It’s time for another credit card review, this time I’ll be looking at the Ink cards from Chase.
This is actually a new credit card line from Chase reserved only for business owners, which the company says comes with business-sized credit limits.
That means credit limits large enough to take care of major business purchases, or alternatively flexible spending capacity that may grow as needed with your business.
This is especially important for small business owners right now with all the credit lines being cut in the wake of the ongoing credit crisis.
Employers can get additional Ink credit cards for their employees for free that earn points in the associated Ultimate Rewards program. Individual spending limits can also be set for each employee, and spending reports can be generated.
Two Ink Credit Cards to Choose From, Both with Great Sign-Up Bonuses
There are two different versions of the Ink card available, including Ink Cash, Ink Plus, and Ink Bold; annual fees range from $0-$95 (first year free for those with fees).
Ink Cash is a no annual fee credit card that offers a 2% cash back rebate for purchases made at gas stations and restaurants. You also get 5% cash back on cable TV, internet, landline, and cell phone services, along with purchases at office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot (on the first $25,000 spent annually).
For all other eligible purchases you’ll also earn 1% cash back. At the moment, you can also earn $200 cash back if you spend $3,000 during the first three months from account opening. With no annual fee, that’s money in the bank.
Ink Plus is a little different. Instead of offering cash back, it offers bonus points in select categories. For example, you can earn 2X points at gas stations and for hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel (on the first $50,000 spent annually).
Additionally, you get 5X points on cable TV, internet, landline/cell phone, and office supply purchases (same $50,000 annual limit), and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Ink Plus doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees either, and comes with a very handsome 60,000 bonus point sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.
There used to be an Ink Bold, which featured everything Ink Plus does aside from the fact that it was a charge card, not a credit card. That meant it had to be paid off in full each month. You cannot carry a balance. If you do, you’ll be subject to late fees and penalties. However, it also came with a flexible spending limit.
That being said, Ink Bold is best reserved for the business owner who plans to pay off their card in full each and every month. It’s a good alternative to American Express charge cards because Ink cards are issued by Visa/MasterCard, meaning they’re accepted pretty much everywhere. We all know Amex is not…
For the record, the points earned with Ink Plus and Ink Bold can be redeemed for cash back as well, or used for gift cards, travel, etc. And you get 20% off travel when you book via Chase Ultimate Rewards, so those 60,000 bonus points are really worth 75,000 points.
Travel programs include: British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus®, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, Korean Air SKYPASS, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards®, Hyatt Gold Passport®, Marriott Rewards®, IHG® Rewards Club and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.
This is probably the best use of your Ultimate Rewards points if you like to travel. I’ve used the big sign-up bonuses with Chase Ink to book transatlantic first-class flights for free. Can’t beat that!
And because the points never expire, you won’t have to worry about redeeming them if you’re not quite ready to use them. So you can easily see where it’d be pretty easy to rack up a ridiculous amount of points in a hurry if you use your credit card for your business frequently.
The downside to Ink Plus and Ink Bold is the $95 annual fee, which can be waived the first year. The $5,000 spending requirement for the bonus may be difficult for some cardholders as well, so make sure you’ve got plans to meet the spending requirement before applying.
With all the Ink cards, you used to get complimentary membership to the Lounge Club, which provided access to over 350 airport lounges worldwide. Your first two visits each year were free, after which the cost was $27 per visit, per person.
How Many Points Can I Earn with Ink from Chase?
Let’s look at a real-world example. Say you apply for the card and meet the $5,000 minimum spend on the Ink Bold or Ink Plus card. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points plus another 5,000 regular points (minimum) for spending $5,000. So you’re already at 65,000 for doing the bare minimum. If you use the card primarily in the 5X bonus point categories, you’d be looking at 85,000 points after spending just $5,000.
If you transfer the 85,000 points to an airline rewards program on a 1:1 basis, you should easily have enough for a transatlantic flight, possibly even in business or first class if you find a good deal. Or you could transfer the points to the Southwest Airlines program and take a handful of shorter flights for free. Think flying from LA to Phoenix or Vegas over and over again, for free. Or from LA to NYC.
Assuming you max out their $50,000 limit in the 5x bonus categories, you’re looking at 250,000 points annually. That’s enough to fly around the world a couple times.
Wondering why someone would use points for travel as opposed to cash back? Well, if you do it right, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. Cash back is redeemed at a ratio of one cent per point. In other words, 100 points = $1. And 10,000 points = $100. But if you redeem points with airlines, hotels, etc., you can get a much better return, something like 3-5 cents per point in value.
So if you do start earning a massive amount of points, make sure you maximize their potential too. Don’t just assume cash back is the best redemption method.
70,000 Chase Ink Sign-Up Bonus (Annual Fee Waived)
If you’re lucky, you might get targeted for the 70,000 point sign-up bonus in the mail. Even if you don’t, you can go into a Chase bank branch and apply for the Chase Ink Plus card to get 70k points for a limited time.
It’s unclear how long this offer will last, but it might be worth your while to go into a branch as opposed to signing up online because it’s another 10k bonus points. Just watch out for the cross-selling once you enter the bank. Focus on getting the card and moving on.
You still have to spend $5,000 in the first three months, but you get points valued at $875 (if used for travel rewards). Or $700 if you want straight cash back. Even better, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, so what’s not to like. You’ll get at least 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you hit the $5,000 bonus spend requirement.
Tip: I recently took advantage of the Chase Ink 70k in-branch offer and was approved right on the spot. That’s another benefit of applying at a Chase branch. You find out if you’re approved immediately. And my Chase banker who is now my buddy gets a commission.
100,000 Chase Ink Bonus (Targeted Mailer)
There was recently chatter regarding a 100,000 Chase Ink sign-up bonus, which was apparently targeted via a mailer to some select (lucky) individuals.
It doesn’t appear to be a widespread offer, though if you did receive it you should probably take Chase up on it.
Aside from coming with a staggering 100k points when you spend $5,000, the annual fee is also waived the first year. Kind of hard to pass that up.
The only card that matches the 100k bonus comes via the new Chase Sapphire Reserve, though that card also has a hefty $450 annual fee. So it’s not quite apples to apples.
There have been mixed reports of Chase matching the 100k offer. If you recently got approved for Ink with a lower opening bonus, a secure message or phone call to Chase might be a wise move to ask for the higher bonus.
Why I Have Chase Ink Bold and Plus in My Wallet
I actually applied for both versions of Chase Ink to get two sign-up bonuses. Because why settle for 60k points when you can get 120k points instead?
Additionally, I like the fact that I earn 5x bonus points in categories I constantly use like phone, cable, and internet. I wish they’d give me 5x points on my web hosting, but I guess that falls outside the definition.
The redemption options are also awesome for the Ink cards so I can move the points to Southwest for free flights, or to an international carrier to fly around the world for free. Hotels are also a rewards option, meaning I can book complete vacations for free, using mainly the sign-up bonuses.
Below, I’ve grouped the benefits by type of Ink card. Bold and Plus are basically the same, despite one being a charge card and one being a credit card, so the benefits are pretty much the same.
Benefits of Chase Ink Cash
- $200 bonus when you spend $3k in the first 3 months from account opening
- 5% cash back on the first $25k spent in combined purchases at office supply stores, and on cell/landline, internet and cable TV each year
- 2% cash back on the first $25k in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
- 1% cash back on all other purchases with no limit
- No annual fee
- Rewards do not expire
Benefits of Chase Ink Plus/Bold
- 60k-70k bonus points when you spend $5k in the first 3 months from account opening
- 5X points on first $50k spent in combined purchases at office supply stores, and on cell/landline, internet and cable TV each year
- 2X points on the first $50k in combined purchases at gas stations and hotels each year
- 1 point on all other purchases with no limit
- 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent flyer and hotel reward programs
- 20% off travel redemption via Ultimate Rewards
- $95 annual fee possibly waived the first year
- Rewards do not expire
- No foreign transaction fees
Tip: If you’re not a business owner, Chase Sapphire Preferred offers similar rewards to Chase Ink Plus/Bold.
(photo: Michael Pecirno)