Is the Chase Trifecta Still Relevant in 2018?

The Chase Trifecta, which consists of the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom, and either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, is the best card system to earn points for free flights. 

With recent rumors swirling around that Chase might discontinue the ability to pool points, one of the most frequently asked questions we get is, "is the Chase Trifecta still worth it?"

For the record, I doubt the rumor is true. Chase recently announced negative changes to card benefits that will take place on August 26, 2018, and pooling points is not one of them. The benefits deducted were ones that could easily be automated by third-party applications. 

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Let's run through the worst case scenarios for each card if the ability to pool points end.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited would be in danger because 1.5% cash back is not competitive with cards like the Citi Double Cash that earn 2%. 

In this case, I recommend product changing the Chase Freedom Unlimited to a Chase Freedom card. 

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom earns 5% cash back on each quarter you activate. It's still a keeper card in my book because it earns 5% on rotating categories that I can usually maximize like grocery stores and restaurants. 

5% Cashback cards are great foundation cards for building your credit, especially if they don't have an annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a good travel card by itself because you earn 2x on dining and travel, plus there are no foreign transaction fees. The 50,000 point signup bonus can be redeemed for a few flights or hotel nights. Worst case, you can cash out the points for $500.

When you redeem Ultimate Rewards through the Chase Travel Portal, points are worth 1.25x. 

One of the main benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is that the $95 annual fee is waived the first year, so if you don't get value in Year 2, you can always product change it to a Chase Freedom. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is also a great card by itself. The card does have a $450 annual fee, but it comes with $300 in travel credits, $100 Global Entry credit, and Priority Pass.

Even without the ability to pool points, I would keep the Chase Sapphire Reserve if you're a frequent traveler. 

Similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can product change the card to a Chase Freedom if you don't get positive expected value after the first year.

Let's run through a few scenarios

Alan starts off his credit journey with a secured or student card and builds his credit history for at least 12 months.

After one year, he applies for a Chase Freedom card to build a relationship with Chase. Three months later, he gets the Chase Freedom Unlimited, and then a month later he gets the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the United card.

Person #1: Alan

1) Secured/student card = build credit history

[1 year later...]

 2) Chase Freedom (foundation + build history w/ Chase)

3) Chase Freedom Unlimited

4) Chase Sapphire Preferred

5) United (finish 5/24)

If after Alan obtains the Chase Trifecta and nothing happens, then he doesn't need to do anything. He can keep optimizing spend w/ the trifecta.

If the ability to pool points ends, then he can downgrade the Chase Sapphire Preferred to a Chase Freedom and add to a base of no annual fee cards. Afterward, Alan can work on the American Express Trifecta or pick his own adventure.

If Chase viable = Do nothing; no problems

If pooling points ends = Downgrade/sock drawer cards

= Move to:

     a) Amex Trifecta; or

     b) Keeper card setup; or

     c) [pick your own adventure]

Person #2: Bob

In this example, Bob is worried about the ability to pool points so he goes straight for the American Express Trifecta. He uses all his 5/24 spots on a starter card and American Express cards.

1) Secured/student card = build credit history

2-4) Amex Trifecta

5) Delta

If pooling points ends for Chase: = WIN?

If nothing happens to Chase cards, then Bob will need to wait 24 months before he qualifies for a Chase card due to the 5/24 rule. 

If Chase viable:

= "Go to Chase 5/24 jail for 2 years."

= "Do not pass go."

Conclusion

Regardless if the ability to stop pooling points happens, the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire cards are still great cards to have in your wallet. 

I recommend adding the Chase cards before American Express due to the 5/24 rule.