by Lyle Daly | Nov. 9, 2020
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can unlock exciting travel opportunities. Before you start redeeming yours, learn how you can use them to their full effect.
Of all the credit card rewards programs on the market, Chase Ultimate Rewards ranks among the best and the most popular. It lets you redeem your points as cash through the Chase travel portal. It has a long list of airline and hotel travel partners to which you can transfer your points. And it offers several rewards credit cards with large sign-up bonuses, high rewards rates, and plenty of extra benefits for Chase cardholders.
To get the most out of this rewards program, you need to understand how it works. There are many ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points, and you could get two or three times as much value, depending on the option you choose.
This guide will teach you all about the Ultimate Rewards program. By the end, you'll know exactly how to redeem your points to book the travel you want.
The Ultimate Rewards program allows you to earn points that you can then redeem toward rewards, with travel being the most popular and valuable reward option.
You'll have access to the program as long as you have at least one active Ultimate Rewards credit card. Every time you earn a sign-up bonus with an Ultimate Rewards card or use one for a purchase, you'll earn more points.
Chase currently has three credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points:
There's also a way you can use Chase cash back cards to earn more Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase cash back cards don't provide the option of transferring rewards to Chase travel partners or redeeming them at a higher rate through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. However, if you have both a Chase cash back card and one of those Chase travel cards, then you can transfer your cash back to the travel card at a rate of 100 points per $1.
Because Chase's cash back cards offer high earning rates in areas that its travel cards don't, they work well as companion cards to help you collect more travel points. You just use the cash back card on any purchases for which it would earn you more back, and then transfer that cash back to your travel card.
There are two popular choices for Chase companion cards:
There are several ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points. The options that offer the most value are:
*Through April 30, 2021
Here's a closer look at these and other redemption methods.
You can transfer your points to the loyalty program of any airline or hotel that is partnered with Chase. Transfers to most partners process instantaneously, and the transfer ratio is 1:1 with every partner. After you transfer your points, you can use them with the partner to book your airfare or hotel stay.
This redemption method offers the most potential value. There is, however, a learning curve to finding the best transfer options for the travel you want to book.
These are the current loyalty programs where you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points:
Airlines: 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
Hotels: IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt
Pro tip: Don't forget about airline partnerships and alliances. When you have points with one airline, you can also use those points to book flights with any of that airline's partners and fellow airline alliance members.
The biggest airline alliances are SkyTeam, Star Alliance, and Oneworld, and Chase has transfer partners in all three. So even though there are 10 airlines in the Ultimate Rewards program, you could use points for flights with more than 60 airlines thanks to partner bookings. Those partners include American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the other two major domestic carriers that aren't directly partnered with Chase. You won't find many airline credit cards that give you more flight-booking options.
With this method, you search for travel on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and redeem your points toward the cash price of the purchase. When you redeem your points this way, their value depends on which credit card you have. Here are the current point values by card:
An extra perk with this method is that it's usually considered a cash purchase by the airline or hotel, and that means you can earn points in their own loyalty program from the booking. If you had transferred your points to make an award booking, you wouldn't earn anything.
Through April 30, 2021, Chase lets you redeem Ultimate Rewards points as a statement credit towards the following types of spending within the last 90 days:
You get the same rate that you would when redeeming points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards site. That means $0.0125 per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and $0.015 per point with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
The Chase Dining program lets you use your points for Sapphire Private Dining series events, takeout, outdoor seating reservations, and more.
Like Pay Yourself Back, this method is also offering more value through April 30, 2021. Points are worth just as much through Chase Dining as they are for Ultimate Rewards travel purchases until that date.
You can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back or gift cards. You're almost always better off avoiding these methods. You only get $0.01 per point (unless there's a special gift card offer). Since you can get more value from other redemptions, it makes sense to stick to those.
An Ultimate Rewards point is worth either $0.0125 or $0.015 per point towards travel, depending on the Chase card you have. You could also get much more by transferring points to travel partners.
If you transfer your points, there is a wide range of redemption opportunities available. Some will earn you $0.01 or less. On the other end of the spectrum, you could find redemptions worth more than $0.03 per point.
Earning $0.015 to $0.03 per point is a reasonable expectation for Ultimate Rewards points. That's a range that you can typically reach if you use your points wisely, but it won't require you to spend weeks hunting down deals or booking some ridiculous trip purely because of the awesome value you're getting per point.
Ultimate Rewards points don't expire as long as the credit card with the points is open. If the card is closed, any remaining points will be lost. That's why you should never cancel your credit card without redeeming your unused rewards points first.
You'd also lose your points if Chase decided to close your account. Although credit card companies can close an account at any time, this is a rare occurrence. The most common reasons Chase would cancel your card are if you don't make your minimum payment for at least 90 days, if you declare bankruptcy, or if you commit some sort of fraud, either with your Chase card or with its rewards program.
No, you can't buy Ultimate Rewards points. Although Chase previously allowed cardholders to purchase points, it discontinued this feature in 2012.
It's easy to move your points from multiple Chase credit cards to just one. All you need to do is log in to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, open the "Earn / Use" dropdown menu, and click "Combine Points." From there, just follow the prompts to combine points on to the card you want.
If you're wondering why you'd do this, there are several potential reasons:
To simplify redemptions: It's more time-consuming to redeem points when they're spread across multiple cards. You can redeem more points at once by combining them onto a single card.
One of my biggest frustrations I've come across as I've researched ways to maximize Ultimate Rewards points is that there are many lists with high-value redemption options, but they never explain how I can find the award travel that I want.
Sure, it's nice to know I can book a Singapore Airlines first-class ticket or a Hyatt suite in Dubai, but if Singapore Airlines doesn't go to the destination I have in mind or I'm not planning to visit Dubai, neither of those do me much good.
That's why I'm going to explain my simple method for finding the right redemption opportunities.
I use different methods for airlines and hotels.
Airlines: First, I search for all the airlines offering flights from where I am to my destination. Since there are many airlines you can book with Ultimate Rewards points, it would take forever to plug your trip into each one of them.
Once I know which airlines fly that route, I can note which Chase transfer partners are on the list. I also note airlines that are in the same alliance as a Chase transfer partner, because I could book those with my points as well.
Hotels: While Chase has a great lineup of hotel partners, it's still only three hotels, so checking them individually won't take much time. I plug my destination into each hotel's site to see what they have available in the area.
Once I know which transfer partners are an option, I check that they offer what I want for my flight or hotel. Specifically, I'm looking at:
Once I have some options, I see how much each one will cost me in points and how much value I'll get per point. This is what takes the most time starting out, but you'll get through it much more quickly when you have a feel for award bookings with certain travel partners.
When I know what I want, I transfer my Ultimate Rewards points to the travel partner and go through the award booking process.
Always do this part last, because transfers are final.
There are a few redemption options that tend to get you an excellent value for your points.
If you're aiming for peak value, expensive international flights are where it's at. Economy international tickets aren't a bad deal, either, but business-class and first-class seats are where you can hit $0.03 per point and beyond.
Even though British Airways has some ghastly surcharges on many of its award tickets, Avios (the airline's rewards currency) still have their uses. Since British Airways uses a distance-based pricing chart for award tickets, short-haul flights on both that airline and its partners can be a bargain. They start at 4,000 Avios for off-peak flights going under 650 miles or 4,500 Avios if it's a peak or partner flight.
I already mentioned one of United's deals above, and the airline is great for booking award flights internationally. I recommend using the airline's low-fare calendar to look for dates with Saver availability, because you'll save a lot of points that way.
Another way to maximize points with United is through its Excursionist Perk. When you're booking an award flight on United that goes to a different region of the world, you can also book one free flight within that region. Let's say you're flying from North America to Europe. You could book:
Using the Excursionist perk, you'd pay for only two award flights instead of three. You can book these flights with the "Multi-city" option on the United site.
While value isn't great on most transfers to Chase hotel partners, Hyatt is the notable exception. Its awards chart has lower prices than most of the competition, and in some cases, you could get $0.02 per point on your stay.
The Ultimate Rewards travel portal offers a useful alternative to transferring your points. If award bookings are too expensive or unavailable, you can still book what you want through the travel portal. It's a good idea to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve® if you think you'll use this method often so that you can take advantage of its $0.015 per point rate on these redemptions.
Although there are some spectacular redemption options available in the Ultimate Rewards program, there are also those that get you very little per point. Without further ado, here's the Hall of Shame:
I'm looking at you, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Those are the worst offenders, tacking on enormous surcharges on award tickets that make it so you're practically paying in points plus cash. After you take surcharges into account, you typically won't even crack $0.01 per point on your award ticket.
With both of the above airlines, you're almost always better off using their points to book flights on their partner airlines. However, British Airways does have solid short-haul flight deals, which are its saving grace.
IHG and Marriott are lackluster choices for award stays, as you'll usually get around $0.01 per point or possibly break $0.0125 per point.
Instead, go through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to apply the cash value of your points toward bookings with these hotels. You'll get an equal or better value this way, and you'll earn points with the hotel on the booking.
The only time you should get cash back from Ultimate Rewards points is if it's an emergency. Otherwise, stick to using your travel card for travel rewards.
Gift cards are almost always a waste of time and points. You're typically getting $0.01 per point for a card you can use with only one retailer.
The great thing about Ultimate Rewards points is their versatility. No matter where you're going, you can use your points to book a flight and a place to stay.
It may seem complicated at first, but it doesn't take that long to get the hang of redeeming your points. And as you search for award travel through the Ultimate Rewards program and its partners, you'll better understand how to get the most value on every redemption.
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