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There’s no such thing as having too many Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The transferable points currency gives you some of the best hotel and airline transfer partners as well as a travel portal which allows you to cover a wide variety of different travel costs.

While other credit card programs have devalued or fallen by the wayside, Ultimate Rewards maintains its place as one of the most valuable loyalty currencies. Though Chase has tweaked the program slightly over the last few years, little has been done to affect the overall value. Today I’ll share the current strategies you can utilize to get the most value out of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Earning Ultimate Rewards

You can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points with several cards. The first three earn fully transferable points, while the remaining four are technically billed as cash-back cards. However, the earnings from those cards can be combined with the points from the top three to essentially “convert” them to full Ultimate Rewards points. For complete details, check out TPG Senior Editor Nick Ewen’s guide to transferring Chase points between accounts.

With that out of the way, here are the seven cards that allow you to earn Ultimate Rewards points:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Current Bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Benefits: With this premium card, you’ll earn 3x points on all travel and dining purchases, and you can redeem points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece (compared to 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card). Other perks include a $300 annual travel credit, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and Priority Pass Select lounge access. Cardholders also get primary car rental coverage, trip interruption/cancellation insurance and other protections.
  • Annual fee: $450

chase sapphire preferred credit card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Current Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Benefits: This card offers 2x points on all travel and dining purchases and has no foreign transaction fees. You also get a multitude of travel perks like delayed baggage insurance, trip interruption/cancellation insurance and primary car rental insurance. To top it all off, Chase offers great customer service; it’s very easy to reach an agent (instead of going through a long phone menu) when you call the number on the back of the card.
  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

  • Current Bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Benefits: This card earns 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising made with social media sites and search engines each year. You earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, and points don’t expire as long as your account is open. Like the two cards above, points earned on the Ink Preferred can be transferred to multiple airline and hotel partners.
  • Annual Fee: $95

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

  • Current Bonus: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Benefits: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.
  • Annual Fee: $0

Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

  • Current Bonus: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
  • Benefits: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase.
  • Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom

  • Current Bonus: $150 (15,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 in the first three months.
  • Benefits: The card earns 5% back/5x points on select bonus categories which rotate on a quarterly basis up to $1,500 per quarter.
  • Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Current Bonus: $150 (15,000 points) back after you spend $500 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Benefits: Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (after that a variable APR of 16.99% to 25.74% applies).
  • Annual fee: $0

Redemption Options

You have three basic options for redeeming Ultimate Rewards:

1. Cash Back/Gift Cards — Earn credit on your statement at a flat rate of 1 cent per point. You can also redeem toward third-party gift cards at a rate of 1 cent per point.

2. Ultimate Rewards Travel Redemptions — Book travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel center and redeem points to pay for your plane tickets, hotel stays, rental cars or experiences. If you only hold a Chase Freedom, Ink Business Unlimited, Ink Business Cash or Freedom Unlimited card, all points are worth one cent each. As a holder of the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred, each point is worth 1.25 cents (so a $100 hotel room would only cost 8,000 points). If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece toward redemptions through the portal.

If you hold multiple cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, you can combine your points in the account of whichever card makes points the most valuable. For example, all of your points earned with the Freedom can be moved to your Sapphire Reserve account, thus jumping to 1.5 cents apiece.

3. Transfer to Travel Partners — You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to 9 airline programs (British AirwaysFlying Blue, JetBlueSingapore AirlinesSouthwestUnitedVirgin AtlanticAer Lingus and Iberia) and four hotel programs (HyattIHGMarriott and Ritz-Carlton, though the latter two are essentially the same, for all intents and purposes). All transfer ratios are 1:1, and you must transfer in 1,000-point increments.

Quick Analysis

The first two redemption options are pretty straightforward. It’s almost never a good deal to redeem for cash-back, since you can get significantly more value than one cent per point by using the travel portal or transferring your points to partners. The Ultimate Rewards travel portal can be worthwhile if you’re booking a very cheap flight or hotel room or if the loyalty program you could transfer to would charge you more miles than the cost of redeeming points directly through Chase. You might also consider the travel portal option if you only have only a handful of Ultimate Rewards points left, since Chase lets you redeem points to partially cover the trip cost and then you cover the remaining balance with cash.

As a reminder, you won’t earn any hotel points or elite stay credits when paying for hotel rooms through the Chase travel portal. However, for the majority of flights booked through the portal, you will earn redeemable and elite-qualifying miles. Just note that there’s a small risk that you could be booked into a bulk fare, at which point you wouldn’t earn anything for the flight. It may not always be easy to tell, but you should read all the rules and policies for your ticket by clicking the small icon on the Chase travel portal search results, such as those shown here:

You’ll also want to stay away from Basic Economy, a bare-bones travel option that’s becoming more and more popular. Fortunately, as you can see in the above screenshot, it’s easy to compare the prices, and clicking Fare Details will display what is (or isn’t) included with these different options.

Top Ways to Maximize Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

Transferring your Chase points to one of the 13 Ultimate Rewards travel partners is your best bet if you want to get the most value out of your points. In reality, each of the 13 programs below would require an entire article describing the hours of research and techniques needed to truly maximize your points. Instead of overwhelming you, I am going to briefly highlight the seven best transfer programs and link to further resources we have here at TPG for more detail. Here are some of the best ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards with airline and hotel transfer partners:

United Airlines

United changed things considerably in late 2016 and 2017 in regards to award bookings. There’s a new web interface, the Excursionist perk replaced previous open jaw and stopover routing rules, and “Everyday awards” have replaced standard awards and now contain variable pricing. While many of you have become more frustrated with the Mileage Plus program and many more have written off the Excursionist perk as a low-value benefit, I continue to find significant value with United miles.

First, let’s look at the Excursionist perk. It takes a bit of time to comprehend what is allowed in order to maximize this benefit. Here’s the simplest definition of the Excursionist perk: The first flight wholly within a different region than the region you depart and return from is free. When you begin to explore what that actually means, you can piece together fantastic itineraries for hardly any miles. Here’s an itinerary consisting of Mexico to Northern South America round-trip, with an intra-northern South America leg for free thanks to the Excursionist perk:

Image from GCmap.com

In the itinerary, you start in Mexico City (MEX) via a ticket booked through any carrier, such as Southwest Airlines. You can spend however much time you’d like in Mexico City before starting the itinerary, as follows:

  • Fly to Quito (UIO) and stay as long as you like
  • Get yourself from Quito to Bogota (BOG) and stay as long as you like
  • Fly to the Galapagos Islands (GPS) and stay as long as you like
  • Fly back to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) and stay as long as you’d like

Since this is a round-trip itinerary that starts and ends in the same region (Mexico), the first flight wholly within a different region than the one you depart and return from (Northern South America) will be free. Here’s the itinerary from United.com:

The total price for seeing all of these destinations is an astounding 30,000 miles and ~$200:

This is an itinerary between Mexico and Northern South America, costing 15,000 miles each way, with the intra-Northern South American leg (BOG-GPS) for free, making it 30,000 miles round-trip. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible with this tremendous benefit.

Besides the excursionist perk, I get solid value from my United miles on short-haul domestic flights (defined as routes less than 700 miles) for just 10,000 miles each way. Fares on these routes, especially if United is the only carrier, can be sky high. If you have a United cobranded card like the United Explorer Card, you’ll also receive access to the additional ‘XN’ fare award space, which routinely shows up once you are close-in to a flights departure. Just be aware of the $75 booking fee for award tickets within 21 days of departure, though this is discounted or waived for elite members.

In addition, there are many United long-haul routes where the miles required for an economy award ticket provide excellent value. Redeeming miles for intra-Asia travel on Star Alliance partners is one example, as is flying around Central and South America or the Caribbean on partner Copa Airlines. There is no shortage of ways to use these miles and get great award flights.

British Airways

The British Airways Executive Club program is a bit different than a “traditional” program in that it uses a distance-based award chart for calculating the number of points (Avios) you’ll need for an award ticket. These start at just 4,000 Avios each way, and even though the carrier eliminated the lowest tier for short-haul flights in North America, they’re still available for flights anywhere else in the world. It could be worth transferring Ultimate Rewards points to fly Oneworld partner Qantas around Australia, Iberia around Europe or Japan Airlines domestic routes, the latter of which can be absurdly expensive if you decide to pay cash.

You also have the option to book American and Alaska short-haul flights for just 15,000 Avios round-trip if you find the ever-elusive saver availability. You can also still book round-trip transatlantic economy awards on Aer Lingus for 26,000 Avios on off-peak dates round-trip from Boston (BOS) to Shannon (SNN) or Dublin (DUB). A final option worth mentioning is 25,000 Avios to fly Alaska Airlines round-trip from the West Coast to Hawaii.

Hyatt

The World of Hyatt program is the most routine destination for my Chase Ultimate Rewards. The hotel program offers an extremely reasonable award chart for free nights and the World of Hyatt status perks are in my opinion, the best of any chain.  Points + Cash redemptions were my favorite way to maximize the currency, but that aspect has taken a recent devaluation meaning I’ll probably skip it from now on and focus on full awards.

I got a suite at the Park Hyatt Dubai for $125 a night with a points plus cash booking and a DSU.
Park Hyatt Dubai
If you’re looking at standard award nights, the program has value across the spectrum of properties. Categories 1-5 in particular can offer some fantastic awards; several Category 1 properties sell for over $100 a night (excluding taxes), so redeeming 5,000 points for these is usually a simple decision. Likewise, at the Category 5 level, 20,000 points for a free night at properties that charge $350+ plus before taxes and fees is a no-brainer.

Even the highest tier of the program has some solid value. 30,000 points is a fantastic deal for top-tier Category 7 hotels like the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, Park Hyatt New YorkPark Hyatt Sydney and Park Hyatt Tokyo. Rooms at these luxury properties routinely go for over $1,000 a night. Look to free award nights (which also now count towards earning status) if you want to maximize your World of Hyatt points.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines continues to offer one of the best products in the sky; it somehow outdid itself with an updated Singapore Suites product. The new suites are now flying between Singapore and Sydney, and if you can find saver availability, the flight will cost 80,000 miles in the suite and 58,000 miles in business class. Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Krisflyer and redeeming them at the saver level for Singapore operated flights is typically going to be a winning proposition.

Singapore’s updated Suites class is the definition of in-flight luxury.

Besides Singapore operated flights, you can also use the KrisFlyer program to now book many Star Alliance partners online. There are several sweet spots in the Star Alliance partner award chart to investigate and you’re allowed one free stopover on round trip itineraries. Here are a few of my favorite Star Alliance redemptions with KrisFlyer:

  • Redeem just 35,000 miles to fly round-trip on United from the mainland US to Hawaii — the same trip would cost 45,000 United miles.
  • KrisFlyer considers Hawaii and Bermuda to be in the same zone along with Central America and the Caribbean. All flights within this region cost 35,000 miles round-trip, and you’re permitted one stopover. There are plenty of itineraries you can plan to take advantage of at this redemption price, so it’s definitely worth considering when you think about how to use your Ultimate Rewards. One example to really stretch your miles: San Juan (SJU) to Newark (EWR) to Honolulu (HNL) to Houston (IAH) to San Juan, with a stopover in Newark. This award would cost just 35,000 miles.

  • US domestic itineraries are 25,000 miles round trip. I was able to quote Newark – Chicago (ORD) – Los Angeles (LAX) – Newark with a stopover in the Windy City for 25,000 miles and $130.

Virgin Atlantic

This transfer partner is often overlooked, but I wouldn’t write off the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program, as it offers some great partner redemptions. My favorite use of these miles is booking Delta-operated US domestic flights for a flat 12,500 miles per segment, regardless of how many SkyMiles Delta would want for the same flight. As an example, Atlanta (ATL) to San Francisco (SFO) nonstop on November 28 is 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles:

The exact same flight on the same date would cost you 32,000 Delta SkyMiles:

A few other partner redemption gems include Tokyo-Narita (NRT) to Auckland (AKL) on Air New Zealand in business class on the new 787-9 for only 80,000 miles round-trip. Flying South African Airways on the fifth-freedom route from Washington Dulles to Senegal in business is a mind-blowing 50,000 miles round-trip. You can also fly ANA on several routes to the US; NRT-LAX round-trip in ANA first costs 110,000 miles and about $400 in taxes and fees. That’s the same mileage you’ll need for a one-way United award on the same product. As for Virgin Atlantic’s own flights, premium economy redemptions from the East Coast to Europe for as little as 17,500 miles and $200 in taxes and fees (one-way) is a great way to get across the Atlantic in a bit of comfort, though I’d avoid the carrier’s Upper Class due to the incredibly high fees it’ll incur.

Call the US Flying Club desk at 1-800-365-9500 for info on the costs of most partner redemptions for your dates of travel, since they’re not available online. I found the agents to be very helpful and quick to answer my queries.

Southwest Airlines

If you have the Companion Pass, Southwest should be a transfer destination for your Ultimate Rewards. Redeeming for a single ticket will give you between 1.6 – 1.9 cents in value per point, so it may not make sense to transfer your points to the Rapid Rewards program for just one award. However, if you’re taking your companion, transferring points will give you double the value (3.2 – 3.8 cents per point). Add in the ability to change or cancel award tickets for no fee if the price drops along with no checked bag fees and Southwest can yield wonderful value for your Ultimate Rewards points.

Even without the Companion Pass, you still can get some solid value from transferring your points to Southwest and making a bulk of your domestic travel cost only $5.60 per flight (in taxes and fees). The program is simple; there’s no award availability to search or tricks to pull. It’s only the cost of the ticket and how many points it is going to require.

Iberia Avios

The Spanish airline is a Oneworld Alliance member headquartered in Madrid, and it has its own variation of Avios which can provide a lot of value. To begin, there are times when it will be advantageous to use Iberia Avios over British Airways Avios. BA charges Avios on a per-segment flown basis, whereas Iberia charges based on total distance of the itinerary. This means instead of paying for multiple short-haul segments with British Airways, you can usually pay one lower price for the total distance with Iberia. You can also use Iberia Avios to save on the rather ridiculous fuel surcharges British Airways enacts on award tickets.

When it comes to using Avios on Iberia’s own flights, there are incredible transatlantic award flights to be had. Fly from New York-JFK, Chicago or Boston to Madrid (MAD) for as little as 17,000 Avios in economy one-way or 34,000 Avios in business. You can fly from Miami (MIA), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) to Madrid for as little as 21,250 Avios in economy or 42,000 Avios in business. There are also minimal fuel surcharges on this flight compared to a lot of options when looking to book award tickets to Europe.

A final reason to use Iberia Avios is that you can redeem for award flights on non-Oneworld partner Royal Air Maroc. For just 46,000 Iberia Avios, you can fly business class nonstop from New York-JFK to Casablanca (CMN) on Royal Air Maroc’s new Dreamliner.

Other Transfer Partners

The following transfer partners would require a unique circumstance in order for me to transfer Ultimate Rewards to them, such as needing to top off an existing account balance or a one-off example of where the program provides value. For these programs, there are typically much better ways to earn the points or miles — like co-branded cards or another transferable points program — instead of transferring Ultimate Rewards. Here is a quick synopsis of each:

Flying Blue — The new program has become too illogical to ever plan on using it from the beginning of an award booking. You can certainly get lucky and find a good redemption or book a promo award, but it’s just too variable. If I did need Flying Blue miles, I would probably transfer from American Express.

Aer Lingus — There’s another version of the Avios program here, but nothing really enticing that’s worthy of an Ultimate Rewards transfer.

JetBlue — TruBlue points are redeemed for JetBlue flights at pretty much a fixed rate 1.3 – 1.4 cents per mile. With that fixed redemption rate, there are just too many other valuable destinations for your Ultimate Rewards. You can also book JetBlue flights through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and get a guaranteed 1.5 cents/point if you have the Sapphire Reserve in your wallet.

IHG Rewards — With top-tier properties now requiring 70,000 points per night, it simply costs too much for award nights through the program. The lone exception might be IHG Point Breaks, though you can often purchase IHG points for as little as 0.5 cents apiece. I generally believe that any other transfer partner is a better destination for your Ultimate Rewards.

Marriott/Ritz-Carlton — On a case-by-case basis, it could potentially make sense to transfer Ultimate Rewards to Marriott to redeem for a free night. However, free nights are quite pricey, and with the different Marriott and SPG cobranded cards, it’s too easy to get the Marriott Rewards points you need without transferring Ultimate Rewards.

Bottom Line

The above strategies are just a sampling of the many redemptions available through the Ultimate Rewards program. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, booking through the travel portal at a rate of 1.25 – 1.5 cents per point will be a solid, baseline redemption for many travelers. However, to really get maximum value, look to transfer your points to the program’s litany of travel partners and book the flights and hotel rooms that otherwise would be outside of your means.

In any case, the Ultimate Rewards program provides a wide range of options to maximize your points and save you money — you just have to decide which redemptions are personally the most worthwhile.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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Annual Fee
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.