The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is one of the most versatile credit card rewards programs on the market. Whether you want cash back, travel rewards, gift cards, or other redemption options, it offers a lot of flexibility without skimping on value.
If you’re considering a credit card that offers Chase Ultimate Rewards points, here’s everything you need to know about the program and how to maximize the value of your rewards.
Program Overview and History
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program was announced in 2009 when the bank launched its Sapphire credit cards, the Chase Sapphire and the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Since that time, Chase has added more credit cards to the program, and now you can earn Ultimate Rewards with eight different personal and business credit cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Chase Freedom® Flex credit card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card
- Chase Freedom® Student credit card
- Ink Business CashSM credit card
- Ink Business UnlimitedSM credit card
- Ink Business PreferredSM credit card
For the most part, your cash redemption options are the same with each Ultimate Rewards credit card. However, the program’s annual-fee carrying cards, including the Chase Sapphire cards and the Ink Business Unlimited, also allow you to transfer points to select airline and hotel loyalty rewards programs. In addition, they offer extra value if you use your rewards to book travel through Chase.
|Type of Rewards Currency||Flexible Cash Back and Travel Points|
|Investopedia’s Point Value||1.62 cents|
|Redemption options||Cash back (statement credit or direct deposit), gift cards, travel, experiences, purchases with Amazon.com and Apple, transfers to other rewards programs*|
|Minimum redemption amount||No minimum|
|Points expiration||Points don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing|
|Can you pool points?||You can pool points with another Ultimate Rewards card belonging to you or a member of your household|
|Transfer options||The Chase Sapphire cards and the Ink Business Preferred allow you to transfer points to 13 airline and hotel loyalty programs|
|Best used for||
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is unusually rewarding, but not everyone can get approved for a card. You generally need a good credit score to be approved—that’s typically considered a FICO score of 670 or above.
Also, it is widely rumored that Chase has a rule that if you’ve opened five or more credit card accounts, including authorized-user accounts, in the past 24 months, you likely won’t be approved for one of its credit cards. This rule is widely known as the 5/24 rule.
How to Earn Ultimate Rewards Points
Regardless of which Ultimate Rewards credit card you choose, there are several ways you can earn points. Here’s a breakdown:
- Introductory offers
- Everyday spending
- Shop Through Chase portal
- Referral bonuses
- Limited-time offers
Every Ultimate Rewards credit card offers some kind of intro offer, which you can earn after you’ve met its purchase requirements.
Keep in mind that while some cards in the program refer to their welcome offer and rewards structure as cash back, you’re actually earning points, which you can then use to get cash back or redeem for other things.
|Credit Card||Intro Offer|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months|
|Chase Freedom Flex||Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.|
|Chase Freedom Student||Earn $50 after you make your first purchase in the first three months|
|Ink Business Cash||Earn $500 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months|
|Ink Business Unlimited||Earn $500 after you spend $3,000 in the first three months|
|Ink Business Preferred||Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months|
Each card has its own structure for how you can earn rewards on everyday spending. Knowing where you spend most of your money can help you determine which card would be best for you.
|Credit Card||Rewards Rate|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.|
|Chase Freedom Flex||Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining including takeout and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining including takeout and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.|
|Chase Freedom Student||1% cash back on all purchases.|
|Ink Business Cash||Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.|
|Ink Business Unlimited||Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.|
|Ink Business Preferred||Earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping, Internet, cable, and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.|
To maximize your rewards, it may make sense to apply for multiple Ultimate Rewards credit cards. For example, if you get one of the Sapphire credit cards, you’ll earn bonus rewards on travel and dining but nothing else.
But if you pair one of them with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can use the Sapphire card for its bonus categories and the Freedom Unlimited for everything else. That way, you’ll always get at least 1.5% back.
Then you can transfer points earned with the Freedom Unlimited to your Sapphire card, which you can use to get more value out of your travel redemptions through Chase or through one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners.
Shop Through Chase Portal
The Shop Through Chase shopping portal allows you to use your Ultimate Rewards credit card to earn up to 15 points per dollar on top of the rewards you’re already earning with the card. To take advantage of this benefit, log into your Chase account and search more than 350 online retailers on the Ultimate Rewards platform.
Once you find the retailer you’re searching for, click through to its website and make your online purchase as you normally would. Once you’ve checked out and completed your order, Chase will credit your account with the bonus rewards.
For example, let’s say you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited card and make a $100 purchase. Normally, you’d earn 150 points on the purchase, which is worth $1.50 in cash back. But if you go through Chase’s shopping portal and the retailer is offering an extra 10 points per dollar, you’ll earn 1,150 points, giving you $11.50 in cash back.
A few Ultimate Rewards credit cards offer bonus points if you refer friends to apply for a card and they are approved. Here’s what you may be able to earn as of June 2020, depending on which card you have.
|Credit Card||Referral Bonus|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||Earn 15,000 bonus points for each friend who gets approved, up to 75,000 points per year|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||None|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Earn $100 cash back for each friend who gets approved, up to $500 per year|
|Chase Freedom Student||None|
|Ink Business Cash||None|
|Ink Business Unlimited||None|
|Ink Business Preferred||None|
Bear in mind that referral bonuses can change, and cards that are not currently offering a bonus may have one in the future.
From time to time, Chase may run a promotion to encourage card users to spend more in certain categories or overall. For example, some of the program’s consumer cards are currently offering bonus rewards on Lyft spending through March 2022.
So make sure you’re receiving emails from Chase with notices about promotions for your particular card. Also, check the fine print to ensure your purchases are eligible for the bonus rewards.
How to Redeem Ultimate Rewards Points
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program offers several different redemption options, and most of them are worth at least 1 cent per point. That’s impressive, considering many travel-focused rewards programs offer reduced value if you want to use your points or miles to get cash back.
You can redeem your rewards by logging into your Ultimate Rewards account. If you have more than one Ultimate Rewards card, you’ll need to select the card you want to redeem points from. Then you’ll see a menu at the top of the page with the redemption options for that card.
Redemption options include:
- Cash back
- Gift cards
- Shop with points
- Transfers to partners
In most cases, points are worth the same. However, the program’s travel credit cards offer some opportunities to squeeze more value out of your rewards, especially through travel partners.
You can request your cash back in the form of a statement credit or a deposit into your bank account. Points are worth 1 cent apiece with this redemption option, and this is available on all Ultimate Rewards-earning cards.
You can use your points to purchase gift cards from more than 150 brands, including retailers and restaurants. All of the program’s cards have this redemption option, and points are worth 1 cent each on gift card purchases.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal functions similarly to a discount travel website like Expedia or Orbitz. But you can pay with points, cash, or a mix of both. Cardholders can book flights, hotels, rental cars, activities, and cruises through the portal.
For most cards, points are worth 1 cent each when booking travel. However, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, your points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when using them to book travel through Chase. And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each with this redemption option.
The Chase Experiences portal gives cardholders access to exclusive events, preferred seating, and other offers, and you can use your points to book them. Choices include sporting events, concerts, shows, and culinary experiences.
If you want to use your points this way, they’re worth 1 cent each. Keep in mind, though, that some events may be available only to customers with particular credit cards.
Shop With Points
Cardholders who link their Ultimate Rewards credit card to an Amazon.com account can use their points when they check out. Unfortunately, this is the only redemption option that offers less than 1 cent per point in value—you’ll get just 0.8 cents per point if you redeem this way.
You can also redeem your points for Apple products through the Apple Ultimate Rewards Store. This redemption option will give you 1 cent per point in value.
Transfers to Partners
If you have one of the Chase Sapphire credit cards or the Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer your points to one of 13 airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. The partners are:
- Aer Lingus, AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Flying Blue Air France / KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
In most cases, there’s no cost to transfer your points, and the transfer occurs instantaneously. However, Chase’s program guide does state that some transfers may include a fee, and you’ll get a notification if that’s the case before you complete your transfer. Also, in some cases, it may take up to seven business days to complete a transfer.
Points transfers can be one of the best ways to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards. This is because redemption values with airline and hotel rewards programs are generally dynamic.
For example, if you redeem your points for cash back, they’ll be worth 1 cent apiece no matter when you redeem. But if you transfer your points to, say, World of Hyatt, the value of your points can vary based on your travel dates, the hotel’s category, the cash price of the stay, and more.
While this makes things a bit more complicated, it opens up opportunities to get more value than you’d get if you simply book travel through Chase. One of the more popular ways to maximize Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to one of the program’s airline partners and use them to book international first- and business-class flights.
Maximizing points this way does require a little work. But even if you’re inexperienced with travel rewards, some airline and hotel programs offer a consistently higher average value than you could get through Chase.
For example, World of Hyatt points are worth 2.22 cents each on average, according to Investopedia research. And the Flying Blue program gives you 1.6 cents per mile on average.
The Bottom Line on Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program offers credit card users a lot of value and flexibility, even for those who aren’t interested in stretching their rewards through the program’s travel bonuses and transfer partners.
But if you have the time and desire to maximize rewards, you’ll have plenty of opportunities with one of the program’s travel credit cards. Also, because you can transfer your points between cards, having multiple Ultimate Rewards cards lets you earn bonus rewards across several spending categories and then maximize the value of those rewards by pooling them together.
Chase Ultimate Rewards isn’t the only flexible rewards program out there, though. Cardholders may also want to consider American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, both of which offer flexible redemptions, including transfer partners.
But if you want maximum value across all of your redemption options, the Ultimate Rewards program is the best of the bunch.