The mad rush to $50K: Relax, don’t do it.

Recently I’ve heard from several people who are trying to max out the Ink Bold (or Ink Plus) 5X benefit before the end of the year.  Don’t do it.  Slow down.  Let me explain…


The Chase Ink credit and charge cards offer 5 points per dollar for purchases made at office supply stores, and for internet, cable and phone services.  The Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards allow 5X for up to $50K in spend per year, whereas the Ink Classic and Ink Cash limit 5X to $25K per year.  Since the discovery of ways to earn 5X everywhere (see “One card to rule them all“), and multiple ways to do so (see “Vanilla Reloadables“), some people have been eager to max out these benefits.


There are a few reasons not to max out the Ink benefits too quickly.  Foremost is the danger of getting your Chase accounts shut down.  Please see “Why Chase cancels accounts (and how to protect yourself)” and “Inking 5X: What’s safe?”  Secondly, the $50K (or $25K) clock is not based on the calendar year.

The $50K Clock

People who are rushing to max out their $50K (or $25K) benefit before the end of the calendar year need to know that the clock is not based on the calendar year.  Just to be 100% sure, I asked Chase to clarify the $50K annual limit.  Here was the answer:

Annually means the year beginning with the account open
date through the first statement after the anniversary of
your account open date, and each twelve billing cycles

So, if you got approved for your card in August, then you have until next August to max out your 5X benefit.  That’s why I always say there is no reason to spend more than $4K per month in 5X categories ($4K x 12 = $48K – close enough to $50K in my opinion).

Of course, just because $4K per month is the most I recommend spending, that doesn’t mean it is safe for you to do so.  Once again, please read “Why Chase cancels accounts (and how to protect yourself)” and “Inking 5X: What’s safe?” if you haven’t already.

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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. After what happened to my buddy with his ink bold(closed/blacklisted) I have decided not to frequent the office store with it.

  2. @Sanjay – A little common sense is all that is called for. No need to go into full panic mode and not do it all. Like a lot of things in life do it in moderation. Throw in some real spend on the card and dont feel compelled to have to max out the 50K category.

  3. Is applying for an INK Plus going to cause them to scrutinize the activity in my INK Bold to a degree that isn’t going to go me any favors? Just having last-minute hesitation before doing it.

  4. How does Chase know what you are buying in the office store? I thought they can only see the transaction amount, not the items purchased, right?

  5. @Sanjay – Stop spreading wrong info. In this previous post you mentioned that your accounts were closed and now you say that your buddy’s accounts were closed. WOW!

    Refer comment# 23 in this post-

  6. Darn, and I had a schedule laid out to hit as high a threshold as possible by 12/31 😛

    Just curious, did you Secure Message for this info? It flies in the face of everyone else saying calendar year. But I can believe it.

  7. @sandeep – Haha at least keep it believable. I’m sure Chase is pursuing a costly litigation to get a few points back. At least attempt to make it believable when using scare tactics….

  8. @sandeep and @sanjay atleast use some other alphabet to start/create a new name. That might make you look two different person. :-).

  9. Anybody can answer my question?

    How does Chase know what you are buying in the office store? I thought they can only see the transaction amount, not the items purchased, right?

  10. Man, posting lies about a “friend” getting blacklisted or getting sued, just so you can freely go about abusing the scheme? That’s just being greedy! Just let it go. If Chase closes the loop on this, we just move on to the next deal. Your actions are despicable.

  11. @korrinda: Nobody can answer for certain what the arrangement is between Chase and the office supply stores as to whether the stores are passing along any detailed information about the contents of the purchases. However, it’s not clear that matters. From Chase’s point of view, assuming that they are losing money on your office supply store transactions paying out 5 Ultimate Rewards points per $ spent, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re buying gift cards or buying multiple laptops every month. What matters is whether Chase decides that its relationship with you is likely to be profitable or not.

  12. I was always under the impression that it was $50k per calendar year since that is how most card benefits seem to work. FM, how sure are you that it’s based upon “card year” and not calendar year? Just one service rep told you? I was also planning to finish $50k this year and then start again in January..This kind of changes the game a bit.

    • I sent a secure message to Chase to ask about this. It’s true that it wouldn’t be surprising for one rep to get this answer wrong, but I’ve been under the impression for a long time now that this was based on your account start date, not calendar year so I just saw this one response as confirmation. I don’t remember where I came to that understanding originally.

  13. I guess we will know for sure early next year, when people hit $50K in their “account year” before hitting $50K in the calendar year.

    In fact, if someone hits $50K this year, they should do a small purchase at OD in January to see if they get 5x on that.

  14. My conversations with Chase indicate the opposite. That it is based on a calender year. I’m wondering if you had a misinformed agent respond to your SM? Is this located anywhere in the Ink paperwork that came with the card?

  15. I’m a little surprised that so many people are actually worried about the $50K/yr cap. That’s over $4K/month on 5x categories. I think if that’s not enough for you, then you run the risk of being red flagged, or worse, ruining it for everybody. I doubt I spend $20K/yr on 5x categories.

  16. Even though CSR often give inconsistent and inaccurate information, FrequentMiler is right and here is the proof. Go to your card’s UR home page. On the left hand menu, click “Manage Ultimate Rewards” then “Program Rules and Regulations”. For my Ink Bold 5x office supplies card, I get this page:

    Read the small print, in the section called “Earning Restrictions” you will find the following:

    (“Annually” means the year beginning
    with your Enrollment Date through the first statement after the anniversary of your enrollment date, and each
    twelve billing cycles thereafter.)

  17. I also have the (Old) Ink Bold Exclusive card and did not get my Tier Bonus after completing $50K spend. The CSR kept insisting that the Year is defined as calendar year, until I found this “Program Rules & Regulations” page (different for each card) and sent it via SM. My Tier bonus points were credited without any further argument. So go tell the next CSR to read their own T&C next time they won’t believe you.

  18. @Kroozer – thanks for posting that, I was trying to figure out where to find the T&Cs. Guess I will dial back the 5X on this Ink Bold ($13K in <2 months), and pick up an Ink Plus sometime in the next few months.

    I'm moving my cell phone bills to the US Bank Flexperks card (2x, points worth up to 2 cents each), unless there's a better card out there. I'll easily hit $50K with OD (with both legitimate purchases and Vanillas).

  19. well this is good advice, FM, but man there are oohhhh soooo many questions and it’s such a moving target!
    As someone who has been shut down by things (and of course highly shunned for it by the very communities that (A) helped foster the very use of those things and (B) do the very same actions but hate to admit it), I can tell you there is in fact one very major theme and it’s not our own internal expectation of what is ‘greed’ or overkill:
    When a marketing entity of any kind puts forth a promo it simply does not like it when people actually achieve the very goal the promo lays out! Simple.
    I have seen it a hundred times and I have been shut out of countless things just for doing EXACTLY what the T&Cs of whatever promo is available. Happens all the time.
    Why? Because the people who made the promo did not think through all the ‘what if’s’ because they are not investing the proper resources to sit down and think them all through.
    Am I the bad guy? A scammer? A person who, just by nature of (A) knowing all this, (B) thinking the way I do or (C) has been shut down by things, is somehow wrong and bad and evil?
    No. I am just a maximizer – a person who read the fine print and creatively figured out how to make it work for me. And neither are any people here bad or wrong just for doing the same thing.
    This Ink/Plus > Vanilla reload > PP card of choice > Cash out > UR points thing is a prime example of how people with creative minds came up with and shared ideas using available and legitimate products and services to get the very points we are marketed to on TV and the internet every day. If they don’t want us to do X, they should work on X, not on us. But that’s sadly not how they (and I refer to Chase and any entity that does this stuff) react, and that’s too bad.
    The mint coins were dubbed as ended due to abuse. But what is ‘abuse?
    What is ‘too much?’
    Why is ‘doing this just to earn a bunch of frequent flier miles’ wrong?
    What is a ‘gamer’ for that matter?
    I could go on (and I have in other circles, but we should be aware that half of this stuff is never really defined, it’s just ASSUMED!
    To me, and this pisses people off but it’s really what I think and I cant get passed it, a lot of this is like saying:
    Hey, you are black or Jewish or Protestant or Muslim and we think you stepped out of line by doing X, and so now we ASSSUME you are a certain ‘way’ and therefore, just cuz we can, you are hereby kicked out of the club.
    Well, maybe some will argue that’s being too extreme but hey, you tell me what the real mind set is and I’ll listen.
    But to circle back to probably the most realistic view as to why ‘they’ (Chase in this case) end you for doing too many office supply Vanilla things is found in the comment that one poster in this section said: “…it doesn’t really matter whether you’re buying gift cards or buying multiple laptops every month. What matters is whether Chase decides that its relationship with you is likely to be profitable or not…”
    Yes, that seems to make sense but still, if it is true, then why is there a $50k/250k UR limit? I mean, seriously… should we only go to say 249k to make them feel good? This bugs the crap out of me!
    Hi Chase… You have the INK card with a $50k limit on office supply buys to earn 5x points for max 250k UR.
    Yes we do.
    Ok, I am very wealthy and I am going to spend it. My credit is perfect, I have no debt and all the time in the world. You gave me a credit limit of say $11k… Any reason why I cant walk into an office supply store and buy a gazillion post it note packs or maybe some Anal Intruder 2000s (if my local office supply store sells them that is lol) for say $10k, then pay off the card ASAP and do that again next week, and so on til I reach the $50k spend in say, a month?
    No, not if you pay the bill on time.
    OK Chase, thanks. Now I need YOUR full name and ID number… if Chase shuts me down for doing exactly this, then are you willing to stake your job on it? Cuz you would be lying to me if I do what you say I can do and then I get shut down.
    Why is it abuse or greed or too much or too soon if someone simply HAS the means and the time and the desire and simply follows the terms? What if they put no one out (ie, they try to take up as little time as possible buying the items at the store so as to not cause a line to form behind them, or they are friendly and professional to the store employees, or they also happen to buy other things and even entice other people they know to shop there too). Why why why!
    In the world of promos and deals and schemes, I have asked the same questions many times even before miles and points were the big thing. But there are never answers. It’s all luck and then sadly, it’s all about perception and time.
    I worked my own INK similar to the above one month example. I had Chase issue an employee card to my brother in a state that had many X, and he maxed that sucker with me bill paying the INK so fast that yes, within 3-4 weeks we had in fact witnessed a posting of 250k UR. I moved them to another Chase card and probably should redeem for miles but my personal use of such deals has subsided. Now I am doing this as the ’employee’ for my wife’s new INK. And my brother is once again ready to do the same thing, only this time, due to all the fuss, we are cutting the use in half and going slower. Hey card already made spend with other activity and it’s used regularly for things we do, but yeah, neither of us want to get shut down without notice nor explanation just because THEY can do that.
    I know this was a long post but man oh man do I get fired up when I read stuff about limits and pains. To me, if anything, the real scammers, gamers or abusers are the very marketing entities that put forth these deals! We all sign up (giving them validity) but we do so actually believing what they pitch and hoping to gain from it by merely being smart. We ought not stop doing something just because we FEEL guilty about our actions. If we are not breaking laws or stealing something, and if we ARE following the rules of said programs, then I cannot see for the life of me why, except for bait and switch corporate greed, any entity such as Chase would shut people down. What they should do is shut down or fire the people in marketing who didn’t come up with more sound programs and only sell us sh*t that works!

    • Marathon Man: I added periods between your paragraphs to improve the formatting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! For those of us who do more moderate amounts, its great to hear that your brother wasn’t shut down.

  20. the above would have read better if I knew how to make spaces between paragraphs or if the comments section allowed that feature.

  21. @marathon man – the thing that jumped out at me is that you actually were able to run 50K through the card in 4 weeks without any repercussions, is that correct?

  22. FM or anyone else, i havent quite rec’d my amex prepaid card yet although its due in the mail shortly. Is it ok if i buy the vanilla cards now in preperation? I would like to buy them in preperation and then i guess load them when my amex prepaid card comes. That should be fine right? Thanks.

  23. The banks actively encourage, and even financially support, these blogs by paying out referral fees to people who teach others how to maximize the rewards. Would they be doing that if it wasn’t profitable?
    None of us are profitable customers. CC companies make their money off of fees and interest. For each Frequent Miler there are 10 or 20 regular mouthbreathers who will run up a tab and pay interest, and that’s how we can afford to travel for cheap.

  24. I/my brother was able to do all the INK spend and UR earning quickly without a hitch. One time he said a store asked him for ID. All the rest of it was a piece of cake. this was in July. I have done a few cards actually but I highlight this one because it was so quick and so big. 5 full speed full on $10k hits. I remember emailing my brother when it was time to go to OD again because my BP went through while watching Die Hard, where the German guy looks out the window of the tower at the LA police vehicle and says, HIT IT AGAIN!

    Some could look at this and say I was the abuser. Then again, anyone who did any of this and simply followed the rules Chase offered up is nothing but a person who simply followed the rules. ie, if they present a way to earn points, I am pretty much going to look at how exactly to do just that. If that is wrong, they are wrong.

    I only hope to offer up my experiences and thoughts. They can be used as a tool to navigate the issues we all face. FMs blog has been a great resource for the cards and deals we all like, and if the CC companies want him to promote those cards and the deals that come with them, why do they also tend to draw some invisible line in the sand as well? Seems to me like a big fat bait & switch. That is, of course, unless said deals actually work as promised.

    A person can, as far as I understand it, just plain tell Chase: “Hi, I am going to get your card and ONLY use it just cuz I wanna earn points. I’ll pay the bill and use it here or there, but my goal IS to earn points. After all I could choose from many cards out there, right? I just happen to like what your points claim they can do.” Chase would agree.

  25. I got my IB a few days ago and decided to visit OD to make an “ice cream” purchase (in addition to a couple other items) 2 days ago. Everything went well without problems. However, I just checked my online account now, and while the balance is $570+, but there is no OD charge in “recent activity”. However, purchases I’ve made since then (including one just 10 minutes ago!) have posted. Is there any reason you think OD hasn’t been listed in activity? Is it possible that it’s under review?

  26. This same clock also applies to meeting threshold bonuses for the old IB, which is kind of a pain in the neck to track. I use my old IB for non bonus spend, because it gives me 1.2 points per $1 (linked to chase checking) and also gives the threshhold bonus. Unfortunately, it appears the threshold bonus works on the same clock. I have been thinking I had to December but apparently do not.

  27. Will: why does it disappear like that? I made a Groupon purchase 1 hr before the OD one, but of course that one was much cheaper. That one is posted.

    If my OD purchase were under review, what exactly would they be reviewing? I made the Groupon purchase, then the one from OD, and now another small non-OD purchase. Would they go so far as to contact OD to see what I bought? I don’t have a history of abusing anything on my other 2 Chase cards (CSP, Freedom).

  28. @Dave Chase doesn’t need to make it disappear to review it. Your latest visible purchase must be still in pending status and your groupon purchase must be posted (finalized). On the INK Bold (or perhaps all Chase business cards) the purchases first show as pending, then disappear and then appear as posted. Don’t know why, but so it is. Chase Personal cards behave more normally.

  29. @Dave, same thing happened to me. Strange that the OD purchases don’t show up in pending but after a few days they post.

  30. Hase canceled my ink card and sapphire 3 months after i got these cards. I used my sapphire for regular small purchase and ink at offe stores 2 times. They wouldnt explain why theu closed my card. They are cruel

  31. Thanks for the info! I thought it was by calendar year and I was waiting until January to start up at OD again. My anniversary was last month, so I can start up again — and take my time until Sept 2013!

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