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

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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®

  • 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 Credit 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®.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, 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® 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®. 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® 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® or Ink Plus® Business Credit Card:

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

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®, 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®

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • A large bonus
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Cool factor - metal card
  • Rewards redemption bonus through Ultimate Rewards

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • APR: 16.24%-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • $0 foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance when used at a chip card reader
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
  • Travel and shop with confidence with premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

In addition to its ongoing rewards — which are detailed above — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers a killer signup bonus: You’ll Earn 50,000 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 Chase 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

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Bonus Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$95 Annual Fee

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • APR: 15.49% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases-with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip-enabled for enhanced security at home and abroad when used at a chip card reader
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

The Ink Plus® Business Credit Card also boasts a sweet signup bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

It has a $95 Annual Fee and no foreign transaction fees. The Ink Plus® Business Credit Card is best for businesses that spend primarily on office supplies and cable/telecom services, and redeem rewards for business travel.

Methodology

The calculated value of these points is based on an estimated redemption rate, not a credit card rewards earn rate. Therefore, you may notice that these numbers don’t match the rewards rates on our credit card finder tool. Read on for how we estimated these points values.

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.

  • YK

    When you use points to book a flight through the travel tool, how are the points used/valued? Is it just a discount off the flight? (10K pts takes $100 off the cost of the flight, for example) Or is it like airline miles where it’s a flat cost (for example, 12.5k pts for a one way flight)

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi YK! Points act as a discount on travel booked through Chase. They make points very easy to redeem. Simply select your reservations on the Chase website, and the payment page will automatically offer to subtract the value of your accumulated points from the total. You do not need to have enough points to pay for the entire ticket.

    • Syd

      Pretty much..if your flight costs $500, and you have 1000 points. It’ll only take 400 points, instead of 500.

  • RL

    Are the plane tickets more expensive through Chase’s interface? (than going through orbitz for example)?

    • Cb15432

      What was the answer to RL’s question?

      • Syd

        I haven’t used it to fly yet, but I’m comparing prices with SkyScanner, and kayak, and they look dead on.

    • Travis Solin

      No, they are the same. For example, I’m booking a trip right now that is $403 RT on Expedia.com and the exact same flights through Ultimate Rewards are the same price. However, when booking through there, you get a 20% discount, so instead of costing 40,300 points, it costs 32,240 points…

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi RL,

      We’ve found the prices on the Chase booking tool to be pretty much the same as you’d find on Kayak.

  • Demurphy41

    How do you covert 69,311 points into dollars?

    • somramthom

      Depends on your card. For many, each point is a penny. So you take your total points balance and divide it by 100. This gives you the amount of dollars your points are worth. Ex: 69,311/100= $693.11

    • http://www.thepointsguide.com/ ThePointsGuide

      If its Chase points then each point is only worth 1 cent. Not much if you ask me, but if you were to convert those points to free travel then the value of the points goes up. For instance I got a first class ticket for 60,000 rewards miles, that same ticket would have cost me $1,900. So before you convert points into dollars, see if you can get a better deal with converting to miles to get free airline tickets.

      Just my 2 cents 😉

      • Krati

        I just signed up for Chase Preferred card. After signing up, I realized that Barclays card offers 2X on every purchases unlike Chase that offers 2X only on travel and dining. One thing that I haven’t understood in your comment is how do you get a first class ticket of $1900 ? Maybe on domestic flight, but on international flights, the price in way more than that.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      If you have the Chase Ink Bold, Ink Plus or Sapphire Preferred, your points are worth 25% more if you redeem for travel, so you can use your points to book an $866 plane ticket. If you don’t, your points are pretty much worth 1 cent each, so you can get $693.11 worth of gift cards, etc.

      • Robert

        You better check the offerings… This does not appear to be true.

  • Aaron Tyler Soto

    I am a frequent flyer of Delta. Are Delta flights provided in the Ultimate Rewards program or just the airlines listed above?

    • justthebest

      Just the ones list. No Delta. : (

      • Anthony Spicciati

        Not true – Delta flights are available through UR, but not the 1-to-1 point transfer.

  • Sarah

    Is it better to transfer the points to my frequent flyer program (United, in my case), or is it better to buy airline tickets through the Ultimate Rewards site? I am looking for the cheaper option and don’t care about being loyal to any particular airline. Thanks in advance for the help.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      It depends. If you use your UR points for travel booked through Chase, your points are worth 1.25 cents each.

      On United, if you calculate the cost of buying the flight outright versus using miles, you can calculate dollar value per mile. For example, if you need 25,000 miles and the ticket would cost $250 in base airfare if you bought it outright, your points would be worth 1 cent each, and you should book through Chase. But if you need 25,000 points and the ticket would cost $500 in cash, your points are worth 2 cents each, and you should transfer your miles to United and use United miles to book.

      • Sarah

        Thank you! That’s very helpful.

      • Robert

        I booked a flight from Houston to Lima, Peru through United Airlines with 75,000 points for Business Class. I tried the same booking with Ultimate Rewards and it wanted to charge 82,500 points for coach and 362,787 for Bus Class. That’s actually 10% worse to coach and 5 times worse on Bus Class, not 20% better. I also checked UR versus the Hyatt website, and the same thing, UR wants to charge a higher rate. Things must have changed since these postings. I will not use UR. Compare them against the actual website.

  • Stan

    Can you obtain the 40,000 points from the Sapphire card and transfer it to a Freedom card? Then cancel the Sapphire card and keep the points.

    • Nathan Joel

      Yes, you can. However, your Ultimate Reward points, when used under the Sapphire Preferred card, are worth more because they can be transferred to travel partners like airlines and hotels. That option is not available with the no-annual-fee cards from Chase that also earn UR points. (Also, note that it’s the Sapphire *Preferred* card that earns the 40K bonus and makes the UR points more valuable. There’s also a Sapphire card (no “Preferred” in the name) without those features.)

  • dzineit

    My experience with Chase and United Rewards was not great. After spending quite a bit with them We tried to book a flight. Unfortunetley myu paertner and I could not fly togetehr even though they had an empty flight. We called Chase but they could not help but offer more useless rewards. The custoemr appreciation and customer service was below average and they did nothing to accomidate a member. Sorry we got this card and spent what we did with Chase.

  • 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.

  • james klingman

    I called to inquire about the free shipping when ordering through Lowe’s Home Improvement via Chase Rewards. I was reassured by [employee name and office location removed by moderator] (after checking with her supervisor and prior to submitting my Lowe’s order) that I would not be responsible for any shipping fees. [employee name removed] 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’ [employee name removed] 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.

  • michele

    i am thinking about getting the Chase UR card, to eliminate 3 airline cards that I have (United, Southwest and British). If I am not using the airline cards or traveling to keep these airline miles active (every 18 months or 24 months, depending), will I be able to keep my existing airline miles active through UR, maybe by transferring miles?

  • Kmart

    Do you earn bonus UR points on top of a bonus category? Example Bed, bath and beyond is current 5% category on freedom. Shop thru Chase has 2 pts per dollar when going through their site. Do I then earn 10% back shopping BBB via Shop through Chase?

    • http://geekyposh.com/ Jenny @ geekyposh.com

      You do earn bonus points on top of a bonus category, but in your example it’d be 7% (5+2), not 10%.

      • Kmart

        Thank you. Not sure why I was multiplying and not adding.

  • Anthony Spicciati

    Seems to me like the 1-to-1 transfers are the best way to work this, and the UR points are not really beneficial for airlines that do not participate in it.

    I tried looking for a flight through the tool, and even though the prices were the same for a one way JetBlue ($204) or Delta flight ($353) as through kayak or the airlines themselves, the points needed were way higher in the UR program. Directly, Jetblue would charge me 13k points and Delta was charging 12.5k points. Through UR though, it was 16.3k and 28.2k respectively! That was even with the 20% “discount” that the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers.

    Has anyone figured out an easy way to compare these point exchanges without having to go through each individual site? Or any method that helps tell me when UR is a better time to book? This card/program is starting to not look so great…