Best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points
If you’re looking for a credit card loyalty program that gives you options, then you’ve hit the jackpot with Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program.
One of the greatest virtues of the Ultimate Rewards program is its variety of redemption options: You can redeem your points for cash back, gift cards or merchandise, you can purchase travel from any service or website and redeem your points for statement credits or – if you own a premium rewards card -- you can redeem points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel site for a 25 to 50 percent bonus or transfer points to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners.
Though the value of a redemption option ultimately lies in the eye of a beholder, there are certainly some preferable – and some unrecommended – ways to redeem your points.
As you can see from values in the chart below, signing up for a premium rewards card (Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred) and redeeming your points for travel is generally the best way to go with your Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption options
|Redemption Option||Point Value|
Reserve travel redemption (50% bonus)
Preferred and Ink Business Preferred travel redemption (25% bonus)
|Ultimate Rewards portal travel
|Chase Pay purchases||0.8 cent
Using Ultimate Rewards points for cash back
Chase offers a lot of flexibility in its cash back redemptions.
You can redeem your points for cash back at any time starting at one point for 1 cent of cash back. You can redeem your points as a statement credit or as a direct deposit into a checking or savings account. This is a nice option to have in case you decide you want to close your cards and cash out your rewards or in case you decide you don’t want to use your points for travel rewards.
However, we strongly recommend transferring your points to a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, with which you can get a much better value than 1 cent per point for travel redemptions.
Using Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards
You can redeem your points for gift cards from a variety of retailers at a value of one point per penny.
Given that this is the same value as a cash back redemption, it makes little sense to choose this option when you can just take the cash back and buy the item from the retailer in cash, unless you take advantage of a special promotion in which the points required for gift cards is lower. Even then, you’ll likely get a better value by transferring your points to a premium card and using them for travel rewards.
Using Ultimate Rewards points to buy merchandise through Amazon or Chase Pay
Chase makes it simple to use your points for purchases through Amazon and Chase Pay. You can link your Amazon account to your Chase account and then redeem your points for purchases at checkout. Once you’ve downloaded the Chase Pay app, you also can apply your points to your purchases at checkout.
However, we don’t recommend either of these options – as you can see from the chart above, the value for your points is very low – only 0.8 cents per point. If you want to redeem your rewards for merchandise, you’ll get a much better value by using the cash back option to pay for the merchandise directly.
Using Ultimate Rewards points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal
If you own the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred card, then booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal is one of your best options. The value of points is completely transparent at 1 cent per point, and you receive a 25 to 50 percent bonus depending on which premium rewards card you own, which means your points are worth 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point when you use the travel portal.
The portal is extremely flexible – you have a wide number of airlines to choose from, and there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions – as long as a seat is available, you can book airfare using your rewards. And, if you don’t have enough points for the airfare, you can cover the difference using cash.
Note that, while you have a variety of travel options, including hotels, car rentals and activities, you are generally better off using your points for airfare. Hotel pricing on the Ultimate Rewards portal is high compared to many outside travel sites and – though Ultimate Rewards car rental rates are fairly competitive – you can find better car rental rates on a few other travel sites.
Transferring points to an Ultimate Rewards travel partner
You can get an even better value on your points by transferring your points to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners. Points transfer at 1:1 rate, which means your points maintain their value, and you can look for sweet spots in each loyalty program’s rewards charts to maximize your point value.
You’ll need to be much more flexible in your travel times and preferences to get the best value on your transfers – not only can rewards charts be very complicated, but loyalty programs often impose blackout dates and seating restrictions that can make it difficult to locate a rewards seat.
Chase Ultimate Rewards point transfer options
|Transfer Partner||Estimated Point Value|
Using the Ultimate Rewards portal versus transferring Ultimate Rewards points
In general, the decision of whether to use the Ultimate Rewards portal or transfer your points to an outside loyalty program comes down to how flexible you are and how much effort you want to invest in locating a rewards seat. Though you can get better values on your points by transferring them, rewards seats are limited and can be difficult to find.
Each option has its own benefits:
Benefits of using the Ultimate Rewards portal:
- It’s easy to find and book flights – you don’t have to scour multiple websites searching for limited rewards flights. Rewards flights aren’t always listed on the site, by the way – sometimes you have to contact the airline directly to verify the availability of a rewards seat.
- You don’t have to be familiar with a complicated rewards chart to find the best value for a flight – the values for flights are completely transparent and the Ultimate Rewards site is relatively easy to navigate.
- You can use Ultimate Rewards points to cover taxes and fees.
- You can cover the balance with cash if you don’t have enough points for a flight.
Benefits of transferring Ultimate Rewards points:
- You can get a much better value than 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point if you’re willing to do the legwork.
- You can book a luxury room at Hyatt properties for a very reasonable value.
- You can get great deals on last-minute flights and hotel stays if there’s availability.
- You can find good values on premium- and business-level airfare.
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