Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards

by on September 23, 2011 · 71 comments

in American Express, Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Credit Cards, Points Guy Pointers

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here

Update: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sign-up bonus offer is now reduced to 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Update: As of April 2013, Chase Ultimate Rewards has added Virgin Atlantic as a new airline transfer partner.

As I wrote about last week, I recently got my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and I have to say I love it. Yes, it does get a little bit annoying when inevitably every store clerk gawks and asks me about it, but the value proposition of the entire Ultimate Rewards program trumps any minor inconveniences (like Payless Car rental rejecting it because they couldn’t take a manual imprint of the numbers since they are printed on the card and not raised).

For the longest time I thought American Express points were the only way to go. I have been an American Express customer for years and have practically been using Membership Rewards points since I learned how to walk. Well that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I did first start using them when I was 12 years old.

This may be a little off topic, but here’s the story of how I got started with my points obsession. In the mid/early 90′s my dad took a job working from home and since he had secretaries his whole life, he didn’t know how to use the computer. Being entrepreneurial and leveraging my computer skills (then in the Prodigy/early AOL days) I was one of the first members of and I made money off of booking his work flights. I’d also manage his points and miles and that’s when I first started realizing the value of loyalty programs.

When I was 13 I planned our family’s first Caribbean trip using points – all 6 of us were going to the Cayman Islands. Due to award availability, I routed my Dad and 3 siblings on US Airways nonstop from Philadelphia and my mom and I flew using American miles via Miami (no I didn’t splurge for first class – if I only knew what I know now!). For accommodations, I found and negotiated a great house on VRBO (which I still use to this day). I remember being terrified the night before the trip that everything could go horribly wrong (give me a little credit, I was 13!) but we ended up having the trip of a lifetime and have been back to Rum Point on Grand Cayman numerous times. And needless to say, all of my family members respect the points trade, though some are much better at it than others and I’ll leave it at that ;-)

Back on topic,  I still think American Express Membership Rewards is a good program. I put a lot of my spend on my Premier Rewards (domestic) and Platinum (international) cards, however after becoming more familiar with Chase Ultimate Rewards, I find there are five areas where Ultimate Rewards excel.

1) There is no fee to transfer points. American Express charges $6 per 10,000 points transferred to US frequent flyer programs for a “Airline Excise Tax Offset Fee.” Chase charges no such fees. To test this, I just transferred 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Continental and after a quick confirmation they were instantly in my account. I tried to do the same thing with Amex and had to pay 60 cents. Not horrible, but if you do a 100,000 point transfer you are looking at  $60 in fees.

Chase transfer screen – simple and no fees

Amex’ transfer screen with fee notice

2) Chase is very flexible with external transfers. Unlike Amex, you don’t need to go through a linking process before transferring points. Chase just asks for the name of the person you want to transfer to (and it doesn’t have to be you). A couple clicks later and the transaction is done. This is amazingly helpful when family/friends need to top up accounts and you can come in and save the day, saving them potentially hundreds of dollars from having to buy miles directly from the airlines. Chase’s transfers are all instantaneous, whereas some of American Express’ can take several days (for partners like ANA and Singapore). American Express also lets you transfer to other people, but I just feel like Chase’s process is easier and more efficient.

3) Chase is very flexible with internal transfers. Chase allows points to be transferred to anyone else! For example, my friend who moved to Madrid had 2,000 points leftover in her Freedom account. She wasn’t going to use them, so she transferred them to me for free  (all we had to do was enter my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card number). Instantly I had 2,000 points that could be transferred to either United, British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club or Amtrak. Awesome.

Chase transfer screen – instantly transfer points to any other Chase rewards member

4) Ultimate Rewards Mall shopping points are reliable and post quickly. I recently posted about 2,500 and 4,500 point deals for signing up for and Pitney Bowes. Within 2 weeks I had those points in my account – normally you need to wait months and often track down vendors for your rightful points. So kudos to Chase for running a tight ship at the Ultimate Rewards shopping mall.

5) As a result of the flexible transferability of points, with Chase you can maximize the points you earn by taking advantage of other cards. For example, the no-fee Freedom card (which also comes with a 10,000 point sign-up bonus) gives 5 points per dollar on specific categories during the year. The Freedom card is supposed to be a cashback card, but instead you can transfer those points and major bonuses to your Ultimate Rewards account and then transfer them to the programs of your choice. So each quarter you can be earning 5 airline/hotel miles per every dollar spent in the category spend up to $1,500 quarterly. If this sounds confusing I highlighted this strategy in this post. FYI the bonus categories for Q4 (October-December) are:
Department Stores

To be fair, American Express blows chase out of the water in several areas, like breadth of transfer partners and transfer bonuses, but I’ll save that argument for another post :-)

Overall, I am really impressed with the Ultimate Rewards program and hope they continue to add transfer partners, including United after the Continental Onepass ceases to exist as its own entity on January 1, 2012 (I’ve asked this question to the powers that be and will report back as soon as I hear anything, but my gut is that United will be a transfer partner once Continental disappears). Realistically, I’d also predict that Southwest will be added as a transfer partner in the future since Chase also manages their credit card offering. (Update: These programs have since come on as Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, as has Ritz-Carlton.) Whatever happens, I think it’s a good thing that there is competition on the market and I’d love for Citi, Capital One and any other major credit card player to start transferable points programs. The more options the better!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • cvarming

    Regarding the Chase Freedom bonus spend. The other day I went down to my local gas station and bought gift cards for my local grocery store such that I will max out my bonus spend. This quarter i need to find a departments store that sells gift cards for the stores that I frequent. Most department stores sell gift cards only for their own store, but those are useless to me. Anybody out there that knows of a department store that sells gift cards to a large variety of stores?

  • Bexho2000

    I go to any Walgreens or CVS pharmacy (normally runs promos of buy 2 get $5 back) or large grocery chain store and buy Visa, MC or AMEx Gift cards. Most carry $500 denominations (normally the fee is $4.95/card). At least this way you are not tied to spending at a particular store. Be careful at buying gift cards at AMEX website as some creditcard companies consider that as a cash purchase (Citi just did that to me for a $2,000 gift card I bought and no one could change the code-was told it was impossible so I wasted the money and still have to spend to reach their $4k required for the Citi Amex 75k miles promo). Good luck!

  • mikes

    My DW just got her Sapphire yesterday. When she called to activate (and got a human, who didn’t even try to sell her something!) they asked about billing date. I was taken by surprise so didn’t have a strategy, but it occurs to me that it might be something to consider for anybody who’s applying now with the intention of getting the 7% annual bonus on the 50k.

    The bonus is based on miles earned by your December statement date, which could presumably be as early as Dec 1st. You need to have the 50k bonus post before that in order to get the 7% bonus on it this year. (My understanding is that the bonus posts when you make the spending requirement, not at the next statement, but TPG please correct me if I’m wrong.) If your statement date happens to be early December, anybody applying now is down to about 2 months to fulfull the spending requirement. Therefore, since Chase offers the option up front, it be a good idea to ask for a *payment* date early in the month, to have the statement date fall into late December.

    I probably screwed up due to being unprepared, and said “duh… the 15th?” … but happily we’ll have no idea making the spend as we have a cruise booked in October. Then maybe $1000 in Walmart cards to use at Sam’s… we have twins so that won’t even substantially advance the spending, it’ll just transfer it from DISC to the Visa.

  • mikes

    (Split comments for clarity)

    Brian, a question on the Freedom, if you don’t mind: you have commented recently about downgrading cards to no fee versions rather than cancelling. Would having the Freedom cause issues with downgrading a Sapphire to another Freedom when the fee comes up? (Also, would downgrading the card interfere with subsequent “new card holder only” offers for Sapphire?)

    I am thinking along the lines of 2xSapphire, 2xFreedom, plus the required spend, annual bonus, and leveraging the 5% quarterly bonuses could yield us 160k points without too much struggle. We could use that with the 25% bonus to offset $2000 worth of cruise for next fall (presuming you can do a partial payment.) I know that isn’t the absolute best use of the points, but we rarely stay in hotels so for us it seems like the best value. And, of course, we could use some points for hotel and redeem whatever is there towards a cruise anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Great idea- I didn’t even think of that. PS you can change your billing date online once every 6 months so its not too late.

  • Anonymous

    As long as you know someone with a Sapphire Preferred (like your wife)/Ink Bold account, you can transfer your Freedom points to them and they can transfer into your airline/hotel/amtrak account

  • Joe Clarke

    “Yes, it does get a little bit annoying when inevitably every store clerk gawks and asks me about it”

    I’ve had my card for months and I still get comments about how heavy the card is or how cool it looks, it is annoying sometimes but it is a nice conversation starter!

  • Anonymous

    So if I have both Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom, the pts from both automatically go into the same UR pot? And are worth 25% more on airfare?

  • lana

    How do you transfer points from chase to continental? I cant seem to find where to get the link for transferring?

  • Anonymous

    Do you have a Sapphire Preferred, Amazon or Ink Bold card? Those are the only ones that allow airline transfers. If you do, login to -> Transfer points -> Continental

  • leonard016

    Another great writeup TPG! I have a review on SPG vs. MR vs. UR on my website: and I appreciate any inputs or suggestions. It is hard to cover all three programs in one piece but I did try :D Re: Southwest, it has been rumored for quite a while that WN and UA (even long before the merger was announced) will be UR partners.

  • Lacuadra70

    Little by little Chase is entering AMEX territory. I have the same issue with a Slate card I got.
    No raised numbers and people think it is fake. I guess it will take some time for them to get used to it.

    I am thinking of switching it to Chase SP since I hear it is possible to use UR as well.

  • Tormapleaf

    I received a pre-approved offer for the Freedom card for “$250 cash back after first purchase”. Are these 25,000 points Ultimate Rewards points? I already have Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold – is it worth getting Freedom for only 25,000 points as ordinarily I prefer to take on only offers of 50,000 or more.

  • Anonymous

    They are 25,000 Freedom points, which CAN be transferred to your Ultimate Rewards account, so I say go for it- especially since theres no annual fee with the Freedom card and you can max out the 5x earning opportunities each quarter

  • Anonymous

    Sapphire Preferred is a better card. Just be careful- Chase may offer you less than the current 50k signup bonus if you upgrade. Your best bet is applying fresh for the 50k offer so you get the bonus and then consolidating accounts.

  • Anonymous

    My Ultimate Rewards points, to date, have only posted on my statement date. But, I do like Ultimate Rewards. I like getting a human to talk to whenever I need to call, I like how quickly they respond to secure messages, and I love the points earning potential in the Ultimate Rewards Mall.

  • Dr_murad

    We recently moved due to a job. We used Chase ultimate rewards mall extensively for some vendors such as Sears which give 7-10 points per $. The points really added up fast! So if you are buying a house or need to purchase new appliances, televisions etc, it is definitely worth including Sears in your comparison shopping.

  • Tormapleaf

    TPG, do you have the Freedom card? My 25k offer is after first purchase, but still another credit inquiry concerns me. And I just got the SP and IB last month. I don’t have a Chse checking account – does Chase have any no fee checking accounts?

  • Lacuadra70

    Thanks for the tip !
    I think that with all of Bernanke’s money “twist”, we will see more mileage offers, as credit will be cheap, I mean cheap.

  • Mike

    I’m coming up in a couple weeks on my one year anniversary for my Amex Gold. I was thinking about upgrading to the Gold PR next month but part of me is thinking of not renewing the Gold and going for the SP. I have a Freedom so I like the idea of being able to use the categories to add to one bulk rewards account. I also have an Amex Blue so I still stay in the Amex family in case I want to get back into the charge card business int he future for back-dating. Would it make sense to transfer all of my points a partner like Delta or use them for anything else to redeem? Most of my FF miles are in US Air so I’m not sure I would make use of them in Delta. Any thoughts?

  • David

    TPG – the CEO of United in an interview (I believe with CNN?) that I watched a few days ago online actually said in detail that they couldn’t come to a new agreement with American Express, but they did with Chase. He said their business is moving to Chase. So I would say it’s almost a sure thing that they’ll be on UR pretty soon!

    Also – love UR & the Saphire Pref card!! Always getting compliments, and it scored me 2 nights at the Park Hyatt Vendome Paris worth over $1,700 over Christmas! Stoked

  • Tal1412

    TPG- Is it possible to transfer points from one Sapphire account to another (me to my wife)? I can’t seem to find a link to do that. I have transferred freedom points to my Sapphire account, though.
    Keep up the good work.

  • panda

    Just transferred Freedom points online after having many problems trying over the phone. Easy. Amazing. Thank you so much!

  • Gmarchetti10

    How do you rate amex customer service vs. chase? Amex has higher fees, but they used to be justified by better rewards and customer service. Now with chase SP service and ultimate rewards I am not sure…

  • David

    Just got an email from saying that them issuing points to sign up is a violation of their affiliate terms, and my account would be canceled. Well that was easy! Especially if the points post!!

    “Dear David,

    Important News Regarding your Account!

    Thank you for signing up for the online postage service. We’re contacting you to let you know about an important issue that has come to our attention. After closely reviewing our affiliate program, we discovered that was mistakenly promoted as part of the is Chase® Ultimate Rewards℠ Shopping Mall program by an affiliate partner.

    The Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall program offers incentives or points to Chase customers, which violates the Terms & Conditions of our affiliate program. does not allow a third party to offer any form of incentives to new customers for signing up for our online postage service through our affiliate program.

    Your account has been identified as part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall program. In order to prevent any charges from appearing on your credit card, will be automatically closing your account. This account closure will also be reported to our affiliate partner. The action is being initiated to prevent your credit card from being charged the monthly subscription fee of $15.99 for the service.

    If you have any questions about your account closure, please send an email to [email protected]. Please note that we can provide information on your account only. If you have any questions regarding the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall program, please contact Chase Ultimate Rewards Customer Service.

    We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience these events may cause. Customer Service”

  • Simon

    I also got the same email and noticed that the points that were pending on my UR account disappeared. Bummer!

  • Dan

    Also got same e-mail, UR Rewards Mall 2500 points still showing as pending for now.
    Is this the hand of Cartera again, promising points that aren’t authorized, or what?

  • Sara

    TPG, I ran into the same issue with renting an Avis car in Israel- they didn’t want to accept the card because the numbers weren’t raised! I rent there often so I had Chase send me out a new card that HAD the numbers raised for when I’m there!

  • mikes

    Good answer…. um… wrong question. :)

    I was asking if we can both do Sapphire and Freedom, combine the points, and then downgrade one (or both) Sapphires when the annual fee comes up? Can you downgrade to a no-fee card when you already have that no-fee card? I guess that is the cruz of it…

  • PJ

    1500 MIN I keep there to enjoy the 10/10 benefit 10 points extra for each swipe and 10 % more points for keeping a checking account with them

  • PJ

    somehow i can not find where to go to do trasnfer online cud u help

  • Anonymous -> MAnage Ultimate Rewards -> Combine points

  • DanK

    Hey does any one know… Are you eligible for the 20,000 bonus points for the Chase Freedom card if you already have a Chase Sapphire card and got the 50,000 point bonus there?



  • Anonymous

    Yes you are. With chase you can get a signup bonus as long as you’ve never had that specific card (however they classify sapphire and sapphire preferred as the same)

  • Kathy K

    ok, ok, I just applied! now lets see if they deny me because I have 3 Chase credit cards…..

  • Mmt

    If the Sapphire card is cancelled and you have no other card that receives Ultimate Reward points; are used UR points forfit? Like AMEX MR?

  • Jonathan

    For anyone looking for Southwest transfers, you can already transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest via Hyatt. UR transfers 1-1 to Hyatt, which then converts to 2400 Southwest points for 5000 Hyatt points. The points even qualify towards Companion Pass on Southwest. If you transfer a full 50,000, Hyatt adds a 6000-pt bonus to end up with 30,000 Southwest points.

    The points could be more valuable within Hyatt than Southwest but I’m specifically looking at the CP angle.

  • Anonymous

    if you look around on the internet, there is also a $250 (25,000) pt bonus

  • Brian(J)

    Currently in France (in J on L metal using UA miles) driving the tiny Burgandy wine towns (Avis rented through UR for the points bonus) and can report no comments or problems using the SP card.

  • Alex

    Ultimate Rewards Mall often has far more generous bonuses than the airline portals–I just got 10 points/dollar from, while DL and AA shopping are only offering 3 miles/dollar.

  • Splat’s Mom

    Targeted offer just came in the mail today – in a little box! Chase Saphire Preferred 100k bonus points, $750 spend, $95 annual fee (waived first year) Woo hoo

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  • Mike Chung

    I need to get on this offer. Any idea how you were targeted?

  • tp

    Thanks for the heads up about the transfers from Freedom to Ultimate Rewards! I’ve had the Freedom card (and Chase checking account) for a couple of years and have redeemed a couple of gift cards and have about 30k points there. I signed up for the Continental Mastercard in May and have been primarily using that card, but the Sapphire Preferred looks pretty tempting now. The CO card was the first card I applied for after the Freedom, so I haven’t really done a lot of these signups before that I think I am overthinking things (as usual).

    Do you see any reason why someone would keep both the CO (after the 6 months) and the Sapphire Preferred if I go ahead and sign up for this card? I am currently 2P/Silver on UACO and have requalified for 2012 though with the benefit cuts I am not as sure about 2013.

  • Anonymous

    The Continental card offers benefits like early boarding and lounge passes that the Sapphire Preferred does not. However, the Sapphire Preferred is a better overall card- offering tons of flexibility with Skyteam and Oneworld and hotel/Amtrak transfer partners and 2x points on all travel and dining.

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  • tp

    The only benefits of the Continental card for me for next year would be the lounge passes assuming I stay the full year. Anyway, I applied for the Sapphire Preferred using your link, and I hope they accept it (I should have pretty good credit but I guess the only thing would be the Continental application <6 months ago) and send me the card soon. I am planning on holding off on some major car maintenance until I get the card.

  • tp

    I received a rejection letter yesterday. I ended up expecting it since I hadn’t heard anything for over 1.5 weeks and a new account hadn’t shown up on Chase online. I called the reconsideration line, and after moving around credit from my Freedom and my CO card, I was approved! Thanks for your tips!

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  • Сева Анечка

    Hi can you transfer Amazon Chase to Sapphire preferred?

  • Mmt

    Transfer to Marriott is not instantaneous. The points were deducted immediately, but not sent to Marriott. The UR accounts management says the points are in status “ordered”. The confirmation said to expect transfer on the same day. A link to terms on the confirmation says it takes 4-6 weeks for transfer. I am in deep yoghourt if it takes that long since I have a reward stay in a few weeks that need the points.

  • Mmt

    the points arrive at Marriott in 2 days

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  • Sstephens

    Is there any way to transfer American Express points from one account holder to another (non-related)?

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  • Penny

    Isn’t transferring points to someone outside your household a violation of Chases’s T&C and can get your card cancelled and points forfeited?

  • Grainnemulcahy

    take a scotch!, or some other kind of a “happy pill”!!!!!! do it and revel in the rewards as it happen “instantaneoulsly” as he says-

    or, in other ways – find a life! ha

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  • Rachel

    Cartera Commerce runs Chase UR Rewards Mall and I have to fight with them for months on end with no response to get any of the points they promise. Avoid this online scam!

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