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Of all the credit card rewards programs, Chase Ultimate Rewards are among the best and most popular.
It has a long list of airline and hotel partners where you can transfer your points. It lets you redeem points as cash through the Chase travel portal. And it offers several credit cards with large sign-up bonuses, high rewards rates, and useful travel benefits.
To get the most out of this rewards program, you need to understand how it works. The value you get for your points depends heavily on how you use them, because some redemptions give more than double or triple the value of others.
This guide will teach you all about the Ultimate Rewards program. By the end, you'll know exactly how to redeem your points to book the travel you want.
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The Ultimate Rewards program allows you to earn points that you can then redeem for rewards. Travel is the most popular and valuable reward option.
You'll have access to the program as long as you have at least one active Ultimate Rewards credit card. Every time you earn a sign-up bonus with an Ultimate Rewards card or use one for a purchase, you'll earn more points.
Chase currently has three travel credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards Points:
There's a way you can use Chase cash back cards to collect more Ultimate Rewards points.
If you have both a Chase cash back card and a Chase travel card, you can transfer your cash back to the travel card at a rate of 100 points per $1.
Because Chase's cash back credit cards offer high earning rates in areas that its travel cards don't, they work well as companion cards to help you earn more travel points. You simply use the cash back card for the purchases that earn you more, and then transfer that cash back to your travel card.
There are several options for Chase companion cards:
Chase offers quite a few ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points. The options that get you the most value are:
*Through April 30, 2021
Here's a closer look at these and other redemption methods.
You can transfer your points to the loyalty programs of airlines and hotels that partner with Chase. Transfers to most partners process instantaneously, and all transfers are final. The transfer ratio is 1:1 with every partner. After you transfer points, you can use them with the partner to book airfare or a hotel stay.
This redemption method offers the most potential value. There is, however, a learning curve to finding the best transfer options for the travel you want to book.
These are the current loyalty programs where you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points:
Airlines: Aer Lingus AerClub, British Airways Executive Club, Emirates Skywards, Flying Blue Air France KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hotels: IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt
Pro tip: Don't forget about airline partnerships and alliances. When you have points with one airline, you can also use those points to book flights with any of that airline's partners and fellow airline alliance members.
The biggest airline alliances are SkyTeam, Star Alliance, and Oneworld. Chase has transfer partners in all three. So even though there are 10 frequent flyer programs in the Ultimate Rewards program, you could use points to book flights with more than 60 airlines thanks to partner bookings.
Those partners include American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the other two major domestic carriers that aren't directly partnered with Chase. You won't find many airline credit cards that give you more flight-booking options.
With this method, you search for travel on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and redeem your points toward the cash price of the purchase. When you redeem your points this way, their value depends on which credit card you have. Here are the current point values by card:
There are a few extra perks with this method. Booking through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal is usually considered a cash purchase by the airline or hotel. That means you can earn points in their own loyalty program. If you had transferred your points to make an award booking, you wouldn't earn anything.
Your booking will also qualify for any travel insurance and protections your Chase card offers. When you transfer points and make an award booking, your Chase card's travel protections don’t apply.
It's also possible to book more types of travel this way. In addition to airlines and hotels, the travel portal also offers car rentals, activities, vacation rentals, and cruises.
The Chase Dining program lets you use your points for Sapphire Private Dining series events, takeout, outdoor seating reservations, and more.
Like Pay Yourself Back, you can also get more value from this method through April 30, 2021. Points are worth just as much through Chase Dining as they are for Ultimate Rewards travel purchases until that date.
You can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back or gift cards. You're almost always better off avoiding these methods. You only get $0.01 per point (unless there's a special gift card offer). Since you can get more value from other redemptions, it makes sense to stick to those.
An Ultimate Rewards point is worth either $0.0125 or $0.015 per point towards travel, depending on the Chase card you have. You could also get more value if you transfer points to travel partners.
If you transfer your points, there's a wide range of redemption opportunities available. Some will earn you $0.01 or less. On the other end of the spectrum, you could find redemptions worth more than $0.03 per point.
Earning $0.015 to $0.03 per point is a reasonable expectation for Ultimate Rewards points. That's a range that you can typically reach if you use your points wisely, but it won't require you to spend weeks hunting down deals.
Ultimate Rewards points don't expire as long as the credit card with the points is open. If the card is closed, any remaining points will be lost. That's why you should never cancel your credit card without redeeming your unused rewards points first.
You'd also lose your points if Chase decided to close your account. Although credit card companies can close an account at any time, it doesn't happen often. The most common reasons Chase would cancel your card are if you:
Learn more: Do Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points ever expire?
No, you can't buy Ultimate Rewards points. Chase used to allow cardholders to purchase points, but it discontinued this feature in 2012.
It's easy to move points from multiple Chase credit cards to just one. All you need to do is log in to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, open the "Earn / Use" dropdown menu, and click "Combine Points." From there, just follow the prompts to combine points with the card you want.
If you're wondering why you'd do this, there are several potential reasons:
The challenge with Chase points is figuring out the best way to use them for the trip you want. Here's a simple method that will help you book travel with your Chase points.
Decide what type of travel you want to book with your points, and search for it on Chase's travel portal. For flight and hotel bookings, we're going to compare how much you'd pay in the travel portal versus transferring your points.
If you want to book anything besides a flight or hotel, the comparison isn't necessary. You can transfer points to book airfare or hotel stays, but the travel portal is your only option for other types of travel.
The following steps will cover what to do for flight and hotel bookings.
Visit the websites for any Chase travel partners you could use for your trip. Plug in your trip details and select the option to pay in points/miles.
This will show you how much the various airlines and hotels would charge for award bookings, which is also how many Chase points you'd need.
Now you've checked prices in the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and for award bookings, you can compare them and pick whichever costs less.
If there's not much of a difference, it's better to go with the travel portal. Since it will count as a cash travel purchase, you'll likely be able to earn rewards in the airline or hotel's loyalty program. Your Chase card's travel protections will also apply. Neither would happen with an award booking.
Either make your purchase through Chase's travel portal or select the option to transfer points to a partner.
If you transfer your points, you'll be able to book your award airfare or hotel stay once the transfer is complete. With most Chase travel partners, this happens instantly.
There are a few redemption options that tend to get excellent value for your points.
If you're aiming for peak value, expensive flights are where it's at. The absolute best deals are usually business-class and first-class seats on international flights. It's possible to get $0.03 per point or much more on those. First-class seats on domestic flights can also be a great deal.
While value isn't great on most transfers to Chase hotel partners, Hyatt is the notable exception. Its awards chart has much better prices than most of the competition. When transferring Chase points to Hyatt, it's often possible to get $0.02 per point or more.
The Ultimate Rewards travel portal offers a useful alternative to points transfers. If award bookings are too expensive or unavailable, you can still book through the travel portal. It's a good idea to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve® if you think you'll use this method often. That way you can take advantage of its $0.015 per point rate on travel redemptions.
There are some spectacular redemption options available in the Ultimate Rewards program, but there are also those that get you very little per point. Without further ado, here's the Hall of Shame:
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are the most notorious offenders here. The enormous surcharges they tack on to award tickets make it so you're practically paying in points plus cash. Once you take surcharges into account, you may not even crack $0.01 per point on your award ticket.
With both those airlines, you're almost always better off using their points to book flights on their partner airlines. However, British Airways does have solid short-haul flight deals, which are its saving grace.
IHG and Marriott are lackluster choices for award stays as you'll usually get around $0.01 per point.
Instead, go through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal to apply the cash value of your points toward bookings with these hotels. You'll get an equal or better value, and you'll earn points with the hotel on the booking.
The only time you should get cash back from Ultimate Rewards points is if it's an emergency. Otherwise, stick to using your travel card for travel rewards.
Gift cards are almost always a waste of time and points. Most of these offers get you $0.01 per point, and you can only use the gift card with one retailer.
The great thing about Ultimate Rewards points is their versatility. No matter where you're going, you can use your points to book a flight and a place to stay.
It may seem complicated at first, but it doesn't take that long to get the hang of redeeming your points. And as you search for award travel through the Ultimate Rewards program and its partners, you'll better understand how to get the most value on every redemption.
Here are some other questions we've answered:
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