How Chase Ultimate Rewards Actually Work

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How Chase Ultimate Rewards Actually Work
ChooseFI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. ChooseFI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.  See our disclosures for more info.

If you’re new to earning credit card rewards, you may not have a complete understanding of the ins and outs of rewards points. Today, we’re going to focus on one of the most valuable rewards programs–Chase Ultimate Rewards.

While Chase may have the most valuable rewards currency, it’s gotten a lot harder to earn bonuses from Chase. This is in part due to some new rules, including:

  1. The Chase 5/24 rule. If you have more than five personal credit accounts opened over the past 24 months, it is highly unlikely that Chase will approve you for a new card.
  2. You can only earn a bonus from either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
  3. You can only earn a bonus from either card every 48 months.

With these rules, it is important to be intentional with your Chase Ultimate Rewards. That way, you can get the most value out of them.

How To Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Not all Chase credit cards earn Ultimate Reward points. If you want to earn Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll need to use one of the credit cards listed below.

Recommended For Everyone:

Recommended For Frequent Travelers:

Recommended For Business Owners:

In addition to earning points on your everyday purchases, you can earn a sign-up bonus on most of these credit cards if you meet the requirements. You can also earn Ultimate Rewards points by shopping through the Chase online shopping portal.

Finally, you can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points by referring others to sign up for a card you already have in certain cases. You can check if your card offers this option at Chase Refer a Friend.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these cards.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom offers a 15,000 point sign up bonus for spending $500 in purchases in the first three months from account opening. You can earn five Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent in categories that rotate each quarter on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. You’ll earn one point per dollar on all other purchases.

The Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited (below) are billed as cash back cards, and you can certainly use them as such, but a little known fact is that you can transfer your rewards from cash to points if you want. Here’s more info on that.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a sign-up bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months of having the card. You will also earn 1.5% on all purchases.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a solid card to have if you travel often, but recent reductions in the bonus make it a less attractive card to have than the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

It only comes with 50,000 Chase URs after meeting $4,000 in minimum spend, which is low compared to the high annual fee of $450. However, that comes with:

  • $300 travel credit on any credit card expense that codes as travel, such as flights, hotels, online travel agencies, rideshares, and in some cities, public transportation and parking.
  • Up to $100 statement credit for TSA Pre Check/Global Entry.
  • Access to Priority Pass airport lounges domestically and around the world.
  • 3x earning on travel and dining.
  • 50% bonus on your points when paying for travel on the Chase Travel Portal.
  • There are other great benefits that are similar to those afforded by the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Since those aren’t points of differentiation, we’ll skip those here.

Check out our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card currently offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open your account.

You’ll earn two points per dollar spent on travel and dining. You’ll also earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

This card has a $95 annual fee.

Check out our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card here.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offers an 80,000 bonus point sign up bonus for spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. You’ll also earn three points per dollar spent on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone purchases as well as advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. You’ll earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

This card has a $95 annual fee.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

The Ink Business Cash Credit Card offers 50,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening your account.

You’ll earn five points per dollar on the first $25,000 of combined purchases at office supply stores as well as internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.

You’ll also earn two points per dollar spent on the first $25,000 of combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants as well as one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Like the Freedom cards, the Ink cards are billed as cash back cards but you can transfer your rewards from cash to points if you want. Here’s more info on that.

Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card

The Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card offers a 50,000 point sign up bonus after you spent $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.

You’ll earn one and a half points per dollar spent on all purchases.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Expire

Technically, Chase Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire as long as you have a credit card open that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Chase also notes you’ll lose your points if your account is closed due to “program misuse, fraudulent activities, failure to pay, bankruptcy, or other reasons described in the terms of the Rewards Program Agreement.”

The problem comes when you close your last card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you still have points remaining, you’ll lose the points if you don’t use them. Rather than give your points away, consider redeeming your points using the redemption options we’ll cover in just a little bit.

If you’re just closing a Chase card you no longer want but still have other Ultimate Rewards earning cards in your household or business, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points from one card to another. In order for the transfer to be legitimate, you need to transfer the points to yourself, a household member, or a business co-owner.

Otherwise, Chase may think you’re trying to sell your points, which is against the terms and conditions.

Ways To Maximize Redemptions

There are several ways to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

  1. Transfer your URs between your Chase personal and business credit card accounts as often as you’d like.
  2. Transfer your URs to another person who lives in the same household.
  3. Redeem your URs at Amazon.
  4. Transfer your URs to travel partners.
  5. Cash out your URs.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these strategies

1. Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Between Cards For Maximum Value

Don’t only consider transferring points because you’re closing a card and want to transfer points to avoid losing them. In fact, transferring points from some Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards to premium Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards can increase your redemption value.

For instance, points redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal are worth 1.5 cents each if you redeem them through a Chase Sapphire Reserve card or 1.25 cents each if you redeem them through a Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

If you’re going to book travel using the Ultimate Rewards portal, you should definitely transfer points from cards like the Chase Freedom to your premium account before booking travel to get maximum value.

2. Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at Amazon

Chase’s cards without an annual fee (Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Ink Business Unlimited, and Chase Ink Business Cash) allow you to redeem your points at a value of a penny per point for cash back, travel and gift cards. You can also redeem your points at Amazon for 0.80 cents per point.

However, if you or someone in your household holds a premium Chase Ulitmate Rewards earning credit card, you can transfer your points to that card to redeem your points using premium options.

3. Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points To Travel Partners

The same premium credit cards mentioned above offer yet another option to redeem Ultimate Rewards points. Rather than book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to certain travel partner rewards programs at a 1 point to 1 point ratio. Here are the current travel programs you can transfer points to:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • British Airways Avios
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

Keep in mind, sometimes you’ll get a better value by booking through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and other times you can find better redemptions through the individual rewards program. Unfortunately, once you transfer points out of Ultimate Rewards, you can’t transfer them back. Make sure you want to transfer points before you pull the trigger.

Compare Chase cards to see which is best for you.

4. Cash Out Chase Ultimate Rewards Points If You Have No Other Use For Them

Finally, if you don’t have a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card, you can always redeem your points for cash at a value of a penny per point. If you’re going to close a card that still has a remaining points balance, make sure you cash out any points you have remaining so you don’t give them back to Chase.

Redemption Ideas For Great Values

For a more detailed review on redeeming your Chase Ultimate Rewards, please dive into the ChooseFI Travel Rewards Course. In the meantime, here are some great ways to use the points:

1. Transferring To Southwest

With the Companion Pass, every Chase UR is doubled in value. Together with the generous cancellation policies for redemptions (cancel up to 10 minutes of departure for full refund of points), plus two free check-in items, and this represents the best value for domestic and regional travel.

Related: Why You Definitely Want The Southwest Companion Pass

2. Transferring To United

One of the best uses of United Mileage Plus miles is by nesting multiple Excursionist Perks within each other. The basic idea is that you get a free regional flight when you redeem. With some planning, I was able to take my homeschooling family of four across Asia for almost five months by nesting three Excursionist Perks.

3. Transferring To The IAG Group Of Airlines

The IAG group of airlines includes British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus. Even though all three have their own loyalty programs, they share the same currency–Avios. You can transfer these points between each other. We love Avios for their British Airways redemptions on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, the solid redemptions on Iberia to Madrid and Aer Lingus to Dublin. Avoid actually flying on British Airways, though, as those come with expensive charges.

4. Transferring To Hyatt

Hyatt is our favorite hotel loyalty program because of its reasonable redemptions at attractive properties. It is also known for its generous program rules that reward members with bonus perks just for redeeming nights. Topping it all is the industry’s most customer-focused team.

5. Booking Travel At The Chase Travel Portal

With one of the premium cards mentioned above, you get a bonus on your Chase Ultimate Rewards when you book travel on the Chase Travel Portal. If a flight cost $300, it would normally cost 30,000 Chase UR points. But with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get 50% extra, so it would only cost 20,000 URs.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Business Ink Preferred, the bonus is 25%, so that same flight costs 24,000 URs.

Keeping Track Of Your Rewards

If you want to use category bonuses to maximize your points, you really need to get organized. Here is one simple way of doing it:

  1. Put tape on the card and write the category bonus on it. This is especially helpful if you have a reluctant partner who really doesn’t want to work on getting free travel.
  2. Set your phone, Internet, and cable accounts on autopay for a card the yields the highest category bonus.
  3. Check your account monthly to track how close to the bonus earning limit you have come. You want to stop spending on a card once you no longer qualify for a bonus category.

Chase Category Bonus Grid

 5x3x2x1.5x1x
Office Supply StoresChase Ink Business Cash
Internet & CableChase Ink Business CashChase Ink Business Preferred
Phone ServicesChase Ink Business CashChase Ink Business Preferred
Rotating CategoriesChase Freedom
TravelChase Ink Business Preferred, CSRChase Sapphire Preferred
DiningChase Sapphire ReserveChase Ink Business Cash, CSP
ShippingChase Ink Business Preferred
Online AdsChase Ink Business Preferred
GasChase Ink Business Cash
EverythingChase Freedom Unlimited (on 1st $20k)Chase Freedom Unlimited (after 1st $20k), IBUAll

Some Recommended Tips To Stay Under 5/24:

If you are close to your 5/24 number and want to stay under it, here are some tips:

  1. The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card, and the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card do not add to your 5/24 number. We strongly recommend getting the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (among other things, it earns 3x for travel expenses), and the Ink Business Cash Credit Card (to earn the 5%, put your phone, internet, and cable costs on autopay, and buy Disney or airline gift cards at Staples or Office Depot and earn the 5%).
  2. Avoid applying for any new personal cards and instead, earn the maximum amount of points as you can by focusing on 5x and 3x.
  3. The Chase Freedom Unlimited could be a great long-term card. It has a sign-up bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months and earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Are Amazing Once You Understand How To Use Them

Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable credit card rewards points you can earn due to the great flexibility you have to redeem them. If you’re big into travel rewards, you can explore the various points transfer partners to find insane values on a value per point basis.

That said, you can still get great value for your points by using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, too. Just make sure you use your points on the card that gives you the highest value per point for the cards you have. Finally, never let your points expire by closing a card with a points balance. Cash them out.

Related Articles:

If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out ChooseFI’s free travel rewards course.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Actually Work

ChooseFI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. ChooseFI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
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Comment Disclaimer: Responses 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.

8 thoughts on “How Chase Ultimate Rewards Actually Work”

  1. I notice that the Chase Gauntlet page on your site no longer contains an actual Chase Gauntlet. I’m sure this is due to changes to reward structure in the past year. Do you guys have any plans to release an updated version? It was was nice to have a ‘For Dummies’ path (even if not 100% optimized) for people like me who who want to work towards optimizing our financial lives but don’t have the time to devote to researching each and every change.

  2. You left off the JP Morgan Reserve card, that is what I use. It has all the same features as the Chase reserve, but on the JP Morgan private banking side.

  3. I got the sign up bonus December 2018 for Chase Sapphire Preferred. I was then declined when applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve because I “already had a Chase Sapphire card.” Anyone else have this happen?

    • I had this happen as well. I haven’t heard too much on the podcasts or in these comment sections about when to cancel cards. Obviously you don’t want to cancel your one ultimate rewards card because you’ll lose your points, but if you can’t open another one due to you having that one… things might become complicated.
      My current solution is going to be to open a card under my wife’s name, get that reward, transfer all the points to her account, then close the card under my name in order to open another card. Hopefully it works. Not sure how to work around it if you don’t have a spouse though.

  4. Mistake in the article says that your point is worth $.80. From the screenshot I think that’s supposed to say $0.008 (less than a cent) or $.80 per 100 points.

  5. I contacted chase this week and was informed I could not open another Sapphire product due to having one already. Seems as though the they have made some changes, as some others have asked can we get an updated guide due to these changes.

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