There are several different rewards programs from which you can choose, but few are as versatile as Chase Ultimate Rewards. And, depending on how you use them, you can multiply the value beyond what you may get with another rewards program.
“If I had to pick only one points or miles program to earn points for free travel, it would be the Chase Ultimate Rewards program,” says Patti Geroulis, travel expert and writer at The Travel Sisters. She adds that points are easy to earn and the program’s transfer partners give you more flexibility.
Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points
There are four personal and two business credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. However, depending on the card you have, you may get different redemption options and values:
- Chase Freedom: Can redeem points for cash back, gift cards, and travel at a value of one cent per point.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Can redeem points for cash back, gift cards, and travel at the value of one cent per point.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Can redeem points for cash back and gift cards for one cent per point. Can redeem for travel through Ultimate Rewards for 1.25 cents per point or transfer your points to one of Chase’s 11 transfer partners.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Can redeem points for cash back and gift cards for one cent per point. Can redeem for travel through Ultimate Rewards for 1.5 cents per point or transfer your points to one of Chase’s 11 transfer partners.
- Chase Ink Business Cash: Can redeem points for cash back, gift cards, and travel at the value of one cent per point.
- Chase Ink Business Preferred: Can redeem points for cash back and gift cards for one cent per point. Can redeem for travel through Ultimate Rewards for 1.25 cents per point or transfer your points to one of Chase’s 11 transfer partners.
As you can see, travel enthusiasts would get more value out of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Ink Business Cash.
The good news is that you can transfer points between cards. For example, say you have one of the Freedom cards or the Ink Business Cash and one of the Sapphire cards or the Ink Business Preferred. You can move your Ultimate Rewards points earned with your Freedom or Ink Business Cash card to your Sapphire or Ink Business Preferred card, giving you more flexibility.
How to redeem your points
Having multiple redemption options can be overwhelming. Let’s break each one down.
If you choose to redeem your rewards for cash back, you can start redeeming at $20, or 2,000 points. You can get your cash back in three ways:
- A statement credit.
- A direct deposit into your U.S. checking or savings account.
- Link your Freedom or Ink Business Cash card to your Amazon account and redeem cash rewards to pay for part or all of your Amazon order. (Keep in mind, this redemption gives you only 0.8 cents per point in value).
Cash back offers the ultimate flexibility because you can use it for whatever you want. The best part is that both the Sapphire and Ink Business Preferred cards offer one-cent-per-point value with cash back redemptions. Most other travel cards offer half that.
You can choose from several different gift cards for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Options include dining, shopping, entertainment, and more. Gift card redemptions start at 2,500 points, or $25.
With all four Ultimate Rewards-earning cards, you can use your points to book through the Ultimate Rewards booking portal. Similar to Expedia and Orbitz, you can book flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel experiences.
You’ll get discounts on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards if you’re using one of the Sapphire cards or the Ink Business Preferred.
Another option for these cards is to transfer your points to one of Chase’s 11 travel partners:
- British Airways Executive Club
- Korean Air SKYPASS
- Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Marriott Rewards
- IHG Rewards Club
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
Depending on which partner you transfer to and how you redeem those miles or points, you could get even more value from your points than what you’d get booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
“My best use of Ultimate Rewards points was to book an award flight in Singapore Airlines Suites,” says Geroulis. She adds, “A paid ticket on [my and my sister’s] flight would have been priced at around $8,000.” Instead, the two transferred just 42,500 Ultimate Rewards points each to their Singapore Airlines Krisflyer accounts.
Your points don’t expire as long as your account is open. This means that, if you have more than one card that earns Ultimate Rewards points and you want to close one, you’ll need to move your points to another card before closing. Otherwise, you’ll lose them.
Should you get an Ultimate Rewards card?
All things considered, Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the best cash back and travel rewards programs you can find.
“There are not a lot of cons of the Ultimate Rewards programs, but the biggest is the Chase 5/24 rule,” says Geroulis. The rule, instated in 2015, makes it difficult to get approved for some Chase cards if they have opened five or more new credit card accounts in the previous 24 months.
If you don’t fall under this rule and you’re looking for ways to maximize your travel rewards, consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve. To get even more value, apply for the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited, take advantage of their higher rewards rates, and transfer your points to your Sapphire account.
If you still want to compare the Ultimate Rewards program with other travel programs, check out SuperMoney’s best travel credit cards to see if another program would be a better fit for you.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance writer and a credit cards expert who loves helping consumers and business owners make better financial decisions. His work has been featured in Time, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, CNBC, Success Magazine, USA Today, The Huffington Post and many more.