I recently received the following email from a reader:

Hi Sarah,
 
My husband is currently at 4/24 (as long as the Chase Ink Business doesn’t count) so I would love for him to get another Chase card. Which Chase card would be best? 
  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Hyatt
  • Chase IHG
  • Chase United
  • Chase ? (Is there a better Chase card to apply for?) 
Thanks for your help!

 

The reader’s husband opened all of the following Chase cards in the last 24 months:

  • Sapphire Reserve
  • Sapphire Preferred
  • Southwest Plus
  • Southwest Premier 
  • Ink Plus Business
Yes–that is five cards listed. They wrote that they are hoping the Ink Plus Business will not count as his fifth card since it is a business card, which is a valid conclusion to make considering other data points out there
So which Chase card should be his last (at least for a while)?
Let’s start with a process of elimination out of the cards the reader was interested in.
  • Freedom
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • United
We can eliminate the Hyatt and IHG card as eligible candidates, as the 5/24 rule is known not to apply to the Hyatt Card nor the IHG Rewards Club Select Card. Even after having opened five credits in 24 months, many people have reported approvals on their applications for these cards.
Lobby of the Grand Hyatt Macau
Lobby of the Grand Hyatt Macau

That leaves either the Freedom or the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. The reader asked if there were other Chase cards they should consider that she hand’t listed. I would consider the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card instead, which has better category bonuses than the personal version of the card.

That leaves us with the…

  • United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
  • Freedom Card

Long story short, the better card to choose between those two is probably the Freedom, unless they’re trying to pad their rewards balance ASAP for an impending trip. Keep reading if you want to hear my reasoning behind that answer.

United Business Card VS. Freedom Card

Here’s the bulk of my response to the reader:

I think your suggestions of the Freedom and United card are your best remaining options–although the United Business card has better category bonuses than the personal card. Which one he chooses (Freedom vs. United Business) is going to depend on your immediate versus long term goals.
 
Before I compare these two cards it’s important to note the difference in the type/value of rewards they each earn. The Freedom earns 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back on categories that rotate quarterly. At least that’s how it is marketed, but in fact, the card earns points that can be redeemed as cash back or can be converted to much more valuable airline miles and hotel points as long as you have a more premium Chase card account open. If you have a Freedom and either a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred open, you can transfer your Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards to your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus account inside your chase.com account. Then you can transfer Ultimate Rewards from your Sapphire Preferred/Sapphire Reserve/Ink Business Preferred account to airline miles or hotel points.
 
The United Business card earns normal United miles. United miles are useful and valuable, but less so than Ultimate Rewards that can be transferred to a variety of airline/hotel partners.
 
I think in the long run (as long as your husband plans on keeping one of his premium Chase cards open), the Chase Freedom card is the better play. You can keep it forever as it has no annual fee and you’ll earn more from maxing out the 5x category bonuses that rotate quarterly with less spending necessary. In the past the categories have been restaurants, amazon purchases, gas stations, grocery stores, etc.
If you need a surplus of miles now to book an award, then the United MileagePlus Business Card is the better choice because the bonus of 50k United miles is much bigger than that of the Freedom.
 
I’m going to play out a scenario here in which you put $6k of spending a year on the Freedom and 6k of spending a year on the United Business card for comparative purposes.
 
YEAR 1 W/FREEDOM CARD
 
You’ll earn a bonus of 15k Ultimate Rewards for meeting the minimum spending requirement ($500 in three months) as well as 2,500 Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user.
 
If you max out the rotating category bonuses (cap for 5x earning is $1,500 per quarter), that would be $6k in spending (4 x $1,500)  x 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent = 30k Ultimate Rewards.
 
So in year one, you’d earn 47,500 Ultimate Rewards from the bonus + maxing out category bonuses (for a total of $6k in spending).
 
YEAR ONE W/UNITED BUSINESS CARD
 
You’ll earn a 50k bonus from spending $3k in three months. When you factor in another $3k in spending with at least some category bonuses for spending at restaurants, gas stations, office supply stores, or on United purchases, I’d say an estimate of 8k United miles for 6k in spending is more or less accurate.
 
So in year one, you’d earn roughly 58k Ultimate Rewards from the bonus + some category bonuses (for a total of $6k in spending).
 
YEAR TWO W/FREEDOM CARD
 
You’ll earn 30k Ultimate Rewards for maxing out category bonuses with $6k of spending.
 
YEAR TWO W/UNITED BUSINESS CARD
 
Spending $6k, even if you got a 2x category bonus on every dollar spent, you’d only earn 12k URs.

Bottom Line

I wrapped up my response pointing out that if you fly United often the perks like free a checked bag can be valuable, so consider those, but not to forget that the annual fee will kick in on the United Business card after the first year of card membership while the Freedom has no annual fee.
As long as the reader’s husband plans on keeping one of his premium Chase cards open, meaning he can transfer the Ultimate Rewards earned by his Freedom to that account which makes them transferrable to airline partners and much more valuable than just 1 cent each cash back, then in the long run I think they’ll realistically get more out of the Freedom with less spending. But of course, if they need a boost of points for a trip that’s right around the corner, the United Business Card could be the better play.
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