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Let’s face it: Traveling can be expensive. It’s a luxury that many have to save months or even years to enjoy, which is why earning rewards points can be such a valuable practice, especially Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world with my wife, and all of our travels have been accomplished with the help of rewards miles and points. Not only have we traveled to some amazing destinations, but most of the time we’ve also been able to fly in business or first class. These are experiences that I would have never been able to afford out of pocket, which is why I’ve become a rewards travel evangelist. I always say that anyone can travel like I do; I’m not special, just a little obsessed. With good credit and some organization skills, traveling with rewards points can become a lifestyle.
The points that I’ve redeemed the most for my travels are Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, and that’s because of their value and flexibility through partner transfers. Let me break down the many reasons Ultimate Rewards and Chase cards are my go-to points to earn and a great option for anyone looking to travel with rewards points.
Quick Tip: the best personal credit card to earn Ultimate Rewards points is the: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
How can I redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points?
With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you have the flexibility to redeem your points for so many different kinds of travel, and options are a good thing! Here are a couple of examples of how to unlock the value in Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Redemptions through the Ultimate Rewards Chase travel portal
First of all, you can book flights, hotels, cruises, and car rentals by logging into your Ultimate Rewards account, and you will receive a 20% discount when you do! So, if you were approved for the Sapphire Preferred and its 50,000 sign-up bonus, you would have $625 in travel through this redemption method. You also have the option of combining your UR points with cash if needed.
Since these redemptions are treated as cash purchases, they will count towards airline or hotel elite status if that’s something you’re trying to achieve.
Booking travel through the online portal, as opposed to transferring your points out to one of the many Ultimate Rewards transfer partners (more on those below), allows you to redeem your Chase points with airlines, hotels, etc., outside of their transfer partners and receive a 20% bonus on your points.
Redemptions through Ultimate Rewards travel partners
I’ve redeemed my UR points through their online portal before, but more often than not, I transfer them out to a travel partner. This is where the real crazy value can be found.
If you hold the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points out instantly at a 1:1 ratio to: British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® (EXPIRED), and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.
Once you transfer your points to one of the transfer partners listed above (you’ll have to create an account with that transfer partner, but that’s free and easy), you can book award flights or hotels on that transfer partner’s site. Pricing will be tied to their specific award chart, and for airline transfer partners, you will also be able to book flights on their partners. Oh, the options!
Here are a couple of examples:
- Domestic examples
Domestic airfare can easily be booked by transferring your points out to Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, British Airways Avios, and even Singapore Krisflyer. Southwest has a revenue-based award chart (which means the award price of the flight is tied to the cash price of the flight), but they often have fare sales where you can get screaming deals. Plus, they fly all over the country, so they are a solid option.As an example, you could book a one-way flight from Austin to Nashville on Southwest for under 7,000 points.
British Airways Avios has a distance-based award chart, so short distance flights can offer a good value. Starting at 7,500 Avios, you can fly one-way, and for only 30,000 Avios, you can fly roundtrip in economy to Hawaii. Aloha. You’re able to book American Airlines flights with Avios since they are partners, and you can do this on the British Airways website. IHG, Marriott, and Hyatt are all good options for domestic hotel awards. Personally, I prefer Hyatt because I have status with them, but IHG has some good deals, like their Holiday Inn Express chains, and their 5,000 points per night deals.
- International examples
I’m always looking to burn my Ultimate Rewards points on international travel, especially premium cabin travel, since it is more expensive than domestic travel and I want to get the most value out of my points.An easy way to travel across the globe with UR points is to transfer them out to United. United flies almost everywhere, and since they are in the Star Alliance, you can fly any airline that’s also in the Star Alliance, like Lufthansa, Austrian, and Thai airlines.For example, you can fly roundtrip to Europe in economy for only 60,000 United miles. Not bad, especially when people generally pay well over $1,500 for a roundtrip flight to Europe. A one-way business class award on United metal to Europe is 57,500 miles, or you can fly one of their partners, like Lufthansa, for 70,000 miles.
Redeeming our Ultimate Rewards for business class flights
Singapore Krisflyer is also a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, and that makes me happy. Singapore Airlines is well known for their world-class products and service. Some good Singapore routings are:(1) One-way business class from Houston to Moscow for only 48,875 Singapore Krisflyer miles
(2) One-way first class awards in Suites Class from JFK to FRA are only 57,375 Singapore Krisflyer milesThese are both fantastic redemptions!IHG, Marriott, and Hyatt all have fantastic options for international travel. Like I mentioned before, most of my hotel stays are with Hyatt since I have status with them, but I highly recommend them even if you don’t have status. A great Hyatt award example is the Andaz in Costa Rica for only 15,000 points a night, or 7,500 points and $75 cash.
- Redeeming for experiences, gift cards, merchandise & cash
- If travel isn’t your thing, then what are you doing reading this blog? Just kidding. A travel redemption for your points might not always make sense, or you might just want cash back. Nothing wrong with that. You can redeem 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for $500 in statement credits. Not bad.
- You can also redeem your UR points for gift cards to many top retailers, like Lowes, Amazon, iTunes, Starbucks, and many more. Each 500 points = $5 in gift cards. Gift cards make great birthday gifts.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Gift Card Redemption
You can even redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points towards exclusive dinners, concerts or sporting events. Something for everyone.
How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points?
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are easy to earn because of the many travel rewards credit card options you have, each offering unique spending perks. You can earn Ultimate Rewards through spending on your Chase branded credit card, or by shopping through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.
These are the Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points on their own:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred®: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the best (if not the best) personal travel rewards cards out there. It’s the first travel card I recommend to family, friends, and readers for many reasons.First, you will earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This bonus gives you a great opportunity to earn a large amount of UR points right from the start. At their basic redemption level, 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $625 in travel, or $500 in cash. In addition to the sign-up bonus, you will earn 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants & one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.
- Ink Cash® Business Card
The Ink Cash is a business cash back card that comes with a bonus of $200 or 20,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. And there’s no annual fee! The Ink Cash shares the same 5% categories as the Ink Plus, but earning is capped at $25,000 in annual purchases on the specific categories.
- Chase Freedom®
The Chase Freedom is a no annual fee cash back card that has rotating 5x categories each quarter. You will earn 5% cash back or 5x points on $1,500 each quarter for the rotating categories. Those categories include restaurants, gas, department stores, Amazon, and more. If you max out the 5x categories each quarter, you will receive an additional 30,000 UR points each year. Similar to the Freedom Unlimited card, you will earn a $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited℠
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a fairly new card offered by Chase. It’s a no annual fee card, so you can keep it forever without worries of annual fees. It also earns 1.5x points or cash back on all spending, making earning simple. As a bonus, you will earn $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, and an additional $25 or 2,500 points when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period. Not bad!
- Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
The Ink Plus is a business rewards card, and it has some incredible perks. For starters, you earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s a significant bonus, but the Ink Plus offers some great spending bonuses as well. You’ll earn five points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. And you will earn two points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.I personally run my monthly internet, cable, and cell phone bills through my Ink card. This helps me earn over 24,000 UR points each year. The Ink Plus is a business card, but if you don’t have an EIN, you can still apply as a sole proprietor for your business. For example, my friend is a musician and he was able to get the Ink Plus as a sole proprietor, but he does earn income and has expenses for his business. The $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year for the Ink Plus. Note: The Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards earn points that can be transferred out to Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. The cards mentioned below cannot be transferred. However, if you hold the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus, points earned from the cards below can be combined with those for the ability to transfer.
Refer a Friend for current Chase cardholders
Virtually every financial product has a “Refer-A-Friend” service that gives you and the friend an additional bonus. Regarding your bonus, the rates vary depending on the credit card and time of year. But, if you hold a Chase credit card you can assume that it is possible to earn approximately 5,000 points per referral. There is normally an annual cap of up to 10 referrals which can result in 50,000 bonus Ultimate Reward points (the equivalent of the current Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus).
Category bonuses on your Chase card
The sign-up bonuses for any of the Chase credit cards are stellar, BUT you can earn additional points for every purchase made. The base rate for most of the Chase credit cards is 1% on all purchases (1.5% for the Freedom Unlimited). But the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2 points per $1 on travel and restaurant purchases and it’s premier cousin, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, earns 3 points per $1 spent on dining.
The highest purchase redemption rate is with the Chase Freedom that earns 5% on specific categories that change every quarter up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter. All purchases made within the 5% bonus category after reaching the $1,500 purchase limit to receive the 5 point bonus will earn 1 point per dollar for the remainder of the quarter.
Chase Ink (one of the best credit cards for small businesses), can earn bonus rates ranging from 2 points to 5 points per dollar depending on the type of purchase.
Chase credit card application terms
The Chase terms for applying for their products state: “This product is not available to either current cardmembers of this credit card, or previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.”
Also, you will most likely not be approved for any Chase credit cards if you have applied for five or more cards in the last 24 months. This is what’s referred to as the 5/24 rule.
Personally, I keep the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus and Chase Freedom cards in my wallet. I use them as my everyday cards and take advantage of their spending categories to help build up my Ultimate Rewards balance.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall or shopping portals
Holding one of the Chase rewards cards above gives you access to an Ultimate Rewards mall. UR shopping portals allow you to earn multiple points per $1 for online purchases. Plus, you will earn the standard points that your Chase card earns for the purchase. This is a great way to “double dip” your earnings for online shopping.
For example, through the “Shop Chase Ink” Plus portal, you can earn 2x points for Staples purchases. Then you’ll also get 5x points with your card since Staples is in the office supply store category. Double-dipping!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall or Shopping Portal
An old saying is to “never pay retail.” Shopping portals are not unique to Chase as airline and hotel loyalty programs also have their own portals. But, shopping at major retailers with the will help you earn anywhere from 1 to 25 bonus points per $1 spent depending on the retailer. There are 250+ retailers to choose from it pays to take a look at the portal before making any online purchase. Your store might be one of the participating merchants!
Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall can also be a great way to earn points while doing your back-to-school shopping or Christmas shopping. Per tradition, the Chase Freedom’s 4th quarter bonus spending category is Holiday Shopping. If you own the Chase Freedom you can earn the 5 point bonus purchase the shopping portal bonus too!
What will not earn Chase Ultimate Reward Points?
There are a couple actions that probably will not earn Ultimate Reward Points.
Booking Travel Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
Through 2015, Chase would pay out additional reward points on travel booked through the travel rewards portal. That is currently not the case. It can potentially revert back to the old policy, but you will earn the same amount of points whether you buy a ticket through Chase or directly from an airline. Just make sure to use your Chase credit card to ensure you earn Ultimate Rewards.
Complaining About New Sign-Up Bonus
Chase is continually offering different sign-up bonus amounts for their credit cards. If the bonus has changed to a higher payout within 90 days since you opened your account, Chase might retroactively allow you to earn the bonus. But, there is nothing in writing that says they have to do this. If you do call to see if they will be gracious, you should be cordial.
Threatening to Drop The Card
Companies have been known to offer “retention bonuses” to customers that threaten to leave. When’s the last time your satellite tv contract was renewed? ;-) You can also go this route with Chase, but it probably isn’t recommended as they usually only offer retention bonuses for Chase Ink business customers. Even then, Chase might only offer to waive the annual fee & might not offer additional rewards points. If you do go this route, make sure you are directed to a retention specialist.
Two things to keep in mind when making this phone call:
1) How much business do you do with Chase? They are more willing to bend backwards if you spend a lot with their cards.
2) Are you prepared if Chase calls your bluff? If you are talking to a retention specialist you might need to be prepared to tear your Chase credit card in two. You might be able to gently decide to keep the card, but, it largely depends on the negotiation.
How much is a Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth?
Chase Ultimate Reward points have been receiving a lot of “buzz” recently with the introduction of the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve travel rewards card. Even before this recent addition, many frequent travelers have long considered Chase points as some of the most valuable credit card rewards points on the market. As several credit card issuers have modified their reward programs recently, it is time to focus on the benefits of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and exactly how much a Chase point is worth?
Base Value in Redeeming Chase UR points
The floor value of a Chase Ultimate Rewards point is 1 cent each. When points are redeemed for rewards, this means a $100 gift card would be worth 10,000 points. Having a base rate of 1% isn’t too shabby as many reward programs, travel and cash back, often cap at 1% and many points are worth less than 1 penny each when redeemed rewards other than travel credits, gift cards, statement credits, etc.
Transferring Chase points
Chase also has partnered with the following airline & hotel rewards programs to transfer Chase points to the respective rewards program on a 1:1 transfer basis!
Current Airline Rewards Programs
Current Hotel Travel Partners
Once again, other credit card programs offer point transfers, but, you might not have as many transfer options or the transfer ratio is worse than 1:1.
You can only transfer in 1,000 point increments (i.e. 1,000 Chase points = 1,000 IHG Rewards points), but you still get the base value of 1% and have the potential to increase the value of points, worth at least 1 cent each, after transferring to the other travel partners.
Your best redemption rates will probably be with United MileagePlus or Hyatt Gold Passport. The reasons are their award travel costs less in comparison to the other rewards programs. So, you might be able to get 2 nights at a Hyatt compared to only 1 night at a Marriott as an example.
Keep in mind that not every Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Reward points allow you to transfer your points to the above travel partners. To receive full access, you will need to choose the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve.
Redeeming For Chase Travel Rewards
We have established the fact that the base value for a Chase Ultimate Reward point is 1 cent each. But, they are worth more if you own the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve and redeem the points for travel rewards when you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal.
When redeeming for travel rewards, each Chase point is worth 1.25 cents apiece with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and 1.5 cents each with the Sapphire Reserve. To get the increased rate, you will need to access the rewards portal via your Sapphire Preferred or Reserve account.
As an example, let’s compare the redemption value of the Chase point for a $200 travel purchase to see how many points are required for the same ticket with three different Chase credit cards.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 20,000 UR points (1 cent each)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus: 16,000 UR points (1.25 cents each)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 13,333 UR points (1.5 cents each)
If you want to use your Chase points for travel rewards, your best option is applying for the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve. Just remember that both of these cards fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule that declines new applicants that have applied for 5 credit cards within the previous 24 months.
Maximizing Chase Points for non-travel rewards
While Chase Ultimate Reward points are most popular among travel aficionados, certain Chase credit cards can make Ultimate Rewards points more valuable for non-travel rewards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited allows you to redeem Chase points for statement credits worth 1.5%. This is the same redemption rate that you receive with the Sapphire Reserve travel rewards without the annual fee. All other rewards are only worth 1% and you cannot transfer the points to other travel rewards programs (without also owning the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve). But, the Freedom Unlimited is one of the best options if you want to earn cash back as there are very few cash back credit cards that pay at least 1.5% cash back.
If you own the Chase Freedom, you might be able to do better than 1.5% as you can earn 5% cash back on select quarterly spending categories and 1% on all other purchases.
Chase Freedom 5% Calendar
Another way to increase the value of the Chase point with any Chase card is by using the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall shopping portal. You earn extra Ultimate Reward points on all purchases made within the Chase shopping portal at many major online retailers and earn 1 up to 20 bonus points per dollar spent depending on the merchant. Many loyalty programs offer similar shopping portals, so this concept isn’t unique to Chase, but it’s an additional way to rack up the points to be redeemed later.
Combining Ultimate Rewards Points
Another way to boost the value of each Chase point is to own two or more Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Reward points. This strategy allows you to accumulate the most points possible per purchase. The base earning rate for all Chase credit cards is 1 point per $1 spent on purchases and reward select spending behaviors with bonus points.
- Chase Freedom: 5 points on select categories on the first $1500 in purchases per quarter & 1 point on all additional purchases.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 1.5 points earned on all purchases
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: 2 points on all travel & dining purchases
- Chase Business Ink Plus and Business Cash Plus:
- 5 points on first $50,000 per year at office supply stores, cellphone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
- 2 points on first $50,000 per year at gas stations and hotel stays (when purchased directly from the hotel).
The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards do not charge an annual fee and restrict the redemption options for the Ultimate Rewards points as a result. A simple runaround is to own a combination of the Freedom, Sapphire, or Ink products to maximize your earning and redemption values. The most affordable way is to choose either Sapphire or Ink product and use the fee-free Freedom to earn 5 points on the bonus categories or Freedom Unlimited to earn a flat rewards rate of 1.5%. These rewards cards make it easy for Chase travel using Chase points.
Regardless of how you earn you Ultimate Rewards points, it’s very easy to see that you can easily maximize the value of each Chase point beyond the base 1 cent value.
Wrap-up on Chase Ultimate Rewards
Earning the right reward points can be very…rewarding! And Chase Ultimate Rewards points are at the top of the game with the many ways that you can earn them through their travel credit cards and the numerous ways you can redeem them for travel, merchandise, events, or cash. You really can’t go wrong with Ultimate Rewards.
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