While nearly 40% of Americans used travel rewards credit cards to reap the benefits of earning points and miles as recently as 2019, not everyone uses a sophisticated strategy to maximize their rewards.
If you’re an avid traveler, you could be missing out on some serious earning potential by only using one credit card for your purchases. Pairing multiple credit cards can help you maximize each purchase with boosted points across a broader range of categories, such as travel, dining, or groceries.
Pairing different cards based on your spending is already a tried-and-true tactic to maximize rewards, but you can take things one step further if you already have a Chase credit card. When you pair multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards cards together, there’s an extra benefit: You can combine your points onto one card account, potentially getting more value when you use them to book travel.
Here’s what you need to know to maximize your rewards and earn free travel with your Chase Ultimate Rewards cards.
What Is the Chase Trifecta?
Traditionally, the Chase trifecta is a pairing of three Chase credit cards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. These cards offer a wide range of bonus categories, from travel and dining to groceries and even internet and shipping costs.
However, any of the cards in the trifecta can be swapped out for other rewards cards that better fit your needs. If you don’t have a business, for example, you might swap out the Chase Ink Business Preferred for the Chase Freedom Flex℠. Or, if you want a travel card with a lower annual fee, you could choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It’s worth noting that you can’t be the primary cardholder of both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but there is a workaround if you want to benefit from both cards. If you and your spouse, domestic partner, or another person living with you both get one card each, the two of you can pool your points into one account.
When pairing Chase cards, use each card strategically to maximize both your point earnings and your point redemptions. For example, you could use the Chase Sapphire Reserve when booking airfare to take advantage of the 5X points on flights purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, use the Chase Ink Business Preferred for your business’s telecommunications bills. You can earn the 3X points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases like internet, cable, and phone services, and use the Chase Freedom Unlimited for a baseline 1.5% on every purchase.
Once you’ve earned the points, there’s a trick to maximizing your value when redeeming them, too. You can pool all your Ultimate Rewards points into your Chase Sapphire Reserve account — when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’ll be worth more than on the Freedom Unlimited or Ink Business Preferred alone.
“When you pair the cards with a lower redemption value to your Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer your points into the card with a better cent per point value,” says Johannes Larsson, CEO of financial services comparison site Financer. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a 50% redemption boost on points redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, so each point from another card will be worth 1.5 cents per point after you transfer them over and use them to book travel. Otherwise, the points you earn with the Freedom Unlimited (and Freedom Flex) are worth 1 cent per point when you redeem for travel through Chase, and Ink Business Preferred (and Sapphire Preferred) points are worth 1.25 cents per point.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Intro offer:60,000 points
- Annual fee:$95
- Regular APR:20.24% – 27.24% Variable
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Apply Now At Chase’s secure site
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Intro offer:60,000 points
- Annual fee:$550
- Regular APR:21.24% – 28.24% Variable
- Recommended credit:740-850 (Excellent)
- Apply Now At Chase’s secure site
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium rewards card with a $550 annual fee. You can earn 10X points on hotels, car rentals, and dining booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 10X points on Lyft rides (through March 2025), 5X points on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X points on other travel and dining purchases, and 1X points on everything else.
You’ll also get perks like airport lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit, a DashPass subscription through 12/31/24, $0 foreign transaction fees, and the ability to transfer points to airline and hotel loyalty programs. What’s more, this card comes with a 60,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in purchases during the first three months.
All points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. It’s a great idea to use this card to earn points on travel and dining, but another card may be better suited for higher rewards value on other everyday purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a no annual fee card from Chase that earns 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases. You’ll also get 5% back on travel booked through Chase, and 3% back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstore purchases. For the first year, you’ll earn an additional 1.5% back on everything you buy, up to the first $20,000 spent.
It’s a good idea to use this card for any purchases that don’t fall into other cards’ bonus categories to earn the base 1.5%, and then transfer those points to a Chase card that gets boosted value when redeemed for travel.
Chase Ink Business Preferred
You don’t have to be a traditional business to sign up for this card — freelancers and sole proprietors can apply as well. The Chase Ink Business Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee, but employee cards are available at no additional cost. It earns 3X points on shipping purchases; advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines; internet, cable, and phone services; and travel on up to a combined $150,000 per year. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.
Your points are worth 25% more when you use them to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. There’s also a hefty signup bonus with this card — you’ll earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 within the first three months of account opening. That’s worth $1,250 towards travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Use this card to keep your business purchases separate, and then transfer the points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve for an even higher redemption boost to maximize your trifecta.
Chase Freedom Flex
The Chase Freedom Flex is another no annual fee card. Similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, it offers 5% back on travel purchased through Chase and 3% back on dining (including delivery and takeout) and drugstore purchases. However, instead of offering 1.5% unlimited cash back, this card offers 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% back on rotating bonus categories.
Pay attention to the bonus categories with this card: You’ll need to activate the new categories quarterly, and you’ll only earn the boosted rewards on the first $1,500 you spend in the bonus categories each quarter. This card also comes with a $200 signup bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months.
The Chase Freedom Flex makes for a great substitution to the Chase Ink Business Preferred for a consumer card-only trifecta (and without the Ink Business Preferred’s annual fee). And when paired with the Freedom Unlimited, you can maximize nearly every purchase you make through the added bonus categories.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
For those who want to get boosted rewards and travel perks but don’t travel enough to justify the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s high annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great tradeoff. For a $95 annual fee, it offers a $50 annual hotel credit for hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 2X points on all other travel purchases. You can also earn 3X points on online grocery purchases, select streaming services and dining, 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2025), and 1X points on everything else.
Your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal — still a nice bonus, but lower than the Sapphire Reserve’s 50% boost.
It’s a good idea to use this card to book travel and Lyft rides, and to transfer points from other cards onto this one for the rewards redemption boost.
Benefits of Pairing These Cards
The biggest benefit of pairing multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards cards is so you can strategize to get the most value from each card. Each time you shop, use the card that earns the highest point value on your purchase, and later combine those points onto one card for a boosted points value when you use them to book travel.
While you can maximize other card pairs for statement credits or cash back, the Chase trifecta is most useful if you’re looking for travel redemptions, since that’s where you’ll get the most value per point.
Here’s a breakdown of which cards in the original trifecta offer the most points per spending category.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Chase Ink Business Preferred||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Hotels||Up to 10X points booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®||3X points||Up to 5X points|
|Flights||Up to 5X points purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®||3X points||Up to 5X points purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.|
|Dining||3x points||1X points||3X points|
|Lyft Rides||10X points (through March 2025)||5X points (through March 2025)||5X points (through March 2025)|
|Drugstores||1X points||1X points||3X points|
|Grocery Stores||1X points||1X points||1.5X points|
|Business Expenses (Shipping, Advertising, Telecommunications)||1X points||3X points (on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in combined categories each account anniversary year)||1.5X points|
|Other||1X points||1X points||1.5X points|
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Once you’ve added the trifecta to your wallet, here’s a breakdown of the general guidelines for using each card:
- Book hotels and flights with your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Use your Chase Ink Business Preferred Card for all business expenses except travel.
- Use the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card for dining, drugstores, and all other purchases.
- Transfer all points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card when you’re ready to redeem them for a redemption value of 1.5 cents per point. Use the points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Who Can Qualify for the Chase Trifecta?
You generally need a credit score of 690 or higher to be eligible for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, according to Larsson. Juggling multiple credit cards — including two with annual fees — while paying your balances in full and on time each month can be difficult, so it’s important to have a solid history of good credit before you apply.
And your application isn’t just about your credit score, according to Beverly Harzog, credit card expert and consumer finance analyst at U.S. News and World Report. They don’t just look at your FICO score, they’re also going to look at your credit report and the income you put on your application, she says.
“Before you apply for any credit card, get an idea where your credit stands,” Harzog adds. “Because every time you apply for a credit card, you’re going to lose about 2-5 points on your credit score.”
As for the Chase Ink Business Preferred, Larsson says businesses running for three or more years are eligible to apply. But that’s if you want to apply using your business credit score.
Harzog notes that you don’t necessarily need to be incorporated or have credit in your business’s name — self-employed freelance workers can also apply. “If your business doesn’t have credit in the business’s name, you can still get a business credit card … but it’s going to be based on your personal credit, so just keep that in mind,” she says.
How Quickly Can I Apply for These Cards?
While unconfirmed by Chase, there’s an unofficial rule that precludes applicants from getting too many cards at once from the issuer. That’s to prevent people from churning credit cards, which involves opening cards just to get the welcome bonus and then closing them.
“The Chase 5/24 rule is a strict criterion that requires applicants not to exceed opening five various credit cards within 24 months to get approved,” says Larsson. “If an applicant doesn’t meet this requirement, they immediately get rejected,” he adds.
That rule won’t prevent you from signing up for all three cards in the Chase trifecta at once. But Harzog says that will hurt your credit and can cause other issues. “If you have too many inquiries in a short amount of time, it looks like you’re desperate for credit,” she says. That’s not specific to Chase cards; it’s true no matter which cards you apply for. Your score could drop 15 points if you apply for three cards at once.
You also might have trouble earning the sign-up bonuses without overspending if you open three accounts at the same time. “It’s always a good idea to spread out your applications,” says Harzog. Aim to wait at least three months between credit card applications.
*All information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.