The Ultimate Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Ultimate Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards
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Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most useful tools that I use to travel around the world for less. With 13 amazing transfer partners, as well as many easy ways to earn points, Chase's Ultimate Rewards program is one of the strongest in the industry. But what are the best ways to use your points once you have them?

How to Earn Ultimate Rewards Points

You can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards through spending on a number of Chase-branded credit cards. Let's detail each.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Our Pick for Top Card

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Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Details: We've reviewed the card in detail in the past, and for good reason. With its $95 annual fee, you'll be able to earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points on every travel and dining purchase, and 1x on everything else. This year, the card began offering 5x on Lyft purchases as well. There are no foreign transaction fees when using the card, making this great for international travel. The card also has ancillary benefits like primary car rental insurance, delayed bag coverage, and trip delay and cancellation insurance.

Read our full review on the card here.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card: Best for Power Travelers

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Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Details: I loved my Reserve card when I had it, using it aggressively to book my honeymoon on points. Featuring a steep $550 annual fee, you get a ton of benefits for the price. You'll get 10x on Lyft purchases, 3x on travel and dining spend, and 1x on everything else. Other benefits include a $300 annual travel credit, Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check credit, up to $120 in DoorDash credits, and Priority Pass membership. The card also has ancillary benefits like primary car rental insurance, delayed bag coverage, and trip delay and cancellation insurance.

Read our full review on the card here.

Chase Ink Preferred Credit Card: Best for Business Owners

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Sign-Up Bonus: 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Details: The best sign up bonus on this list, and the best business credit card by our research, the Ink Preferred Card is great for many types of small businesses. You'll earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 in spending per year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable/phone, and social media/search engine advertising. The card also has ancillary benefits like primary car rental insurance, purchase protection, cell phone protection, and trip delay and cancellation insurance.

Read our full review on the card here.

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Great for Cash-Conscious Business OwnersChase-Ink-Business-Cash-Card

Sign-Up Bonus: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $500 cash back becomes 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you have an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, like the three above.

Details: The best benefit of the card is no annual fee. You'll earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and internet/cable/phone services each cardmember year. You'll also earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 in gas purchase each year. These can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points if you have an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, like the three above.

Read our full review on the card here.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card: Great for Easy Rewards

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Sign-Up Bonus: $150 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $150 cash back becomes 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you have an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, like the first three cards in this post.

Details: One of the best no-fee cards on the market, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases. That's like 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points, if you also hold an Ultimate Rewards credit card.

Read our full review on the card here.

Chase Freedom Card: Great for Cash Back Categories

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Sign-Up Bonus: $150 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $150 cash back becomes 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you have an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, like the first three cards in this post.

Details: This card earns 5% cash back (and 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar if you have another Ultimate Rewards earning credit card) on a quarterly rotating list of categories.

Read our full review on the card here.

What's the value of an Ultimate Rewards point?

I receive this question often, but the answer is difficult to pin down. Basically, points are worth what you can redeem them for. I've gotten incredible value out of my Ultimate Rewards points in the past, but many of my redemptions are for experiences that I wouldn't otherwise pay for, like a $10,000 one-way business class flight. It's not like could ever afford to pay $10,000 out of pocket to take one of these trips, so in a way, Ultimate Rewards points are invaluable to me.

However, I do have to have a baseline value to assess whether I should use points or pay out of pocket. Right now, I value Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents per point. You can read my other valuations in our dedicated post on the subject.

I think that's fair, given the transfer partners described below, and what kind of value I've gotten out of them in the past. This value is higher than what Chase will give you if you redeem for travel within their online booking engine on UltimateRewards.com. Currently, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives members 1.5 cents per point in redemption value, which is higher than the Preferred card, but still not at my valuation of the points. For that reason, I nearly always recommend redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points by transferring to one of their partners, a process which I will describe below.

How to redeem Ultimate Rewards points

Transfer partners

There are 13 transfer partners that you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points with, at a 1:1 ratio. I'll go through each one by one after this section, and let you know some of the better uses for them.

Chase's Booking Engine

By booking on UltimateRewards.com, you can book travel for a fixed rate, depending on the credit card you hold. This can be very beneficial for cheap flights, since you'd be using less points than transferring to one of the transfer partners below, or if you're not seeing award availability on a flight that you absolutely need to book.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred cards, your points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents per point. If you have the Reserve card, your points redemption soars to 1.5 cents per point. Note: you'll need to transfer points into your Reserve account if you happen to hold other Ultimate Rewards cards, to take advantage of the better redemption.

Hotels are also bookable using this method, but understand that you won't be able to earn elite nights or enjoy elite benefits, since you're not booking directly with the brand. Flights are great, since you'll still earn miles and flight benefits.

Cash Back and Gift Cards

Unless you're in a situation where you need cash, I wouldn't recommend redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for 1 cent per point. Same goes for gift cards.

Transfer Partner Deep Dive

As I mentioned, there are 13 transfer partners with Ultimate Rewards. Here's a short guide for each.

British Airways Executive Club – Great for short-haul oneworld flights.

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British Airways Avios points are powerful, because British Airways is a part of the oneworld alliance. Other notable members of this alliance include American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Qatar Airways, so while Ultimate Rewards points don't directly transfer into American Airlines' mileage program, you can transfer them to British Airways, and redeem those points for American Airlines flights.

British Airways' program is distance-based, meaning you'll pay a set amount for each flight depending on its distance. If your flight is 1,151 miles or less (examples include Chicago to New York or Los Angeles to San Francisco), it's only 7,500 Avios each way for a coach ticket. That means a sign up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points for the Ink Business Preferred card is good for 13 one-ways or five round trips at this distance! There are other great possibilities out there for this transfer partner, but I would try not to use them on British Airways flights from the U.S., as the award chart makes them a bit expensive compared to other programs and British Airways charges high fuel surcharges.

Air France- Great Deals Hard To Find

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Air France sadly repriced their award chart in 2018, making their program less valuable as a partner. However, deals still surface, including their excellent Promo Awards, which can bring economy and business award ticket prices down considerably. There's also "phantom" award availability, meaning award availability that appears that may not exist. Call FlyingBlue first before transferring your points.

Singapore Airlines – Great for intra-Asia Business Class.

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I once redeemed around 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a one-way business class flight from Los Angeles to Seoul to Singapore to Malé, Maldives, but Singapore Airlines recently changed their award chart a bit, making long-haul flights more expensive (though reducing fuel surcharges in the process). While I'd argue that Singapore is one of the best ways to fly across the Pacific in style, it'll cost you a good amount of your Ultimate Rewards balance. One sweet spot is Intra-Asia Business Class, which is only 20,000 miles each! You could fly from the Philippines to Thailand through Singapore and only pay that price, for a lie-flat bed!

Southwest Airlines – Great for domestic flights.

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Southwest Airlines operates a revenue-based program, which means that you pay a set rate of points, depending on the price of your flight. Currently, that's around 1.5 cents per point, which isn't terrible under normal flight prices. The best part about Southwest Rapid Rewards, is that during a fare sale (which they have pretty frequently) you'll pay fewer points for the same flight! So you can often get one-way flights for under 2,000 Rapid Rewards/Ultimate Rewards points. You can even fly them to Hawaii now!

Also keep in mind that Southwest has one of the best policies for flight refunds: if your ticket goes on sale after you buy it, you can rebook under the new rate, and receive a refund of your points. You can even cancel the flight until 10 minutes before departure, fee-free. If you can combine transferring points from Ultimate Rewards with a Companion Pass, you're essentially doubling your redemption.

United Airlines – Good for loyal flyers.

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United Airlines isn't my favorite partner for transferring Ultimate Rewards points into, simply because they recently ditched their award chart for "dynamic" pricing for awards. However, I do realize that many of our readers are loyal United flyers, either because that's what they fly for work, or just because that's what they prefer. So this is a good option if you're a few miles short of your next award flight.

United does have some good luxury partners, like Lufthansa, which you can fly first class to Europe from 110,000 miles one-way, but you'll need to book within 15 days of departure, which isn't going to work for anyone who doesn't have a flexible schedule.

Finally, domestic flights can be found as cheaply as 5,000 miles one-way, which is an excellent use of points.

Virgin Atlantic – Fly to Tokyo in First Class.

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Virgin Atlantic's mileage program also suffers from high fuel surcharges, if you're flying on Virgin Atlantic's own metal (metal is plane-geek speak for an airline's own operated flight). But they have some interesting partner redemption options, like ANA, an amazing Japanese airline. You can fly them for 110,000 miles round trip between the West Coast and Tokyo in first class. Just as a comparison, that's the same price that United charges for the same flights, but one-way.

Iberia Airlines

A new-ish transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards is Iberia- a program that uses Avios just like British Airways. Why would you transfer to Iberia instead of British Airways? They measure flight pricing based on total distance, not per segment (as British Airways does), so if you find an award itinerary with multiple stops, you may be better off with Iberia.

For example, flights from Miami to Madrid price as low as 35,000 Avios in economy, and 62,500 Avios in business, with minimal fees compared to British Airways. It's worth looking at!

World of Hyatt

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This is the program that I've transferred the most into over the years, mostly because I love Hyatt's prices for award nights at 5-star hotels, and I'm a Globalist top-tier elite member. I'm used Hyatt points to stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives, which I used 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points for four award nights (the price has now gone up to 120,000 points), a trip that would have run me $4,000 out of pocket! Top-tier hotels are only 30,000 points a night, even rooms that go for more than $1,000 a night. I used some points over New Year's to propose in the Mexican Riviera, which would've cost me a lot of money if I had paid out of pocket.

IHG

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IHG, which has the Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza brands, is a program I'm not a big fan of. If you're an elite member (which pretty easy to do, since the Chase IHG card gives you Platinum status for free), you won't be given any of your benefits on an award stay. That being said, there's value in not paying out of pocket for a night on the road at a Holiday Inn, and they do have some nice properties in their Intercontinental brand to stay at, but those will cost up to 70,000 points a night – double what a top-tier Hyatt property would cost you. I value these points at about $0.005 cents per point, or half a cent. If you think about my valuation of Ultimate Rewards points (2 cents per point), it doesn't usually make sense to transfer.

Marriott Bonvoy

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Marriott is not the greatest transfer partner for Chase. Marriott has some good properties around the world, and I know it's a popular choice for business travelers, though top-tier properties will run you up to 105,000 points in 2019 during peak times.

Aer Lingus AerClub

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Aer Lingus AerClub is also a partner that uses Avios. However, there's almost no reason to transfer to them. I'd avoid.

JetBlue TrueBlue

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With JetBlue flights costing 1.3-1.4 cents per point, it's not a great redemption to start. If you have the Reserve card, you're better off redeeming in Chase's travel portal, since you can redeem for 1.5 cents per point.

Emirates Airlines

emirates airline review

While I had a great time in Emirates First Class, Chase's final transfer partner won't help much to get there, as the price to redeem is just too high. Some of Emirates' 5th freedom flights to Athens and Milan may make sense to book from the U.S., but flights to Dubai are just too highly priced for my blood.

Why do I love Ultimate Rewards points so much?

Overall, Ultimate Rewards are some of my favorite points on earth. They transfer at a 1:1 ratio, usually instantly, making booking awards with their partners very easy and stress-free.

Do you have a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

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