Chase Ultimate Rewards Explained

Chase Bank has a credit card rewards program called Chase Ultimate Rewards. The program allows you to earn points through four different credit cards (a fifth launches April 2016), as well as by booking paid travel through their travel center, and by using their shopping portal to purchase items from retailers like Home Depot and OfficeMax.

The program also offers a variety of ways to redeem points that include 1) cash, 2) through their travel center, and 3) transferred to ten other rewards programs that include Hyatt and Southwest Airlines. On the whole, Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the most flexible and valuable point systems out there.

Earning Points

Credit Cards

They offer five different credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards including three personal cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited) and two business cards (Ink Plus and Ink Cash). Each of the cards has different ways to earn points which we’ll outline in the table below.

Sapphire Preferred Freedom Freedom Unlimited Ink Plus Ink Cash
Sign Up Bonus 55,000 17,500 17,500 60,000 20,000
Sign Up Bonus Requirement $4,000 spent in 3 mos. + authorized user $500 spent in 3 mos.+ authorized user $500 spent in 3 mos. + authorized user $5,000 spent in 3 mos. $3,000 spent in 3 mos.
Annual Fee $95

(waived first year)

$0 $0 $95 $0
Bonus Point Categories (Points per Dollar) 2x

(Travel and Dining)

5x

(Rotating Quarterly Categories)

5x

(Office Supplies, Phone Bills, Internet & Cable)

5x

(Office Supplies, Phone Bills, Internet & Cable)

Bonus Point Categories Cont’d (Points per Dollar) 2x

(Gas & Hotels)

2x

(Gas & Dining)

Point per Dollar on Other Spending 1x 1x 1.5x 1x 1x
Noteworthy Perks Primary Rental Car Insurance & No Foreign Transaction Fee No Foreign Transaction Fee Primary Rental Car Insurance

Shopping Portal

Chase also has a shopping portal on the Ultimate Rewards site where you can earn additional points at various levels when use their links to shop at stores online. These stores include places you’re likely to shop at, including: Home Depot, Lowes, Office Max, Old Navy, and Best Buy. In most cases you’ll earn an additional 1-5 points per dollars above and beyond the one point per dollar you would get for shopping at those stores, but in some cases it’s as many as 25 additional points.

CUR Shopping Portal

Travel Center

Chase has an online travel center, like an Expedia or Travelocity, where you can book travel and earn an extra point per dollar spent above and beyond what you normally get for making the purchase on the card you’re using.  For instance, if you were using the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you would get two points for making a travel purchase and another point for doing it through the travel center, three points total (per dollar spent).

Point Value

It’s not only important to know how you’ll earn points, but you also want to know how much value you can expect when you go redeem those points. There are three primary ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards and each with a different corresponding value. When you redeem points for cash, each point is worth one cent. Fifty thousand points is worth $500.

You can also redeem points through the travel center. If you have a card with an annual fee they are worth 1.25 cents per point and only one cent per point if not.

Chase also has ten transfer partners. These run the gamut in value but good redemptions like Hyatt and Southwest Airlines can be worth 1.7-1.8 cents per point.

Redeeming Points

Cash Redemption

The first way you can redeem points is for cash as a statement credit to reduce your balance. One point equals one penny, so if you have 50,000 points, you can cash them in for $500. This is the least valuable of the options, but cash is also the most flexible, so in some limited cases it may be your best choice.

Travel Center Discount

Chase also has a travel center where you can book travel using rewards points. The travel center has online search options, like Expedia or Travelocity, and a phone number where you can speak with a travel agent. For Disney travel, you should call as we’ve found many of the Disney options are not listed online.

If you have one of the premium cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus), you get a 25% bonus on the value of your points when you redeem through the travel center. So, instead of your 50,000 points being worth $500, through the travel center 50,000 points are worth $625.

If you only have one of the no annual fee credit cards, the points are worth the same as the cash option through the center, one point equals one cent.

CUR Travel Center

Transfer to Airline and Hotel Rewards Programs (Premium Card Required)

One of the other advantages of the premium cards (annual fee cards) is that you can transfer your points to ten different rewards programs like Hyatt, Southwest, United, Marriott, etc. Hyatt and Southwest are the most valuable transfers for Disney travel and you can get close to two cents per point in value through this option.

Pooling Points

One of the beauties of the Ultimate Rewards program is that you can have multiple cards and pool points, both personally and with other family members who live with you. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and your spouse has a Chase Freedom, you can instantly transfer his/her points to your account. This is helpful when you’ve got a big vacation to book, but it’s especially helpful for taking advantage of the transfer option to other programs. You only need one premier card in your family to transfer points to Hyatt or Southwest because you can pool them into the premier card account and then transfer them out.

We’ve put together a nifty, albeit pedestrian looking, Google Sheets where you can enter how much money you spend in various categories throughout the year and it will tell you how many points you would earn with different combinations of the personal Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards. This is for people who may want to consider more than one card, either personally or with a spouse. The only editable fields are the yellow boxes where you enter how much you spend in those categories. The rest are protected to keep the formulas from getting messed up.  Here it is: Chase Ultimate Rewards – Picking the Right Card Combo

Conclusion

The sheer volume of good options for earning and redeeming points make Chase Ultimate Rewards, in our opinion, the most valuable single rewards system. Especially for Disney vacations, when you consider your options of transferring points to Hyatt and Southwest Airlines or book Disney hotels and vacation packages through the travel center, the flexibility makes this a great credit card rewards system to make a primary part of your strategy.