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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® 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 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® Card.

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

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® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • A large bonus
  • $0 foreign transaction fee
  • Cool factor - metal card
  • Rewards redemption bonus through Ultimate Rewards

Cons

  • Introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

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

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward 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 worldwide & 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
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

In addition to its ongoing rewards — which are detailed above — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a killer signup bonus: You’ll Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months for an additional 5,000 points.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an $0 for 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

  • $0 foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • $95 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

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 15.49%-19.49% 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 5 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 2 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
  • 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 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.