Chase Ultimate Rewards Review: Tips, Transfer Partners & More
Chase currently operates its credit card rewards program under the brand name of Chase Ultimate Rewards, which replaced the “Flexible Rewards” moniker just a few years ago. The Ultimate Rewards program features some of the most popular cards on the market, such as the Sapphire Preferred Card and the Ink Plus Business Card. Enabling cardholders to earn points with every dollar they spend, the program’s versatile nature allows its members to redeem for rewards ranging from travel amenities to gift cards for the biggest stores around.
It is important to understand the specific ins and outs of an issuer’s rewards program as it helps you extract maximum value in terms of both earning and redemption. In this review, WalletHub will break down Chase’s program in order to help you do just that.
Best Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards
WalletHub used consumer and business spending data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the two-year monetary value of each of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards (see below). The following offers’ rewards yield the most over that timeframe.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
|This card gives out 50,000 bonus points when you spend your first $4,000 in the first three months, in addition to 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user, if applicable.|
Ink Plus Business Card
|This card offers 60,000 bonus points when you spend your first $5,000 in the first three months, in addition to earning 2X the points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent in purchases on gas and hotels each calendar year.|
Cards Eligible for the Ultimate Rewards Program:
Note that cards with partial inclusion in the Ultimate Rewards program reap all of its benefits aside from the ability to conduct point transfers.
|Full Ultimate Rewards Rights||Partial Ultimate Rewards Rights|
Chase Sapphire Preferred
* Cards with partial Ultimate Rewards rights reap all of the benefits of the program with the exception of the ability to conduct point transfers.
How To Maximize Your Ultimate Rewards Earnings
Irrespective of which Chase credit card you have or how you use it, the points system that the rewards program operates on guarantees you at least one point in return for every dollar you spend. However, in addition to this basic rate, there are other ways you can increase your rewards earnings.
Given that there is no maximum cap on how many points you can earn, taking advantage of these ways could very well be the difference between earning enough to redeem a trip for one versus a trip for the entire family:
Picking the Right Card & Using It Correctly: Some Chase cards offer bonus points as part of their initial sign up terms. Sometimes these additional points will even be given for adding an authorized user within a limited amount of time.
Furthermore, certain Chase cards yield higher returns in particular expense categories. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card provides 2X points for every dollar spent on dining at restaurants.
- Using the Ultimate Rewards Booking Tool: If possible, try to use the Ultimate Rewards booking tool for airfare, car rentals and hotel accommodations as every dollar you spend there provides 2X the earnings. However, note that this augmented earning rate is only available through December 31, 2015.
Using “Shop Through Chase”: Try to take advantage of Chase’s online shopping portal when purchasing merchandise, as each dollar spent through one of the participating merchants can yield up to 10X the earnings in return. This means that you could potentially receive 10 points per dollar spent, instead of the one point you originally would have received if you were to purchase the same merchandise elsewhere.
When you log into your Chase Ultimate Rewards account to use the shopping portal, you will be given a list of retailers you can shop at. When you click on them, the portal merely takes you to the merchant’s website. Thus, you’ll get the same prices you would have gotten by going directly to these online retailers – while also earning additional rewards points.
Other Earning Perks:
- No Minimum Spending Requirement: There is no minimum amount you need to spend on your card in order to earn points.
- No Expiration Date: Your Chase Ultimate Rewards points never expire as long as your account remains in good standing, so it’s important to ensure that you make your monthly minimum payments and never become delinquent.
- Ability to Combine: You can also combine your points from multiple Chase credit cards free of charge, as long as they are participants in the Ultimate Rewards program.
Earning Restrictions to Watch Out For:
- Confusion With Rewards Currency: Ultimate Rewards is a purely points-based rewards system. You cannot earn miles or cash back with any of the participating cards, even though some – the Freedom Card, for example – advertise the ability to do so. You can, however, redeem your points for travel or cash back.
- Rotating Bonus Categories: Certain Chase credit cards – such as Chase Freedom – have revolving categories for earning bonus points. For example, during one quarter you might be able to earn 5X the points on dining while next the quarter might yield 5X the points on gas. However, this can be tricky because you have to sign up for or “activate” these categories in order to earn bonus points, which many people forget to do.
- Rewards Vary By Amount Spent: Select Chase cards, such as the Ink Bold Business Card, have variable earning rates depending on how much money you spend. For example, the first $1,000 spent might give you one point per dollar, but the amount spent after that threshold might give you two points per dollar.
How to Redeem Ultimate Rewards For Maximum Value
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is versatile, as there are a variety of redemption options that are available. However, the ultimate question about these Ultimate points is: Which redemption option gives you the most value for each point? In other words, where is the best place to spend your Ultimate earnings? Let’s take a look at the main redemption options and find out.
How Much are Ultimate Rewards Points Worth?
The table below displays a more detailed breakdown of the various rewards redemption options that are available and their corresponding monetary value.
|Redemption Options||Dollar Cost||Points Needed||Points Valuation|
|Car Rental||$25.00||2,500||1 cent|
|“Shop With Points” at Amazon.com|
|$50 Item||$50.00||5,000||1 cent|
|$100 Item||$100.00||10,000||1 cent|
|$200 Item||$200.00||20,000||1 cent|
|$300 Item||$300.00||30,000||1 cent|
|Statement Credit||$20.00||2,000||1 cent|
|Cash Back||$20.00||2,000||1 cent|
|$50 Amazon Gift card||$50.00||5,000||1 cent|
|$50 Macy's Gift card||$50.00||5,000||1 cent|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards||$250.22||13,692||1.79 cents|
|Hotel Average (Marriott, Hyatt, Ritz)||$927.19||107,625||0.92 cents|
As you can see, the redemption options for Chase Ultimate Rewards all yield similar point values, averaging 1 cent per point. The only exception lies in the miscellaneous category, which displays the valuations of a point if it were to be transferred into an external loyalty program.
As you can tell, values vary between programs – for example, an Ultimate Rewards point translates to 1.79 cents if transferred to the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program, whereas it only translates to 0.92 cents if transferred to one of the hotel programs. Therefore, it is important to check with your favorite loyalty program.
Other Redemption Perks:
Fair Travel Prices & No Date Restrictions: When making reservations with Chase’s travel booking tool, there are no blackout dates or restrictions. Moreover, the hotels, flights, car rentals and other travel-related amenities featured in the booking tool are frequently priced at the same amount as other travel booking websites, though there may be slight variations.
Additionally, select cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred get a 20% discount on the prices listed in the booking tool, which means that you’d be getting more value for your rewards earnings.
Redemption Restrictions to Watch Out For:
- Minimum Threshold: You need at least 2,000 points to redeem for cash back.
- Limitations on Items: When you redeem through “Shop With Points” at Amazon.com, there are restrictions on what items you can purchase with your points. For example, Amazon MP3’s, Kindle downloads, games and software downloads are off-limits.
Chase Ultimate Rewards maintains an extensive network of transfer partners, further adding to the versatile nature of the program. Certain cardholders are able to shift their Ultimate Rewards earnings into the loyalty programs of these select companies in order to book travel and accommodations directly through them.
Transfers to these frequent travel programs must be done at a 1:1 ratio – one Chase rewards point for one United Airlines mile, for example – and in 1,000 point increments. Though transfers generally take one business day to process, they can sometimes take up to five business days, so always plan ahead. Furthermore, keep in mind that although there are no transfer fees, all transfers are irreversible, so make sure you confirm all your travel plans before doing so.
|Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners||Transfer Ratio|
Pros & Cons of Ultimate Rewards
Now that we’ve scrutinized the details of Chase’s rewards program, it’s time to put all in perspective. The following is what WalletHub’s editors determined to be the major strengths and weaknesses of the program, as well as the “fluff” features you can effectively ignore:
- Transfer Partners– Chase increases the versatility of its program by enabling you to transfer your points into 11 frequent travel programs.
- No Earning Cap or Expiration Date– Your points don’t have an expiration date or a maximum earning ceiling.
- Fair Cash Back Redemption Rates– Ultimate Rewards gives you one cent per point for these options, which is better than the points conversion rates of many other credit card issuers.
- “Shop Through Chase”– Using this option can yield up to 10X the points for each dollar spent, plus the prices via the shopping portal are equal to the prices directly from the merchant.
- 20% Travel Discount for Select Chase Credit Cards– Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire, Ink Plus, Ink Bold & Ink Classic give you a 20% discount when booking through the Ultimate Rewards travel tool. This means that each point is valued at 1.25 cents instead of one cent, specifically when used for travel.
- Limitations on Travel– In order to redeem for travel, you must either use Chase’s booking tool or transfer your points into a frequent travel program (if you are eligible). This is restrictive relative to other credit cards, such as the Capital One Venture Card, which permit you to pay with your points regardless of how you purchase travel accommodations (your points cancel out the purchase when it posts to your monthly credit card statement).
- Restrictions on Transferring Points– Points can only be transferred to your own or your spouse’s accounts, or to select external loyalty programs (and even then, only certain cards are eligible for the transfer partners feature). Transferring to friends or any unlisted loyalty programs are off-limits.
- Cash Back is Earned in the Form of Points– You never truly earn cash, you can only redeem for it. This puts you at risk for potential rewards devaluation.
No Extra Value for Gift Cards & Shop with Points– Merchandise from Amazon.com with “Shop With Points” and featured gift cards are not the best redemption options. The reason being, points used in these options yield the same monetary value as when used in cash back rewards (they all yield one cent per point).
In that case, given that cash is much more flexible, why not just redeem cash instead? One can always use that cash to shop on Amazon.com or purchase gift cards later on, if desired.
Where Does Ultimate Rewards Rank?
WalletHub assessed the main credit card rewards programs of the biggest issuers based on a standardized grading methodology to help consumers and businesses compare the best offers. Chase Ultimate Rewards ranked 2nd for both consumer and business credit card rewards programs, as you can see in our graphs below.
For Consumer Cards:
Consumer Credit Card Rewards Program Rankings
For Business Cards:
Business Credit Card Rewards Program Rankings
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