There are a lot of credit card providers out there each offering mostly the same things, just labeling them differently. That said, when a card comes out like the Chase Sapphire Reserve did last August, there is some pretty deserved hype. The card originally included a huge 100,000 Ultimate Reward bonus (after spending 4K in the first three months) and given how lucrative the points can be, it was very reasonable to expect a lot of word of mouth to translate into a lot of fancy metal cards. But here’s the thing — The card comes with a $450 annual fee. However, you can negate the provided $300 travel credit, which most of us will use this to its entirety, and the fee becomes a more reasonable $150. Still, that’s a still a lot of cash to drop on a card each year so the perks better be worth it. How do you maximize the value of that card? I say, a whole lot more value is added when you add another card or two as well. I’m talking about the Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited.


Specs on the Freedom Unlimited via the Chase site.

WHICH CARD TO ADD TO MY DECK?

I’m fairly conservative when it comes to opening new accounts and I don’t believe in churning just for the sake of churning. The Sapphire Reserve was the first card I had opened from Chase, and it didn’t take long to realize that I was missing out on a lot of points by simply not having one of the Freedom cards in my hand. Now how does having another card make the original more valuable? It’s because Ultimate Rewards are transferable between select chase cards.

The Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited are both no annual fee cards, therefore by adding them I wasn’t having to deal with balancing out another annual fee. To simply compare the cards: The Freedom offers 5x points on select rotating categories up to $1,500 in each quarter (at time of posting, that’s gas stations and local transportation). The Freedom Unlimited is a straight up 1.5x on all purchases, “unlimited”. These cards are both marketed as “cash back” cards, but to think of them as such is a poor assessment. After debating between the two and calculating my spend in the previous year’s categories for the Freedom vs the Freedom Unlimited with 1.5 percent, I decided to get the Freedom Unlimited. Earning points on everyday purchases is something that’s highly underrated, as a lot of those in the game tend to just be bonus chasers — I wanted to start maximizing the way I was earning travel rewards, and I’m happy to say that it’s working wonderfully.


HOW DOES THAT ADD VALUE?

Here’s how adding the Chase Freedom Unlimited to my Sapphire Reserve has increased my rewards:

Because I can transfer points from the Unlimited to the Reserve, I’m turning the 1.5 cents per point I can redeem on travel through the Reserve’s portal into 2.25, Let me explain — I now use the Reserve only for its bonus categories, and the Unlimited for most everyday spend. So essentially, I’m now getting 4.5 percent on my travel and dining purchases and 2.25 percent on my everyday purchases. And this is just the minimum value I can work towards travel. By transferring to partners, you can potentially unlock even more travel savings.

Transferring between your Freedom Unlimited and a Premium Chase Card is easy.

Transferring is really easy and can be taken advantage of by either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve although with the former, you’ll only get 1.25 cents per point in the travel portal (essentially 1.875 cents per dollar). You can also transfer the Ultimate Reward between a few Chase business cards, but I want to focus on personal side at the moment.

Adding my new spending and earnings up:

  1. Lets say that I spend $300 a month on travel and dining, coming out to 900 Ultimate Rewards.
  2. Then I spend an additional 1,000 (on the Chase Freedom earning 1.5x.) earning 1500 Ultimate Rewards.
  3. I’m now getting an extra 500 points a month conservatively valued at $7.50 = a total of $36 dollars each month.
  4. This totals out to $432 dollars in travel rewards a year and a benefit of an additional $90 just by adding the Freedom Unlimited.

I can safely say that I consistently earn at least the above amount of points each month by putting pretty much everything possible on my card, but even if you’re less of a spender or not comfortable with paying with everything on card, it’s hard not to justify the Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee just on earnings alone. The lounge access, the travel protections, and other perks are simply just other perks. That’s how I’ve made the most of my Chase Sapphire Reserve and more than made up for the essentially $150 annual fee (after redeeming travel credit).

I know that there are other card combos out there, but this one is working pretty well for the time being. What do you guys think? Is anyone else using with the same technique? Are there any better combinations out there? Let me know in the comments!