Chase Ultimate Rewards Guide

Photo to accompany Chase Ultimate Rewards guide. Getty Images / SOPA Images

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If you’re a credit card rewards-seeker, chances are you’ve heard of one of the most lucrative rewards systems available: Chase Ultimate Rewards. These points are a valuable rewards currency, and can knock down the sticker price on purchases, travel, gift cards, and even your credit card bill. 

While the issuer claims straightforward savings and huge rewards, the Chase Ultimate Rewards world isn’t quite that simple. If you’re a Chase user, or considering getting a Chase card, here’s how you can reap maximum benefits using Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

What Is the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program?

Chase Ultimate Rewards are credit card points you can earn by using select Chase credit cards. These points can be redeemed in a number of ways, including purchases, gift cards, travel, or statement credits.  

How many points you earn and how you earn them depends on the Chase card you have, but there are a few universal guidelines. First, you’ll get the best value for your points by using them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transferring points to travel partners. 

The only other way to match the value you get when booking for travel is through Pay Yourself Back, a new program from Chase introduced in early 2020. If you have a Chase Sapphire card, Pay Yourself Back lets you use Ultimate Rewards points toward eligible purchases on your statement, at the same boosted redemption value you would get when booking travel, although there are limits.

But the first step to redeeming your points for any of these things is to earn them.

BEFORE YOU START

Bonus points and rewards redemptions can add great value to new purchases, but valuable rewards do little to offset the high interest rates you’ll earn on any balances you carry. Before strategizing ways to maximize your spending and rewards, make sure you eliminate any existing credit card debt, establish healthy credit habits, and practice responsible credit usage by paying your balances in full and on time each month.

How to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points 

Simply put, you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points by using your Chase cards to make purchases. Here’s a list of the credit cards that have access to Chase Ultimate Rewards:

Each card offers various rewards categories and points bonuses, but you accumulate points by spending money in rewards-earning categories, which can be anything from groceries to plane tickets. 

You can see your points balance at Chase.com, or on your monthly credit card statement. Points earned in a billing cycle are generally available to use at the start of the following billing cycle. And they never expire, as long as your Chase account remains open.

Best Cards for Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards

These are some of Chase’s most popular cards for different types of spenders. While they aren’t the only cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, these are the big ones with the best rewards structures and other features. The difference in annual fees and rewards structure give these cards particular appeal to certain types of spenders, so make sure the rewards align with the way you’d use one of these cards before applying.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 3x points on travel (after $300 annual travel credit)
  • 3x points on dining worldwide
  • $300 annual travel credit 
  • Earn 50% more for redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (1 point = 1.5 cents)
  • $550 annual fee

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 2x points on dining
  • 2x points on travel
  • 2x points at grocery stores through 4/30/21 (on up to $1,000 in purchases per month)
  • Earn 25% more for redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (1 point = 1.25 cents)
  • $95 annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex

  • 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases, with activation)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • Every $1 in cash rewards will earn you 100 points (1 point = 1 cent)
  • No annual fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited 

  • 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery) and drugstore purchases
  • Flat 1.5% cash back on every other purchase
  • Every $1 in cash rewards will earn you 100 points (1 point = 1 cent)
  • No annual fee

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

  • 3x points on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on up to a combined $150,000 in purchases per year, then 1x points)
  • Every $1 in cash rewards will earn you 100 points (1 point = 1 cent)
  • $95 annual fee

How to Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards

Once you’ve collected Chase Ultimate Rewards points, there’s a number of different ways you can use them. Start by logging into the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which you can get to from your account page and where you’ll make your selections for using points. 

1. Book Travel

You’ll get the best value for your points if you use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or transfer them to one of Chase’s travel partners. There are no restrictions or blackout dates when you book travel through Ultimate Rewards. But transfers to travel partners might be a better option if you already collect loyalty rewards with an airline or hotel, and they may even offer more value depending on how the program values its own points or miles. If you choose this method, your Ultimate Rewards points won’t lose any value in the transfer.

Travel redemptions are especially advantageous for Chase Sapphire members — those who have a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You’ll be able to redeem your points for more if you use them to book travel. Chase Sapphire Preferred points used to book travel are boosted by 25%, so 1 point is worth 1.25 cents. Chase Sapphire Reserve points are worth 50% more when used to book travel, so 1 point equals 1.5 cents. Put another way, 1,000 points is worth $15 for Reserve users or $12.50 for Preferred users.

This can equate to some big gains. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card currently has a welcome offer of 80,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Those points equal $1,000 when used to book travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

2. Pay Yourself Back

Pay Yourself Back, a new feature Chase unveiled in late May 2020 in response to the pandemic, allows you to use your Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits toward purchases made at eligible merchants in the past 90 days. Sapphire cardholders can redeem with Pay Yourself Back through April 30, 2021, and businesses cardholders through Dec. 31, 2020. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve users can redeem their Ultimate Rewards points at the same boosted rate they receive for travel redemptions (25% or 50%). Current eligible Pay Yourself Back categories for Sapphire cardholders are grocery stores, home improvement stores, and dining establishments, including take-out and delivery services.

Chase Ink Business Preferred or Chase Ink Plus cardholders can redeem Ultimate Rewards through Pay Yourself Back on purchases in the following business purchasing categories for a boosted 1.25 cents per point: shipping costs, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, and for select charitable organizations. 

For Chase Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex cardholders, Pay Yourself Back isn’t quite as lucrative an option, but you can redeem points — also at a boosted 1.25 cent per point rate — toward donations made to eligible charitable organizations until Dec. 31, 2020.

3. Cash Back

Outside of Pay Yourself Back, you can always redeem your points for cash, although you may not get the boosted redemption value some Ultimate Rewards cards earn. You can redeem for a statement credit, or a direct deposit into most checking or savings accounts. 

4. Shop Through Chase

Shop directly at hundreds of retailers directly with the Shop Through Chase portal using your points, which can earn you up to 15 bonus points per dollar spent, depending on eligible bonuses. 

5. Amazon

Apply your points directly to all or part of your Amazon purchases, but you’ll lose some rewards value. Each point using this method is worth 0.8 cents. In other words, a $20 purchase would cost 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points. 

6. Gift cards

Buy gift cards with your points from over 150 brands. Generally, you’ll get 1 cent per point this way, but look for special bonus offers available to cardholders throughout the year from Chase Ultimate Deals.

7. Experiences 

Your points can get you exclusive access to curated events through Chase Experiences. These might be things like special events, access to exclusive shows, or VIP seating options. 

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

Chase partners with a few airline and hotel programs that can help you get even more bang for your travel buck. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to these partners without losing any of their value in the process. 

Cashing in on flights or hotel stays using these partners’ points-and-miles-currencies can often help you score even more value. Often, you can get more than a typical one cent per point-or-mile redemption value through the partner program’s currency in addition to your already-boosted points transfer, depending on the details of your flight or hotel stay.  

Because both options are dependent upon your individual travel plans, it can pay to compare the cost of booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards versus transferring to your preferred airline or hotel’s rewards program before booking your trip.

Airline Travel Partners:

  • Aer Lingus, AerClub
  • Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotel Travel Partners: 

  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

Ultimate Rewards Strategies 

Maximize your value with these strategies and reap even more rewards from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Card Coupling

Card coupling can maximize your rewards-earning potential. It involves opening two or more credit cards and using them in tandem to rack up points. 

For Chase, one of the most lucrative card-coupling combos is pairing a Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited card with a Sapphire Preferred or Reserve account. The Chase Sapphire cards offer luxe travel perks and bonus points on travel and dining, while the Freedom cards offer a combination of cash back rewards on everyday purchases. 

While the Sapphire cards come with some steep annual fees — $95 for the Preferred and $550 for the Reserve — they also offer benefits that can easily offset that fee if you use them to their full extent. Neither Freedom card charges an annual fee, making one of them an easy add to your wallet for max rewards potential. 

The main difference between the Freedom Unlimited and the Freedom Flex is your qualifying cash back categories. The Freedom Unlimited gets a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase, plus a few bonus categories earning more. The Freedom Flex may give you the ability to earn more, depending on how you spend, but will require some upkeep with rotating cash back categories. 

The beautiful thing about having multiple cards earning Chase Ultimate Rewards is you can merge your points. You could even merge points from different cards in the same household, if your spouse has a Sapphire card and you have a Freedom card, for example. 

And here’s where it gets interesting — you’ll boost the value of your Freedom points by transferring them to your Sapphire card. With the Freedom cards, 1 point equals 1 cent when used to book travel, while the Sapphire Reserve earns 1.5 cents per point when used to book travel, a 50% boost. 

When you transfer your Freedom points to your Sapphire account, they take on the value of the Sapphire (1 point = 1.5 cents the Reserve, or 1 point = 1.25 with the Preferred) when you use them to book travel. 

Chase Trifecta

The Chase trifecta is a combination of three Chase cards that maximizes your  rewards-earning potential further. 

The three cards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and the Chase Ink Business Preferred. The first two work in tandem as mentioned above in regards to card coupling, but the Chase Ink Business Preferred adds even more fuel to your points potential. 

The Ink Business Preferred card has a $95 annual fee and a lucrative sign-up bonus of 100,000 points if you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months. If you have business expenses, this card can be a huge boon for your wallet. 

And before you rule it out as a business card, you don’t have to be a traditional business owner to qualify either. Do you walk dogs? Freelance? Babysit? You can get a Chase Ink Business Preferred card. Rewards categories include 3x points on shipping, travel, internet, cable, and phone services, and advertising purchases made through social media sites or search engines (on up to $150,000 in purchases per year, then 1x points). 

But having three separate Chase cards only makes sense if you can use them strategically and smartly to get the most out of them:

Card What to use it for
Chase Sapphire ReserveTravel, dining out
Chase Ink Business PreferredBusiness expenses
Chase Freedom UnlimitedAll other spending
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Intro bonus:
    $200
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    14.99% – 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Intro bonus:
    60,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $550
  • Regular APR:
    16.99%-23.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    740-850 (Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

  • Intro bonus:
    100,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    15.99% to 20.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.

5/24 Rule

Before incorporating multiple credit cards into your rewards strategy, it’s important to consider your timing. Applying for too many new credit cards at once can have a (temporary) negative effect on your credit score. Using more than one new card account at any given time could also make it difficult to meet spending thresholds for sign-up bonuses. Always make sure you can use your new credit responsibly and pay down balances each month before taking on a new card. 

For new Chase cards specifically, you should also be aware of a rumored, but unconfirmed card limit called the “5/24 rule”, which claims Chase won’t accept your credit card application if you’ve applied for 5 or more cards (from any issuer) in the past 24 months. We reached out to Chase about it, and while spokesperson Ashley Dodd didn’t comment specifically on the 5/24 rule in an email response, she did say the number of credit cards and applications a given customer opens is a factor in whether they’ll be approved for new cards. 

“Chase carefully reviews each application, and considers a variety of factors, including the number of cards opened,” Dodd said in her email. “Customers who open multiple card applications in a short period of time, regardless of issuer, will likely encounter difficulties.”

Bottom Line

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a valuable credit card rewards program that can result in serious savings and perks for your wallet. You’ll get Ultimate Rewards by using one of Chase’s qualifying credit cards, and earn the most value for your points by redeeming them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

*All information about the Chase Ink Plus card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you access your Chase Ultimate Rewards points?

You can see your points and your options for using them when you log into your online Chase account. Generally, points you earn during a billing cycle will be available to use at the start of the next billing cycle.

What is the best Chase card for earning Ultimate Rewards points?

This depends on what you want to use your credit card for, but the card that has the most earning-potential through Chase Ultimate Rewards is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It also comes with a steep annual fee and other features, though, so make sure you do your research before signing up. A good starter card might be the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which is a simple but powerful cash back card.

What’s the best way to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points?

There are a number of ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but you’ll get the best value for your points when you use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or transfer them to one of Chase’s transfer partners.

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