Ink evolution, Ink rules, and an insider tip

The original title for this post was simply “Ink Rules.”  I realized after writing the title, that it could have multiple meanings.  “Ink” could refer to Chase Ink credit cards.  Or, it could refer to the stuff used in pens and printers.  “Rules” could be a cheer like one you’d hear at a sporting event (“Michigan rules!”), which in turn would really be using the word to indicate authority (one who “rules” has authority over others).  Or, “rules” could refer to regulations, principles, guidelines, etc.  With this title, I meant to discuss the former and the latter: Chase Ink credit cards, and the rules for getting signup bonuses.  I realize that sounds boring, but the details are interesting to me and hopefully to you too…

First some background (AKA the boring stuff)

Chase currently offers three versions of the Chase Ink business cards: Ink Plus, Ink Bold, and Ink Cash.  They used to also offer the Ink Classic, but that one disappeared (Like New Coke. Editor: insert Coke Classic pun here.  Editor?  I need to get an editor).

The Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards are virtually identical in every way. Both earn Ultimate Rewards points.  They both have the same 5X and 2X category bonuses (5X office supplies, cellular/landline/ cable; 2X gas and hotels), the same annual fee ($95 after first year free), the same 2 free Lounge Club visits per year, the same ability to use points to purchase travel at 1.25 cents per point, and the same ability to transfer points to airline, hotel, and train partners.  With both cards, the bonus categories are capped at $50K spend per cardholder year (not calendar year).  The only difference between the cards is that the Ink Plus is a credit card (in which the balance can be paid off over time), and the Ink Bold is a charge card (the balance must be paid in full monthly).  Oh, and the cards are each a different shade of blue.  If your card is a wee bit purplish, it is the Ink Bold, whereas the Ink Plus is more of a pure blue to my eyes.

Despite its name, the Ink Cash card earns Ultimate Rewards points.  If the Ink Cash is the only Ultimate Rewards card you have, then redeeming points for cash at 1 cent per point makes sense.  However, if you (or your significant other in the same household) have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or the JP Morgan Palladium card, then you can transfer points first to that card, and then use those points to purchase travel at 1.25 cents per point, or transfer points to airline, hotel, and train partners.  While the Ink Cash has mostly the same bonus categories as the other Ink cards, one difference is that it earns 2X at restaurants instead of hotels. Other differences from the Ink Plus and Ink Bold duo include: no annual fee, $25K per year cap on bonus categories, and 3% foreign transaction fees.

Three generations of Ink

The Chase Ink cards didn’t used to have 5X category bonuses.  Instead, they offered incentives for big spend.  In those days, if you had an Ink Bold and a Chase checking account, you could average 1.675 points per dollar “simply” by spending $100,000 annually on your card (thanks to the card’s multiple tiered bonuses).  Then, around mid-October 2011, all new Ink applicants received cards with the 5X bonus categories that we know and love today.  Then, sometime in the summer of 2013, Chase began issuing new Ink cards as Visa cards (all previous cards were MasterCards).  This has led to three generations of Ink cards:

  • Generation 1: Ink cards acquired prior to mid-October 2011.  No bonus categories, but generous big spend bonuses.  Issued as MasterCards.
  • Generation 2: Ink cards acquired between mid-October 2011 and mid-summer 2013.  All current 5X and 2X bonus categories.  Issued as MasterCards.
  • Generation 3: Ink cards acquired after mid-summer 2013.  All current 5X and 2X bonus categories.  Issued as Visa cards.

 

MasterCard Easy Savings vs. Visa Savings Edge

Both MasterCard and Visa offer savings programs for business cardholders.  With both programs it is necessary to signup and link your business card to get the savings.  Once you are signed up, most savings are automatic: if you use your card at certain merchants, you’ll automatically receive a cash back statement credit.  Both programs offer savings at various hotels, gas stations, and merchants.  You can find full details at their web sites:

One great aspect of these offers is that they can be used in conjunction with credit card rewards (including category bonuses) and shopping portal bonuses.  At the time of this writing, the most exciting offer is via Visa Savings Edge: Get 1% cash back when you spend $200 or more at Staples.  Since Staples is widely available through portals, and it is an office supply store (5X with Ink cards!), and it sells gift cards online, the possibilities are nearly endless (see “Staples Rocks” and “Best ways to buy $200 Visa gift cards”).

Ink Metamorphosis

Many people today have MasterCard versions of Chase Ink cards.  Chase plans to replace MasterCard Inks with Visa cards in 2014.  I received the following information from a Chase insider who has offered me valuable and reliable tips in the past:

…per new updates, INK customers with no deposit relationship will have their MC turned into VISA this year. Those with a deposit relationship will happen at a later time.

… the ink conversion is happening in 2014. The conversion letters are being sent out this year.

In other words, if you have a Chase Ink MasterCard, it will be converted to a Visa card (with a new card number) sometime this year.  If you also have a bank account with Chase, you may have longer to wait for the conversation than others.

I also asked my source about the 1st generation Ink cards.  Would they also be converted to Visa cards?  He said yes, but that their benefits would not change.  Those with generation 1 cards will still get the old benefits (no 2X or 5X categories, but with big-spend bonuses) but their MasterCards will be replaced with Visas.

By the end of the year, we should be down to two surviving generations of Ink:

  • Generation 1: Ink cards acquired prior to mid-October 2011.  No bonus categories, but generous big spend bonuses.  Issued as MasterCards Visa cards.
  • Generation 3: All Ink cards acquired after mid-October 2011.  All current 5X and 2X bonus categories.  Issued as Visa cards.

 

Ink Rules

I often get asked variations on the question “I already have an Ink card, can I sign up for another one?”  There are two important aspects to this question, the first is whether or not Chase will allow a person to have multiple Ink cards.  The second, is whether or not a person can get the signup bonus again.

Here are the rules, as I believe them to be, based on my own experience and input from readers.  I have absolutely no inside information from Chase about any of this.  Also note that when I say that a person can signup for one or more cards, I’m not suggesting that they would be approved for each card.  That depends upon each person’s situation.  So, without further ado, the rules as I believe them to be:

  • A person can have, and get the signup bonus, for each variant of Ink: Ink Plus, Ink Bold, Ink Cash, and (previously available) Ink Classic.  So, for example, someone starting now could get three signup bonuses: one for each available card variant.
  • A person with multiple businesses can have, and get the signup bonus, for each business and each card type.  For example, a person with two businesses could signup for two of each type of card: Ink Plus for business 1, Ink Plus for business 2, Ink Bold business 1, Ink Bold business 2, Ink Cash business 1, Ink Cash business 2.
  • A person can have, and get the signup bonus, for each generation of Ink.  So, a person with an Ink Plus MasterCard, for example, could now signup for the Ink Plus Visa. 

I assume (but don’t know this to be true for certain) that once the generation 2 MasterCards are upgraded to Visa cards they will become the same product as generation 3 cards and so it will no longer be possible to signup (and get the signup bonus) for the same card type / business. That suggests that people with generation 2 cards may have a limited window to get new signup bonuses, if that’s what motivates them.  For those that want to keep their options open longer term, they could cancel their generation 2 MasterCards before they get converted to Visas.  That way, new signup bonuses should always be a possibility going forward. 

Caution: The “rules” described above may or may not be correct (as I said, they are derived from personal experience and reader input, not from official word from Chase).  More importantly and more likely: the rules could change at any time. 

Recommendations

Based on the above information, here are some recommendations:

  • If you have a generation 1 Ink card and you take advantage of its unique benefits, then keep it.  It will be converted to a Visa card sometime this year, but it shouldn’t otherwise affect your ability to get new Ink cards.
  • If you have a generation 2 Ink card and would like to get a signup bonus for the same card and same business a second time, then either 1) cancel the card and wait until you are ready to signup for it again (but as a Visa card); or 2) Signup for the Visa version of the card before it is converted to a MasterCard.

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Comments

  1. Great write up! Had Generation 2 of both Ink Bold and Ink Plus but cancelled as soon heard about change to Visa. Planning to reapply for both eventually to earn signup bonus again.

  2. After canceling a Gen 2 Ink Bold, how long is it necessary to wait before applying for the Gen 3 Ink Bold?

  3. Great post FM!. I have Gen 2 Ink Bold. I spend quite a bit on it, annually up to 65K. Tempted to get the Visa version with the new signup bonus for 60K. If I have a Sapphire can I do this :
    1. Convert all my Ink Bold UR to the Sapphire UR
    2. Cancel Ink Bold. (I hope my URs are safe now)
    3. Apply for Ink Bold Visa (Gen 3) under the same business and get 60K Signup.
    4. Also I have a SW Plus Biz for the Southwest. I got my signups and my Companion Pass as well. If needed, I can cancel the SW plus to give room for the new Ink. Will my Companion Pass be affected if I do so?
    Please comment!

    • 1. Yes. Log into Chase Ultimate Rewards then click the small link at the top of the screen that says “Combine Points”
      2. Yes, your Ultimate Rewards points will be safe once moved to your Sapphire in step 1
      3. Yep
      4. Your companion pass will be safe. That’s a feature of Southwest Airlines, not Chase

      • Applied for the Ink Bold Visa and Approved (not instantly). Had to call the reconsideration to go through the process of answering Qs about the business, past/projected sales/p&l. Initially declined but later agreed to cancel the SW Prem Biz Card and approve this one. A very happy camper at the end. Thanks for this post. Had you not written this I wouldn’t have thought of the fact that my MC would be converted to Visa and never be eligible for the sign up bonus again, be it be 50K/60K. Used your link. As always all my Ink applications will go through you. :)

  4. Kind of related topic, I’ve have a Chase Freedom MasterCard for years and it was just converted to a Visa by Chase without any request from me. The Visa card showed up in the mail yesterday.

  5. Just yesterday, I called in to have my Ink Plus MC converted to a Visa. I could have just applied for an Ink Plus and received a new sign-up bonus? (Even though I already had an Ink Plus MC?

  6. Is that what a “deposit relationship” means? A Chase bank account? I do have a Chase checking and savings account, but that log in is NOT linked to my Ink card. It is linked to my Freedom and CSP. Does that mean I’ll get the Visa sooner rather than later? I’m missing out on the Staples 1%.

  7. Here’s a question I haven’t seen answered yet. I currently have an Ink Plus. If I want to get an Ink Bold for the same business will they make me cancel the Plus or can I have both at the same time?

  8. I had a horrible interaction with Chase on the phone yesterday. I have CSP, Ink Bold for Biz #1 and was applying for Ink Plus for Biz #2. I have multiple other Chase cards as well. The agent was very accusatory and asked me why I had so many CVS purchases and Staples purchases. I figured honesty is best (he clearly could see the charges and knew what I was up to), so I explained that I paid my mortgage with Bluebird and bought gift cards at times for my staff or for business related items such as gas and amazon purchases. He challenged all my other cards and I explained how as a consultant I travel and how the airline perks were important to me.

    He then claimed he could not verify my business through the department of state. I told him it was a start-up which is true. I now have to mail them all these documents to prove I have a business. The only way I got any change in tone was when I finally said… I put over $10,000 per month on my chase cards between my personal and business accounts, have been with your for over a decade and pay all my bills on time… would you like me to take by business elsewhere? I am now waiting to hear back.

    Not sure if you or anyone has had experience with this. Are they cracking down? I have never had such an ugly interaction.

    Lessons learned:

    1) Novice mistake.. at staples should be adding other purchases so that my bill isn’t XX.00 (round numbers) all the time.
    2) Novice mistake.. for purchasing reloadables.. mix it up so it doesn’t show the same amount, multiple times
    3) Be firm on the phone…. I am a good customer who is smart and maximizes my rewards. If chase doesn’t like me, there is plenty of competition. They set the rules, and I follow the rules (cleverly and smartly)… if they don’t like it.. then they need different rules. But at the end of the day… would they rather I have 5 of their cards or 5 of their competitors cards?

    • I too had a nasty interaction with Chase this morning and eventually got denied. Basically because I already have 6 Chase cards (only one of which is a business – Ink Plus) and that I don’t generate enough revenue/expenses to validate another credit card. I’m going call them back and cancel my Ink Plus (and telling I’m taking my business elsewhere); and maybe reapply for the Ink another time. But wow, the lady I talked to was not friendly at all. I should have dropped the call and call again! Lesson learned.

      • So I called back today and got another man. At first, I thought he was going to be helpful… but after the 5 minute hold he was horrible and told me that if I kept up “my behavior” chase would “end all relationships” with me. I called him out on his assumptions.. many of which were untrue. But it ended ugly. I love how they have been trained.. “I am not accusing you of anything, I am just trying to understand…”
        His final words when I said that I was concerned Chase was making assumptions about how I choose to spend my money.. were, “I think you need to read carefully those terms and conditions.”

        FREQUENT MILER: WILL THEY PUT A PERMANENT NOTE IN MY FILE AND SCREW ME LATER ON? OR IS THE “DOCUMENTATION” JUST FOR THIS APPLICATION?

        And here I thought maybe my mistake was not hanging up when it was a man and trying for a woman. I had the fantasy the women reps were nicer ;)

        • I too called back today! Rep was a little bit nicer, but still adamant about not issuing me the card since my biz is too new and I have more than enough credit with Chase already. Darn! So I asked to connect to their customer service, and canceled my Ink Plus MC (in hopes of reapplying for the Visa version way later), my Southwest and Marriott cards. Told them I was taking my biz-related cc to another bank. They could care less :P They are cracking down!!!

      • Thanks for such a terrific post, FM. I too had the same experience as WorldTraveler and Yarns, but the Chase recon representative was not as caustic and accusatory even when I answered that it was because of the increased signup bonus that I was applying for a 3rd Gen Ink Plus. I was asked the same questions about business (income, profit, number of employees, amount expected to put on the card), and was told that I was denied because the revenue I projected was not sufficient to justify a second Ink card.

        Has anyone recently converted their Ink Bold MC to an Ink Bold Visa without cancelling the MC, but instead called in to request the change be performed ahead of the scheduled transition, and obtained a signup bonus just for asking?

        • That would be nice, but I really doubt they would be willing to extend a signup bonus if you ask to convert the card. You really need to signup new to get the new bonus. When you reach a dead end in a conversation with one rep, it really can be worth it to try calling again. Some agents are more willing to work with you than others are.

          • Thanks FM. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’ll report back on this if I succeed in convincing one rep to give me the signup bonus again for converting.

  9. Sorry if this question was already answered, can I have two Chase Ink’s one Visa and one MC for the same Business? Or do I need to close my MC, then open the VIsa, if I want to get the bonus twice?

    Thanks!

    • Yes, a couple of readers have said that they successfully signed up for the Ink Plus or Ink Bold Visa while they still had the same type of card (Plus or Bold) open for the same business. Of course, it would be even safer to simply sign up for the other type of card. In other words, if you have the Ink Bold, signup for the Ink Plus. It should work either way though.

  10. I already have both Gen 2 plus and bold cards, and use them a lot. I don’t want to close them. Is it possible to get another bold visa card?

  11. Notably when the IHG Visa went to Mastercard there was no opportunity to double dip on the signup. How do you explain that?

    • I’m surprised to hear that. How do you know there wasn’t an opportunity to get a second bonus? Did you try it? Regardless, Chase clearly handles their business cards differently than their consumer cards.

  12. Thanks for the post as usual FM! Great stuff.

    Looks like my Ink Bold MC statement closes in a few days. I’m going to wait, hoping the UR points close about then and cancel after transfer to CSP. I’ll reapply later in the year for the VISA version. In my case I tried getting the VISA while holding the MC but the Chase rep on recon wasn’t buying it. I’ll try later.

    • Thanks for that data point. Did the Chase rep deny your application due to already having the same card as a MasterCard or was it more about already having a bunch of cards and credit with Chase?

  13. I have both Gen 2 Ink and Bold cards. Applied for Ink Visa. Did not get immediate approval. Called reconsideration line. First agent said no, but would allow me to cancel one of the Gen 2 cards and get Visa instead. He wanted a lot of info about my business, my gross sales, net income for last three years, wanted to know why I wanted another card. Told him I wanted to get the Visa variant since it offered benefits that the MC did not. He said that Chase does not care about the benefits on a card and his tone changed to accusatory.
    I thanked him, hung up, and called back. Second agent did not ask anything about my business or why I wanted the card. Just commented about my overall credit limit being too high, so I dropped one card I didn’t use (United, may they rest in peace) and was approved. Now have THREE Ink cards, 2 Gen 2 and one Gen three. Am going to drop one of the MCs in future and apply for other Visa. However, considering all I went thru to get the first Visa, not sure dropping it is so smart. Three Ink cards with 50K 5X office supply is a great benefit!

  14. Thinking of the Ink Cash. Do you get cash back and UR points? This sentence is confusing … Despite its name, the Ink Cash card also earns Ultimate Rewards points.

  15. Sounds like with the increased bonus and with the changes at Staples, the Chase Business Reps aren’t being very friendly.

    Unfortunately because of the Visa Savings Edge – i switched my Ink Plus to a Visa without knowing i could reapply – I asked if I could get the bonus if I do the spend since it would have been the same thing if i had just the insight to apply. They said no.

    Thankfully i also had a Ink Bold Gen2 MC, applied couple days ago and just got off the phone with the rep who like others said wasn’t very friendly and said why do you have so many purchases at Staples that aren’t related to your business. Long story short – I was willing to close some business accounts which really shouldn’t have been necessary since it’s essentially a 1-for-1 swap but i wasn’t using them and wanted the signup bonus and then she was willing to approve me for the Gen3 Ink Bold Visa.

    Sheesh – didn’t really like the treatment either as the other commenter, been with them for a while and always pay off my balance. What does it matter what i purchase. I can understand they don’t want risk – but don’t see how the risk is any different when just swapping out products. Think they just do that to try and scare off customers from getting the bonus automatically.

    • People have been reporting more difficulty in getting Ink approvals for quite a while now. That said, it has always been true in my experience that some recon agents are very difficult whereas others are very friendly and will work with you by reducing credit lines on other cards or whatever is needed.

  16. Since Staples is no longer offering cashback on gift card purchases from affiliates, shouldn’t you let people know that the ability to make money from Ink Cards is no longer possible?

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