USA

How to choose the best Chase credit cards for cash back and travel rewards

(CNN) —  

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

If you’re looking for a way to increase your cash back, airline miles or hotel points, look no further than Chase credit cards. Chase is known for offering excellent rewards, lucrative sign-up bonuses and even money-saving benefits. Fortunately, Chase also offers a slew of popular credit cards, which means there’s a card for everyone.

The one major downside to keep in mind is that Chase’s credit cards fall under what is colloquially known as the “5/24” rule. This is an unpublished Chase rule, but it essentially means that if you’ve gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, your applications for new cards from Chase will be automatically denied.

Most people don’t apply for credit cards that often, so you likely won’t have to worry too much about 5/24. But now that you know the rules, let’s take a look at our list of the best Chase credit cards in 2020.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for cash back
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best sign-up bonus
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel perks
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating categories
The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for hotel elite status
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for companion flights
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for reward stays
United Explorer Card: Best for airline miles
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for businesses

Why did we choose these as our best Chase credit cards? Let’s dive into the details of each card and see how they compare to one another.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is by far the best Chase credit card for earning cash back. With 1.5% in cash back on every purchase, you can use the Freedom Unlimited anywhere and know you’ll earn at least 1.5% cash back on everything you buy.

But Chase recently added a trio of bonus categories to this card, making it even more valuable. Chase Freedom Unlimited card holders now also earn 5% on travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including eligible food delivery services) and 3% at drugstores.

To top it all off, right now the Chase Freedom Unlimited comes with an extra feature for new card holders. New applicants can earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. That’s one of the best returns for groceries that you’ll find on any credit card on the market today.

And this no-annual-fee card provides an opportunity to earn an even higher return if you prefer to trade in your cash back for travel rewards. That’s because if you pair the card with a more premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve — you can convert the cash back to flexible travel points at a 1-to-1 ratio.

Your converted points can then go even further by booking travel through the Chase travel portal or transferring them to one of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel travel partners, such as Hyatt or United. Thanks to this flexibility, CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. So instead of earning just 1.5% cash back, you could effectively end up with a 3% return if you pair your Freedom Unlimited to the right Chase card and use your points for travel.

Other benefits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited include purchase protection and extended warranty protection, a complimentary three-month subscription to DashPass and 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Now, the Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash back rate isn’t quite as good as the 2% total return you’d earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay your statement. But there are also bonus categories on the Chase Freedom Unlimited, and the opportunity to earn premium Ultimate Rewards points is worth extra to many people.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first card for those interested in travel rewards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first card for those interested in travel rewards.

PHOTO: iStock

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best starter credit cards for those looking to earn travel rewards. The card offers a relatively low $95 annual fee and provides a number of popular bonus categories and benefits. And for a limited time, it also comes with a fantastic sign-up bonus.

New customers who apply now for the Chase Sapphire Preferred can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after opening the card. That’s by far the highest sign-up bonus you’ll find across all of Chase’s personal Ultimate Rewards credit cards.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases, and 5 points per dollar on Lyft (from now through March 2022). Additionally, starting November 1, Sapphire Preferred card holders will earn 2 points for every dollar spent on grocery store purchases. The bonus points in this limited-time grocery category are capped at $1,000 in total purchases per month, and the promotion lasts through April 30, 2021.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, if you book travel with points through the Chase travel portal, or use the card’s new “Pay Yourself Back” tool to redeem points for purchases at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point in value through at least April 31, 2021. That means the sign-up bonus alone is worth $1,000 toward travel or the “Pay Yourself Back” categories.

Related: New redemption options added to Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred credit cards.

But since you can also transfer points to 13 different airline and hotel partners, you can potentially get even more value. When used this way, Ultimate Rewards points are worth as much as 2 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, which could bring the sign-up bonus value up to a whopping $1,600.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also includes a much more expansive purchase and travel protection benefit than you’ll see with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. When you use your Sapphire Preferred card on eligible purchases, you’ll be covered against damage or theft for 120 days from the time of purchase, and receive an additional year of coverage with a manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less.

You’ll also get primary rental car coverage with the Sapphire Preferred, which can save you money since you can decline the collision insurance option on your next car rental. You’re also eligible to be reimbursed if your trip is canceled or delayed for a covered reason (though unfortunately a pandemic typically isn’t one of those reasons) or your baggage is delayed or lost.

Finally, as an added bonus, all Chase Sapphire Preferred card holders receive a complimentary DashPass membership through December 31, 2020.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Read CNN Underscored’s complete review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore

The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore's Terminal 2, accessible with the Chase Sapphire Reserve's Priority Pass membership.

PHOTO: Priority Pass

Even if you’re staying away from the skies right now, it’s still a great time to earn points for future travel, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is hard to beat for the premier traveler. Despite the card’s expensive $550 annual fee, you’ll find that the points add up quickly, and the benefits can easily outweigh the fee.

Normally, the card earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining, 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. But for a limited time starting November 1 through April 30, 2021, you’ll also earn 3 points for every dollar spent on grocery store purchases, up to $1,000 per month in combined purchases.

Related: Chase Sapphire credit cards earn bonus points on groceries for a limited time.

On the redemption side, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth slightly more than what you’ll get with the Sapphire Preferred. While you can transfer your points to the same 13 airline and hotel partners, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece instead of 1.25 cents apiece when used for travel via the Chase travel portal or through the “Pay Yourself Back” categories through April 31, 2021.

To help offset the annual fee, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $300 annual travel credit (which you can also use for gas and grocery store purchases through June 30, 2021) and up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases in both 2020 and 2021. You’ll also receive a complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge membership and up to $100 in credits when you apply for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

The purchase and travel benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are similar to those that you’ll find on the Sapphire Preferred, but with one slight difference: trip delay protection. While many Chase credit cards offer trip delay protection, the benefit generally doesn’t kick in until your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay. With the Sapphire Reserve, however, you’ll have access to this benefit at the six-hour mark instead.

That’s quite a big difference, and one reason to use the card for all of your airline travel. Even if you book a flight with airline points or miles, as long as you pay for the taxes on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get the same trip delay coverage.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

The brand-new Chase Freedom Flex card requires a little more planning, but if you can maximize the card’s rotating bonus categories, you can use it to earn some great cash back or even travel rewards.

With the Freedom Flex, you’ll earn 5% cash back in bonus categories that rotate every three months, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. The current Freedom Flex bonus categories for October through December are Walmart and PayPal, which should make it easy to earn as much as $75 in bonus cash back during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

But the Chase Freedom Flex also features the same three permanent bonus categories as the Chase Freedom Unlimited: 5% on travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including eligible food delivery services) and 3% at drugstores, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. So even if you can’t take advantage of the rotating categories in a given quarter, you’ll still be earning extra cash back in other categories.

You’ll also receive 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and a complimentary three-month DashPass membership, which waives delivery fee on select DoorDash orders over $12. And new card applicants can get the same 5% cash back on grocery store purchases as the Chase Freedom Unlimited for the first 12 months they have the card, up to $12,000 in purchases.

The Chase Freedom Flex also comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection, plus a 0% introductory APR on all purchases for 15 months from account opening (you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% after the intro period ends). So it can be helpful if you need to carry a balance for a while because you’ve recently lost your income.

And just like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, if you also have a premier Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card, you can convert any cash back earned from the Freedom Flex into Ultimate Rewards travel points, making your rewards worth potentially even more than if you just use them for cash back.

One thing to remember is that you must activate the rotating bonus categories each quarter, so this card does require you to be organized. And although the Chase Freedom Flex is a no-annual-fee card, it does come with a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not the card to take with you on international trips once travel starts to open up again.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Flex.

Earn Hyatt elite status faster with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Earn Hyatt elite status faster with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

PHOTO: Hyatt Hotels

Hyatt continues to feature one of the top hotel loyalty programs for many people. Despite the chain’s footprint not being as large as Marriott’s or Hilton’s, its reward points hold value and its benefits are top-notch. The program also allows World of Hyatt Credit Card holders to work their way up the ladder to money-saving benefits and other perks, which could truly garner the royal treatment during your stay.

With the World of Hyatt Credit Card, you’ll earn 2 elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card. Also, World of Hyatt Credit Card holders automatically receive 5 elite night credits annually, but new customers who are approved for the card by December 31 will receive 10 elite night credits in both 2020 and 2021.

Typically, you need to earn 60 qualifying nights per year to get top-tier Hyatt Globalist status, which means World of Hyatt card holders only need 55 qualifying nights, and new card holders who are approved by December 31 only need 50 nights in either 2020 or 2021.

Another benefit of the World of Hyatt Credit Card is that you’ll receive a complimentary reward night, valid at a category 1-4 property, every year starting at your card’s first anniversary. Despite a $95 annual fee for the card, the yearly certificate is potentially worth much more, and should easily outweigh that cost. You can even earn a second reward night certificate each year by spending $15,000 on your card within your card holder year.

Sign-up offer: Earn up to 50,000 bonus points — 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, and 25,000 additional bonus points after you spend $6,000 total within six months of account opening.

Learn more about the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Use the Southwest Premier card to help earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

Use the Southwest Premier card to help earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

PHOTO: iStock

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card might not earn the most points on your everyday purchases, but it’ll help you get one step closer to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. With the Companion Pass, another individual can fly with you for free (plus taxes) on every single flight you take on Southwest from now through the end of 2021.

Normally, you need to earn 125,000 Southwest qualifying points in a calendar year to get the pass, but for 2020, Southwest is giving its frequent flyers a boost. For those members who already had a Southwest frequent flyer account open as of April 1, the airline deposited 25,000 qualifying points automatically. This means you only need to earn 100,000 qualifying points by the end of 2020 to earn the pass.

Related: Fly your companion for free through 2021 with these Southwest credit cards.

Best of all, points earned from the Southwest Premier card count for the Companion Pass. This includes not only points earned from everything you buy on the card but also the 40,000 bonus points new card members can earn after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months after they open the card. You can also couple this card with one of Southwest’s business credit cards and potentially earn the pass with just two credit card approvals.

Southwest is also helping its members earn A-List or A-List Preferred elite status this year. The airline is upping the number of Tier Qualifying Points you can earn with your credit card for the rest of 2020, and also won’t have a cap on earning them with a credit card this year.

Sign-up offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.

The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is a card that should be in every traveler’s wallet, although it shouldn’t be pulled out too often. Right now the card is offering a 140,000-point bonus offer after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. With IHG points worth about 0.5 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, that’s worth $700 toward IHG stays.

Although that’s not nearly as much value as some other Chase sign-up bonuses on our list, the card’s benefits will allow you to get even more from it. For instance, one of the best perks of the IHG Premier is the reward night certificate you’ll receive yearly, starting with your first card anniversary. You can redeem these certificates at any IHG hotel that normally costs up to 40,000 IHG Rewards points based on IHG’s rewards nights chart.

Some notable properties where this certificate can be redeemed include the InterContinental Hotel Lisbon, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar, just to name a few. Often, these certificates can even be used during peak times when hotels are quite pricey, making the card’s $89 annual fee well worth it.

Related: Earn 140,000 bonus points with the IHG Premier credit card.

Another highly rated benefit is the IHG Premier’s complimentary fourth night. All card holders who redeem points for their stay will get a fourth night for no additional points. This can be used at any IHG property, regardless of the number of points it costs. Combine this with the complimentary night award and you’ll ultimately be able to book a five-night stay for the cost of three, as long as you’re staying at a property that costs 40,000 points or less.

Other perks of the IHG Premier card include complimentary IHG Platinum status, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit and cell phone protection. These benefits, along with the ones listed above, are some great reasons to make sure that this card makes its way into your wallet.

Sign-up offer: Earn 140,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the IHG Club Premier Rewards Credit Card.

Get a free checked bag on United flights with the United Explorer Card.

Get a free checked bag on United flights with the United Explorer Card.

PHOTO: iStock

The biggest concern for many people when it comes to earning airline miles is that using them can be hard. The flights you want aren’t always available, and it takes some flexibility and planning to find an ideal trip.

Fortunately, having the United Explorer Card opens up more opportunities. When searching for award flights, card holders will see expanded award availability, which means you’ll have access to more flights at a lower mileage cost.

Aside from saving you miles, this card also comes with a number of other benefits. United Explorer Card holders save money by getting a first checked bag free for you and a companion on United flights, two United Club day passes per year, 25% back on in-flight United purchases and up to $100 as a statement credit when you apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Related: The best credit cards for United flyers in 2020.

With the United Explorer Card, you’ll also earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on all United purchases, as well as restaurant and hotel purchases. And right now, the card is offering a sign-up bonus offer of 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first three months you have the card, plus a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95 per year thereafter).

Sign-up offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more about the United Explorer Card.

Businesses can earn 3 points per dollar in several popular categories with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

Businesses can earn 3 points per dollar in several popular categories with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

PHOTO: iStock

If you’re looking for a business credit card, you can’t go wrong with the Ink Business Preferred. The card earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account year for some of the most popular business categories:

You’ll also have access to a unique cell phone protection benefit that covers your phone against damage or theft when you pay your entire cell phone bill with your Ink Business Preferred card. You’re then covered starting with your second billing cycle and can submit up to three claims every 12 months, up to $600 per incident with a $100 deductible per claim. It even covers everyone listed on your cell phone bill, including employees or family members.

Plus, the Ink Business Preferred has a relatively robust set of travel and purchase protections, including trip insurance, trip delay protection, primary car rental insurance and purchase protection, which covers the items you buy with the card against damage or theft for 120 days after the purchase is made, up to $10,000 per claim, with a maximum of $50,000 per year.

But one of the best reasons to choose the Ink Business Preferred is its incredible sign-up bonus. Right now, you can earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the card. That’s a significant amount of money to spend in three months, but for many businesses, it’s not uncommon to have that much in regular monthly expenses.

Amazingly, the Ink Business Preferred only has a $95 annual fee, surprisingly low for a card with this many perks and points. And your points can be transferred to the same Ultimate Rewards travel partners as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, or used to book travel or even for cash back.

Sign-up offer: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the card.

With so many highly rated Chase credit cards, it’s tough to choose a truly “best” card. They’re all strong in their own way, offering unique benefits that cater to different people.

If you’re looking for a card that’s simple and offers cash back, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the way to go. If you don’t mind paying slightly more attention to your purchases, then the Chase Freedom Flex will allow you to maximize the rewards you earn every quarter.

But if travel rewards are more to your liking, then you can’t go wrong with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The leisure traveler will probably find the Sapphire Preferred suits them better, while those who spend a significant amount of money on travel and dining out and classify themselves as a road warrior will find value in the more expensive Sapphire Reserve.

If hotel benefits are a priority, the World of Hyatt Credit Card could potentially help you get treated like a VIP during your next hotel stay. And it’s tough to beat the annual night certificates that come each year with the IHG Rewards Premier.

Finally, if you’d prefer to focus on flying, look no further than the Southwest Premier card to help you secure the Southwest Companion Pass, or the United Explorer Card to provide you with some better award flight options. And of course if you’re a business, the Ink Business Preferred is an ideal choice.

Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.

Football news:

Griezmann on Messi: I admire Leo, and he knows it. We have a great relationship
Rooney on the possibility of a move to Barca in the 2010/11 season: Thinking about it. Could fit in perfectly
Hooray, in England they will let the audience into the stands again! While up to 4 thousand and not everywhere, but the clubs are happy 😊
Solskjaer about the match with Istanbul: these are the Champions of Turkey, it will be difficult
Gasperini on the nomination for the best coach of the year award: If we beat Liverpool, maybe I'll get a few votes
Julian Nagelsmann: Leipzig want to give PSG that final feeling they are talking about
Tuchel Pro Champions League: Match with Leipzig - the final of our group