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Updated May 10, 2017

Chase Ultimate Rewards: Why Points are a Big Deal

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Get the most out of Chase credit cards. Read this in-depth guide to Chase's Ultimate Rewards program. We'll explain how to get the maximum value.

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards

In life, there are few things more disappointing than hearing something described as "ultimate" that fails to live up to the name (e.g., an "ultimate cheeseburger" with less than two patties).

Fortunately, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program delivers on that promise. It is our favorite travel rewards program (perhaps rivaled only by Starpoints/SPG depending on which airlines you fly).

It's easy to earn points through generous sign-up bonuses and Chase's shopping portal. But what's more important - it's easy to redeem the rewards for good value. However, some redemption options are better than others.

Dedicate 15 minutes reading this guide. By the end, you will have learned brilliant ways to earn Chase Ultimate Reward points fast and how to redeem the points for the best value.

Click to jump to a specific category below, but we recommend giving the whole thing a read:

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CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS CARDS

Before you can redeem any points, you've got to earn them. Chase has several Ultimate Rewards cards. You're automatically enrolled in the program as soon as you're approved for one of the following cards:

Personal cards:

CardRewards
Chase FreedomEarn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Categories for 2017:
Q1 (January 1 – March 31, 2017): Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls, and Amtrak® purchases)
Q2 (April 1 - June 30, 2017): Grocery stores (not including Walmart® and Target® purchases)
Q3 (July 1 – September 30, 2017): Restaurants and movie theaters
Q4 (October 1 – December 31, 2017): TBA
Chase Freedom UnlimitedUnlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic!
Chase Sapphire Preferred2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.
1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Chase Sapphire Reserve3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs

Business cards:

CardRewards
Ink Business CashEarn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.
Unlimited 1% cash back on all other card purchases.
Ink Business PreferredEarn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn.

Tip: You can combine your Ultimate Rewards points together into a single account, which is a good tactic for racking up a ton of points. If you've got a small business or even a side hustle that earns income, you can apply for one of the Chase business cards and get more rewards points.

Each card has a different structure for how Ultimate Rewards (UR) are earned and how lucrative they become when you redeem them.

What are the best Chase credit card promotions for 2017?

The sign-up bonuses differ for each card. Here are the Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards and their corresponding sign-up bonus structures:

  • Chase Freedom lets you earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. There is a 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.

    This is the fun part: You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The cash back rewards do not expire as long as your card account remains open. There is no annual fee.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited lets you earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. You earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There is also a 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum. The cash back rewards will not expire as long as your card account remains open. There is no annual fee.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
    Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
    Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can earn 5,000 bonus points if you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months from account opening. This card lets you earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. The card also comes with premium travel and purchase protection benefits (including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver). There is an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This card offers a $300 annual travel credit (as reimbursement for travel purchases such as airfare and hotels charged to your card). This card earns 3x points on travel and dining worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. There are no foreign transaction fees. The card also comes with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select for access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. There is a $450 annual fee.

  • Ink Business Cash lets you earn $300 bonus cash back when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other card purchases. There is no annual fee.

    Plus, there is a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After the intro period, a variable APR applies, currently 14.24% - 20.24%.

  • Ink Business Preferred lets you earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 80,000 points is worth $1,000 toward travel when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee.

Tip: Sign-up bonuses are a great way to get a jump start on your rewards points. Just make sure you’ll be able to meet the minimum spend within the timeframe specified to receive the bonus.

REGULAR VS. PREMIUM CARDS

You'll notice that some of the cards - the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Business Cash - have no annual fee. These are known as cash back cards, but the rewards are still in the form of UR points. For example, a $150 sign-up bonus equals 15,000 points. And you still earn UR points when you make purchases. But the points can only be redeemed for cash value at a rate of 1 cent per point (10,000 points = $100).

Some redemption options with these cash back cards include:

  • Getting cash back through direct deposit or statement credit
  • Trading in points for gift cards
  • Purchasing directly with points on Amazon
  • Booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

Tip: If you are thinking to book travel through Chase, consider double-checking with a couple of other booking sites as well (such as Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak). Sometimes the prices are not always the cheapest on Chase, and may not contain some budget airlines.

On the other hand, Chase's premium travel card, Chase Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee but offers more flexibility in how you can redeem your rewards. One of the biggest advantages is that you can redeem points for travel at a discount.

With the premium cards (such as Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred), you get more options for redeeming points than you do with cash back cards:

  • Booking travel with points through Ultimate Rewards at a 20% discount, making each point worth 1.25 cents (10,000 points = $125).
  • Transferring the points 1:1 to frequent travel programs with the potential for each point to be worth even more.

Even with the cash back cards, though, you can still maximize your redemption potential by combining all your points with one of the premium card accounts. Then you can use those points toward travel rewards at a higher value.

Tip: If you already own one of the premium cards, the Chase Freedom is a great second card because you can earn 5% on certain types of purchases (Chase calls them "bonus categories" and changes them every three months). Past categories include groceries stores, restaurants, and gas. When those bonus categories come around, use the Chase Freedom to get 5% back on those purchases, where you would only get 1-2x with other rewards cards (note: the most you can earn per quarter at the 5% range is $75).

COMBINING POINTS TO EARN A TRAVEL DISCOUNT

With the no annual fee cards, you are able to redeem points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, but each point is worth only 1 cent. You can get more out of your points, however, by pooling points earned with multiple Chase cards.

Did you know: Chase has some very clear rules on how you can and can't combine your points. All the cards have to belong to you, your spouse, or your domestic partner, and all of the accounts have to be in good standing. (Also, your relationship with the person should be in good standing because you're about to share your Ultimate Rewards with them.)

When you're ready to roll your points from one card to another, you log into the account you want to transfer points from and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards page. Select the "Combine Points" option and enter the account number for the card you want to transfer the points to. After you verify that your information is correct, your points will be transferred to the second account.

Once you've combined all of your points onto one of the premium Chase cards eligible to earn a discount (e.g.: Chase Sapphire Preferred), you can book your trip through Ultimate Rewards. This is an easy way to make the most of the various rewards categories each card offers.

EARNING BONUS POINTS WHEN YOU SHOP

You can earn even more bonus points when you use Chase's shopping portal.

Chase has an awesome Ultimate Rewards shopping mall. There are over 200 partner merchants that offer bonus points per dollar spent. Most stores offer 2x to 5x points per dollar spent, but some stores go as high as 25x points.

You can find most of your favorite stores on there, including Macy's, Groupon, Saks, Petco, and Rite Aid. So whenever you're doing some online shopping, be sure to check if your store (or a similar one) is on the list. The list of merchants is subject to change, so remember to check Chase's website often.

When you click on a merchant's name, you'll be taken to the regular company's website, where you can make your online purchase.

What are Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Worth

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Chase Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed in a variety of ways. How much your points are worth depends on how you choose to redeem them. We'll go over each in more detail, but here is an overview what you can expect (value is listed as per point):

ForOur Value Estimate
Book travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards 1.25 cents (with Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred); 1.00 cent (with Chase Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, or Ink Business Cash)
Transfer to airline and hotel partnersWith Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred: ~1 cent up to ~3 cents depending on the redemption option and how you value award travel.
Get cash back1.00 cent
Exchange for gift cards1.00 cent
Pay on Amazon0.80 cent
Buy an experience1.00 cent

REDEEMING REWARDS FOR NON-TRAVEL

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When you're ready to use your Chase points, just log in to your Ultimate Rewards account to find a pull-down menu with all the options for redemption.

Let's go over the options for redeeming non-travel rewards first.

  • Redeem for cash back: You get a 1:1 return in the form of a credit statement or direct deposit into your bank account. You'll need at least 2,000 points to convert them to cash.

    For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can see that 16,944 points is worth $169.44 in cash back.

  • Give yourself a gift: For a 1:1 exchange, you could get a gift card from your favorite retailer. Most merchants require that you trade in at least 2,500 points for a $25 gift card.

  • Pay on Amazon: The perk here is easy checkout, but the points are only valued at 0.80 cents (instead of 1:1).

  • Buy an experience: You can also trade in your points for an experience at a 1:1 exchange with Chase's Exclusive Events, including fine dining, entertainment, and sports. But events are limited and are only in certain cities.

REDEEMING REWARDS FOR TRAVEL

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If you have one of the premium cards, you can redeem for travel rewards for a better value. Here are some examples:

Let's say you use Chase Sapphire Preferred. Booking through the Chase travel portal ensures that you'll get 1.25 cents per point, which equals a 20% discount. In other words, you would only need 40,000 UR points to book a $500 trip (whereas choosing cash back would only get you $400). As long as you book travel with points through Chase Ultimate Rewards, every 10,000 points will get you $125 in value.

Tip: You can use one of the no annual fee cards to book travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal as well, but you will only get a value of 1 cent per point (unless you also have one of the premium cards).

When you log into your Chase account, you will see something like this:

As you can see on this Chase Sapphire Preferred card, 16,994 points are worth $211.80 when travel is booked through Ultimate Rewards (instead of the $169.44 that the same points would be worth in cash back).

The Chase travel portal works like most other online booking sites. Just enter your destination and the dates of travel and search to review your options. Because you're not booking directly with an airline, you'll automatically avoid any blackout dates. You'll also be able to book during times when award flights are hard to find (like holidays).

Did you know: The top 5 international destinations visited by Americans are (in order): Mexico, Canada, UK, Dominican Republic, and France.

In this sample flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR), you can see that it would cost either $978.66 or 78,292 UR points:

If you don't have enough points for this flight, you will see something like this:

Here, you’d have the option to cash in all your points and then pay the remaining $766.85 yourself.

TRANSFERRING POINTS TO TRAVEL PARTNERS

The other approach is to transfer your Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio through one of Chase's travel partners. This is where you really get the ultimate value from your points. The 1.25 cents through the travel portal is nice but with transfer partners, you can potentially make your Chase rewards points worth 2 cents or more.

When you select "Transfer to Travel Partners," you will see something this:

Transferring points is easy, and you always get full value with no transfer fees. In other words, 80,000 Ultimate Rewards will equal 80,000 miles in your loyalty program.

Here are the programs you can transfer Chase points to:

Airlines:

  • United MileagePlus
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • British Airways Executive Club

Hotels:

  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Marriott Rewards
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

As an example, let’s look at that sample flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR) from Sept. 26 to Oct 2, 2016 we referenced earlier. On the day of the search, the flight would cost $978.66, or 78,292 UR points, if booked through the UR travel portal (1.25 cents a point).

However, if the points were transferred to Singapore Airline's KrisFlyer Miles and then booked with partner airlines Virgin Atlantic, you’d get the same flight for just 50,000 miles, which works out to almost 2 cents a point. And you’d be saving more than 28,000 Ultimate Rewards, which is worth another $350 when booking on UR. (Of course, this is all subject to availability. Also, taxes, fees and surcharges not included.)

Obviously, this can change from flight to flight. Sometimes, the 20% discount from the Chase travel portal is the better deal. For example: if you were booking a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Phoenix (PHX) in late October 2016, it would cost $228.20 or 18,256 points. On the other hand, the same flight would cost 20,000 United MileagePlus miles. Here, you’d save nearly 2,000 Ultimate Rewards by booking through Chase Travel.

In general, transferring Ultimate Rewards is best for international travel or expensive business class or first class tickets. But if you take the time to check out both options, you could save yourself a bundle on your flight.

Here are some of our favorite use of Chase Ultimate Reward points:

  • Transfer to United as they don’t have a fuel surcharge. Take advantage of its one free stopover / two open-jaw ticket policies to visit more destinations without using additional points
  • Transfer to Hyatt as some hotel stay redemptions can be valued at over 2 cents a point
  • Use Flying Blue or Korean Air SKYPASS to fly from the continental U.S. to Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Use British Avios to fly within Europe
  • Use Southwest Rapid Rewards to fly within the U.S.

For more ideas, read our guide on the best Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.

The downside with using Chase transfer partners is you have to be flexible with your schedule. Booking award travel directly through an airline or hotel can often lead to the dreaded blackout dates, so you might need to shift your timing a bit in order to reap the maximum rewards.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfer Partners

Below is a run-down of all the airline transfer partners:

British Airway Avios

Use if: You're on a European vacation where you'll be hopping between countries. Avios is great for finding short flights within Europe at a great transfer rate. A lot of popular routes only cost 4,500 Avios one way with no fuel surcharge.

Another popular way to use Avios is on flights on partner Alaska Airlines to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines only operates flights to Hawaii from 8 major cities on the West Coast. But it only costs 25,000 Avios round-trip. And there is no fuel surcharge.

Don't use if: You’re flying the long-haul, as you'll be hit with hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges (EXCEPT when you fly with American Airlines.)

Use the British Airway Avios calculator to find out how many Avios points you’d need for a reward flight.

Air France Flying Blue

Use if: You’re flying from the continental United States to Hawaii, Central America, or the Caribbean as they offer options that cost only 30,000 miles round trip (sometimes they go for as low as 25,000 miles). Flying Blue also releases promo awards at the start of each month where you can snag great deals for certain routes. For example, in October 2016, there was a deal for a Washington D.C. to Europe round-trip for only 37,500 points on economy.

Don't use if: You want to book business class tickets, as the points required are often way more than other transfer partners’ rates. For example, Los Angeles to Paris is 25,000 one way in economy and 62,500 in business class, whereas Singapore Airlines will only require 45,000 miles for business. You'll also be hit with a high fuel surcharges for most flights to Europe, EXCEPT when flying with Delta.

Use the Flying Blue Miles calculator to see what you’d need to book a flight with them.

Singapore KrisFlyer

Use if: You’re booking online, because you'll receive a 15% discount from the reward rates shown for a Singapore Airlines flight. You are also allowed one free stopover on a round-trip flight (or two free on a Standard Award flight), which will allow you to visit a new destination. For example, you can go all the way from Los Angeles to Australia, with a stopover in Tokyo, for just 50,000 miles in economy.

Tip: If you want the ultimate first-class experience, it doesn’t get much better than flying on Singapore Airline's luxurious A380 Suites (the first double-bed in the sky!). A favorite route for travelers is from New York to Frankfurt (8 hours of airtime) for 57,375 points (after the 15% discount). Or you can go from Singapore to Tokyo to Los Angeles (18.5 hours of airtime) for 91,375 points.

Don't use if: You’re flying to Europe, as you pretty much can't get around the high fuel surcharges In general, you'll be hit with high surcharges on international long haul flights, EXCEPT for flights with Air New Zealand, Copa, Avianca, and TACA.

Check out Singapore Airline's award chart for more on the deals you might be able to score.

United MileagePlus Miles

Use if: You want to take advantage of United's generous stopover and open-jaw policies in order to visit more places on one trip. You can book one stopover and two open-jaws (on a round-trip) on an award ticket for no additional miles. For example, from the mainland US, you could go down to Peru, with stops in Costa Rica and Panama (cover this distance by bus yourself), for just 40,000 points round-trip.

Another good thing about United is that it doesn’t have a fuel surcharge, not even on partner airlines.

Tip: A stopover is when you stop in one city for a longer period of time (at least 24 hours and for as long as you like). Open-jaw is when your route has an "opening" that you will cover with another means of transport (such as by train, car, etc.). For example: If your ticket is from City A to City B, and then from City C to City D, and then back to City A, you will cover the travel from City B to City C on your own.

Don't use if: You’re redeeming points for business or first class tickets as it is often higher on United than other airlines.

Check out United's interactive awards chart for more details.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Use if: You want to book flights within the U.S. The value is especially good on the Wanna Get Away flights, with many routes as low as 4,500 points one way. Plus, you don't pay any taxes or surcharges for domestic flights, besides the $5.60 Security Fee each way. Southwest also offers very low rates to Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean for a little bit more in taxes.

As you can see in the screenshot below, this flight from Los Angeles to Denver costs only 4,278 points for a Wanna Get Away flight

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Use if: If you're traveling within Japan or Australia/New Zealand/Pacific Islands, you can get round-trip domestic flights for 15,000 or 20,000 points.

Don't use if: You’re looking for anything other than that. In general, Virgin Atlantic is not our favorite transfer program, and we don't recommend using it for international travel.

See Virgin Atlantic's list of Airline Partners.

Korean Air Skypass

Use if: You’re flying to Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can take advantage of 25,000 points round-trip with no fuel surcharges. Round-trip flights within Europe go for 25,000 points as well. Korean Air also allows for one stopover and one open-jaw, so it's a great opportunity to add an additional destination on any of these trips at no extra cost.

Don't use if: You’re traveling during peak season, as Korean Air’s points go up at these times.

See Korean Air's award chart for more.

Tip: For Business and First Class awards, Korean Air offers decent awards on their SkyTeam partner flights. You can go round-trip from the U.S. to Europe for 80,000 points in Business and 100,000 points in First. However, note the Korean Air will levee heavy surcharges. The surcharge for such a flight in Business Class could be as much a $800.

Redeeming Award Flights

Award tickets have limited availability, so it's best to have some flexibility in your schedule. You'll also need the patience and time to find the best deals, which sometimes means waiting for awards to become available. To book, you have to be a member of the airline's frequent flyer program and use the site to search availability. Booking online is the easiest, but not all the airlines are great at showing availability for award flights. Sometimes you may find that it's best to just call.

As far as booking an award ticket on a partner flight goes, let's clear something up: If you want to use Flying Blue Miles to fly to Hawaii on Delta Airlines, you would transfer your UR points to the Flying Blue program, NOT Delta’s, and then call Air France or use their website to book the partner flight on Delta.

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Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Transfer Partners

Hyatt Gold Passport

Redeeming for free nights at Hyatt starts at just 5,000 points/night for a Category 1 Standard Room. A Category 4 or 5 room goes for 15,000 - 20,000 points/night, while a night in a Category 7 hotel will cost you 30,000 points. You also have the option to pay with a combination of points and cash, which is great if you want to save some points or don’t have quite enough for the room you want. You can also use points to upgrade to a Club room (for 3,000 points per night) or a Suite (for 6,000 points per night).

Use if: You’re looking for a great value. For example, a room in the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York (a Category 6 hotel) costs $525/night, or 25,000 points. This gives each point the value of over 2 cents per point. OR you can pay cash and points: $125 + 12,500 points per night. This option also offers a great opportunity to snag a $500+ room for just a little bit of cash and points. If you stay for three nights, the normal cost would be $1,575. When you subtract the $375 you’re paying in cash, the value of your points comes out to a whopping 3.2 cents per point.

Don't use if: You’re redeeming points on their dining, spa, and resort activities. The value of the points is only about 0.5 - 0.8 cents per point. We only recommend using your points to redeem for free nights. Save your cash for the hotel extras.

See Hyatt's free night award chart for more about your options.

IHG Rewards Club

Points redemption start at 10,000 points a night for a Category 1 hotel and up to 60,000 points a night for a Category 11 hotel. IHG also lets you combine cash + points. For example, for a Category 5 hotel, you can pay 30,000 points, or 25,000 points + $40, or 20,000 points + $70.

Use if: You’re keeping your eye on the BreakPoints® deals, a bimonthly deal where IHG releases rooms in certain hotels for only 5,000 points per night. If you see something you're interested in, act fast as the availability is limited and they often go quickly.

Don't use if: You’re not on top of the BreakPoints® deals. In general, we don't recommend using this transfer partner. The points conversion is not great and is often valued at far less than 1 cent per point. For example, the Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan goes for $274.40/night for a date in April 2017 but costs 50,000 points. That puts the value at only 0.55 cents a night.

Marriott Rewards

Marriott properties are structured from Category 1 (7,500 points/night) to Category 9 (45,000 points/night). Then there are Ritz Carlton hotels that go from Tier 1 (30,000 points/night) to Tier 5 (70,000 points/night). And if you use points to book four consecutive nights, you get the 5th night free.

Use if: You take advantage of the PointSavers rates, where you can book a hotel for the number of points that hotel category below it requires (i.e., you can book a Category 5 room at a Category 4 rate). Be sure to check if any Marriott properties in the city you're visiting are offered at a PointSaver rate. Or you can check the calendar for availability if your time is flexible. Using your points to book five nights will get you the best value, as the 5th night is free.

Don't use if: You’re not using PointSavers. Marriott is not our favorite use of Chase UR points either. In our opinion, Marriott points are only valuable if you have the Marriott Rewards Premier card from Chase. You rack up the Marriott points a LOT faster, making each point worth more. However, transferring it 1:1 from Chase will rarely get you a value of over 0.8 points a night, unless you're looking at Category 1 and 2 hotels.

Let's look at an example with PointSavers: Currently, the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (a Category 8 hotel) is participating in the PointSavers program. You can book a 40,000 points/night room for 35,000 points. Add in the 5th night free, and you're spending 140,000 points for 5 nights. At a normal rate of $255/night, this is only a value of 0.91 cents per point.

See the Marriott rewards chart for more.

Ritz Carlton Rewards

Points redemption start at 30,000 points for Tier 1 to 70,000 points for Tier 5. If you use points to book four consecutive nights, you get the 5th night free. One thing to beware of: as Ritz Carlton falls under the Marriott brand portfolio, you can't belong to both programs. You can, however, change your membership from one to the other within the same account and keep your point balance. The difference is that there may be different promotions from time to time for each program.

Ritz Carlton Rewards also participates in the PointSaver program (a Tier 3 hotel will only require 40,000 points instead of 50,000). But just like with Marriott Rewards, we don't particularly recommend that you use this transfer partner, as the redemption value is relatively poor.

See the Ritz Carlton rewards chart.

Hotel Redemption Recap:
Transferring your UR points to the Hyatt Gold Passport is a great value when you’re redeeming them for free nights. Their awards chart is well priced and the transfer makes for a great point conversion most of the time. The points and cash option could yield even better value, and you would be able to save points.

We don't really recommend the three other hotel partners, as the value of the points is very low. That's pretty much like throwing your hard-earned UR points down the drain. Unless you can find good deals through programs like IHG BreakPoints® or PointSaver, transferring Chase points to airline partners is almost always the better value.

Rewards Expiration

Ultimate Rewards points never expire as long as your account is open, but if you decide to shut your card down, any rewards you've earned and haven't redeemed will disappear.

Chase also reserves the right to suspend your Ultimate Rewards privileges if it appears that you're abusing them. This is most likely to occur if you're opening up multiple accounts to get the sign-on bonuses and then canceling right after you’ve used or transferred your Chase points. Making purchases only in the bonus categories in order to max out your rewards may also send up a red flag.

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What is the best Chase Ultimate Rewards deal?
    If you have one of the premium cards (Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred), the best use of points is to transfer them to one of the travel partners. However, some transfers are more valuable than others, so be careful. Read our guide to the best Chase transfer partners to learn more.

  • What if I don't travel? What are my best redemption options?
    You can receive cash back (either as statement credit or direct deposit into your bank account) at the rate of 1 cent per point (10,000 points = $100). Or you can get gift cards from select retailers at the same redemption rate.

  • Do Chase Ultimate Rewards expire?
    No, your points never expire as long as your account is active and in good standing.

  • When do Chase Ultimate Rewards points post?
    You will see your points in your account at the end of each statement cycle.

  • How do I use Chase points on Amazon?
    You can use your UR points to check out on Amazon. But keep in mind that Chase now values Amazon redemption at just 0.8 cent per point (it used to be 1.0 cent). This means that 1,000 points will only be worth $8. Therefore, we don’t recommend this as a smart redemption option.

    If you still wish to use Amazon, simply link your Chase card to you Amazon.com account. When you're ready to check out, select the option to pay with your points. You can either pay for the entire order with points, or pay partially with points and the rest with a card.

  • How do I shop through Chase?
    Shopping through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall will allow you to earn bonus points with many popular retailers. Log in to your Ultimate Rewards page and go to "Earn Points" at the top. Select "Shop Through Chase" from the pull-down menu. You’ll then be able to search and browse through the almost 300 retailers.

  • Who can I transfer points to?
    You can only transfer points to another Chase card that you own, or to a spouse or domestic partner who is an authorized user on your account.

  • Can I undo a points combine/transfer action?
    If you combined points with another Chase card that you own, you can just move them back in another transaction. If you transferred points to a spouse or domestic partner, he/she would have to log into their account and transfer the points back to you.

  • Can I undo a points transfer to a travel partner?
    Unfortunately, this action is irreversible. Once you have transferred your points to an airline or hotel partner, it's for good. So before you click on that button, double and triple-check that your member ID and the number of points you want to transfer are all correct.

  • How many Chase credit cards can I apply for?
    There's no rule for how many of these cards you can own. But keep in mind that Chase has a 5/24 rule. If you've opened up five credit card accounts in the past 24 months, your applications will most likely not go through. This applies to cards with any bank. If you want any of these Chase UR cards, prioritize them over other credit card applications.

How Ultimate Rewards Compares

Compared with Membership Rewards:
These are both popular credit card rewards programs, from two big banks, Chase and American Express (both are CreditDonkey partners). So which one is better?

AMEX Membership Rewards (MR) has 17 transfer partners, including Delta, JetBlue, and Hilton. You’ll have to see if you prefer their partners, though there are a couple of overlaps. If you like free nights as well, we do prefer Chase UR’s 1:1 transfer ratio to hotel partners, such as Hyatt.

If you want to redeem for statement credit instead, Chase UR gives you 1 cent per point, while AMEX MR is only 0.6 cents per point. Chase UR’s gift card redemptions are also a better value.

As for earning rewards, Chase’s shopping mall is a great way to earn bonus points for popular stores. AMEX no longer has its own shopping portal.

Compared with Starpoints:
SPG Starpoints is one of our favorite travel programs. First of all, Starpoints themselves are worth a lot of points when redeeming for hotel nights at Starwood properties. We estimate them to be 2.1-2.4 cents a point on average. Also, if you redeem your points for four consecutive nights, you get the 5th night free. In our opinion, this is the best travel program if you prefer free nights.

SPG Starpoints also has over 30 airline partners, most of which are a 1:1 transfer. It’s partnered with Delta and American Airlines, so you may prefer this if you frequently fly those airlines. And what’s even more – when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to an airline partner at one time, you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 points to your account. That effectively makes each transfer 1.25:1.

Keep in mind that you can’t redeem Starpoints for statement credit/cash back. It has limited other redemption options, which includes gift cards, Broadway shows, and donating to charity.

Compared with Credit Card Rewards:
So how does Ultimate Rewards compare with general travel rewards cards, such as Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Capital One Venture?

These cards have very simple redemption structures. You simply travel as you wish and then apply your rewards later as a statement credit towards travel-related expenses. Because of this, you can book travel using whatever site you want, with no black-out dates and no seat restrictions. These cards are ideal for those who value flexibility and travel occasionally.

However, because there are no transfer partners for these types of cards, you can’t squeeze out more value. The value will always be just 1 cent per point.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has one advantage over Capital One Venture. Every time you redeem your points, you get 5% miles back as a bonus. However, the annual fee is slightly more. Compare the two cards here.

FINAL WORD

© CreditDonkey

Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the best reward programs out there, with the potential to squeeze incredible value out of your points. Our favorite combination is Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x points on travel and dining) and the Chase Freedom (5% for bonus categories). This combo makes an effective earning and travel rewards strategy. Use the cards, pool the Ultimate Rewards, and redeem through the Chase portal for a minimum 1.25 cents a point value toward travel.

Getting the ultimate value can be a little bit of work as you'll need to pay attention to the schedules of transfer partners to find the best times to book. But it just takes is that first award booking where you get way more bang for your buck to get you hooked.

Ross Frasier is a research analyst at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Ross Frasier at ross@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped travelers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom, Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and Chase Sapphire Reserve have been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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