Creating a Chase Hub to Maximize Your Points Earning

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I believe strongly that you should never earn just one mile per dollar spent. You’ll never do as well with return on spend as when you first get a card and there’s an initial bonus offer. However just because a card is good to use for the benefits doesn’t mean you should use it for your ongoing spend. Instead a simple portfolio strategy, anchored around a single Chase card, can supercharge your points-earning.

You don’t have to settle for just one mile per dollar. You can earn a minimum of 1.5 points per dollar in a transferable points currency and choose which mileage program you want to move points to later. And you can earn bonuses for a variety of different kinds of spending beyond this as well.

Here’s how the strategy works with Chase.

You Want One Chase Card to Serve as a ‘Hub’

Since Chase allows you to combine their Ultimate Rewards points from different credit card accounts you only need one Chase premium (annual fee) credit card because those cards let you transfer your Chase points to other loyalty programs. That means you can transfer them to:

  • Airlines: United, JetBlue, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM, Singapore Airlines, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Emirates
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG

The two Chase cards that allow this that have modest ($95) annual fees are:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    The card earns two points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The card has an annual fee $95.

  2. Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has an 80,000 point signup bonus after $5000 spend within 3 months. It earns 3 points per dollar on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 points per dollar on shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to pay your cell phone.

Once you have a Chase card that lets you transfer points to miles, you can use that card as a hub for a more sophisticated rewards-earning strategy. But this is step one, your base.

Earn More Points With No Annual Fee Cards Then Make Those Points Much More Useful

There are two no annual fee Chase cards that earn 1.5 points per dollar spent. Those cards normally don’t let you transfer points to airline miles. However you can transfer the points you earn on these no annual fee cards over to your Chase Sapphire Preferred or your Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and from there to airline miles.

  • Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card is a no annual fee Visa card that has an initial bonus offer to earn $500 bonus cash back (50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Ongoing spend earns 1.5 points per dollar.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited also earns 1.5 points per dollar on spend and has no annual fee.

Earn 5 Points Per Dollar in a Variety of Categories, Too

The no annual fee Chase Ink Business CashSM credit card earns 5% back [5 points per dollar] on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. It earns 2% back [2 points per dollar] on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.

The no annual fee Chase Freedom® credit card earns 5% back (5 points per dollar) on up to $1,500 in purchases in bonus categories which change each quarter. You have to register for this each quarter.

The Crucial Points

The ability to maximize the value of these 5 points per dollar offers from no annual fee cards hinges on the ability to transfer those points to a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. That’s because on their own, Chase no annual fee cards do not let you transfer points to airline miles or hotel points.

Once you move those points over, of course, they become just like points that were earned on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card in the first place and can be transferred to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Of course Chase could limit to end the ability to make these transfers in the future, which is why I sweep my no annual fee Ink Chase and Freedom cards regularly, keeping those balances low and accumulating points in my annual fee cards.

Chase reportedly considered such limits, but the Wall Street Journal reported at the beginning of the year that that’s not something that was on the immediate horizon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. You might add….

    You can share rewards with one other person in your household. So, only the need for one “hub” card between the two of you.

    Also, you can store your cash back “points” in one of the no fee accounts and transfer them in the future to a newly obtained “hub” card. You would be betting on Chase not changing the rules. YMMV I have nine months till I am eligible for a new Sapphire card with no fee. That rule might change too.

  2. A correction to my prior post.

    I may have to pay a fee for the new Sapphire card, but would get a new card bonus per current rules as I understand it.

  3. Seems like a lot of work. I have a Chase IHG card I only use at IHG properties. I have a Chase Bonvoy card I only use at Marriott properties and for rental cars. I have an Amazon card I use for Amazon and Whole Foods purchases. I also have SW and AA cards that I use for flights, as they are the only 2 airlines I ever fly on. I also have a Costco card that gives me 4% at all gas stations. That pretty well covers my travel needs. Everything else goes to the card with the most points for the category. For example, IHG gives 2% at grocery stores, Amazon 2% at drug stores, etc.

  4. I assumed he referenced the Chase Sapphire Preferred card since the focus seemed to be on a minimalist approach to maximize Chase point accumulation. The idea of a “hub” card at the $95/year AF rate works for many more people than a $450 AF card.

  5. >>>I assumed he referenced the Chase Sapphire Preferred card since the focus seemed to be on a minimalist approach to maximize Chase point accumulation. The idea of a “hub” card at the $95/year AF rate works for many more people than a $450 AF card.<<<

    Sure, but for almost everyone, the Reserve is only $150 after the easily-gettable travel credit. Seems odd not to at least recommend it as an alternative.

  6. Gary,

    What has been the results of downgrading a Sapphire Reserve to Preferred ? Is it treated as a “new”card as well as credit transfer? I think it’s time to rid myself of the pending price increase.

    Thanks

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