The Chase Trifecta: How to easily earn tons of travel points with these 3 cards and just ONE annual fee

When you’re starting out in the miles and points hobby, the thought of developing a long-term strategy for opening the best credit cards for travel can seem overwhelming. We’ve all been in your shoes. One easy way to do this is something we call the “Chase trifecta.” It’s the best way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points quickly towards your next free vacation, just by using those cards for everyday expenses.

Here are some examples of cards that would qualify:

Why consider the “Chase Trifecta?”

The MMS team loves Chase Ultimate Rewards points because they’re easy to earn and redeem. With little effort, you can use these flexible points to save lots of money on airfare, hotel stays and car rentals.

With the Chase trifecta, you can earn tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and take amazing trips to destinations like Switzerland with little out-of-pocket expense. I took this shot on the way to Verbier. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Having the Chase trifecta means you’ll have an opportunity to earn three lucrative sign-up bonuses. Each card also has access to different bonus spending categories, which means you can boost your points balances quickly with everyday purchases.

You don’t have to be a miles & points expert to make the most of the points you earn with the Chase trifecta. At a minimum, you’ll have the ability to use the Chase travel portal to quickly redeem points for flights and hotel stays just as you would through ExpediaPriceline, or any other online travel agency.

Why Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so useful

The thing we like most about earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that you have many different ways to redeem them. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Chase transfer partners, like Hyatt or Southwest, or you can use points to book paid travel through the Chase travel portal without having to worry about blackout dates. This is by far the best way to use Chase points.

It’s also possible to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards, cash back, or to pay for Amazon purchases, but we typically don’t recommend using points this way because Chase points value is much higher toward travel redemptions.

Scott loves transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt or United Airlines for easy yet valuable awards because Hyatt has no blackout dates — even at their all-inclusive hotels on the beaches of Cancun, like the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. Scott also uses them to acquire United Airlines miles, then to book flights on their partner airlines like LOT Polish and TAP Portugal, to travel to Europe.

Note that you can only transfer points directly to airline and hotel partners if you have at least one annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards card. If you have a no-annual-fee card, however, you can still combine those Chase Ultimate Rewards points with another eligible card and then transfer points to a travel partner.

Transfer your Chase points to United Airlines and book a business class seat on Turkish Airlines. (Photo courtesy of Turkish Airlines)

Chase Trifecta card strategy (only ONE annual fee)

Here’s a guide to getting three fantastic Chase Ultimate Rewards point earning credit cards and only having one annual fee. One caveat: Keep in mind you’re unlikely to get approved for any of these cards if you’ve opened five or more cards from any bank (not counting Chase business cards and certain other business cards) in the past 24 months. This is referred to as the Chase 5/24 rule.

You don’t have to get these exact 3 cards: As long as you have one annual-fee card, you can mix and match the rest between Chase’s no-annual-fee cards.  Pick one card from the first column and two cards from the second column as shown below:

Choose your first card from this column (cards with an annual fee) Choose your second and third card from this column (cards with no annual fee)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Chase Freedom
Chase Sapphire Reserve Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Ink Business Preferred Chase Ink Business Cash
Chase Ink Plus or Ink Bold (no longer available to new applicants) Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Step 1: Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred OR Chase Sapphire Reserve

First, we recommend getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred (read our review) or Chase Sapphire Reserve (read our review). Having either one of these cards gets you access to amazing and easy-to-use travel partners. This is the one annual-fee card you’ll want as part of the Chase trifecta strategy. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to help you choose between both cards:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Reserve
Sign-Up Bonus Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Rewards Earning Rate Earns 2X points on travel & dining

Earns 1 point per $1 everywhere else

Earns 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) & dining

Earns 1 point per $1 everywhere else

Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Travel Partners Yes, points transfer at 1:1 Yes, points transfer at 1:1
Booking Travel Through Chase Travel Portal Points are worth 1.25 cents each Points are worth 1.5 cents each
Travel Details Primary rental car insurance

$10,000 in trip cancellation / interruption per covered trip

$500 in trip delay reimbursement

NO foreign transaction fees

Primary rental car insurance

$10,000 in trip cancellation / interruption per person per covered trip (up to $20,000)

$500 in trip delay reimbursement

$300 annual credit for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels

$100 statement credit for Global Entry

Priority Pass Select for access to airport lounges

NO foreign transaction fees

Annual Fee $95 $550
Notes This is our all-around favorite credit card for Big Travel with Small Money! It’s also the top card we recommend if you’re new to miles & points. This is a fantastic premium travel credit card with top-quality travel perks. It is also a Visa Infinite credit card
Full Review Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Note that Chase now restricts folks to only having one Chase Sapphire card at a time. So choosing between the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve is an important first step in getting the Chase trifecta. We recommend opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred first, as it’s got a higher sign-up bonus. You can then upgrade your card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a simple call to Chase.

The suite of benefits you’ll receive for the Chase Sapphire Preferred annual fee is money well spent. And despite the significantly higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth it, as well. You’ll get extra perks like:

  • 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining purchases
  • $300 annual credit for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each through the Chase travel portal
  • Priority Pass Select membership for access to airport lounges
  • Visa Infinite benefits like a $25 food and beverage credit at the Luxury Hotel Collection and complimentary car rental elite status with Silvercar

It’s also worth noting that active military members can receive waived annual fees.

You’ll have to run the numbers yourself, but for many folks the additional benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve offset the annual fee. For example, the $300 travel credit effectively makes the Sapphire Reserve annual fee $250 ($550 annual fee – $300 travel credit). Having the Chase Sapphire Reserve in your pocket also increases the value of all your Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which is ideal for folks who hold the Chase trifecta.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll pay a $95 annual fee. So with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll effectively pay only $155 more each year ($250 – $95) to get many extra perks.

Step 2: Sign-Up for the no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash

The no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash card is the next card you’ll want to add to your wallet (read our review).

When you sign-up for the Ink Business Cash, you’ll earn $500 cash back (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.  This is the highest bonus I’ve ever seen on this card.

Because you’ll have a Sapphire branded card (if you followed Step 1, above), you’ll have the ability to move points from your Ink Business Cash account and then transfer them directly to travel partners.

Having the Ink Business Cash also gives you access to additional bonus spending categories.  You’ll earn:

  • 5% cash back (5 Chase points per dollar) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on phone, internet, and cable TV services each account anniversary year
  • 2% cash back (2 Chase points per dollar) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year

This is a small business card, so you must have a for-profit venture to qualify. (That said, you might have a small business without realizing it!)

Step 3: Add the Chase Freedom to your wallet

To complete the Chase trifecta, you’ll want to get the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom (read our review). With this card, you’ll earn 5% cash back (5 Chase points per dollar) on popular rotating bonus categories, which in the past have included restaurants, gas stations, department stores and Amazon.

You’ll earn 5% cash back (5X bonus points), up to $1,500, in combined bonus category spending each quarter you activate. If you spend the maximum, you’ll earn 7,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($75 cash back), which can really add up during the year.

When you sign-up for the Chase Freedom, you’ll also earn a $150 cash bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.

Some folks might choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited instead. With this card, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back (1.5 Chase points per dollar) on all purchases. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a good catch-all card if you want to maximize the points you earn on all your spending.

It depends on your spending habits, but if you make purchases in the 5X Chase Freedom bonus categories, you can likely earn more points for your everyday spending going that route.

Consider a “Chase Quadfecta”

You can take this strategy a bit further to become an absolute Chase Ultimate Rewards points earning machine by assembling a credit card QUADfecta (and still pay just one annual fee). It looks something like this:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred/Chase Sapphire Reserve – This card combination offers the ability to earn up to 3 points per dollar on travel and dining (and offering increased value when redeeming your points for travel)
  • Chase Freedom – Earn 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating bonus categories (each quarter you activate)
  • Chase Ink Business Cash – Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary and 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited – Earn 1.5% back for all spending

This ensures you’re earning as many points as possible for literally every purchase you may have.

Bottom line

The Chase trifecta is an ideal strategy for folks looking to travel for free while minimizing annual fees. Here’s a recap of how it works:

Let us know your ideal Chase trifecta below. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more foolproof free-travel strategies.

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