How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Oct 4, 2019

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You can never have too many Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The transferable points currency gives you some of the best hotel and airline transfer partners as well as an easy-to-use travel portal which allows you to cover a wide variety of different travel costs — including tours and activities.

Despite increasing competition from American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One miles, Ultimate Rewards maintains its place as one of the most valuable points currencies. Though Chase has tweaked the program slightly over the last few years, little has been done to affect the overall value. Today we’ll dive into how you can get the most value out of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for your next redemption.

In This Post

How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points

You can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points with several Chase credit cards. The first three mentioned below 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 Points Lab 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.

Earning with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Earning with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Earning with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

  • Current Bonus: The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offers 80,000 points after spending $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 account anniversary 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
  • Apply now

Earning with the Ink Business Cash Credit Card

  • Current Bonus: The Ink Business Cash Credit Card offers $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. These earnings can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points if you have one of the three cards above.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Apply now

Earning with the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

Earning with the Chase Freedom

Chase Ultimate Rewards redeeming options

As you can see, there are many ways to earn Chase points, but how you actually use them is critical. You have three basic options for redeeming Ultimate Rewards:

1. Transfer to travel partners — This is, in our opinion, the best way to redeem your hard-earned points. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to 10 airline programs (British AirwaysFlying Blue, JetBlue, Emirates, Singapore AirlinesSouthwestUnitedVirgin AtlanticAer Lingus and Iberia) and three hotel programs (HyattIHG, and Marriott). All transfer ratios are 1:1, and you must transfer in 1,000-point increments. Note that Chase did launch its first-ever transfer bonus in 2019 — a 30% bonus on transfers to British Airways Avios — and we hope this is just the beginning of similar offers. If you want to learn some tips about how to redeem, you can check out our guide on Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots. We’ll break down how to maximize transfers to travel partners below.

2. Ultimate Rewards travel redemptions — Book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal 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, 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. It’s worth getting into the habit of combining your points every month in case Chase decides to change this policy in the future.

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. Finally, it’s a decent option for non-branded lodging, as the hotel options presented are quite varied.

3. 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.

How to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards redemptions

Transferring your Chase points to a travel partner is your best bet if you want to get the most value out of your points. I’m going to mention just a few ways to make the most of your points. By the way, here at TPG, we value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.0 cents each.

Here are some of the best ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards with airline and hotel transfer partners:

Look for cheap business-class fares

Of course, for this to work at a meaningful level, you’ll need to find inexpensive business-class fares. Before you can even think about leveraging this option for using Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll want to verify that the fares you find are available through Chase’s portal. These won’t always match up, but when they do, it can be a phenomenal value.

Let’s take a look at some example flights and how rewarding they can be.

Oneworld

If you’re chasing status with Oneworld or are looking to try one of the world’s best business-class products, I was able to find a round-trip business-class ticket from Montreal (YUL) to Bangkok (BKK) for only $2,015, or 134,373 Ultimate Rewards points thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

This is a steal to begin with, as you’d expect to pay 160,000+ points for a round-trip business-class ticket if you were transferring to an airline partner, but it gets even better when you factor in the miles you’d earn on this flight.

The round-trip journey covers a distance of ~19,500 miles, and should be in Qatar’s QSuite the entire way (though ExpertFlyer shows that flights to Montreal sometimes feature the old configuration so make sure to double check).

Let’s assume you’re looking to earn American miles and work towards AAdvantage elite status. Tickets book into the “R” fare class, meaning you’ll earn 100% redeemable miles (based on distance flown), 1.5 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and 20% Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) in addition to any elite mileage bonus you might be eligible for.

A general AAdvantage member with no elite status would earn 19,500 redeemable miles, worth $273 based on TPG’s valuations, 29,250 EQMs and $3,900 EQDs. This means that from a single trip you’ll earn AAdvantage Gold status, which TPG Editor Nick Ewen values at $905. If you already have AA elite status this might help you requalify for next year or even level up to the next rung, increasing your returns.

Hyatt

One of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to World of Hyatt and redeem them at low category or high-end properties. Both Marriott Bonvoy and IHG have award charts with much larger (one could argue inflated) point values.

The hotel program offers an extremely reasonable award chart for free nights, and the World of Hyatt elite status perks are considered the best of any chain.

The Park Hyatt in Dubai. (Photo courtesy of 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 tiers of the program have solid value. 30,000 points is a fantastic deal for 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. You also now have over 150 additional properties at which you can redeem your Hyatt points through the Small Luxury Hotels of the World partnership — with integrations from November, January, February and May — and the addition of the Thompson, Alila and Joie de Vivre brands.

Check out some great spots to maximize these new luxury properties as well as our guide to make the most of your Hyatt awards for additional details.

Other Chase Ultimate Rewards 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 other transferable points programs — 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; for example, TPG Editor Nick Ewen snagged three one-way, business-class awards from Miami (MIA) to Venice (VCE) this November for 53,000 miles and ~$235 in taxes and fees. However, it’s generally just too variable. If I did need Flying Blue miles — perhaps to take advantage of the program’s monthly, discounted Promo Rewards — 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 — TrueBlue points are redeemed for JetBlue flights at pretty much a fixed rate 1.3 to 1.4 cents per point. 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 per point if you have the Sapphire Reserve in your wallet.

IHG Rewards — Top-tier properties have typically required 70,000 points per night, but we’re starting to see examples of even higher pricing. It simply costs too much for award nights through the program. The lone exception might be IHG PointBreaks, 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 — On a case-by-case basis, it could potentially make sense to transfer Ultimate Rewards to Marriott to redeem for a free night. However, these awards can be quite pricey, and with a plethora of different Marriott cobranded cards, it’s too easy to earn the Marriott points you need without transferring from Ultimate Rewards.

Best Chase Ultimate Rewards redemptions

There are numerous ways to redeem your points, but we compiled some of the best UR redemptions below. Here’s some of what you can get.

“Just cashed in 118,000 points for [a flight from] Bali to Singapore in business and Singapore to LAX in first on Singapore Airlines. It would have cost about $8,500 but was a great deal with points, plus, I can’t wait to try Singapore Airlines! Thanks TPG for all the insightful tips!” — Anthony M.

“We just planned a trip to Hawaii and used all our points. Tickets from LA to HNL [Honolulu] were about $700 nonstop or about 48,000 UR points. We needed four tickets and a friend reminded me that TPG wrote about transferring points to BA to book award flights on AA. We did exactly that and scored four nonstop flights to HNL for just 100,000 UR points! On the hotel side, we transferred points to Hyatt and booked for 12,000 UR points a night.” — Cindy C.

Stay in a villa in the Maldives for just 30,000 Hyatt points a night

TPG himself stayed in this World of Hyatt Category 6 property, and marveled at sunset views, helpful staff and good food.

Snag a one-way nonstop flight to London in United Polaris 

 

A 60,000-point Saver Award can net you great redemptions in United’s new Polaris. With a completely refurbished cabin, this award redemption offers you a great business-class seat with privacy and great onboard amenities.

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.

If you’re new to the points and miles game, check out our Beginner’s Guide to learn more.

Additional reporting by Victoria Walker

Featured photo by The Points Guy

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.