Your Essential Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

Here’s why every credit card user should seriously consider a card that is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
Last updated Jun 3, 2020 | By Ben Luthi
Your Essential Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Chase Ultimate Rewards, the credit card issuer’s flagship rewards program, is among the most versatile credit card rewards programs available, especially for avid travelers.

Eight different credit cards can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but what you can do with those points and how much they’re worth varies from card to card. If you want to take advantage of the value and flexibility the Chase Ultimate Rewards program provides, here’s everything you need to know.

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What is Chase Ultimate Rewards?

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a credit card rewards program. Different credit card rewards programs allow you to earn points, miles, or cash back. With certain cards issued by Chase, you can earn Ultimate Rewards points.

The rewards program is one of the most versatile options for credit card users because of its variety of redemption options and their value. For example, you can get cash back at the standard rate of 1 cent per point or you can use Ultimate Rewards to fly first class, potentially getting a much higher redemption value for each reward.

The Chase credit cards vary in how you can earn and redeem your Ultimate Rewards, though. So it’s important to understand each one to find the right fit for your spending habits and goals.

How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points

The primary way to earn Ultimate Rewards points is to make purchases using one of the eight Chase credit cards that offers these rewards — we’ll cover each of those in a minute.

You can also earn rewards points by shopping online on the Shop Through Chase shopping portal. You can earn up to 15 bonus points per dollar in addition to the rewards your credit card offers when you shop with one of the more than 350 participating retailers.

Each Ultimate Rewards-earning card has a different rewards structure. Although three offer a flat rewards rate on every purchase you make, the other five provide a tiered rewards structure based on the category of your purchases. This means you’ll earn more points on some purchases than others.

With the program’s travel credit cards, for instance, you’ll earn double or even triple the points on spending that Chase categorizes as travel purchases, such as airfare, hotels, cruise lines, car rentals, travel agencies, and more. Other cards in the program offer bonus rewards on personal spending, and the Chase business credit cards offer extra points for some business expenses purchased at office supply stores.

Depending on where you spend most of your money, one card may be a better fit for you than the others. In some cases, it may even be a good idea to get multiple Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards to maximize your rewards-earning power.

Note: Chase also announced limited-time COVID-19 benefits that can help you earn even more points on your grocery purchases.

What credit cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards?

Card name Welcome bonus Reward rate Special benefits
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Get 25% more value when you use points to book travel through Chase
  • Transfer your points to select airline and hotel rewards programs
  • Get a complimentary DoorDash DashPass subscription for one year
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else
  • Get a $300 annual travel credit, complimentary airport lounge access, and many more travel perks
  • Get 50% more value when you use points to book travel through Chase, or transfer them to select airline and hotel rewards programs
  • Get a complimentary DashPass subscription for one year and statement credits with DoorDash, plus complimentary Lyft Pink membership
Chase Freedom $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Get a 0% APR on purchases for 15 months
  • Get a 3-month complimentary DashPass subscription with DoorDash
Chase Freedom Unlimited Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Get a 0% APR on purchases for 15 months
  • Get a 3-month complimentary DashPass subscription with DoorDash
Chase Freedom Student Earn 5,000 points (worth $50 cash back) if you make at least one eligible purchase in the first 3 months after opening your account 1% cash back for each $1 spent
  • Earn $20 each year for up to five years if you keep your account in good standing
  • Receive a credit limit increase after you make five on-time payments in your first 10 months
  • Get a 3-month complimentary DashPass subscription with DoorDash
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else
  • Get 25% more value when you use points to book travel through Chase
  • Transfer your points to select airline and hotel rewards programs
  • Get up to $600 per claim in cell phone protection
Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card Earn $500 bonus cash back after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, or phone services (up to $25,000 combined annually); 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $25,000 combined annually); and 1% cash back on everything else
  • Get a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months
  • Get employee cards at no cost
Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card Earn $500 bonus cash back after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 1.5% cash back on all spending
  • Get a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months
  • Get employee cards at no cost

The Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card are the most valuable Chase credit cards for most people because they offer incredible travel perks and opportunities.

More specifically, these three rewards cards give you extra value when you use your Chase points to book trips through the Chase travel portal — either 25% or 50%, depending on which card you have. Also, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the bank’s premium travel card, comes with a long list of benefits that can more than make up for its steep annual fee.

If you really want to maximize your rewards with Chase Ultimate Rewards, the best strategy is to use multiple cards within the program. For example, what is called the Chase Trifecta consists of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Freedom, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The Freedom cards are billed as cashback credit cards, but you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points.

  • With the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and at restaurants and 1X points on all other purchases, plus get the 50% bonus value on Chase portal travel bookings, lucrative travel perks, and points transfer options.
  • The Freedom offers 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 quarterly), which are typically made up of everyday spending at gas stations, grocery stores, streaming services and more. Every cent of cash back you earn with this card is equal to one Ultimate Reward point.
  • The Freedom Unlimited will give you unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which makes it the best option for purchases that don’t belong in the Sapphire Reserve’s or Freedom’s bonus categories.

The reason the Chase Trifecta is so valuable is that the rewards program allows you to transfer rewards points between Chase cards. The smart move is to transfer all your points to a card like the Sapphire Reserve, which gives you 50% more value for your points when you use them to book travel through Chase. So if you transfer Chase Freedom points to the Sapphire Reserve, your effective rewards rate on spending in bonus categories becomes 7.5% instead of 5%. And if you do the same with Freedom Unlimited points, the effective rewards rate is bumped to 2.25% instead of 1.5%.

Transferring points from cashback cards such as the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited to the Sapphire Reserve will also then allow you to transfer those points again to one of Chase’s many airline and hotel partners. That option isn’t available to you if you only have a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited credit card.

You can make up your own trifecta using the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred Card instead of the Sapphire Reserve. Just keep in mind that you actually need to have a business to qualify for a small business credit card.

How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ultimate Reward program offers several redemption options, including:

  • Cash back
  • Statement credits
  • Gift cards
  • Apple products
  • Amazon
  • Travel
  • Transfers to Chase travel partners
  • Chase Experiences

If you have one of the Ultimate Rewards program’s travel credit cards, travel is the best option to get the best value most of the time. That’s true whether you use your points to book travel directly with Chase or transfer your rewards to one of the card issuer’s airline or hotel partners.

Note: Chase also announced special limited time redemption options and benefits for the Sapphire cards related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These new benefits can make your points even more valuable outside of booking travel.

How much are Chase Ultimate Rewards worth?

The value of your rewards can vary depending on how you use them. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll get with each redemption option:

  • Cash back: 1 cent per point
  • Statement credits: 1 cent per point
  • Gift cards: 1 cent per point
  • Apple products: 1.2 cents per point
  • Amazon.com: 0.8 cents per point
  • Travel: 1 to 1.5 cents per point, depending on your card
  • Transfers to travel partners: Varies
  • Chase Experiences: Varies

What makes the Ultimate Rewards program so valuable is that most redemption options give you at least 1 cent per point. Compare that with the Amex Membership Rewards program, which offers less than 1 cent per point with most of its redemption options.

The reason redemption value varies with travel partner transfers is because each airline and hotel rewards program has its own value for points or miles. The good news is that many of them can offer more maximum value than you can get by booking your trip directly through Chase. This is an area in which taking some time to do search award availability can result in huge savings.

As for the Chase Experiences redemption option, values can vary because the experiences you have access to can vary based on which card you have. Chase Experiences can include private dinners, premium sports and concert tickets, and a lot more.

To understand how much value you’re getting from a particular redemption option, divide the cash price by the number of points required. For example, if you’re booking a flight through a transfer partner that costs $500 or 25,000 points, divide 500 by 25,000 and you’ll see that redemption gets you 2 cents per point.

Fortunately, rewards values are fixed for most redemption options (cash back is always 1 cent per point, for example), so you don’t have to do this calculation every time. But if you’re considering transferring your points or booking a Chase Experience, run the numbers first to make sure you’re getting good value.

Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Chase’s travel portal functions like an online travel agency — think Expedia or Orbitz — but you can pay for your travel booking with cash, points, or a combination of both.

Within the Ultimate Rewards portal, you can book flights, hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, and experiences for when you arrive at your destination. The platform is robust, so you don’t have to worry about being presented with limited options.

One of the best benefits of using the Chase travel portal, though, is that you’re still covered by your card’s trip protection benefits, such as travel insurance, cancellation and interruption insurance, and more. The actual benefits will depend on the card you have, and you need to use that card to book your travel. Also, be aware that if you transfer your points to an airline or hotel rewards program instead, you won’t be protected by your Chase card anymore.

How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards

One of the best travel redemption options with the Ultimate Rewards program is the ability to transfer to one of Chase’s travel partners. With most of the partners, the transfer time is instant, so you can move your points and book your flight or hotel stay at the same time.

The reason transfer partners are so valuable is because airline and hotel loyalty programs typically don’t assign static values to their rewards programs. Instead, the per-point value of a redemption varies based on the different elements of your itinerary (time of year, day of the week, destination, etc.).

Airlines typically offer between 1.2 and 1.5 cents per point in value on average. But with some international business- or first-class redemptions, you may be able to get several times that value. For example, I once achieved a redemption rate of 5.2 cents per point on a business-class flight from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Vienna, Austria, that I booked as part of my dream trip to Vienna.

Even if you don’t get mind-blowing value like that every time, some of Chase’s partners offer an average value per point that’s higher than what you’d get through the Chase travel portal. The World of Hyatt program, for instance, offers 1.6 cents per point on average.

If you’re considering using your Ultimate Rewards points for transfers, it’s a good idea to wait until you have a particular redemption in mind. This will give you the chance to run the numbers to ensure you’re getting more value than if you were to book the flight or hotel stay through Chase instead.

For example, if you want to book a Hyatt hotel and you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your value maxes out at 1.5 cents per point if you book it through Chase’s travel portal. But if you search the itinerary on Hyatt’s website and find that you can get the same hotel stay for fewer points (i.e. a better redemption rate), then you should transfer your points and book directly with Hyatt instead.

If, however, you do this same process with any airline or hotel chain and it costs more points or miles with the transfer partner, you’re better off booking through Chase.

Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partners

As of May 2020, Chase has 13 travel partners and is always adding more. Here are your options if you’re considering a transfer for an airline or hotel booking.

Airline partners

Chase partners with three domestic airlines and seven international airlines, giving you plenty of options to travel around the world.

Hotel partners

Between Chase’s three hotel partners, you should be able to find a property just about anywhere you want to travel.

Chase Ultimate Rewards login

You can log in to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account through your Chase online banking portal. If you are a cardholder of multiple credit cards with the bank, you’ll need to select the correct account you want to use your points with.

In other words, don’t make the mistake of trying to book travel through your Chase Freedom account if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve. You can also transfer points between accounts through the portal.

Once you’ve chosen the card you want to redeem through, you’ll see all of your redemption options and can complete your redemption by following the prompts Chase provides for you.

We don’t recommend using your points to shop at Amazon because of the reduced redemption rate. But if that’s how you want to use your rewards, log in to your Amazon account and link your Ultimate Rewards credit card. You’ll be given the option to use points as payment at checkout.

Chase Ultimate Rewards customer service

According to the 2019 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Study, Chase ranks third (tied with Capital One) among 11 national credit card issuers for customer satisfaction.

If you have a question about your points or you want to book travel over the phone instead of online, you can reach the Chase Ultimate Rewards customer service team at 866-951-6592. You can also submit a secure message through your online account.

If you’ve just applied for a Chase credit card and weren’t approved automatically, you can get an update on your Chase application status by calling 800-432-3117 for personal cards or 800-453-9719 for business cards. Alternatively, if you already have a Chase account, you can log in to your online account and check your application status in the main menu.

In some cases, your application may be pending due to some aspects of your credit history or situation. In others, your application may have been denied and you’re just waiting to receive the adverse action notice.

If you are denied, you can always contact the Chase reconsideration line to plead your case, so to speak. There’s no guarantee that calling the reconsideration line will result in the bank overturning the denial. I’ve called reconsideration lines on multiple occasions and have had a mix of responses.

Regardless of your reason for calling Chase customer service, always be polite. If you’re not getting the result you want, it may also help if you hang up and call again to speak with another representative.

Bottom line

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is extremely robust, which makes it one of the most popular travel rewards programs for credit card users, especially for those who travel frequently.

If you’re thinking about getting one or more Chase credit cards, be mindful about your choices to ensure you can maximize your earning potential as well as your redemption value.

Unlimited Cash Back

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • 5% cash back grocery store purchases for the first year (up to $12k)
  • 1.5% unlimited cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases