Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall: The Popular Kid

Chase

The bank’s insanely popular online portal is a favorite of travel hackers and everyday spenders alike. Here are the stats, calculated 9/18/12 and 9/19/12:

  • Average rewards rate: 3.93% (check out our calculation here. Chase’s portal partners with all 40 of the stores we tested).
  • # of stores: 346
  • Points post: usually within 3 -5 days, can be up to 45 days. View points with “Rewards Activity” tab.

 Top 3 Things to Know about the Ultimate Rewards Mall

  1. Great usability and very good customer service.
  2. Good redemption options and values.
  3. Different rates at the mall for different cards.

Insider’s Tips

  • Use the Ink when buying at any office supply store. The Ink gets 5% back for purchases at office supply stores. If you buy through the Ultimate Rewards Mall at Staples.com, OfficeDepot.com, or other office stores, you’ll get the Ink’s 5% base rate PLUS the mall’s rate for the Ink card.
  • Use the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold to Transfer Points. If you have one of these 3 cards, you can move points to Chase’s frequent travel program partners – including United, Southwest, Marriott, and Hyatt. Always check the Ultimate Rewards Mall rate against these partner malls. Chase’s rate will most likely be higher. Shop and transfer your points at a 1:1 rate to any of the program allies.
  • Log In with the Right Card. The online mall gives different bonus rates for different cards. We don’t see any pattern to it – at some retailers, the Freedom gets you the best bonus rate, while at others the Sapphire or Ink does. Switch accounts to get the highest bonus rate. If you have multiple Chase cards, the Ultimate Rewards Mall won’t automatically give you the best rate out of the accounts you have open.
  • Use Store Pick-up to buy more online. More stores are starting to offer in-store pick up on online orders. Use this option as much as possible to get points without shipping charges.
  • Buy at the Right Time. The Ultimate Rewards Mall has rotating monthly specials. On the first of every month, the mall bumps up the rewards rate at certain stores and downgrades the rate at others. If you need something from a retailer who has been upped this month, strike before the 31st. If you need something from a retailer who hasn’t, wait until the 1st to see if Chase upgrades the rate at that retailer.

(Not So) Common Knowledge

The popularity of Chase Ultimate Rewards in the blogosphere might lead you to believe it always has the best rates, but that’s not the case. Our top rewards malls ranking found that the bank’s portal came in 4th out of over 20 rewards malls compared.

The Ultimate Rewards Mall doesn’t usually give the highest rewards rate. That distinction would have to go to ShopDiscover, which boasts 5% minimum cash back at participating retailers and 10% back or more at many popular stores.

Also, most don’t know that Chase runs its own customer service. This is one reason why users love the shopping site. The bank contracts with Cartera Commerce to administer the portal but Chase processes your complaints.

Cartera is notorious for subpar customer service – one frustrated user even sued the company for miles owed, so it’s no small relief that you get your bank on the phone. If Cartera messes up your points, Chase takes the grief.

Advanced Tricks

Use a non-Chase card at Checkout

The Ultimate Rewards Mall’s Terms and Conditions DO NOT exclude the use of other cards. Paying with a non-Chase card is beneficial if you have a different credit card that will get you better rewards.

Paying with a different card only becomes a problem if your points do not automatically post. When you call Chase to try and get your correct points, a bank representative can pull your credit card data and see that you did not pay for your purchase with a Chase card.  The bank’s representatives will almost never give you your full points if you paid with a non-Chase card – even if they really should.

Gift Card Churn

Buy a gift card through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to get bonus points. Use this gift card to buy real products. With this strategy, you’ll get points on both purchases. If you can use a gift card to buy another gift card online, go for it, but many stores won’t let you do this. Also, don’t churn excessively – the more you do, the more likely someone will notice.

Merchants usually have an exclusion that prohibits getting points off gift card purchases. Some merchants, however, do not have systems that have quite caught up to this policy. Put the merchant’s system to the test at your own risk.

Use coupons

The mall’s Terms and Conditions state, “You will not earn bonus rewards if you use coupon codes from third party coupon sites or forums.” But again, some merchants do not have error – free systems. Coupon at your own risk.

How We Calculated the 3.93% Average Rewards Rate

For our calculations of average rewards rate, we checked the Ultimate Rewards Mall’s rate at the 40 major retailers listed below. Chase’s mall, unlike most of our other portals, partnered with all 40 stores we surveyed.

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Retailer Chase Ultimate Rewards Rate
1-800-Flowers.com 9%
Aeropostale 4%
Apple Store 1%
Avon 4%
Bath and Body Works 5%
Bed Bath and Beyond 2%
Best Buy 1%
Buy.com 10%
Crate and Barrel 3%
Dell Home 2%
Foot Locker 5%
Game Stop 3%
GAP 3%
Home Depot 5%
HP 4%
HSN 4%
J.Crew 5%
JCPenney 6%
Kmart 2%
Kohl’s 4%
L.L. Bean 2%
Lowe’s 5%
Macy’s 3%
Newegg.com 2%
Office Depot 3%
OfficeMax 5%
Overstock.com 2%
PetSmart 4%
RadioShack 3%
Sears 3%
Shoebuy.com 10%
Sony 10%
Sports Authority 5%
Staples 4%
Starbucks Store 4%
Target 2%
Toys ‘R’ Us 1%
Urban Outfitters 3%
Victoria’s Secret 3%
Wal-Mart 1%
3.93%