Is Chase Cracking Down on Ultimate Rewards Transfers?

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

Recently, Flyertalkers have reported having their Ultimate Rewards credit card accounts shut down and their points taken away for transferring points among Ultimate Rewards accounts as well as to frequent flyer accounts not belonging to them or their spouses.

This prompted me to look more closely at the Terms and Conditions of the Ultimate Rewards program, and here’s what the T&C specifically related to points transfers say.

Regarding transferring points to someone else’s frequent traveler account:

“Ultimate Rewards point transfer features are designed to allow our cardmembers to take advantage of the rewards they earn. The features are not intended to allow transfers to third parties other than a spouse or domestic partner of the cardmember. Transfers to unauthorized third parties or any other abuse of the Ultimate Rewards program may result in suspension or termination of the ability to participate in the program and forfeiture of points already earned.”

Pretty tough terms. As I’ve reported in the past, in order to transfer Ultimate Rewards points into a frequent traveler account with the program’s partners like United or Hyatt, all you need is the member’s name and account number, and most transfers post instantly, making this a super convenient redemption method.

While I have transferred points (not being aware of this specific term) to friends, family members and employees for redemptions like my upcoming Korean Air flight, I’ve never had an issue in the past. I would just advise other members to exercise caution when performing these transfers, and to avoid transferring large amounts of points to many different accounts in a short time period since all of these could possibly raise red flags on your Ultimate Rewards account.

Regarding combining Ultimate Rewards points from various accounts, the terms and conditions say this:

“Yes. You can combine points or rebates from any eligible credit or debit card with Ultimate Rewards. Note: Once points are transferred, they cannot be credited back. Transfers may only be used to combine points belonging to the same individual or business in the program; or for the purpose of enabling spouses or domestic partners to combine points. Chase will not make the transfer if the credit card account(s) or checking account(s), as applicable, are in default at the time of the transfer.”

Again, combining points from various Ultimate Rewards accounts is something I’ve done in the past and it was a great way to put points back into play that might not be used otherwise – either because they were too few for an award redemption, or in increments that couldn’t be transferred to a frequent flyer account, or because they wanted to close a particular credit card while leaving another open.

I just wish Chase had made the rules clearer and given people warnings before shutting down their accounts and causing them to forfeit their points.

It just goes to show that these program rules can change at any time at the credit card issuer’s discretion, and it seems like Chase has started enforcing these little-known provisions more stringently lately, so I would caution others to be as squeaky clean as possible with their accounts.

It pays to have a strong overall relationship with Chase. In my case, I have checking accounts and an auto loan with Chase, plus a slew of personal and business credit cards on which I put a lot of spending all around (all of which earns me points), so it’s in my best interest to remain in good standing with Chase.

On the not-quite-so-dark side, the Flyertalkers who reported having accounts shut down said that it was just one account at a time (the Sapphire Preferred in this case) – the one from which transfers were being made. So those with more than one Ultimate Rewards-earning card were still able to keep those other accounts open and their points from them.

Note that American Express allows external transfers from Membership Rewards accounts to anyone’s frequent flyer or hotel program account. I’ve sent these transfers to many people in the past (including for Twitter giveaways like today’s!) and never had an issue.

Have any of you had issues after combining Ultimate Rewards points from different accounts, or transferring your Ultimate Rewards points into the frequent flyer or hotel program of another person? Please comment with your story below!

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