3 Hacks for Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program

By Sean Bryant, Credit.com

If you have a Chase credit card, or are considering getting one, you've likely heard of the Chase Ultimate Reward program. There are several rewards credit cards in the Chase repertoire (more on those in a minute) and, while they may have different reward structures, the reward program is the same. No matter which Ultimate Rewards eligible card you have, you may want to consider these three hacks to help you use your points in the way that benefits you the most. (Note: Before you apply for any of these cards, make sure your credit scores are high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

1. Transferring Ultimate Reward Points to Loyalty Partners

One of the most popular uses for Ultimate Reward points is being able to transfer them directly to one of the many airline and hotel partners. All of their partners give you the ability to move points one-to-one. Partners you can choose from include:

  • United Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Air France / KLM
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton

Each of these partners has its own sweet spot, which is what makes them all so special. Southwest Airlines, for example, may run a $39 fare sale, which make it possible to book one-way flights for less than 3,000 points. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii then transferring your miles to Korean Air is a great option. Korean Air, which only requires 25,000 Korean Air Skypass miles to book a round-trip economy ticket to Hawaii from North America.

2. Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal to Book Travel

Another way to use your Ultimate Reward points is to book your travel directly through the Ultimate Rewards portal. You can book airfare, hotels or other excursions. The actual value you receive depends on the card you have. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card you will receive a 50% bonus when booking your travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. That means 50,000 points would be worth $750 toward travel. If you have any of the other Ultimate Reward earning cards, the bonus is 25%. That would make 50,000 points worth $625 of travel.

3. Redeeming Ultimate Rewards for Cash Back

Another redemption option, but the one offering the least amount of value, is to redeem points for cash back. Each point you redeem would be worth one cent. That means 50,000 points redeemed for cash back would have a value of $500.

Earning Chase Ultimate Reward Points

There are several credit cards that allow you to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s look at what each card has to offer.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (read our review here), you can receive 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. If you decide to add an authorized user to your account, you can receive an extra 5,000 points. They just need to make a purchase within the first three months. You earn two points per dollar when you use the card on travel expenses and at restaurants. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. This card has an annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: The Chase Sapphire Reserve (read our review here) is Chase’s premium card. When you sign up, you can receive 50,000 Ultimate Reward points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. You will then receive three points per dollar when you use the card for travel and at restaurants. This card includes a fairly high $450 annual fee, but much of that can be recouped with the travel benefits you receive. To start, you will receive a $300 travel credit that can be used for everything from airfare to baggage fees. You will also receive up to a $100 statement credit when you apply for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. So that you can relax a little easier while traveling, you will also receive a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. This will give you access to more than 900 different airport lounges worldwide.

Chase Ink Business Preferred: If you have a small business, you can pick up the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. With this card, you will be able to earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months. You will then be able to earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each calendar year on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and on any online advertising that you do through social media and search engines. This card has a $95 annual fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: If you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited you will not have the opportunity to earn Ultimate Reward points directly. You will, however, be able to transfer your rewards into Ultimate Reward points if you also carry one of the previously mentioned cards. When you sign up for this card you will receive a $150 bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. This bonus can be transferred into 15,000 Ultimate Reward points. If you’d like to add an authorized user to your account, you will receive an extra $25, or 2,500 points, after they make a purchase in the first three months. You will then receive 1.5% cash back on all purchases you make with the card. This card has no annual fee.

Chase Freedom: The Chase Freedom card is similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited in that you can't earn Ultimate Rewards directly. You need to also carry one of the other Ultimate Reward-earning cards and then transfer your points. When you sign up for the Chase Freedom card you will earn a $150 bonus, or 15,000 points, after spending $500 in the first three months. The Chase Freedom card is a little different because it includes rotating categories each quarter, giving you the ability to earn 5% cash back, on up to $1,500 per quarter. One quarter might reward purchases at restaurants and gas stations, and the next it might be department stores and movie theaters. All other purchases that you make will earn 1% back. This card comes with no annual fee. (We think Chase Freedom is one of the best credit card deals around. Check out our other favorites.)

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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