Chase Ultimate Rewards guide
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Chase Ultimate Rewards is arguably the most popular and flexible travel rewards program on the planet, and it’s easy to see why. Rewards credit cards that operate within this dynamic program let you rack up points good for cash back, statement credits, gift cards or travel. You may even be able to turn your Chase Ultimate Rewards points into other rewards currencies using the 1:1 point transfer option, although this option depends on the card you have.
If you’re in the market for a new rewards credit card, and you’re curious how a flexible card might work in your favor, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to find out how Ultimate Rewards points work, how you can earn them and the best ways to redeem these rewards for superior value.
What are Chase Ultimate Rewards points?
Ultimate Rewards points are a rewards currency you earn by using any eligible Chase credit card. How many points you earn depends on the type of card you have and the rewards structure for that card.
For instance, some Chase cards offer more points on spending toward travel, dining, grocery spending and others. Other cards from the issuer offer additional rewards based on rotating bonus categories, like drugstore spending and dining, which changes from quarter to quarter.
Although there are plenty of opportunities to earn points in the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem, cardholders are typically most excited about the multiple redemption options that include cash back, statement credits, gift cards, Amazon.com and PayPay purchases and, of course, travel. Travel redemption is especially attractive with premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which can boost your rewards’ value by 50 percent in certain cases.
This guide will help you understand what the Ultimate Rewards program entails and how to get the most out of it.
Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points
There are plenty of options in the Chase family of cards that allow people to earn Ultimate Rewards points. Here are some we like, along with the reasons we like them:
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for occasional travelers
- 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs)
- 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 5X points on Lyft Rides through March 2025
- 2X points on other general travel
- 1X points on other purchases
Why we like this card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card stands out due to its generous rewards structure that focuses on many everyday spending categories, like dining and online grocery purchases.
As a welcome bonus, you’ll get 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This bonus can be worth up to $750 when redeemed for Ultimate Rewards travel, due to the fact that the Sapphire Preferred offers a 25 percent boost on your points when redeeming for travel via Chase’s portal.
Lastly, you can look forward to your anniversary point bonus each year, equal to 10 percent of your total purchases made the previous year. For example, $25,000 in spending earns an additional 2,500 bonus points.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for luxury travel perks
- 3X points on general travel and restaurant purchases
- 10X points on Lyft purchases through March 2025
- 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards
- 5X points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards
- 1X points on all other purchases
Note, the general 3X travel rate kicks in after you’ve earned the $300 travel credit.
Why we like this card
Even though there’s a hefty $550 annual fee, you’ll get plenty of luxury travel benefits with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For starters, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. And if you redeem your bonus for travel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, it’s worth 50 percent more, or $900.
Beyond the sign-up bonus and exceptional earning categories this card offers, cardholders receive an annual $300 travel credit, an up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership and Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. It’s a great card for frequent travelers who are looking for top-of-the-line perks and benefits for their travel card.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for flat-rate rewards
- 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 5 percent back on Lyft purchases through March 2025
- 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases
- 1.5 percent back on all other purchases
Why we like this card
The Chase Freedom Unlimited®* is a great option for all your everyday spending since you earn at least 1.5 percent cash back for each dollar you spend, plus 5 percent back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and on Lyft rides through March 2025.
You’ll also get 3 percent cash back on all dining and drugstore purchases, and there’s no annual fee. Just remember that you’ll have to pair this card with a travel credit card (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve) if you want to be able to transfer your points to Chase airline and hotel partners.
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating categories
- 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent)
- 5 percent back on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases
- 5 percent back on Lyft rides through March 2025
- 3 percent back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases
- 1 percent back on all other purchases
Why we like this card
The Chase Freedom Flex℠* is a good option if you want to earn bonus rewards in categories that change every quarter. On top of the $200 in bonus cash back you can earn when you spend $500 within three months of account opening, you can also earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in activated rotating bonus categories each quarter (then 1 percent). For January through March 2023, Chase’s bonus categories include Target, grocery stores (excluding Walmart) and fitness club and gym memberships.
Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll need to pair this card with a premium travel credit card from Chase if you want to transfer your points to Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.
Ink Business Preferred: Best travel credit card for business
- 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year (then 1X points)
- 1X points on all other purchases
Why we like this card
If you’re looking for a business credit card that lets you earn rewards for travel on all your business purchases, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is an excellent choice.
Not only do you earn exceptional rewards in an array of business-related categories, but you can also start off with 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $15,000 on your card within three months of account opening. The annual fee on this card is only $95, and you can transfer your points to Chase airline and hotel partners, as well.
What are Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth?
Generally speaking, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for gift cards, cash or statement credits. There are some exceptions, however, that vary by card, as well as redemption options that can help you get significantly more value for your rewards.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 25 percent more value for your points when you redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 50 percent more value with this option. In this case, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 and $1,500 toward travel, respectively.
Also, transferring points to Chase airline and hotel partners gives you another opportunity to get more than 1 cent per point in value. Currently, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth up to 2 cents per point, according to monthly points and miles valuations by Bankrate. In the end, your true point value will depend on how you redeem your rewards after you transfer them to another program.
How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can not only earn Ultimate Rewards points but also maximize those earnings with some strategic spending. Here are some ways to optimize your rewards.
Spend on an eligible Chase credit card
The simplest way to earn Ultimate Rewards points is by spending money with your eligible Chase credit card. Make sure you understand the rewards structure of your particular card, and be especially careful to use it for categories where you’ll earn the most.
For instance, you could use your Chase Sapphire Preferred for online grocery shopping to earn 3X points and the Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 5X points on your air travel spending through the Chase portal.
Sign up for the Chase trifecta
Credit card trifectas are a card-combining strategy that can help you earn more rewards. The Chase trifecta typically includes a consumer travel card, an entry-level rewards card and a business credit card. A common trio might include the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred, for example.
With this card combination, you could use the Freedom Unlimited for most purchases and transfer your rewards to the Sapphire Reserve for a redemption bonus. With the Ink Business Preferred in your wallet, you would also be earning rewards on your business-related purchases.
Use Shop Through Chase
If you frequently shop online, you should check the Shop through Chase portal for additional opportunities to earn Ultimate Rewards points. Shop through Chase is accessible by logging in to your Chase credit card account and visiting the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Once there, you’ll see plenty of deals with well-known brands and retailers, along with the opportunity to earn additional points per dollar spent. Select a special offer, and you’ll be taken to the retailer’s website, where you can make your purchases and earn your rewards.
Chase offers bonuses for friends that use your referral link or code to open a credit card with Chase. These bonuses vary by card, but in many cases, they are doled out in the form of Ultimate Rewards points.
For instance, you can earn 15,000 bonus points for each referral (up to 75,000 points per year) with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card and 20,000 points for each referral (up to 100,000 points per year) with your Ink Business Preferred card.
How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points
To redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, log in to your Chase credit card account and access the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. From there, use the menu to select how you’d like to use your points. Here’s a rundown of your redemption options:
Gift cards, statement credits or cash back
You’ll be able to redeem your points for statement credits or cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point. Gift card options are also available, generally at 1 cent per point in value. Chase sometimes offers special deals on gift cards that can net you more than 1 cent per point in value, although these offers frequently change.
Redeeming your points for purchases made through Apple.com or Amazon.com can help you save money on big-ticket items and pricey electronics. If you’re in the market for a smartphone or new computer, this could be a good option.
Travel through the Chase portal
In addition to redeeming for gift cards, merchandise and statement credits or cash back, all Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning cards let you use points to book travel through the Chase portal.
If you want to redeem your points for travel, you can search for available flights or hotels through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which partners with Expedia.com. You can also redeem points in the portal for cruises, vacation rentals, rental cars and experiences or activities.
Choose your destination and dates to get a list of options, as well as how many points each option requires. If you don’t have enough points, you can make up the difference in cash.
Chase Sapphire Dining
Sapphire-branded Chase cards also let you redeem your rewards for Chase Sapphire dining options. These redemptions allow you to use points for curated dining experiences, home meal kits and more. Redemption values vary, and options frequently change.
Chase Ultimate Rewards partners
If you have the Sapphire Reserve, Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, you’ll see the option to “transfer to travel partners.”
All Chase transfer partners let you transfer points at least a 1:1 ratio and, in some cases, a little more. We’ll take a closer look at Chase transfer partners further below.
How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points
If you’d like to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to hotels or airlines, log in to your Chase credit card account and access the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The menu gives you the option to transfer points to travel partners, and from there, you can select your preferred airline or hotel and transfer your points. Points typically transfer at a 1:1 value, so if you’re turning your points into airline miles, 1 point will equal 1 mile.
Once you decide on a transfer partner, you’ll be required to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points in increments of 1,000. This can sometimes mean you have to transfer more points than you actually need, but it’s still mostly a fair way to make point transfers happen. You shouldn’t wind up wasting too many points when you transfer in increments of 1,000, and you can always transfer more points to use toward another redemption later.
Here’s a list of Chase transfer partners to choose from:
- Aer Lingus
- Air France / Flying Blue
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- British Airways
- Iberia Plus
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
Frequently asked questions about Chase Ultimate Rewards
One added perk of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is the fact that, provided you keep your account open, your rewards will never expire. This is unlike some other rewards currencies that let your points expire after 12 or more months of inactivity.
As noted above, the Chase Freedom Flex 2023 bonus categories for Q1 (January through March) include Target, grocery stores (excluding Walmart) and fitness club and gym memberships.
The bottom line
Many credit card holders default to a specific rewards type, and if you’re the type that always requests a statement credit, for example, you might be missing out on the chance to turn your points into something more valuable.
Before you redeem your points or cash back through Chase Ultimate Rewards, take some time to explore the portal and all of its reward options and benefits. Once you know which options are available based on the card you have, you’ll be better equipped to make informed choices and get the most out of your Chase Ultimate Rewards.
*The information about the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.