After weeks and months of rumors, The Points Guy finally confirmed that Chase was changing their Exclusives program in a negative way. I personally have not received any notification of a change in the program, and in fact I received a letter confirming the original benefits earlier this month, but several people on FlyerTalk and elsewhere received notification/confirmation of the change. I’m assuming my account will be changed at some point in the future as well.
Note that you can not enroll in the Exclusives program any longer, even if you get a new checking account. The program is now closed, unfortunately, so this post is really only relevant to those that were “grandfathered” in.
The old Exclusives program was extremely valuable because you could earn 10 points per transaction, plus 10% additional points on the base spend. I previously wrote about my analysis of exactly what types of transactions are worth putting on your Freedom card, and found that food/travel transactions up to $9 were better to put on your Freedom vs. your Sapphire Preferred card.
But now the program is removing the 10 points per transaction, which was the most lucrative part of the deal, and instead giving just a flat 10% of all points earned. Note that this is not the same 10% as the previous program. Previously, you only earned 10% of the base spend, but the new program will allow you to earn 10% on all points, including those earned in the revolving 5x categories.
That means that if you have a Chase checking account with the Exclusives program, you’ll essentially earn 1.1 points on all regular transactions and 5.5 points on all bonus category transactions. It should be obvious that any purchase that falls into a Freedom Bonus category should be put on your Freedom card, so there’s no need for analysis of that. Let’s instead start by doing some math to see how this might change your earning strategy when deciding to use the Freedom or Sapphire Preferred card on normal, non bonus-category charges. Note that this analysis assumes you’re not purchasing through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
To put it simply, all non bonus-category charges (dry cleaning, clothing, etc.) will earn more points using your Freedom card…but not by much. Even if you spent a whopping $10K a year on these items, you’d only earn 300 extra points using the Freedom vs. Sapphire Preferred card. At that rate I’m inclined to leave my Freedom card at home to lighten my wallet. It’s worth noting, however, that if you’re buying Vanilla Reloads at CVS on a very large scale, the Freedom card will be your better option if you’re trying to earn Ultimate Rewards.
Let’s see how the cards stack up when we bring the Sapphire Preferred card’s 2x bonus on restaurants and travel into play.
I think it’s reasonable to assume most people reading this blog spend at least $500 a year on restaurants and travel. You can see that even at that low amount (and really at any spend above or below), you should use your Sapphire Preferred card in it’s bonus categories. This might seem obvious now but as I mentioned earlier, the previous Exclusives program made it beneficial to use your Freedom card for food/travel purchases up to $9. This changes my strategy since there’s effectively no reason for me to use my Freedom card when eating out anymore – something I do a lot.
Although my personal account has not been affected yet, when the change does finally happen I will definitely make an adjustment to the cards I use. I previously used my Freedom card for all food/travel purchases under $10, but after this change it will be more beneficial to use my Sapphire Preferred card. It’s only nominally better to use the Freedom card for all non-bonus purchases, , and I don’t think I’d be carrying it around unless I plan to use it in the 5x categories, which is now the only real benefit to the card in my opinion.