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Chase Adding iPhones, MacBooks and More to Ultimate Rewards

Nov. 02, 2018
4 min read
Chase Adding iPhones, MacBooks and More to Ultimate Rewards
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Update 11/2/18 8:45am ET: Apple as a redemption option is now live in the Ultimate Rewards Store.

Update 11/2/18 5:45am ET: Chase has reached out to TPG with information that Apple has not yet launched on the Ultimate Rewards Store, but it will be coming soon. We will update this post when the new addition is available.

Chase has some big news to share this morning — Apple products are headed to the Ultimate Rewards Store, making it possible to directly redeem points earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) for MacBooks, iPhones and much more.

Initially, I was optimistic when I first heard the news — with a decent redemption rate, this could be an attractive option for some. Unfortunately, once you do the math, there's not as much cause for excitement.

First, as Chase explains:

"As a special limited time offer, eligible cardmembers can redeem one Ultimate Rewards point for one cent, meaning 100 points can be redeemed for one dollar on eligible Apple merchandise."

The catch is that Ultimate Rewards can always be redeemed for cash back at a rate of 1 point per cent. It's not a great deal, considering you can get far more value from your Chase points by redeeming them for travel, which is why TPG values Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents per point. But it's nice to be able to fall back on the cash back option in a pinch.

So, technically, it's always been possible to redeem Chase points at 1 cent apiece for Apple products (and anything else you can charge to a credit card). Simply make the purchase and apply your points for cash back.

But if you're interested in redeeming directly for Apple gear, the process sounds straightforward enough:

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"Within the Apple Ultimate Rewards Store, cardmembers can search and redeem points for all available Apple products, including the newest launches and must-have items, just in time for the busy holiday season. Cardmembers can redeem as many or as few Ultimate Rewards points to pay for all or part of Apple product orders, including tax. For example, as few as 17,900 Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed towards the current price of an Apple TV 4K, 39,900 points can be redeemed for the new Apple Watch Series 4 or the iPad mini 4 and 99,900 can be redeemed for the new iPhoneXs 64GB."

The problem with redeeming this way is that you won't earn anything on the portion paid for with points — only on a cash co-pay, if you choose not to use points to cover your entire order. Even then, it makes far more sense to purchase products directly from Apple or another retailer, and pay with a card that offers purchase protection and extended warranty benefits.

You might be better off purchasing Apple products directly from Apple instead.

I also highly recommend keeping an eye out for shopping portal deals, such as the 6x United miles we recently saw on purchases made directly through Apple. At that rate, a $1,000 MacBook purchase would earn 6,000 United miles, worth $84 based on TPG's valuations, plus at least 1 point per dollar on the card of your choice. If paying with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you'd earn 1.5 points per dollar — merged with a card that earns Ultimate Rewards, that's another 1,500 points, worth 30 bucks. All in, you're looking at $114 in value back from that $1,000 laptop purchase — a net cost of $886.

If redeeming Ultimate Rewards for the same MacBook, you'd be out 100,000 points, and you wouldn't be earning anything at all. Looking at it another way, during that 6x United promo, you'd essentially be redeeming 100k points, worth $2,000 as per our valuations, to offset a net cost of $886.

There's one more thing to keep in mind — assuming Ultimate Rewards points will eventually buy less than 1 cent each in Apple gear in the future, as Chase suggested, this option won't make any sense at all. Buy that $999 iPhone somewhere else, then redeem 99,900 points toward a statement credit instead.