While we’re huge fans of nearly all credit card rewards programs out there, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program continues to stand out year after year. Due to its many transfer partners and overall flexibility, plus the fact that the core of the program hasn’t been devalued in years, Chase Ultimate Rewards is far and away the best credit card rewards program offered on planet Earth.
Yes, you read that right. In my opinion, Chase Ultimate Rewards is far superior to other award-winning rewards programs like the Citi ThankYou® program and American Express Membership Rewards®.
Since I’m totes crushing on the program, I created this guide to introduce everybody to Chase Ultimate Rewards and the many ways you can use the program. Through examples and personal experiences, I’ll show you how to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, which redemptions offer the most value, and which pitfalls to avoid.
And of course, we’ll clue you in on some of our favorite Chase redemptions we’ve executed so far.
Credit Cards that Let You Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards
Before we dig into the details, let’s explore the cards that actually let you earn this valuable travel currency.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll earn 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases. For a limited time, you’ll also earn 50,000 points after you spend just $4,000 on your card within 90 days. Those points are worth $500 in top value gift cards or cash back or more than $600 in travel. Conversely, you can transfer these points to any of this programs’ travel partners. More on that in a minute. The $95 annual fee on this card is waived the first year.
Ink Plus® Business Credit Card – While the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card is for businesses, it lets you earn points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program as well. Earn 5X 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 year, 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent at gas stations and on rooms booked directly with a hotel, and 1X points on everything else. Plus, for a limited time, you’ll earn 60,000 points after you spend just $5,000 on your card within 90 days. The $95 annual fee is not waived the first year.
Chase Freedom® Unlimited Card – While the Chase Freedom® Unlimited Card doesn’t let you earn points for the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can turn your points into Chase Ultimate Rewards if you carry one of the other cards on this list. With this card, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.55x points on all your purchases. You’ll also earn a $150 signup bonus for spending just $500 in the first three months. Best of all, this card comes with no annual fee.
How to Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards
Part of the reason Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so lucrative is because they are so versatile. Depending on your travel needs and goals, you can easily find a way to use your points that meets needs. Here are three ways you can (and should) consider using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel:
Redeem Your Points for Cash Back
If you choose to redeem your points for cash value, you’ll receive a value of one cent per point. As an example, the signup bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, which now sits at 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on your card within 90 days, is worth $500 in cash. When you redeem your points this way, you can book any type of travel you want (or use your cash back for anything else). While this isn’t the best option offered, it’s nice to know you can redeem your points for cash if you really want to. Personally, I find that kind of flexibility important.
Book Travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
If you’re going to book travel, using your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is usually a much better option. When you use your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll get a 20% discount for doing so. That’s why you commonly hear how 50,000 points is worth more than $600 in travel through the Chase portal.
Best of all, booking through the portal allows you to book almost any type of travel experience, a flight with any airline, and hotel stays with any participating hotel. In a lot of ways, booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is a lot like using Expedia. The only difference is, your points allow you to book travel for free.
Here’s what the Chase travel portal looks like:
Transfer Points to Loyalty Programs
If you travel frequently, you already know how valuable the points offered by many of the top loyalty programs can be. And in my opinion, this is where Chase Ultimate Rewards really shines. The fact that Chase partners with so many popular airlines and hotel chains makes transferring points an extremely popular option. And, the fact that points transfer to all partners at a 1:1 ratio makes these transfers especially lucrative.
Here is an updated list of Chase travel partners for 2016:
- United Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- Korean Air
- Singapore Airlines
We’ll get into some of these options later, but it’s suffice to say that certain Chase transfer partners can be extremely lucrative. My favorite partners are IHG, Southwest Airlines, and Hyatt, although I have used almost all of these loyalty programs at one point or another.
Best Ways to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards
While there is no “right way” to pursue or redeem credit card rewards, some options are certainly a lot more lucrative than others. To highlight some of those options, I’ve included a short list of example scenarios below. All of these travel experiences can be booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards!
Best Redemption #1: Transferring points to Southwest Airlines
If you live near a Southwest hub, Southwest Airlines will almost always offer the best deal you can find on domestic travel and fares to the Caribbean. Because their rewards program is fare-based, you can shop around for deals and book your flight when the price is as low as it will go.
Pro Tip: By signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you can rack up points even faster! Right now, you can earn 50,000 bonus points just for signing up and spending $2,000 in the first three months!
You can sometimes find round-trip flights for as little as 8,000 Rapid Rewards points each. As a matter of fact, my husband and I actually booked two round-trip flights from Indianapolis to Raleigh to see a Pearl Jam concert this year, and our total was 15,788 points and around $22 for taxes and fees.
Flights to the Caribbean can also be found for less than 12,500 points per leg, which makes this an awesome option for families who don’t have a lot of points to go around. With just two signup bonuses on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (one for each spouse or partner), you can normally book up to four round-trip flights to tropical destinations like Aruba, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Belize, Nassau, Punta Cana, and Cancun.
I have personally used Southwest Airlines to fly my entire family to Jamaica for spring break twice, and travel to places like Denver, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Cancun, Puerto Rico, and New York City. And if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, your points can go even further.
See Also: Southwest CompanionPass: Why You Need It
Best Redemption #2: Transferring to Hyatt
Hyatt is one of my favorite redemption options since their program is fairly valuable and your points go pretty far. Even a top tier property like the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris costs just 30,000 points per night, and you can even book their all-inclusive resorts for 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. Pretty sweet.
Best Redemption #3: Transferring to British Airways for Short Haul Flights
Even after the recent British Airways devaluation, transferring points to this airline for short haul flights is an epic deal. Most short haul flights in the U.S. will only cost 7,500 points per leg. If you fly a lot of domestic routes and have some flexibility in terms of the dates and times you fly, these points can really help you go far. We’re even using British Airways miles to fly to Grand Cayman this upcoming May! Depending on where you want to go and when, you should find plenty of options available.
Best Redemption #4: Booking Activities through the Chase Travel Portal
While you don’t often hear about people booking activities through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, I personally find awesome savings there – whether I’m paying in points or cash. If you plan on taking part in a snorkeling excursion, going zip-lining, or booking a guided tour of a museum or attraction, you can often find stellar deals through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Better yet, you can get a 20% discount if you use points to book your event.
Best Redemption #5: Finding an Awesome Hotel Deal through the Chase Travel Portal
Getting 20% off travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal can be rather “meh” at times, but absolutely lucrative in other instances. It really depends on where you’re going, what your dates are, and how rates stack up to rates offered on other sites like Expedia and Travelocity.
With that being said, I have noticed plenty of awesome all-inclusive resorts you can book for as little as 12,000 points per night for a family of four in places like Jamaica and the Mexico. And when I was browsing hotels for a trip we’re considering to Greece later this year, I found all kinds of three star properties offered for as little as 6,000 points per night. When you find deals like this, your points can go a whole lot further.
Worst Ways to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards
While there really is no “wrong way” to use credit card rewards, some of the ways you can redeem your points aren’t very lucrative. It doesn’t mean you should never choose one of these options, but it means you should think long and hard before you do. Here are a few of the worst ways to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points:
Worst Redemption #1: Redeeming points for low-value gift cards
While you can generally get one cent per point when you redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards, that isn’t always the case. Sadly, a lot of low value gift cards in the $25 range require you to redeem more than one point for each cent of value you receive. (e.g. 30,000 points for a $25 gift card) Redeeming points for gift cards isn’t a stellar option to begin with, but redeeming them for low value gift cards can be even worse. If you want gift cards, go for any option that gives you at least one cent per point.
Worst Redemption #2: Redeeming points for merchandise
Redeeming points for merchandise is an exceptionally bad idea across all rewards programs, but that’s especially true when it comes to Chase Ultimate Rewards. Depending on what type of merchandise you pick up, you could get as little as .5 cents per point. If you want to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for merchandise, the least you can do is redeem your points for cash back at a rate of one cent per point, then head to the store to buy the item yourself.
Worst Redemption #3: Transferring points to a loyalty program without checking prices first
This is one scenario I’ve seen time and time again. Someone transfers their points to a loyalty program without checking the actual cost of their flight or hotel first. This commonly happens with high value hotels through Chase transfer partners. The Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay, for example, runs 35,000 IHG points if you book it through IHG. However, rooms often go for as little as 15,000 points per night through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. If you were to transfer your points and book this option through IHG when prices are this low, you would be wasting 20,000 points per night.
My Favorite Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemptions of All-Time
Over the years, we have racked up and spent hundreds of thousands of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. While some of these points weren’t all that exciting to redeem, others turned out to be some of our favorite point redemptions of all time! Here are some of the best ways we have redeemed our Chase Ultimate Rewards Points over the years:
Transferring points to Southwest is always a win.
Over the years, my husband and I have had the Southwest Companion Pass multiple times. Our favorite Southwest trips by far have been when we flew to Denver to see a concert, the time we flew to Mexico to spend a week with friends in Playa del Carmen, and of course all of the trips we have taken with our kids. Thanks to the flexibility of Southwest points, we have even used them to fly to Jamaica for spring break twice! The first time, we brought my parents along. The second time, however, we brought along my parents and my sister’s family!
See Also: How We Booked a Trip to Jamaica for Free
I am obsessed with using Chase points for excursions.
While a lot of travel bloggers make fun of excursions and guided tours, I absolutely love them! In fact, I always check the Chase portal for activities any time we travel somewhere new. So far, my favorite activities booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal include a) the time we booked a black Mercedes airport transfer in Rome, b) a three-stop snorkeling tour I booked in Cancun, and c) the time I booked a three-city guided tour all over the Tuscany region of Italy. These “extras” were a lot of time at the time, and they were items I normally wouldn’t want to pay for. Since I could use points to book them, it made the “splurge” seem a lot more sensible.
Hyatt transfers are the bomb.
While I haven’t stayed at any of Hyatt’s all-inclusive properties yet, I will certainly do so eventually. However, I get pretty excited about almost all of Hyatt’s properties and their rewards program in general. Why? Because it hasn’t been devalued like many of the other hotel programs....yet. My favorite Hyatt redemption so far is when we stayed at the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris. Rooms were over $900 per night when we stayed, but we didn’t pay a dime for the experience. It was awesome!
How to Rack Up Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Like a Boss
Now that you know all about Chase Ultimate Rewards and their many valuable uses, it’s time to explore the different ways you can rack up as many points as possible! Obviously, more points = more free travel! If you’re looking for a way to earn thousands of dollars in free travel, here are some top strategies to consider.
Sign up for credit cards and earn huge signup bonuses.
Obviously, the easiest way to rack up a ton of Chase points is by signing up for credit cards and earning their respective signup bonuses. By signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, and Chase Freedom® over time, you can earn over 100,00 points through just the signup bonuses alone. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure your credit is in good standing before you apply. In addition, it’s my opinion that you should never pursue credit card rewards if you’re in debt!
Get your spouse to sign up for double the points.
If you play your cards right, both you and your spouse can sign up for the same Chase cards and earn the signup bonuses twice! If you want to go this route, however, you’ll want to make sure you don’t add each other as an authorized user. Why? Because some of the new rules from Chase make it harder to get a Chase card if your spouse has one and you are their authorized user already.
Beware the new Chase 24/5 rule.
In early 2016, Chase created some new rules that made it harder to earn multiple signup bonuses. In summary, this new rule means they may not approve you for a new card if you have had five other new credit cards within the past two years. This rule is important to consider if you want all three of the top Chase credit cards. By getting the Chase cards first, you can bypass this rule. Once these cards are safely in your wallet, you can pursue many other awesome travel credit card offers from other issuers.
Maximize bonus categories as much as you can.
Since the Chase Freedom® offers 5x points on your first $1,500 spent in categories that rotate every quarter, you’ll want to pay special attention to those categories and maximize them as much as you can. Meanwhile, you’ll want to use your Chase Sapphire Preferred® for travel and dining purchases since you earn 2x points. The Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, on the other hand, offers an amazing 5x points on your first $50,000 spent at office supply stores and on cellular, internet, and landline phone services. If you can maximize any of these bonus categories, you’ll earn a ton more points over time!
Utilize the Chase shopping portal.
Once you have any of these Chase cards in your wallet, you’ll want to use the Chase shopping portal any time you buy anything online. By logging into your Ultimate Rewards account and opting to “earn points by shopping through Chase,” you’ll be redirected to a page that shows the bonus points you can earn by clicking through to shop with certain retailers. If you plan to buy an item anyway – and especially a big ticket item – you can often earn 4x extra points just by clicking through the Chase portal first. And remember, these “bonus points” are on top of the points you’ll earn by using your Chase card for the purchase!
The Final Word
Using Chase Ultimate Rewards has allowed us to travel the world for pennies on the dollar. Their high-value redemptions, awesome transfer partners, and fantastic flexibility easily make them my favorite rewards points to earn and redeem. Start earning your points today by clicking through any of the links above.
If you’d like help planning how to earn and use these points, feel free to hit me up at my free rewards advice page! I’ll create a personalized rewards plan to suit your travel needs.
Thanks for reading!