Ultimate Rewards is the credit card rewards program behind some of Chase’s biggest and best credit cards, including the Sapphire, Freedom, and Ink cards.
But once you pick up an Ultimate Rewards point, how should use redeem it to get the best value? Follow along with this guide to learn how Ultimate Rewards points work and how you can get the best bang for your points.
How to earn Ultimate Rewards
Before we dig into the details of how to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards, let’s take a quick look at the best methods to earn.
I’m currently sitting on more than 250,000 points, but as a serious travel hacker I am never done earning points.
If you want free flights or hotel nights, there is little more valuable than a Chase point.
Signup bonuses - The fastest way to build a balance of Ultimate Rewards points, sometimes just called UR points, is through signup bonuses.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, which is Faveable’s #1 ranked best rewards credit card. Signing up for this card today gives you an opportunity to earn a 50,000-point signup bonus.
That’s enough for two domestic round-trip flights or one coach ticket to Europe!
Regular spending - Once you have your Ultimate Rewards earning card, using it regularly for purchases you already make can help you quickly rack up a high balance.
For example, if you have Chase Freedom® in conjunction with another Ultimate Rewards card, you can earn 5 points per dollar on categories that rotate every quarter, this quarter (Q1 2018) includes gas station and mobile payments to get the bonus.
Check out our list of the top Chase credit cards to learn more. The high-end Sapphire ReserveSM offers 3 points per dollar spent on dining and travel purchases, and one point everywhere else.
Ultimate Rewards points redemption options
After clicking through from your Chase account to the Ultimate Rewards portal, you will find yourself with multiple compelling options to spend your hard earned points.
The homepage currently lists these redemption options for points:
- Travel - Book travel directly through the portal for a 25% point bonus or 50% bonus depending on your card.
- Gift cards - Turn your points into gift cards to spend at restaurants and retail stores.
- Cash back - Cash in points for a statement credit (lower your balance) or direct deposit into your checking account.
- Amazon.com Shop with Points - Link your Amazon account and redeem points to pay for all or part of a purchase at Amazon.
- Transfer to Travel Partners - The best value per point generally comes when you transfer to a partner with a 1:1 value. Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners are the key to unlocking the biggest total redemption value.
Chase Pay® - Download and install the Chase Pay® app on your phone to use at a similar rate to cash back or gift cards.
When looking at my account, which is based on my Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Freedom® earnings, the portal calculates my best value as redeeming for travel with the 25% bonus, followed by cash, gift cards, or transfer to travel partners, with Amazon as the lowest value per point.
Chase Sapphire Rewards are great, but combining the two leads to even better results.
The value per point may not seem like a big deal, but with my current 166,837 balance in my personal account (I have another 100,000+ in my business account), Chase says my points are worth $2,085.44 for travel, $1,668.37 for cash back, gift cards, or travel transfers, and $1,334.70 for Amazon.
I agree with the valuations on everything except for transferring to travel partners, which Chase clearly tries to convince you to do otherwise through its promotion of the 25%/50% bonus on direct travel bookings throughout the site.
In reality, transferring to travel partners can lead to the best point valuations, but only if you do it right. If you just want to keep things simple, the 25% travel bonus booking through Ultimate Rewards is the best value.
But if you are willing to do a little research and comparisons online, you can do far better.
Transferring to partners for the best valuations
Chase works with a list of top-tier airlines and hotels as transfer partners for your valuable Ultimate Rewards points.
As a general rule, you can get the best value through an airline transfer partner. In the past, some partners gave fewer than 1 mile/point per Chase point, but now all offer 1:1 point transfers.
Here is a breakdown of everywhere you can send your points:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- Iberia Plus
- Korean Air SKYPASS
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United Mileage Plus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
For domestic travel, the clear standouts on the list are United and Southwest, though don’t discount British Airways partnership with American Airlines and the luxury of a Singapore Airlines flight when considering a transfer.
- IHG Rewards Club (Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Kimpton, Crowne Plaza, Indigo, etc)
- Marriott Rewards
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- World of Hyatt
Hotel points typically have a far lower valuation than airline points, so I only transfer to hotels when I’m looking to top up an account to reach the level needed for a redemption.
For example, I needed to move a few thousand points over to Marriott to have enough points for three free nights in Paris a couple of years ago.
Rockstar travel blogger The Points Guy does a monthly valuation report for each major chain. His December 2017 round-up featured the following valuations for Chase’s transfer partners:
- Aer Lingus AerClub - not covered
- British Airways Executive Club - 1.5 cents
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue - 1.3 cents
- Iberia Plus - not covered
- Korean Air SKYPASS - 1.7 cents
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer - 1.4 cents
- Southwest Rapid Rewards - 1.5 cents
- United Mileage Plus - 1.4 cents
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club - 1.5 cents
- IHG Rewards Club - 0.7 cents
- Marriott Rewards - 0.9 cents
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards - 0.9 cents
- World of Hyatt - 1.8 cents
As you can see, most airline points are worth about double what most hotel points are worth. For comparison,
The Points Guy says Ultimate Rewards are worth 2.1 cents in general, which is more than any transfer partner.
When redeeming points directly through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you get the following values:
- Sapphire Reserve travel redemption - 1.5 cents
- Sapphire Preferred travel redemption - 1.25 cents
- Cash and gift cards - 1 cent
- Amazon and Chase Pay - 0.8 cents
After reading this, I hope you never, ever use points for cash, gift cards, Amazon, or Chase Pay purchases. Only use them for travel! That’s where you get the best value.
Also keep in mind that those point values for airlines and hotels are based on typical rewards. If you use them for business or first class, you can get a lot more value.
If you have a Southwest Companion Pass, Rapid Rewards are worth 3 cents, not 1.5. Super Saver redemptions give you much more value than Standard redemptions at airlines.
This can get complicated, but I have redeemed points in the 4-6 cents range for my own travel, and have heard of business and first class redemptions at over 10 cents point point!
Never waste an Ultimate Rewards point
Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards are the two programs battling it out for supremacy in the competition for the best rewards program.
Citi and others are in the game as well, but Chase and Amex tend to be the winners in most cases. The Chase rewards program is definitely a best-in-class contender.
What does that mean for us consumers? Only good things. Competition for our valuable spend and bank loyalty has led to some of the best credit card bonuses and rewards programs in history.
As long as you never let a point go to waste and think out how you plan to use them, you should be in great shape for years to come.