Best Ways to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase has a winner when it comes to its Ultimate Rewards program. You can earn these points from several of its business and personal credit cards, and it offers many valuable ways to redeem these points. If there's a problem with this program, it's that there are so many choices it's hard to tell what’s the best way to redeem these points.
The Basics of Ultimate Rewards Points
There are several Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. The Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve might be the most popular cards that let you earn Ultimate Rewards points, but many don't realize that the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited also earn points in the Ultimate Rewards program.
Then, there is Chase's line of Ink small business cards such as the Ink Cash and Ink Preferred. Finally, there are several cards that many people have that are no longer offered to new applicants such as the standard Sapphire, the Ink Plus, and the Ink Bold.
One of the keys to getting the most value from these cards is to learn that you can transfer points between your Chase accounts. For example, you can transfer points from your Chase Freedom card to your Sapphire Reserve card, where they are worth much more. You can also transfer points between your account and those of your spouse or domestic partner. And in the case of Chase's small business cards, you can transfer points between holders of employee cards.
Redemption Options by Card
There are essentially two levels of cards that offer Ultimate Rewards points. The first level cards that are currently offered to new applicants are the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Cash. Older cards that are part of this level are the standard Sapphire and Ink Classic cards. When your Ultimate Rewards points are redeemed from any of these cards, they are only worth one cent each towards cash back, gift cards, merchandise, or travel reservations.
If given the choice, you are best off receiving cash back, which can then be used to make other purchases and possibly earn additional rewards. For example, it would be better to redeem 30,000 points for $300 and buy a $300 airline ticket than it would be to redeem the 30,000 points for an airline ticket through Chase's Ultimate Rewards online travel center. In fact, you would receive an extra point per dollar spent when buying your ticket through Chase's Ultimate Rewards online travel center. If you had the standard Freedom card, you would earn 600 points for buying the $300 airline ticket through Chase.
The higher-level cards currently offered to new applicants include the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, and Ink Preferred. Older cards at this higher level include the Ink Bold and Ink Plus. With a higher-level card, you can transfer your points to miles with seven different airlines or points with four hotel programs.
Chase's airline transfer partners are:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Chase's hotel partners are:
- IHG Rewards
- World of Hyatt
- Marriott Rewards
- Ritz Carlton Rewards
Finally, most of the higher-level cards allow you to redeem points for 1.25 cents each for reservations made from the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center. The exception is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers a remarkable 1.5 cents per point towards travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center.
If you have a first-level card, then you should always transfer your points to a higher-level card before redeeming them. This will give you the option of realizing 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents per point towards travel reservations, and it gives you the chance to transfer rewards to points and miles with airline and hotel partners.
Choosing the Best Airline Partners
With seven airline transfer partners, it can be hard to tell which ones offer the best value.
United's frequent flyer program can offer outstanding value for domestic and international flights. Domestic round-trip flights start at 25,000 miles each in economy class. United is part of the Star Alliance, which means that you can redeem your miles for flights operated by any of its 26 other airline partners. Finally, United never adds costly fuel surcharges to your award flights. When used for premium class international awards, it's possible to receive several cents in value per mile.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest carries more passengers in the United States than any other airline. It's Rapid Rewards program offers about 1.5 cents per point redeemed towards tickets in its "Wanna Get Away" fare class. And unlike other frequent flyer programs, it lets you redeem points towards any ticket with no blackout dates or capacity controls.
Air France Flying Blue
Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France, KLM, and other carries. In addition, it's part of the SkyTeam alliance which includes Delta and many other carriers. This program can offer great value when redeeming miles for economy or business class awards. For example, awards to Hawaii on Delta are just 30,000 miles round-trip in economy class. Unfortunately, they will impose fuel surcharges on many of their international award flights.
British Airways Avios
This airline offers a distance based award chart, so shorter flights will require fewer miles (which British Airways calls "Avios") than they would on other carriers. For example, flights in North America that are under 1,351 miles in distance require only 7,500 Avios each way. British Airways is also part of the OneWorld Alliance which includes American Airlines and other carriers. Sadly, British Airways imposes very high fuel surcharges on flights they operate, which can sometimes exceed $1,000 round-trip. For this reason, British Airways Avios points are best used for shorter flights and flights on their partners that don't require excessive fuel surcharges.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
These miles are difficult to use without paying fuel surcharges. In addition, their award chart is not always competitive. However, there are occasionally some values to be found when booking shorter flights among their partners such as Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Australia, and South African.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Like United, Singapore is another Star Alliance member. Singapore Airlines is renowned for its outstanding business and first class, which you can only book though the airline, not its partners. A great use for Singapore miles is domestic first class flights on United, which is only 40,00 miles round-trip. Finally, Singapore recently ended its practice of collecting fuel surcharges for awards on Singapore, although it did increase the price in miles.
Choosing the Best Hotel Partners
Chase Ultimate Rewards also has four hotel transfer partners
World of Hyatt
This is likely the most valuable hotel partner, as it features award nights starting at just 5,000 points a night. There are many mid-range properties for 8,000, 12,000 and 15,000 points per night, and suite awards are generally 50% more. Even the high-end Hyatt properties can provide excellent value at 25,000 points per night for a room that might sell for over $600.
Points with this program are generally worth just a fraction of a cent towards award nights, which makes it a poor choice. The exception are its hotels that are part of its quarterly Points Break promotion. These properties are only 5,000 points a night.
This is another program where points are worth just a fraction of a cent towards free nights, so it's generally a poor value to transfer points to this program.
Ritz Carlton Rewards
Ritz Carlton is part of the Marriott brand, but it has its own program. In fact, you can't belong to both Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Marriott Rewards at the same time. Like Marriott, these points are only worth a fraction of a cent and they are a poor choice for redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points.
Ultimate Rewards points are most valuable when transferred to airline miles which are used for business or first class flights, or for luxury hotel stays with Hyatt. Other great uses include transfers of points to miles for expensive, last minute awards.
Just below those high value redemptions are strong opportunities such as economy class tickets on Southwest and other airlines, as well as mid-range Hyatt hotels.
Finally, you can always redeem your points directly for travel reservations made through Chase. Sapphire Preferred and Ink Preferred customers will receive an acceptable 1.25 cents per point, while Sapphire Reserve holders will get an even better 1.5 cents in value. It is for this reason that you should always check the prices at the Ultimate Rewards travel center first before transferring points to a travel partner. Sometimes, it might cost fewer points to book a reservation directly rather than through the travel partner.
By understanding all the ways you can use your Ultimate Rewards points, you can choose the most valuable option available.
Editorial Note: The information related to the Chase Freedom® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.