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The Ultimate Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

11 min read
Susan Shain By Susan Shain Updated Nov 07, 2019

When it comes to credit card rewards programs, you’ve got a handful of choices, including American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points.

While I’ve dabbled in other programs, I have to say my favorite is Chase Ultimate Rewards.

That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points (UR points) are flexible, as they transfer to 13 different airline and hotel partners, and easy to earn, as Chase cards often have great signup bonuses and high earning capability.

Want to get involved? Here’s everything you need to know about Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program.

Card & Rewards Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 2X points per dollar on travel
  • 2X points per dollar on dining
  • 1X point per dollar on everything else
  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
$95
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • 3X points per dollar on travel (after $300 credit is used)
  • 3X points per dollar on dining
  • 1X point per dollar on everything else
  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
$450
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • 3X points per dollar on travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable, and phone services; advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on first $150,000 of combined purchases annually)
  • 1X point per dollar on everything else
  • 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
$95
Chase Freedom®

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases in quarterly bonus categories (then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on everything else
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
$0
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • 1.5% cash back on everything
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
$0
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

  • 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services (on first $25,000 of combined purchases annually)
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on first $25,000 of combined purchases annually)
  • $500 cash bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
$0
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

  • 1.5% cash back on everything
  • $500 cash bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
$0

How Do You Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards?

Once you’re approved for a Chase card that’s affiliated with Ultimate Rewards, you’ll be automatically enrolled in the program — and can start earning points as soon as your card arrives.

Then, down the road, you can redeem those points for free flights and hotel stays (more on that later).

Here are the three main ways you can earn UR points with your Chase credit card:

1. Introductory Bonuses

All of the Chase UR cards come with an “introductory bonus.”

This is the easiest way to rack up rewards, as you’ll get a huge chunk of points if you spend a certain amount of money on the card within three months of your account opening.

With my introductory bonus from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for instance, I was able to book several one-way flights on points alone: San Francisco to Buenos Aires, Medellin to Malaga (Spain), and San Francisco to Tokyo. If I had booked those flights with cash, it would’ve easily cost me $2,000.

Never go over your budget or into debt to get a signup bonus. If a bonus requires you to spend $5,000 in the first three months, but you can only pay off $1,000 per month, the answer is simple: Don’t apply. As rewards cards often have high interest rates, you should only consider them if you can pay your statement balance in full each and every month.

2. Everyday Spending

Although bonuses can kickstart your UR journey, your point accumulation won’t stop there.

Aside from the bonus, most UR cards earn a baseline of one point for every dollar you spend (which we write as “1X”), and have several bonus categories in which you’ll earn more.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, earns 2X points per dollar spent on travel and dining.

Rocking the Chase Sapphire cards in Italy

Rocking the Chase Sapphire cards in Italy.

Let’s say you generally spend $1,500 per month on your credit card, of which $500 goes toward travel and dining. Here’s how that might break down in your first year with the Sapphire Preferred card:

  • $500 per month on travel and dining (2X points/dollar) = 12,000 UR points
  • $1,000 per month on everything else (1X point/dollar) = 12,000 UR points

When added to a 60,000-point introductory bonus, you’d have 84,000 points — just for applying for a credit card and putting your everyday expenses on it. Those 84,000 points would be worth more than $1,000 of travel (or potentially much more). We’ll get into redemption options below.

3. Online Shopping

You can also earn UR points with the “Shop through Chase” program, which gives you extra points for logging in to Chase’s shopping portal before clicking through to a retailer and making an online purchase.

Chase claims it has more than 350 stores in the program, at which you can earn an extra 1X–15X points per dollar.

Keep in mind, this is on top of your regular earning: If Chase is offering a 4X-point bonus at a certain store where you’d normally earn 1X point, you’d earn 5X points per dollar in total (1X base rate, plus 4X for shopping through the portal). So, 250 points for a $50 purchase.

When I checked recently, you could earn 2X extra points per dollar on purchases made at Macys.com, 4X at Cabelas.com, 5X at Staples.com, and 20X at Norton by Symantec.

Shop With Chase Ultimate Rewards

Shop through Chase with Ultimate Rewards. Image credit: Chase Ultimate Rewards

Which Cards Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards?

At the moment, you can apply for seven Chase credit cards that come with access to the UR program: three “premium” cards and four cash back cards.

To maximize the value of your UR points, we recommend having one premium and one cash back card (we’ll explain why in a minute).

Though we refer to the cash back cards’ rewards in terms of dollars and percentages, they actually earn UR points (1 point = 1 cent). If you’re earning 1.5% cash back, for example, a $100 purchase will snag you 150 UR points. Which you can then redeem for statement credits or travel (we recommend the latter, as you’ll get a higher redemption value).

Premium Ultimate Rewards Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Introductory bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards:
    • 2X points per dollar on travel
    • 2X points per dollar on dining
    • 1X point per dollar on everything else
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees, 25% point bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, primary car rental insurance
  • Purchase APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

For people who only travel a few times a year, you can’t beat this card. It has great rewards, travel insurance, and car rental insurance, all for an annual fee that’s less than $100.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Credit rangeExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR18.74% - 25.74% Variable

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $450 (offset by a $300 annual travel credit)
  • Introductory bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards:
    • 3X points per dollar on travel (after $300 credit is used)
    • 3X points per dollar on dining
    • 1X point per dollar on everything else
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees, 50% point bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit, primary car rental insurance
  • Purchase APR: 18.74% - 25.74% Variable

This card rules the Chase Ultimate Rewards kingdom, and deservedly so. Frequent travelers will quickly make up for its annual fee with the $300 travel credit and excellent perks.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Our rating
Credit rangeExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.74% - 22.74% Variable

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Introductory bonus: 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards:
    • 3X points per dollar on travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable, and phone services; advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on first $150,000 of combined purchases annually)
    • 1X point per dollar on everything else
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees, 25% point bonus when redeeming for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, primary car rental insurance
  • Purchase APR: 17.74% - 22.74% Variable

In addition to one of the cards above, you might also consider a Chase business card if you’re an entrepreneur. This one has an amazing introductory bonus.

You don’t need an official business to get a biz card — you just need to earn money outside of a regular job. Dog sitting counts. And so does driving Uber. Here’s more information about applying for a business card.

Cash Back Ultimate Rewards Cards

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.74 - 25.49% Variable

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Introductory bonus: $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards:
  • Purchase APR: 16.74 - 25.49% Variable

If you don’t travel a few times a year (or even if you do), this card is worth a look. You’ll earn 5% cash back in bonus categories that rotate each quarter; they often include heavy hitters like gas stations, department and grocery stores, and Amazon.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.74% - 25.49% Variable

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Introductory bonus: $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on everything
  • Purchase APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable

If keeping track of bonus categories sounds like too much work (I don’t blame you!), this card offers an easy breezy 1.5% cash back on every single purchase.

Lastly, if you’re in search of a cash back business card, the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (Review) and Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (Review) also earn Ultimate Rewards points.

How Can You Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards Points?

Now for the fun part! What do you do with all those points? There are a variety of ways to redeem your UR points — some fantastic, some not so fantastic.

In general, here’s the approximate value you can expect with each redemption option:

  • Transfer to travel partners: As much as 2–4 cents per point, depending on the partner and specific booking
  • Chase travel portal: 1-1.5 cents per point, depending on your card
  • Statement credits or gift cards: 1 cent per point
  • Shop with points at Amazon: 0.8 cents per point
The cash back Ultimate Rewards cards do not come with the ability to transfer points to travel partners — unless you also have a premium card. We’ll explain more in the next section.

As you can see, the values vary widely; here’s a rundown of redemption strategies, starting with our favorite.

1. Transfer Points to Travel Partners

For the highest redemption value, we recommend transferring UR points directly to one of the program’s 13 airline and hotel partners, which include:

Airline Travel Partners
Aer Lingus AerClub British Airways Executive Club Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM Iberia Plus JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards United MileagePlus Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Emirates Skywards
Hotel Travel Partners
IHG Rewards Club Marriott Bonvoy World of Hyatt

The points transfer ratio is 1:1, so your 50,000 UR points can become 50,000 Southwest Airlines miles or 50,000 Marriott points — whatever strikes your fancy.

The transfer process is super easy, too: All you have to do is log in to the Ultimate Rewards portal and select how many points you’d like to move (in increments of 1,000).

Chase Ultimate Rewards point transfer

Chase Ultimate Rewards point transfer. Image credit: Chase Ultimate Rewards

With several partners, the transfer is virtually instantaneous; with others, it takes 24 to 48 hours. (In the past, I’ve transferred UR points after I’ve already had a United Airlines flight in my cart!)

Once you transfer your UR points to a travel partner, you can’t undo it. So be super duper sure before you click that button.

If you don’t see your favorite airline on the list, keep in mind that you can use one airline’s miles to fly with another airline in the same alliance. The three main alliances are oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance — and luckily, UR has transfer partners in each.

Here’s how that works: Say you find a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo for 80,000 miles round trip on Delta Air Lines, which is in the SkyTeam Alliance.

Although Delta’s not an Ultimate Rewards partner, KLM/Air France’s Flying Blue program is. So you could transfer your 80,000 UR points to Flying Blue, then use those miles to book the flight on Delta. Nifty, huh?

2. Book Travel Through the Ultimate Rewards Portal

If you can’t find the rewards flight or hotel stay you want — either because you’re booking with a small chain, you can’t find availability, or you simply don’t want to bother searching — using the Chase travel rewards portal is another good option.

Chase’s travel portal is powered by Expedia, and works very similarly: Once you’re logged in to your UR account, you can search for flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, or cruises. To complete your booking, you can pay with your card, UR points, or a combination of the two.

Booking Ultimate Rewards flight

Booking an Ultimate Rewards flight through Chase’s travel portal. Image credit: Chase Ultimate Rewards

When booking travel through Chase’s portal, the value of your UR points will vary from 1–1.5 cents, depending on your credit card:

Card Redemption Rate Value of 10,000 UR Points
Chase Sapphire Reserve® 1.5 cents/point $150
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 1.25 cents/point $125
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card 1.25 cents/point $125
Chase Freedom® 1 cent/point* $100
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 1 cent/point* $100
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card 1 cent/point* $100
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card 1 cent/point* $100

*Unless transferred to a premium card — more on that in the next section.

Although redeeming through the travel portal generally won’t yield as high of a point-per-dollar value as transferring directly to travel partners, it does have a few perks.

You don’t have to know anything about frequent flyer programs, you don’t need to worry about awards availability, you can book with a combination of cash and points, and, on flights, you’ll earn miles with the airline’s loyalty program.

The Chase portal generally doesn’t offer the lowest prices on travel purchases, so we always recommend shopping around — especially when it comes to hotels and car rentals.

3. Get Cash Back or Gift Cards

If you’re not interested in redeeming your points for travel, I’ll be honest: You might be better off with a different card. (The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a great option.)

Redeeming your UR points for cash back (through statement credits or direct deposit), gift cards, or credits at Amazon or Apple isn’t a great value. We’d only recommend it as a last resort.

You can also redeem points for Chase Experiences; things like a concert, athletic event, or dinner with a celebrity chef. Though far from cheap, it might be worth it if it’s an experience to which you otherwise wouldn’t have access.

How to Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Another Account

Remember when we alluded to the differences between premium and cash back cards? And how it might behoove you to have both? Here’s what we meant.

As noted above, the cash back cards actually earn UR points (1 point = 1 cent). If you earn 1% cash back on a $100 purchase, for example, you’ll earn 100 UR points. You can redeem those points through the Chase portal but you can’t transfer them directly to travel partners.

Luckily, there’s an easy way around this.

You can transfer your cash back card’s UR points to the account of a premium card like the Sapphire or Reserve. The points will then have the privileges of the premium card. 

You could then transfer them to travel partners, or use them to book through Chase’s portal at an elevated redemption rate.

Tuna sashimi in Japan

When you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points directly to an airline or hotel, you’ll get the best value — and can save your cash for tuna bowls in Japan.

Confused? This example should clear things up:

  • Say you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
  • You’ve earned 20,000 UR points with the Freedom Unlimited and 60,000 UR points with the Reserve card.
  • You could redeem your Freedom card’s points through the Chase travel portal, earning a value of 1 cent per point.
  • But you want to make the most of them, so you transfer the 20,000 points to your Sapphire Reserve. Now you have 80,000 UR points to transfer directly to a travel partner.
  • Or, if you’d rather book through Chase’s travel portal, you’ll now be able to take advantage of the Reserve’s higher redemption rate (1.5 cents per dollar).

Besides transferring between your own accounts, you can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to “one member of your household” at the same address (or, in the case of business cards, to an “owner of the company”). 

If your family member is an authorized user on your card, you can also transfer UR points to one of their loyalty accounts at another rewards program. If your boyfriend is an authorized user on your Sapphire Preferred card, for example, you could transfer points directly from your UR account to his JetBlue frequent flyer account.

FAQ About Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • What’s the deal with Chase’s 5/24 rule? If you’re considering applying for a new credit card to earn UR points, you should be aware of Chase’s 5/24 rule. Basically, if you’ve opened five personal credit cards in the past 24 months — from any issuer — Chase will usually deny your application. If you’re within that window, you can either wait until you’re out of the 24-month period, or you can apply for a rewards card from another issuer.
  • How many Chase Ultimate Rewards cards can you have? As long as your applications don’t exceed the 5/24 limit, you could conceivably have six out of the seven UR cards we listed above (and get the introductory bonuses for each). The only exceptions are the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card; you can only have one at a time, and can’t get one if you’ve received a Sapphire card’s signup bonus within the past 48 months.
  • Can both my partner and I get Chase’s signup bonuses? Yes! But if you’re an authorized user on your partner’s Sapphire card — and are applying for another Sapphire card — you should remove yourself before applying. According to a phone representative, Chase will automatically deny your Sapphire card application if you “have access” to any other Sapphire card (this rule may apply to other cards as well).
  • Will I lose my UR points if I close my Chase card? Unfortunately, yes. Since Chase points are attached to Chase cards, you’ll say goodbye to your UR points if you close the associated card. (That’s in contrast to co-branded hotel and airline cards, whose points you’ll typically keep even if you close the card.) If you’re sick of paying an annual fee, you can keep your points by downgrading to the Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which both have a $0 annual fee. Just keep in mind you’ll lose your ability to transfer points to travel partners with those cards.
  • Do Chase points expire? Nope! As long as your Chase UR card stays active, so will your points.

How to Get Started With Chase’s Ultimate Rewards

For most people, we recommend applying for either the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Just be careful which one you choose.

As we noted above, if you have the Sapphire Preferred — or used to have it, and got the signup bonus within the last four years — you cannot qualify for the Reserve. (And vice versa.)

You could ask Chase to switch cards (a “product change”), but if you go that route, you will not be eligible for the introductory bonus.

If you’re an avid traveler, and can qualify for the card, we’d say the Chase Sapphire Reserve is an unmatched choice for its excellent perks. But if you just travel a few times a year, and are intimidated by the Reserve’s annual fee, the Preferred is a wonderful alternative.

To round out your earning, you could also apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Since it has no annual fee and offers 1.5% cash back on everything, it’s a great complement to one of the premium cards above.

A smart strategy would be to use the Freedom Unlimited for all of your purchases in non-bonus categories (everything other than travel and dining), and then transfer the points to either the Preferred or Reserve to take advantage of its superior redemption options.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Credit rangeExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR18.74% - 25.74% Variable
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our rating
Credit rangeGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.74% - 25.49% Variable
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AT A GLANCE

Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the best credit card rewards programs out there. Not only is it easy to earn points, but it’s also easy to redeem those points for hundreds of dollars of free travel. These seven cards will help you get started today.

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