How to Get the Most Rewards From Chase Ultimate Rewards®: Review

Nov 10, 2016 | Be First to Comment!

chase ultimate rewards travel credit cards

Are you looking for the best way to earn travel rewards from your credit card? The traditional way is to earn frequent flyer miles with a single airline, but that comes with lots of restrictions.

Another way is to earn travel rewards from your credit card issuer. There are many credit cards that offer points or miles that are worth a fixed amount as statement credits towards travel reservations. Sometimes you use these points to book travel directly through the bank’s designated travel agency.

Finally, there are a few travel rewards programs that give you the option of transferring your points to airline miles and hotel points. Chase Ultimate Rewards® allows you to redeem your points for merchandise, cash back, or travel reservations booked through Chase. And in addition, Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can be transferred to miles with seven different frequent flyer programs or four different hotel program.

The Basics of Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Chase offers several other travel reward cards that are not affiliated with a single travel provider such as a hotel or an airline. Instead, some of these cards offer points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. What you can do with these points depends on which card you have.

The Chase Freedom®, Chase Freedom Unlimited℠, and Ink Cash cards offer a basic version of Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points redeemed from one of these accounts are worth about one cent each as cash back, gift cards, and merchandise. Generally, 1 point is worth 1 cent in value towards these rewards.

Or, you can use your points to pay for reservations made through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards® travel center, which works much like Expedia and other online travel agencies.

Credit Cards: Chase

Credit Card Cash Back Travel Balance Transfer
Chase Sapphire Reserve Get $300 annual travel statement credit, lounge membership, and 3X points on travel and dining
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earn bonus miles on travel and dining. Points can be transferred to partnered airline and hotel programs. Redeem rewards travel at a discount through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Chase Freedom® Earn 5% cash back on categories that change every quarter.
Chase Freedom® Unlimited℠℠ Earn 1.5% cash back on all spending.
Chase Slate® Introductory offer tends to include 0% APR on balance transfers for an extended period of time. Also, balance transfer fees are waived during the first 60 days

Transfer Points to Frequent Flyer and Hotel Programs

The Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, and Chase Ink Plus® cards are also part of Chase Ultimate Rewards®, but points redeemed from these accounts can be transferred to the following programs:

Airlines:

Hotels:

Points transfer on a 1:1 basis and the transfers typically occur instantly (transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer usually take just a few hours).

Being able to transfer points to airline and hotel rewards is an extremely valuable feature. I like to keep as many points as possible in my Chase Ultimate Rewards® accounts and transfer them to airline miles or hotel points only when I need to. When I’m able to transfer points to travel partners and redeem those rewards for expensive last minute flights or seats in business or first class, my points can be worth several cents each. I’ve also received some excellent value when I’ve transferred my points to the Hyatt Gold Passport program.

Rewards redeemed from a Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Ink Plus® account are worth 1.25 cents towards travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® online travel center. Finally, points redeemed from a Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ account are worth 1.5 cents each towards travel reservations.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards® Trick

Here’s what’s really amazing about Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can transfer points for free between any of your Chase Ultimate Rewards® accounts. And you can transfer points between the accounts of your spouse or domestic partner.

For example, I have a Chase Freedom® card and a Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ card. When I earn points on my Chase Freedom® card, I always move the points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ card so that I can transfer them to points or miles, or get 50% more value from them when used to book travel reservations. It’s also easy to combine points between my wife’s accounts and my own to pool our rewards.

Chase Freedom® offers 5% in points on certain categories that change every 3 months. Earn 5% in points with the Chase Freedom® card and it effectively becomes 7.5% in points when transferred to Chase Sapphire Reserve℠. With Chase Freedom Unlimited℠, your 1.5% in rewards will actually become 2.25% in rewards when moved to the Sapphire Reserve℠ account.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards® Compares to Similar Rewards Programs

Chase Ultimate Rewards® is a great program, but two other banks offer similar competing programs:

American Express Membership Rewards®

The American Express Membership Rewards® program was the first one to offer the ability to transfer points to airline miles. Today, it has 17 different airline partners:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • KLM and Air France Flying Blue
  • Alitalia
  • ANA Airlines
  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways Avios (250 Membership Rewards = 200 Avios)
  • Delta Skymiles
  • El Al (1,000 Membership Rewards = 20 Matmid points)
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus (250 Membership Rewards points = 200 Avios)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (250 Membership Rewards = 200 TrueBlue points)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Virgin America Elevate (200 Membership Rewards = 125 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub

You can also redeem American Express Membership Rewards® points for gift cards, merchandise, and travel reservations, but points are only worth one cent each towards these kinds of awards.

American Express Membership Rewards® points are offered from several different American Express personal and business cards, ranging from their iconic American Express® Green Card to their high-end Platinum Card® from American Express.

Citi ThankYou® Rewards

Citi offers three cards that earn points in its Citi ThankYou® Rewards program, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred, Citi ThankYou® Premier, and Citi Prestige®. A few years ago, Citi began offering the option to transfer these points to miles with a few different airlines. However, that number has grown to include the following carriers:

  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (1,000 ThankYou Rewards = 800 TrueBlue points)
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Virgin America Elevate (1,000 ThankYou Rewards = 500 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

In addition, points transfer to Hilton HHonors at a 1:1.5 ratio and even to Sears Shop Your Way points.

Just like with the Chase Freedom®, points redeemed from the no-fee Citi ThankYou® Preferred card cannot be transferred to partner programs. But if you have a Citi ThankYou® Premier or Citi Prestige® card, you have that ability.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards® Fares

I give the edge to Chase Ultimate Rewards® over its other two competitors. Yes, it has fewer airline partners, but these carriers allow you to redeem miles for flights with all of the three major airline alliances. United and Singapore miles can be redeemed for flights on any Star Alliance carrier. Miles from Korean Air and Air France Flying Blue can be redeemed for flights on Delta and other SkyTeam carriers. And British Airways points can be redeemed for flights on American and other OneWorld carriers.

Also, it’s the only one of these programs that has Southwest as a transfer partner, which I fly a lot. Transferring rewards to Hyatt points is also a great option, although I wouldn’t recommend the other hotel programs. Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and IHG points simply aren’t worth as much.

I also love using Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to purchase travel directly from Chase. Getting 1.25 cents per point from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Ink Plus℠ is nice, but receiving 1.5 cents per point from the new Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ card is awesome. I’ve already been able to use points to book cheap airfare instead of transferring more points to airline miles to book a frequent flyer award.

Finally, Chase Ultimate Rewards® is strong because Chase has so many cards that feature great bonus point offers. With Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, I get three points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants. With Chase Ink Plus℠, I get five points per dollar spent at office supply stores and on all telephone, television, and Internet services.

American Express Membership Rewards® comes in a close second. It has a larger list of airline partners, but many of them offer little value. Worse, many of these partners have a transfer ratio of less than 1:1. But the biggest problems with American Express Membership Rewards® is that its credit cards don’t offer as many bonus points as Chase’s cards do. In fact, American Express seems to be aware of this and has recently started offering 5x points for airfare purchased with its Platinum cards.

Finally, Citi’s ThankYou® points program comes in third. Its airline transfer partners are mostly foreign carriers with pretty weak award charts. Its only two domestic carriers have a less than 1:1 transfer ratio. Thankfully, the Citi ThankYou® Premier and Citi Prestige® cards offer good bonus point offers for things like travel, entertainment, and dining.

Getting The Most From Your Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points

Hopefully by now you are as hooked on Chase Ultimate Rewards® as I am. If so, let me offer you just a few tips and tricks to stretch your credit card rewards points as far as you can.

1. Get the right combination of cards. As I said, one of the great things about Chase Ultimate Rewards® is all of the ways you can earn multiple points per dollar. Use a Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ card to earn 1.5x everywhere. Consider a Chase Ink Plus℠ card for its great 5x categories. And don’t hesitate to sign up for the great new Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ card that lets you redeem all the points you earned for 1.5 cents worth of travel.

2. Never redeem points for merchandise, gift cards, or cash back. You only get one cent per point this way. Always transfer your points to travel partners or redeem points directly for travel reservations, if possible.

Note: Again, you can only transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to travel partners if you have Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, or Chase Ink Plus℠.
3. Find your awards before you transfer your points and miles. There is no need to transfer your points to travel partners until you found the award you want. Transfers are irreversible, so I only transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to travel partners once I know exactly how I want to use them.

4. Don’t transfer points to airlines or hotels without first checking how many points are needed to book travel directly. It’s easy to get consumed with trying to find the best way to use frequent flyer miles. But with Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, sometimes you don’t have to. Before you transfer your points to miles, take a second to see how many points you need to book a flight through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel center. You might find a cheap flight that requires fewer points to book directly than it does to use miles. Or you might find a flight that works much better for your needs, but only costs a few more points.

The same is true with hotels. Don’t transfer your points to Hyatt or another program before you see how many points it will cost you when booking directly. This is especially true if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ that offers you 1.5 cents per point.

Bottom Line

Chase Ultimate Rewards® is fantastic, but you do need to put in a little work to get the most value from your points. By taking the time to understand this program a little better, you can stretch your points further.

Don't be surprised if you're able to turn rewards into thousands of dollars worth of free travel.

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