The 8 Best Chase Credit Cards & 3 Paths to Choose From (Or Mix and Match)

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In a couple more months, I’ll be mercifully under 5/24, which means I’m looking at the best Chase credit cards and wondering what I’ll open, as if ordering off a menu. Chase hasn’t been a possibility for so long, it feels a bit like starting over.

It kinda is. I’ll get to retool my card arsenal – and that got me thinking about what’s worth getting – and what to skip (or cancel if it comes to that).

Upon reflection, I realized there are 3 ways to approach Chase cards:

  • Focus on personal cards (especially Ultimate Rewards cards)
  • Focus on small business cards
  • Go for the Southwest Companion Pass

Not to say any of these paths is absolute. I find that generally, peeps have certain travel goals in mind before they start applying, myself included.

And of course, you can mix and match. Here are the ones to start with.

Best Chase Credit Cards

I’ve got the Chase Freedom – and soon I can expand my entire Chase card strategy

Then you can fill-in around the edges with cards from other banks.

8 best Chase credit cards

Chase currently issues ~27 credit cards. And a solid 2/3 of them are caca. 💩

But the gems are truly worthwhile. ✨

4 personal cards (Path One)

Pick one: Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred

It comes down to this: heavy travelers should get the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and everyone else (or newbies) should get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

To differentiate, here’s my full review of the Reserve and Preferred. And here’s the break even point between the two.

The Sapphire Reserve has a $450 annual fee, and an annual travel credit up to $300. The net annual fee becomes $150 effectively.

The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee. The difference between the two is basically $55, which is an extra ~$5 a month.

The major difference is in the earning:

Sapphire Reserve earns 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining, while the Sapphire Preferred earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points in those categories.

What’s the difference? Quite a lot!

You should spring for the Sapphire Reserve and get 3X on travel and dining

Most peeps will do better with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But if the big annual fee scares you off, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a great place to begin. Plus, you can product change after a year. So there’s really nothing to lose.

Note you can’t earn the bonus on both – it’s one or the other every 4 years. Right now, the current offers on each card are:

Chase Sapphire Reserve50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel & dining

1X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on all other purchases
• $450 annual fee• $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Why this is my favorite card for travel and dining• Compare it here
Chase Sapphire Preferred60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel & dining

• 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on all other purchases
• $95 annual fee• $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• The best card for beginners• Compare it here

I haven’t earned a bonus on these cards in 6+ years, so the Chase Sapphire Preferred might have my name on it… literally. 😛

Pick one (or both!): Chase Freedom and/or Freedom Unlimited

These no-annual-fee cards are perfect complements to Ultimate Rewards cards with annual fees, because you can combine your points across all accounts – then send them to travel partners, where their value soars.

chase ultimate rewards transfers

Pair Chase cards to earn even more points

While both have the “Freedom” name, there are distinct differences in the earning rates:

  • Chase Freedom has 5X categories that rotate quarterly – earn 5% cashback (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on up to $1,500 in combined spending when you activate the bonus, then 1% (1X) everywhere else
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited earns a flat 1.5% cashback (1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on all purchases. Boom.

Freedom’s 5X categories have included restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, Amazon, and tons more in the past. Suffice it to say I always put it to good use

I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each when redeemed with travel partners. In my view, these cards are like 10% and 3% cashback machines – which is incredible. And then there are the sign-up bonuses:

Chase Freedom15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• $0 annual fee• $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Excellent rotating 5X categories every quarter
• A great first Chase card
• Compare it here
Chase Freedom Unlimited3% cash back on all purchases in your first year on up to $20,000 spent
That's up to 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the promotional offer!
• $0 annual feeAfter, earn unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases
• Great for everyday spending• Compare it here

Peep that promo offer on the Chase Freedom Unlimited! 3% cashback on up to $20,000 in spending the first year your card’s open! And with my personal valuation, it’s like 6% because I’ll combine with points with my Chase Sapphire Reserve and transfer to airline and hotel partners.

For that reason alone, this card is a definite frontrunner. I hope that bonus offer sticks around. 🤞 If you’re eligible, def get it while you can.

If you’re torn between the two, go for the Freedom if you like the 5X bonus categories, and the Freedom Unlimited if you prefer a flat earning rate.

Also see:

Pick one: A co-branded card

Chase issues many airline and hotel cards, including:

I have 4 of the 5 cards above. Not to say you should get that many. But Chase really does have strong co-brand cards.

If you like Hyatt hotels, the Chase World of Hyatt card stands out as particularly strong:

Chase World of HyattUp to 50,000 Hyatt points
• 9 Hyatt points per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 bonus points for paying with your card, and 5 bonus points for being a World of Hyatt member

• 2 Hyatt points per $1 spent restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships

• Receive 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1 to 4 Hyatt hotel or resort
• $95 annual fee• Earn 25,000 Hyatt points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

• Plus an additional 25,000 Hyatt points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening
• 5 Hyatt hotels where the annual free night rocks• Compare it here

I rarely fly United, but find the Chase United Explorer card worth keeping because of:

  • 2 free lounge passes per year
  • Expanded award availability for cardmembers
  • 25% bonus United miles in the MileagePlus X app
  • Primary car rental insurance (always good to have at least one card with this perk)

And right now, you can earn:

Chase United Explorer40,000 United miles
• 2 United miles per $1 spent on United purchases, at restaurants, and on hotel stays

• $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

• 1st checked back free when you pay for your ticket with the card

• 2 United Club lounge passes per cardmember year
• $95 annual fee, waived the first year• $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
• Compare it here

Point being, if you like any of these brands, snap up their Chase card before you find yourself over 5/24. Cuz when you do – *poof!* no Chase cards for you!

Even if you’re mildly curious about a Chase card, I’d recommend snapping it up while you can

2 small business cards cards (Path Two)

The magical thing about Chase small business cards is, while you can’t get them if you’re over 5/24, they won’t count against your 5/24 status.

Translation: GET THESE CARDS FIRST! (That is, if you have a small business or earn profits with side hustles.)

There are 3 excellent small business cards. Snag two if you can:

Chase Ink Business Preferred80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites, and search engines each account anniversary year

• 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point per $1 on all other purchases

• Bonus is worth $1,000 toward travel booked through Chase
• $95 annual fee• The minimum spending requirement is $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Amazing small biz card with best-ever offer right now• Compare it here
Chase Ink Business Cash50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year

2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
• $0 annual fee• $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Excellent 5X categories and best-ever offer right now• Compare it here
Chase Ink Business Unlimited50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
• 1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases with no cap
• $0 annual fee• $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Compare it here

In particular, the Chase Ink Business Preferred has a stunningly high sign-up bonus.

And the other two? It’s the same logic as Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited above.

Get the Chase Ink Business Cash if you like the 5X categories, and the Chase Ink Business Unlimited if you’d rather earn a flat 1.5X  Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all your small business purchases.

But it really becomes Freedom Unlimited vs Ink Business Unlimited because they have the same earning rate – the former is personal, the latter is small business.

So which sign-up offer do you prefer? It’s honestly a toughie. But I’d go with the Ink Business Unlimited to get a bigger sign-up bonus and stay under 5/24. But your situation might be different.

2 Southwest cards (Path Three)

Finally, there’s the Southwest route. This is for peeps who want the Southwest Companion Pass. And why wouldn’t you? It’s by far the best deal for domestic (and near-international) travel.

I personally find earning Southwest points too restricting (that is, you can only redeem them on more Southwest flights). But if you’re into their route network and they service your home airport, by all means go for it!

Chase Southwest Plus40,000 Southwest points
• 3,000 Southwest points after your Cardmember anniversary.

2 Southwest points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
• $69 annual fee• $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Points earned count toward the Southwest Companion Pass• Compare it here
Chase Southwest Premier40,000 Southwest points
• 6,000 Southwest points after your Cardmember anniversary

2 Southwest points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
• $99 annual fee• $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Points earned count toward the Southwest Companion Pass• Compare it here
Chase Southwest Priority40,000 Southwest points
• 7,500 Southwest points after your Cardmember anniversary

2 Southwest points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

$75 Southwest travel credit each year

• 4 upgraded boardings per year (if space is available)
• $149 annual fee• $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Points earned count toward the Southwest Companion Pass• Compare it here
Chase Southwest Premier Small Business60,000 Southwest points
• 6,000 Southwest points after your Cardmember anniversary

2 Southwest points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
• $99 annual fee• $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
• Points earned count toward the Southwest Companion Pass• Compare it here

Even better – the points you’ll earn from the sign-up bonuses DO count toward your Companion Pass (including the minimum spending!). Right now, you can earn 60,000 Southwest points on all of the Chase Southwest cards. Open two, and it’s yours when you meet the minimum spending.

So if you open one or two or these cards, you could be well on your way – or outright earn – the Companion Pass, which is valid for the remainder of the current year and ALL of the following year. You need to earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass. These points will post in 2019. And if you earn a Companion Pass in 2019, it’s valid for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020.

Incredible deal if you like flying Southwest.

Putting it all together – mix n match

To come up with the 8 best cards, I recommend:

And here’s the fun part. You can put them together in any order you want.

Because Chase issues 3 personal and 1 small business Southwest card. Or you could get 2 co-branded bards instead of one. Or skip certain cards completely.

I didn’t open any of my cards with a master plan in mind. Rather, it’s a patchwork I cobbled together over the years.

But when I drop below 5/24, I’ll have the chance to make a deliberate plan for which cards I want – and their combination. With all of these cards, the power is in the pairing.

Ahhh, it’s all in front of me now. What a feelin’

I think I’ll close a couple (especially if it means opening new ones to earn sign-up bonuses). Open a few more. And when I’m over 5/24 again, head to other banks and cards.

I’m definitely a combination of Path One and Path Two – maybe a couple of personal cards and a couple of small business cards.

Travel – and designing travel goals – is extremely personal. I think of credit cards as tools in a toolbox that help me achieve my goals. What works for me won’t work for you. But Chase really does offer some of the strongest travel rewards cards in the industry. I’m fortunate I get to “wind back the clock” and refine my strategy.

And please please please pay off all your cards in full every month. If you don’t, the interest you’ll pay negates any value you’ll get from these spectacular sign-up offers.

Bottom line

Of Chase’s 27 credit card products, only 8 of them deserve a spot in your wallet. And of that curated list, it requires some mixing and matching to get the levels *just right* for your travel goals.

I see 3 distinct paths with Chase cards:

  • Ultimate Rewards and co-brand personal cards for nearly everyone (Path One)
  • Ultimate Rewards small business cards for those that qualify (Path Two)
  • Southwest cards for those gunning for the coveted Companion Pass (Path Three)

I’m a blend of one and two, whereas you might be on a singular journey – or all three.

Because of 5/24, remember to get all the Chase cards you want if you’re just starting out. If you’ve opened more than 5 cards from ANY bank (excluding certain small business cards, including Chase’s own small business products), you won’t be approved for Chase cards.

And if you like any of the small business cards, get those first – because they won’t count toward your 5/24 status (although they are still subject to the rule).

I’ll keep this page updated with the latest offers. As it stands now, these card picks represent potentially $1,000s in award travel. I can’t wait to dive in and go crazy.

Do you agree with my list? Which cards are you picking up?

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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