ADVERTISER DISCLOSURE

Chase Rewards Review: Do Ultimate Rewards Points Deserve Their Name?

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved. Here's how we make money.
Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards: The basics

Depending on which Chase card you have, Ultimate Rewards Points can be redeemed for a multitude of rewards, including cash back, gift cards and travel. Points are generally worth 1-1.25 cents each, but may be worth more if you transfer them to one of Chase’s partner programs. Read on to learn about earning and redeeming Ultimate Rewards Points.

Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 2X points on travel and dining out
  • 1 point on every $1 spent on everything else

Chase Freedom®

  • 5% back on rotating bonus categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter
  • 1% back on bonus category spending above $1,500 and any other spending

Ink Cash® Business Card

  • 5% back on office supply store purchases and cable/telecom services, up to $25,000 spent per year combined
  • 2% back at gas stations and restaurants, up to $25,000 spent per year combined
  • 1% back on everything else

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

  • 5X points on office supply store purchases and cable/telecom services, up to $50,000 spent per year combined
  • 2X points at gas stations and hotels, up to $50,000 spent per year combined
  • 1 point on every $1 spent on everything else

Chase Sapphire® Card: No longer accepting new applications

Ink Bold® Business Charge Card: No longer accepting new applications

How to get more Ultimate Rewards Points

Earn extra points by booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards site. You’ll earn 2% back with your Chase Freedom® or 3 points back on every $1 spent on your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, all of your restaurant spending during the first Friday of every month will be rewarded at a rate of 3 points per dollar spent.

Shop through the Ultimate Rewards site to get extra points/cash back on your online purchases. You’ll earn anywhere from 2-26 points per dollar spent, depending on the retailer. For instance, Apple purchases will net you 3X points per dollar spent.

You can no longer purchase Ultimate Rewards Points.

How to redeem Ultimate Rewards Points

Good redemption options

Ultimate Rewards are worth a minimum of 1 cent each, which is often the highest redemption value for rewards points industrywide. That said, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, you can redeem points for 1.25 cents when you book travel through the Ultimate Rewards site. The site has a Kayak-like tool to book travel, with competitive rates, so you’ll get a great value when you use points this way.

If you have the Chase Freedom®, you can’t redeem for travel at the higher rewards rate, unless you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. If you have both cards, you can transfer your Freedom points to your Sapphire Preferred account to redeem for travel at the 1.25 cents rate.

Otherwise, your redemption options are cash back or gift cards, which both hold a value of 1 cent per point. You can begin redeeming for gift cards at 500 UR Points ($5), or cash back at 2,000 UR Points ($20). You can also use your points to pay for your Amazon purchases through the Shop with Points program, at a rate of 1 cent per point.

Bad redemption options

Since the lowest redemption rate is 1 cent per point, Ultimate Rewards Points don’t have bad redemption options when compared with the rest of the industry. However, you’re leaving money on the table by not redeeming your rewards for travel through the Ultimate Rewards site, if you have the option to do so.

So if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, the “bad” redemption options are cash back, gift cards and Amazon purchases.

Transfer partners

If you enjoy the sport of squeezing the most out of your points, you may be able to get a better value by transferring your points to one of Chase’s partner programs. Here are the programs, which you can transfer to at a rate of 1:1 with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus® Business Credit Card:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
    • Hyatt
    • Marriott
    • Priority Club/InterContinental Hotels Group
    • Ritz-Carlton
  • Amtrak

The fine print

Ultimate Rewards Points don’t expire as long as your card is open. If you cancel your account, you’ll lose any unredeemed miles.

When you shop through the Ultimate Rewards bonus mall, remember that the rewards listed are total rewards, not rewards in addition to your base rewards earned. For instance, if you shop at Apple with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll receive 1 point per dollar spent normally. If you make the purchase through Ultimate Rewards, you’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent in total, not 3 points in addition to the base point.

Top cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

In addition to its ongoing rewards — which are detailed above — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a killer signup bonus: earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months for an additional 5,000 points.

The Sapphire Preferred has an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 and no foreign transaction fees. It’s a great option for those who spend the bulk of their funds on travel and dining, and prefer to redeem rewards for travel.

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

Chase Ink Plus with Ultimate Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

The Ink Plus® Business Credit Card also boasts a sweet signup bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

It has a $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $95 and no foreign transaction fees. The Ink Plus is best for businesses that spend primarily on office supplies and cable/telecom services, and redeem rewards for business travel.

Methodology

Chase offers a 20% discount on travel when booking through the Ultimate Rewards site — meaning that you can redeem 8,000 points for $100 worth of travel. This makes the redemption value for this reward 1.25 cents per point:

$100/8,000 = $0.0125

The Chase Ultimate Rewards site offers gift cards ranging from $5 for 500 points to $200 for 20,000 points. Cash back can be redeemed starting at $20 for 2,000 points. Both redemption options have values of 1 cent per point.

The Chase Shop with Points page on Amazon explicitly states that 100 points are worth $1, and that there are no points minimums.

Last updated on March 19, 2015

Erin El Issa is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @Erin_Lindsay17 and on Google+.


Image via iStock.

  • jamo

    Also, they seem to have cut the reward for booking travel through chase down to 20%.

  • PTee

    Anisha, et al, I’m quite confused. You can redeem CASH via Sapphire?! I thought you said it’s a “NON-CASH back” card? Is it because the points is under UR? Or can you really redeem cash from it even if you don’t have a freedom card?

  • John Smith

    I’m looking for the best card for airline rewards and I’m considering this card or the Citi aadvantage card…I’m new to all this…. I have a few questions that I hope someone can answer for me…
    1. Can I link a Chase Sapphire to my bank account somehow so that I can get points for purchases from my bank account??
    2. Does the recent increase in required miles on United make the Citi Card a much better choice?
    3. Do you get miles for miles flown as well?
    Thanks

    • justthebest

      I can’t help with #2, but as to #1, no–they are only going to reward you for behavior that makes $$ for them. When you use the cc, they make money from the merchant; not so when you pay bills from your bank account. #3, you get miles for miles flown if you buy your ticket, but not if it’s a reward ticket. Hope that helps.

      • John Smith

        Where are these miles saved for the miles flown? Are they added as points to my chase sapphire? or are they always separate? meaning I have my miles with the airline and the points have to be transferred ?

  • james klingman

    I called to inquire about the free shipping when ordering through Lowe’s Home Improvement via Chase Rewards. I was reassured by Kathy in your Salt Lake customer service office (after checking with her supervisor and prior to submitting my Lowe’s order) that I would not be responsible for any shipping fees. Kathy reassured me that if Lowes were to charge me the $75.00 shipping fee for my order, that Chase would honor their promotion for free shipping on online purchases made with Lowe’s through the Chase website. Less than two weeks later, I received a call from Chase Banks’ Victoria Hinkle’morre telling me that I would have to pay the shipping as per my dispute. Had I not been ill-advised by a Chase customer service representative, I would not have made this purchase to begin with. As a customer, I should not be responsible for any shipping charges if I was told Chase would take care of them. Having lost trust with your company and its policies, I have decided to close this account after only one purchase. This poor service is unacceptable in a competitive credit card industry.

  • Bob Stern

    I was thinking about getting both the chase sapphire preferred and the the freedom card. but should I just get the sapphire and take the cash when I want it and/or use points when beneficial? I figure the freedom is generally worth about $260 or so per year based on my spending.

    • Bob Stern

      I suppose I could use the freedom when the 5% makes sense and then transfer the points to the sapphire. Also want to confirm that can easily use the points accumulated on the sapphire for cash back.