Chase Ink Bold or The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Beyond the Free Year

Mar 13, 2012

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I have to decide this month whether or not to keep my American Express Platinum card, so I have been taking a look at my overall credit card strategy when making that decision.  I’ll post more soon about what I am doing with my Platinum, but where I really started thinking was whether or not to keep both the Ink Bold and the Sapphire Preferred.  There is a lot of talk about signing up, but what to do after the free year is a topic that isn’t addressed quite as much.  While both cards were free the first year, they both will carry a $95 annual fee when they renew later in the year, so I wasn’t sure whether or not it makes sense to keep both of them.  I’m sure many others are in that same boat, so I thought it might be helpful to have a post about the merits of keeping one or both of the cards beyond the first year.

First, a quick rundown of the main benefits of each card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Annual fee waived the first year, then $95 annually
  • 40,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points after spending $3000 on the card in the first three months
  • Points transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott, and Priority Club
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Use of the Ultimate Rewards mall
  • 2x points on dining and travel expenses (airfare, hotels, cabs, rental cars, etc.)

Ink BoldSM

  • Annual fee waived the first year, then $95 annually
  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points (after spending $5,000 on card in the first three months)
  • Points transfer 1:1 to the same airline and hotel partners as the Sapphire Preferred
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Use of the Ultimate Rewards mall – though to more retailers and with some higher payouts than the Sapphire Preferred.  Check out this site by HikerT to learn more about the different payouts and retailers.
  • 5X points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, on cable and wireless service, and landline communications
  • 2x points on the first $50,000 spent annually on gas and hotels

It is also important to note that the Ink Bold is a business charge card and the Sapphire Preferred is a regular credit card, so it isn’t totally an apples to apples comparison for the two cards.  Other than that, the main differences in the cards for me are that the Sapphire Preferred gives 2x on dining.  I’m not sure how much I will end up putting on the Sapphire Preferred this year, but even if we charged $1000 per month in dining (and we usually don’t), that would still only be an extra 12,000 points from dining over the Ink Bold that gives 1x in that area.  I put rental cars on my United MileagePlus Explorer (try to get targeted for the 60K offer before going for the 40K) anyway because it has the best rental car coverage (primary instead of secondary), and I put airfare on my The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN since it gives 3x on airfare, so I don’t really care that much about those 2x travel categories.  Using the card for cab rides hasn’t worked out so well for me personally as I have often been told they want to imprint the card, and that can’t be done since the card has no raised numbers.

The Ink Bold gives 5x on office supply stores, cable and wireless, and landline expenses.  This is actually huge because I know in my family our cell phone family plan, landline, and cable come to about $500 per month (we have a home office and lots of folks on our family plan).  So, $500 per month comes to 30,000 bonus points per year for money we were going to spend anyway!  I still have the old Ink Bold that doesn’t give those bonus points, but I will be getting the new Ink Bold (and the related sign-up bonus) before the end of the year for sure!  In fact, it is without a doubt my next Chase application.  The 5x on office supply stores is also even better than it sounds because office supply stores like Staples and Office Max sell gift cards to restaurants, retail stores, Visa gift cards, and some travel related gift cards.  So, you earn 5x to other retailers, and then you can sometimes use those gift cards online to shop through the various shopping portals to earn even more points.  I highly recommend you check-out the Frequent Miler Laboratory to learn more about which retailers payout miles when using or buying gift cards.

I do like that the Ink Bold has 2x on hotels since that is a big business expense for me.  I also like the 2x on gas.  The Amex Business Gold also awards 2x for gas, but I give the edge to Ultimate Rewards over Membership Rewards, so I will put more of my gas on the Ink Bold.  Unless of course it is a quarter where gas is 5x on the Chase Freedom® Visa , and then gas clearly goes on that card. 

Have I confused anyone yet?  Bottom line, I think for many folks, the Ink Bold may be a better card to keep than the Sapphire Preferred between those two cards – assuming that a person has both.  However, those two cards are not the only options – there are fee-free versions of both of those cards.  I think I will personally get the New Ink Bold this year since I still have the old one.  That will give me another free year, and then after that I will drop it down to a fee-free version of that card in order to keep similar benefits and the account history.  I will likely keep the Sapphire Preferred to retain my Ultimate Reward transfer options and keep the maximum benefit from the relationship between the Chase Freedom, Chase Checking, and Ultimate Rewards.  In case you are interested, the two fee-free versions of the Ink Business card are the Ink CashSM Business Card that awards similar benefits to the Ink Bold including 5x on the same categories (but with a $25K annual cap) and 2x on gas and dining, instead of hotels, and the Ink℠ Classic Business that is also fee-free, but gives 2x on gas and hotels instead of dining.

So, there is my strategy.  Keep the old Ink Bold until I get the new one later this year, then after the first fee-free year downgrade to a fee-free version of that card, plus keep the Sapphire Preferred indefinitely for the Ultimate Rewards benefits.  Of course, as cards and benefits change, that strategy may also change.  What is your Ink Bold and Sapphire Preferred strategy after the first free year?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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