Chase Ultimate Reward points are probably my favorite all around point currency. While I like diversifying my points into many programs to ensure I am able to snag the best flight or hotel option, if you are looking to really put all your efforts into one program, Chase Ultimate Reward points have a strong value and can be extremely flexible. There are two different types of Ultimate Reward points (premier vs. non-premier) and the points you earn depends on the credit card you have. The premier cards allow you to transfer your points to a partner airline, while the non-premier cards do not. However, you can always transfer points from a non-premier account to a premier account in your name. The premier cards include: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ink Bold (no longer available for new applicants), Chase Ink Plus (no longer available for new applicants), and Chase Ink Preferred. Non-premier cards include: Chase Sapphire (no longer available for new applicants), Chase Ink Cash, Chase Ink Classic (no longer available for new applicants), Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited. And if you prefer not to transfer points to a partner program, you can always use your points at a fixed redemption through their travel portal.
With Chase Ultimate Reward points I always recommend trying to get at least a 2 cent value per point. Of course there are some scenarios where you’d prefer to redeem your points for less, but if you are trying to get the best value, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to get 2 cents per point or more! I personally aim at a 3 cent per point valuation.
If you use your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, your points will be worth a fixed 1 cent to 1.5 cents per point. The value of your points depends on the credit card you have. Typically you redeem your points at a higher value when transferring to partner programs, but it all depends on your travel desires. Also, when you use your points through the travel portal it allows you to book any hotel or flight (as long as their is availability) and not having to worry whether or not there is award availability on the flight or hotel. You’ll also earn points or miles when you redeem this way.
Flexibility and Partner Programs
Chase is one of the more flexible programs as they have many partner airline and hotel programs where all points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. And unlike American Express Membership Reward points (for some partners), there is no fee to transfer fee. The partner loyalty programs include: United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott. On the hotel front, my favorite partner is Hyatt. Their points are worth more then the others giving you a better valuation. For example, you can stay at the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica (a Hyatt property) for only 15,000 Hyatt points per night – thus requiring only 15,000 Ultimate Reward points. Rates at this property can easily be over $500 a night, meaning each Ultimate Reward point is worth over 3 cents per point! For the airlines, I’d say all of them can give you a great valuation, except Southwest and Virgin Atlantic. Let’s say you prefer business class over economy (I mean who doesn’t, but you need to have the points or make a ton of money!), you can fly roundtrip Boston or Chicago to Spain for 68,000 Iberia points – again requiring 68,000 Ultimate Reward points. This business class flight can easily cost over $4,000 (something I’d never pay for!), making each point worth well over 5 cents per point!
Earn as Many Points as Possible with Sign Up Bonuses!
While the Chase Ultimate Reward credit cards offer very favorable category bonuses (they differ per card), one of the best way to increase your point balance is through their credit card welcome offers. They have very competitive sign up offers where you can quickly earn points for a nice vacation! Unfortunately some of their cards are no longer available for new applicants, but there are still a good amount of cards still available offering a nice bonus.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. This card comes with a $95 annual fee.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Earn 3x points on travel. This card comes with a $450 annual fee (not waived the first year), but you receive a $300 travel credit every year plus Global Entry fee reimbursement.
- Chase Ink Preferred: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Earn 3x points on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases on social media. Receive cell phone protection when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card – up to $600 in reimbursement per incident 3x per year per covered cell phone. This card comes with a $95 annual fee (not waived the first year). **This is a business credit card.
- Chase Ink Cash: Earn $500 statement credit (equivalent to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Earn 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet/cable/phone services; Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants. No annual fee. **This is a business credit card.
- Chase Freedom: Earn a $150 bonus (equivalent to 15,000 points) after you spend $500 in the first 3 months. Earn 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories. No annual fee.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Earn a $150 bonus (equivalent to 15,000 points) after you spend $500 in the first 3 months. Earn 1.5x points on every single purchase. No annual fee.
While there are 6 cards to select from (4 personal cards and 2 business cards), it is important to look at the sign up bonus, the category bonuses, and the annual fee. All of the non-premier cards come with no annual fee, where the premier cards come with an annual fee (ranging from $95-$450). Remember though, Chase has the “5/24” rule which means they will not approve you for a card if you’ve already been approved for 5 or more cards within the last 24 months. Being approved for Chase business cards do not count against your 5/24 status, so the best strategy is to apply for the business cards first and then the personal cards – assuming you are going all in. And unfortunately, Chase is also limiting customers to receiving the sign up bonus for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve to just one of them. That means if you’ve already applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve you cannot receive the sign up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred (and vice versa). There needs to be 24 months in between when applying for both.
Ultimately, the Chase Sapphire Preferred still stands as my #1 credit card recommendation for those starting in the points and miles game. This will allow you to dip your toes into the points and miles game while receiving great points and benefits and being flexible on where you want to spend your points. You’ll then continue to learn so much over the year which will allow you to figure out the best cards for you!
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