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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, including tours and activities.

Despite increasing competition from American Express Membership Rewards and the newly-transferable 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 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 credit 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 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

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • Current Bonus: 60,000 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

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 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

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 (activation required).
  • Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Current Bonus: Earn 3% cash back (3x points) on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.
  • Benefits: Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase (besides the first $20,000 in your first year, which earn 3%). 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (after that a variable APR of 17.24 – 25.99% applies).
  • Annual fee: $0

Redemption 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. 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. It’s worth getting into the habit of combining your points every month in case Chase decides to change this policy in the future.

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 three hotel programs (HyattIHG, and Marriott). 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. Finally, it’s a decent option for non-branded lodging, as the hotel options presented are quite varied.

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 12 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 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 has been in the news a lot lately and mostly for the wrong reasons. United’s shift to dynamic award pricing for flights on its own metal beginning on November 15, 2019 severely devalues one use of MileagePlus miles, but between the Excursionist Perk and Star Alliance partner awards with no fuel surcharges, you still have a number of good options to consider.

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 the US 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 Houston (IAH) before embarking on the trip:

  • Fly to Quito (UIO) and stay as long as you like
  • Get yourself from Quito to Guayaquil (GYE) and stay as long as you like
  • Fly to the Galapagos Islands (GPS) and stay as long as you like
  • Fly back to Houston (IAH)

Since this is a round-trip itinerary that starts and ends in the same region (US), 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 40,000 miles and ~$150:

This is an itinerary between the US and Northern South America, costing 20,000 miles each way, with the intra-Northern South American leg (GYE-GPS) for free, making it 40,000 miles round-trip. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible with this tremendous benefit.

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. For US-based travelers, you can still get good values on Star Alliance partner award flights from the US to Europe. You’ll pay 30,000 miles each way in economy and 70,000 miles each way in business class, which isn’t a newsworthy deal on its own, but the ability to book awards without having to worry about the new dynamic pricing is nice.

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 (4,500 for most partner flights), 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.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

However, the program did recently announce upcoming changes to partner awards booked with British Airways Avios starting May 30. While we don’t have official confirmation, the new award chart we pieced together isn’t as bad as you’d think, but if you want to lock-in current rates before the increase, you have just under a month left to book.

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.

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 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. You also now have over 150 additional properties at which you can redeem your Hyatt points through the Small Luxury Hotels of the World integration and then addition of Thompson Hotels, so be sure to check those out for your Hyatt points.

Singapore Airlines

Even after Singapore KrisFlyer’s 2019 devaluation, using your miles for any Singapore-operated flight can be a great deal. With the carrier’s renowned Suites class, it’s difficult to find a more luxurious seat in the sky. Fly the new first class on the A380 for 85,000 miles if you book Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SYD) or vice versa. From the US, you can fly in a suite on the LAX-NRT route for 95,000 points or JFK-FRA for 86,000 points — but you have to find saver availability, which can be tough. Since Singapore doesn’t release long haul premium cabin award space to partner programs, you have to go through KrisFlyer if you have your eyes set on Suites.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

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 or more with dynamic pricing.
  • 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.
(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
  • 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 you’d need for the same flight. As an example, Atlanta (ATL) to San Francisco (SFO) nonstop on November 15 is 12,500 Virgin Atlantic miles:

The exact same flight on the same date would cost you 26,500 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 class 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 generally net you about 1.5 cents per point (maybe a little more), 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 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. Even if it’s not the best redemption value on paper, that simplicity and ease of use counts for a lot.

(Photo via Shutterstock)
(Photo via Shutterstock)

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 or Miami (MIA) to Casablanca (CMN) on Royal Air Maroc’s new Dreamliner.

The interior of an Iberia A350-900. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

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, perhaps to take advantage of the monthly discounted promo awards, 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 – 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 — 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 get the Marriott points you need without transferring from 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.

If you’re new to the points and miles game, check out our Beginner’s Guide to learn more or contact BookYourAward.com to have experts do the work for you.

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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.

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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
18.24% - 25.24% 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.