage of opportunities to earn 5X through office supply store purchases and, obviously, my mobile phone and internet bills are put on the card. I even reach for the card on when my car needs gas so I can earn 2X.
For the sake of giving you a complete picture, I also use the Chase Freedom FlexSM to take advantage of the rotating 5X quarterly bonus categories and the Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn 1.5X on non-bonus category spend.
Some have called this combo of Chase cards the quadfecta and it has certainly helped me keep a stash of Ultimate Rewards points ready to go.
Look, I totally understand if people want the simplicity of having a 3X travel bonus category and the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel partners with the Ink Preferred.
If you’re someone with plenty of digital ad spend, then go ahead and ride the Ink Preferred to tons of Ultimate Rewards points. A friend of mine does this and I’m extremely jealous of him, given my $0 in digital ad spend.
However, I think many people are in a similar position as I am. We don’t spend money on ads, we have a Sapphire Reserve (or Sapphire Preferred) so we can transfer points to partners and we can pretty easily take advantage of 5X opportunities.
For those like me, I’d give the Ink Cash a hard look before jumping to the Ink Preferred just because it has a higher welcome bonus.
One final note. If you are like a couple friends of mine who can and do utilize the bonus categories of both the Ink Cash and Ink Preferred… you win. You can use both cards to earn all the points.
Which one of these do you think will help you earn the most Ultimate Rewards points possible?