The Chase trifecta: What it is and how to maximize it

1
Jelena Zelen/Shutterstock.com
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page.

A rewards credit card gives you the chance to earn cash back or points on your regular purchases and bills—provided you avoid debt and never pay any interest charges.

One of the best ways to maximize your rewards earning potential, however, involves using a combination of rewards credit cards that will lead to even greater returns. With a good credit card combo, your credit cards will complement each other’s features, benefits and earning rates.

One such combination consists purely of Chase credit cards and is known among rewards cards enthusiasts as the “Chase trifecta.” This trio of rewards credit cards gives consumers the chance to maximize points on all their spending, then pool their rewards for better redemptions and ultimate convenience.

What is the Chase trifecta?

The Chase trifecta is a multi-card strategy that can help you get better-than-average returns on regular purchases, exceptional travel perks and enhanced rewards on business spending. Better yet, you can pool your rewards into a single account to score a superior selection of travel redemption options.

The strategy requires you to have at least three different Chase credit cards, hence the name. For the trifecta to work, you also need to make sure you’re using the right card for different types of purchases. Not every cardholder needs that kind of complexity, but if you’re willing, the pros can easily outweigh the cons.

Which cards are part of the Chase trifecta?

When it comes to building your Chase trifecta, you have quite a few variations to choose from. Generally, you want one of the Chase Sapphire cards, one from the Chase Freedom family and a Chase business credit card.

The most common variation, however, is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®  and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers three bonus categories and flat-rate cash back on all other purchases with no annual fee. Note that while this card advertises cash back, the rewards come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a value of 1 cent per point.

  • Earn 5 percent cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on Lyft purchases (through March 2022), 3 percent on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases and 1.5 percent back on all other purchases
  • Qualify for a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • No annual fee
  • 0 percent APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 24.74 percent

You can swap the Chase Freedom Unlimited with the Chase Freedom Flex℠, which replaced the original Chase Freedom® in 2020. It has similar earning potential in dining, drugstore purchases and travel booked through Chase and offers 5 percent cash back in rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1 percent).

You’ll need to make sure that you activate the cash back bonus categories, then use your Freedom Flex card in those categories to maximize the earnings. The Freedom Flex offers 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Pairing a Chase Freedom card with the Chase Sapphire Reserve allows you to earn some of the most valuable travel rewards on all kinds of spending.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the most popular travel credit cards, thanks to its amazing benefits and high rewards value.

  • Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining.
  • 10X total points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2022); 10X total points on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards; 1X points on all other purchases
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening—that’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Get 50 percent more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • $550 annual fee
  • Perks: airport lounge access with Priority Pass Select, $300 annual travel credit, one-year Lyft Pink membership, up to $120 in credits for DoorDash, credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, a range of travel insurance benefits and more

Since a $550 annual fee can seem rather high, especially if you’re new to credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be a good alternative—especially with its new, upgraded rewards structure.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card you can now get 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out), 3X points on select streaming services and 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). This is in addition to the 2X points it already offered on travel (not purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards) and 1X points on all other purchases.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred is arguably one of the best credit cards for small businesses thanks to a generous sign-up bonus, a high rewards rate in common business categories and quite a few valuable perks.

  • 3X points on up to $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, Internet, cable and phone services and select online advertising (then 1X points), as well as 1X points on other purchases
  • Qualify for 100,000 points (worth $1,250 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards) after you spend $15,000 on your card within three months of account opening
  • $95 annual fee
  • Qualify for cellphone coverage and important travel insurance benefits

If you’d like to avoid the annual fee, look into Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, which earns 5 percent cash back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on Internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, 2 percent on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year and 1 percent on all other spending.

If you’re looking into consumer cards only, complete your Chase trifecta with another Freedom card to maximize your reward earning potential with more bonus categories.

Should you swap out the Chase Sapphire Preferred 60k bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve is typically included in the Chase trifecta due to its bonus rewards on travel and its exceptional travel perks, there are plenty of arguments in favor of swapping this card out for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

For example, some cardholders who travel infrequently may not care about benefits like airport lounge membership or fee credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. As a result, they could switch to the Chase Sapphire Preferred and pay $95 per year instead of the $550 annual fee of the Sapphire Reserve.

The Preferred also has a slightly better sign-up bonus than the Reserve. Here are other card details to help you decide:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs); 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Lyft Rides (Lyft offer through March 2022); Earn 2x on general travel purchases and 1X points on other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • 25 percent more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • $95 annual fee

You should also know about two new major benefits recently added to the Sapphire Preferred: $50 hotel stay statement credits and a 10 percent anniversary point bonus on purchases made the previous year.

Plus, we like the additional bonus rewards categories that now cater to more lifestyle spending like select streaming services, online grocery and boosted rewards for dining and travel.

Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred can work well as part of the Chase trifecta, but keep in mind you can only be the primary cardholder on one or the other.

We suggest opting for the Sapphire Reserve if you’re a frequent traveler who wants VIP perks like airport lounge access and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.

If you don’t travel that often, however, the Sapphire Preferred’s bonus, updated rewards structure and newly added card perks made this card even more appealing.

Tips on maximizing the Chase trifecta

To get the most out of whichever cards you choose for your Chase trifecta, you need to know how to use your Chase cards strategically; here’s how you can do it.

Maximize the Freedom categories

Whether you have one Chase Freedom card or both in your Chase trifecta, make sure you use them for the right kind of spending. For example, you can use either of them to pay for drugstore purchases and earn 3 percent cash back.

If you have the Chase Freedom Flex, activate 5 percent cash back rotating categories every quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases) and make a point to use the card when making eligible purchases.

Book paid travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the Chase Freedom Flex or Unlimited

Both Freedom cards offer 5 percent cash back when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, making either card a great choice for maximizing points on paid travel accommodations.

Use Chase Sapphire Reserve when paying for other types of travel

The travel category on Chase Sapphire Reserve is rather broad, allowing you to earn 3X points on many types of general travel expenses, from hotels to tolls to parking garages.

But the 10X total points on hotel stays and car rentals along with the 5X total points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards means you should book travel through the Chase portal whenever possible.

With this in mind, we recommend using the Sapphire Reserve for all travel expenses outside of the travel you book through Ultimate Rewards.

Pool all your points in your Chase Sapphire Reserve account before you redeem for travel

Before you redeem your points, pool them in your Chase Sapphire Reserve account if you have one. This card gives you 50 percent more for your points when you use them to book airfare, hotels, rental cars, activities and more through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

If you want to transfer points to travel partners, pool them in your Sapphire Reserve account, Sapphire Preferred account or Ink Business Preferred account. All three of these cards allow you to transfer points at a 1:1 transfer ratio to popular airline and hotel programs, such as Southwest Rapid Rewards, JetBlue, British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt.

Use Chase Sapphire Reserve travel perks

One of the reasons the Chase Sapphire Reserve is so widely popular despite the $550 annual fee is its travel perks.

For instance, the $300 annual travel credit is good for any travel purchase and automatically applied to your account as you make travel-related purchases throughout the year.

Further, the Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership that comes with this card is worth $429 and provides access to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world. This access also comes with free food, drinks and Wi-Fi, along with an elevated level of comfort when compared to the busy airport terminal.

Finally, make sure to take advantage of the credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (up to $100) if you choose this card for your trifecta. These memberships can save you time and stress by letting you skip past security lines.

Take advantage of bonus categories with the Ink Business Preferred

The Ink Business Preferred offers 3X points on up to $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, Internet, cable and phone services and select online advertising (then 1X point). You’ll also earn 1X points on all other business expenses charged to your card.

Use the Chase Freedom Unlimited for all non-bonus spending

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the only card in the trifecta that earns more than 1X points on non-bonus spending, so you’ll want to use this card for all your regular purchases that don’t qualify for extra points.

Consider swapping one or more cards for the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase trifecta typically worked best with the card combinations listed above. However, the upgrades to the Sapphire Preferred card make it a serious contender for spending categories most people tend to use a lot these days: dining (including eligible delivery services), travel, online grocery, select streaming services and travel.

Realistically, it’s a good substitute for the Sapphire Reserve but could also replace one or more of your Chase Freedom Cards, depending on your spending habits and tolerance for annual fees. Check out this comparison between the Chase Freedom Flex and the Sapphire Preferred to explore this option further.

Who is the Chase trifecta for?

The Chase trifecta provides an excellent card strategy for consumers who don’t mind juggling a few rewards credit cards to reach their goals. With three different cards and their unique earning rates and perks, you can make the most of what Chase has to offer and maximize rewards on each dollar you spend.

This combination of cards is also ideal for people who love to earn points they can pool together in one account. After all, carrying three Chase cards that let you pool points together is more convenient than having several rewards cards and currencies spread across multiple loyalty program accounts.

The Chase trifecta is also an excellent choice for people who want access to Chase transfer partners, which are different from those offered through other travel programs like American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards.

The full list of Chase transfer partners, all of which are offered at a 1:1 transfer ratio, includes:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air France / Flying Blue
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Iberia
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • JetBlue
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • World of Hyatt

Also, note that Chase is adding Air Canada / Aeroplan to its roster of transfer partners later in 2021.

If these transfer partners don’t appeal to you, you might want to consider another flexible rewards program and perhaps even another trifecta.

For example, the Amex trifecta includes the American Express® Gold Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express and an almost entirely different set of transfer partners with just a handful that overlap.

American Express credit cards also come with different earning structures and cardholder perks, so it’s worth it to compare these options to see how they would work for your spending and travel goals.

How to get the Chase trifecta

The credit cards in the Chase trifecta are targeted toward consumers with good to excellent credit. If your credit could use some work, you might want to wait before starting to build your Chase cards combo.

It also might take a while to collect the full trifecta. Chase limits the number of new cards anyone can get within 24 months with its 5/24 rule. If you’ve received five cards from any issuers in the last 24 months, Chase won’t approve your application. For that reason, it’s best to space out new credit card applications to qualify for all three cards.

Ideally, you should wait a minimum of 90 days before you apply for another credit card. It’s also important to remember that a credit card application triggers a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily ding your credit score.

Also, keep in mind that, when it comes to Chase Sapphire card products, you can only earn the bonus on one of these cards every 48 months at a minimum.

The bottom line

The Chase trifecta can be a great combination of cards for rewards enthusiasts looking to maximize points and their value with everyday spending while still being able to earn cash back.

But you have to be willing to strategize your card usage to get the most out of the trifecta, which might not be ideal for every cardholder. Additionally, it may take a while to sign up for all three cards due to some of Chase’s policies.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
Edited by
Editor
Reviewed by
Credit Cards Reporter