Chase Ultimate Rewards: We Breakdown How They Work

The Ultimate Rewards program from Chase can be one of the most flexible rewards programs in the business if you know how to maximize your point value. And after reading through this guide, you'll know exactly how to do that. So whether you're looking for a travel, business, or just a great all-around cashback card, Chase has several options that will all let you start earnings Ultimate Rewards.

With Chase, you can select from business or personal card options both of which are part of the Ultimate Rewards program. We'll get into more details below, but you should know that the no annual fee card offerings are generally inferior to their annual-fee counterparts, and as such, we recommend applying for the fee-cards in most cases.

What are Chase Ultimate Rewards worth?

For most cards, the value of Ultimate Rewards points is simple. They're worth 1 cent per point when used towards cash back, travel expenses and other items. Things can get a little more complicated with some of the cards in this program, since as they offer additional ways to spend the points that can net you a better value. The fee-based cards give you a 20% discount when redeeming points for travel, making the Ultimate Rewards points worth 1.25 cents per point. Even better yet, with Chase Sapphire Preferred you can transfer your rewards to partner loyalty programs where they can be worth significantly more.

Knowing the value of each point is only half of the equation. Rewards rates among the available cards varies, with many cards offering higher rewards in particular spending categories. Among the standouts are the rewards for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you earn 2x points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants. Depending on your spending patterns and how you like to shop for travel, Chase Ultimate Rewards offers the potential for signficant savings on your spending.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred: The Only Personal Card Worth Looking At

Among all the cards under the Chase Ultimate Rewards banner, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the clear cut leader. For the $95 annual fee (waived for the first year), the Preferred increases the value of your rewards significantly. By opening up the travel redemption discount, and airline transfer program the card gives savvy travel shoppers multiple ways to amplify their rewards rate. The card's larger signing bonus which awards you with 40,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months is worth at least $400 in cash back or $500 when redeemed for travel through Chase Utlimate Rewards.

The beauty of Chase Ultimate Rewards that it balances flexible redemption options, with the opportunity for getting more value of your rewards. For shoppers willing to do a little more research and maximize their reward redemption, the Sapphire Preferred is the best way to achieve the best of both these worlds. 

Other rewards programs to consider

There are programs that can offer higher rewards and some that offer greater flexibility. For consumers that just want a card that is easy to use, and has few restrictions to consider, the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is a great option. With a 2.2% rewards rate on all spending categories, cardholders can simply spend and redeem their rewards as statement credits towards any travel purchase. It's an simpler option for those consumers that may prioritize flexibility and ease of use.

For rewards maximizers affiliated loyalty programs are the way to go.

Starwood Preferred Guest

Unlike Chase Ultimate Rewards the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program is focused on hotel stays. Like most loyalty rewards Starpoints will vary in their value but on average are worth an astounding 2.3 cents per point whend used towards hotel stays. This is among the highest value per reward out of any program. The tradeoff is that you are limited to Starwood affiliated hotels and locations. One benefit of the SPG program, is that like Chase's Ultimate Rewards, members can transfer their Starpoints to most major carriers. These transfer partnerships include many US airlines that are not included in Chase's program. Airlines include American, Delta, US Airways, Virgin America and many others.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

This American Express offering costs $65 per year (waived the first year), less than both the other cards we've looked at. A must-have for travelers who know they'll be staying in Starwood-owned hotels (full list below). The card is less valuable if you place a premium on airline and lodging flexibility when you travel.

In-Depth Review

What You Need to Know About Chase Ultimate Rewards

The first thing you'll want to know about Chase's rewards program is that there are two separate tiers in which your credit card can fall. Tier one includes the Chase Freedom and Chase Ink Cash cards. This tier of rewards cards pales in comparison to the second tier which we'll tell you about shortly. Basically, what we're calling the 'tier one' cards allow cardholders to redeem their rewards at a less attractive, one cent per point, redemption rate. What these 2 cards do have going for them though is that they're all no annual fee cards so you'll be saving $95 a year over the 'tier two' card options. 

Chase's primary 'tier two' Ultimate Rewards cards are as follows: Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Chase Ink Plus. This selection of cards will all set you back $95 for their annual fee, but most importantly they earn (at minimum) 1.25 cents per point, or 25% more than their tier-one counterparts.

These 'tier-two' cards also come with an additional option that make them all the more enticing. They allow cardholders the option to transfer their Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1:1 to a handful of travel partners giving you a ton of flexbillity in where you spend your points and how much value you get for them.

The current Ultimate Rewards Travel partners are: 

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Amtrak Guest Rewards®
  • Hyatt Gold Passport®
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards®

ValuePenguin has also built an easy to use tool that can help you determine which card is best for your particular situation. Click on "Model Input" to tell us more about your spending habits and we'll show you what card we think is best.

Rewards
Graph by Card:
Rewards
The total value of the card at the end of the period by card. The card value accounts for the dollar value of the rewards as well as any fees associated with the card.
Rewards Rate
The dollar value of rewards as a percentage of total spending by card.
APR
The minimum APR for each card.
Annual Fee
The annual fee for each card.
Bonus Value
The dollar value of signing and continuing bonuses by card.
Graph by Month:
Rewards
The dollar value of each card by month
Rewards Rate
The value of each card as a percentage of total spending by month…
Monthly Spend: $1,000
Show Graph
Annual Fee
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $65
Rewards Rate
4.22%
Bonus
$550
Rewards
$1,013
More Details Graph Card Read Review
Annual Fee $65 ($0 Intro annual fee for the first year, then $65)
Purchase APR 15.24, 17.24 or 19.24% Variable

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 24,000 528
Bonuses
Earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase 10,000 220
Earn 15,000 Bonus Starpoints if you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months 15,000 330
Less Annual Fees 65
Total 49,000 1,013

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn free nights at over 1,100 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates.
  • Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints on purchases at participating SPG hotels.
  • That's 2 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member in addition to the 2 or 3 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
  • Terms and Limitations Apply.
Chase Sapphire® Credit Card Image
Chase Sapphire® Credit Card
Annual Fee
None
Rewards Rate
1.42%
Bonus
$100
Rewards
$340
More Details Graph Card Read Review
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 15.99% Variable

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Rewards Dollars*
Spending Rewards 24,000 240
Bonuses
10,000 bonus points after spending $500 in the first three months 10,000 100
Total 34,000 340

Card Features

    Earning Rewards

    • 2 points for every $1 spent on restaurants
    • 2 points for every $1 spent on airfare or hotel accomodations booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 1 point for every $1 spent otherwise

    Promotions

    • 10,000 points after spending $500 in the first 3 months
    Annual Fee
    $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $95
    Rewards Rate
    0.85%
    Bonus
    $0
    Rewards
    $205
    More Details Graph Card Read Review
    Annual Fee $95 ($0 Intro annual fee for the first year, then $95)
    Purchase APR 15.99% Variable

    Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

    Rewards Dollars*
    Spending Rewards 24,000 300
    Less Annual Fees 95
    Total 24,000 205

    Card Details

    • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
    • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
    • Premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
    • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
    • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
    Annual Fee
    $195
    Rewards Rate
    -0.01%
    Bonus
    $100
    Rewards
    $-2
    More Details Graph Card Read Review
    Annual Fee $195
    Purchase APR 15.24, 17.24 or 19.24% Variable

    Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

    Rewards Dollars*
    Spending Rewards 24,000 288
    Bonuses
    $100 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase within the first three months 0 100
    Less Annual Fees 390
    Total 24,000 -2

    Card Features

    • Discounted Delta Skyclub Access for you and 2 other companions
    • Receive a 20% statement credit on any in-flight purchases of food or entertainement
    • Priority Boarding
    • First Checked Bag Free

    Earning Rewards

    • 2 miles for every $1 spent on Delta flight and vacation purchases
    • 1 mile for every $1 spent otherwise

    Promotions

    • 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 50,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
    • $100 Statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months

    Chase Ultimate Rewards Personal Credit Card Comparison

    In the table below we breakdown the differences between all three Chase Ultimate Rewards cards designated for personal use. The Chase Freedom is a cashback card while both the Sapphire and Sapphire Preferred are primarily travel cards:

      Chase Freedom® Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
     
    Signup Promo $100 40,000 points
    Annual Fee None Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 
    Min APR 13.99% 15.99%
    Foreign Trans Fee 3% 0%
    Earnings Rate

    5% cash back on rotating categories

    1% unlimited on everything else

    2 points per $1 spent on restaurants and all travel

    1 point on everything else

     

    Chase Ultimate Rewards Business Credit Card Comparison

    In this comparison snapshot you can get a quick look at the differences between all three Chase Ultimate Rewards cards designated for business owners use. The Ink Cash is a cashback card while both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus are more general business rewards cards:

      Ink Cash® Business Credit Card Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
    Signup Promo $200 50,000 points 
    Rewards 5% cash back on up to $25,000 in business services  5 points per $1 spent on up to $50,000 of business services  
      2% cash back on up $25,000 gas stations and restaurants 2 points per $1 spent on up to $50k of gas stations and hotels 
      1% on everything else  1 point on everything else 
    Fee None $95 (waived first year)
    Min APR 13.24%  15.24% 
    FX Fee 3%  0% 

    *Business services include office supply stores, cell phones, landline phones, internet, and cable tv services

    The Best Way to Spend Your Ultimate Rewards

    Assuming you're using one of the above mentioned 'Tier-2' credit cards, redeeming points through Chase's travel partners is really the best way to get the greatest bang for your buck. While you're guaranteed at least a 1.25 cent per point redemption when booking through Chase Travel, your redemption rate through the travel partners will vary so you'll need to be on the lookout. Of course if you're using a 'Tier-1' Ultimate Rewards card, you'll be locked into getting a 1 cent on the dollar redemption rate.

    We went ahead and priced out some different options for a handful of the travel partners at different times of the year. Here are some example of the wide-ranging redemption variability you can expect (cents per points value is in bold):

    British Airways

    Pricing a mid-February flight from NYC to London that was booked within a week of the trip, we found it cost $1,602 roundtrip. That same trip would cost 40,000 Avios (British Airways miles) meaning that each point is this scenario is worth 4.0 cents. This is 320% more than the standard 1.25 cents per point if you redeem through Chase Travel.

    Southwest Airlines

    A flight booked on Southwest during a 3-day holiday weekend from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale was priced at $400 even. This particular roundtrip flight also cost 17,000 Southwest points to redeem. The conversion value: 2.4 cents per point.

    Marriott Rewards

    A room reserved in a midwestern, metro-area for one night in April was priced at $137 per night. That same room could be reserved using 7,500 Marriott Hotel points: a value of 1.82 cents per point.

    Hyatt Gold Passport

    If you were looking to book room over the weekend in New Orleans (during March) it would set you back $269 per night. If you decided to pay for that room with your Hyatt points it would cost you 12,000. That makes your points worth 2.24 cents a piece.

    Points redemption summary

    • If you're using the Chase Freedom or Chase Ink Cash (Tier 1) you'll be redeeming points at a value of 1 cent per point.
    • If you're using the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus (Tier 2) you'll redeem points for a minimum of 1.25 cents (towards travel) per point up to a max of 6.25 cents per point (when maxing out the 5x categories).

    Full List of Ultimate Rewards Travel Partners

    Travel

    • Amtrak Guest Rewards
    • Korean AIr Skypass
    • British Airways Executive Club
    • United Airlines Mileage Plus
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

    Hotels

    • IHG Rewards Club
    • Marriott Rewards
    • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
    • Hyatt Gold Passport

    Spending Your Rewards On Other Programs

    Delta SkyMiles has one of the larger partner airline networks around. For you, that means more options when choosing how to redeem your miles. All miles earned via your Delta credit card can be transferred at a ratio of 1:1 to any of the below partner airlines.

    Aeroflot Aerolineas Argentinas Aeromexico
    AirEuropa Air France Air Tahiti Nui
    Alaska Airlines Alitalia China Airlines
    China Eastern China Southern Czech Airlines
    GOL Hawaiian Airlines Kenya Airways
    KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Korean Air Middle East Airlines
    Saudia Airlines Tarom Airlines Vietnam Airlines
    Virgin Atlantic Virgin Australia Xiamen Airlines

    Of course with the Sapphire Preferred you can redeem at just about any airline at 1.25 cents on the dollar or at one of their 10 travel partners for a variable (many times better) rate.

    Starwood Preferred Guest program include all Starwood-owner hotels. And since you probably don't know which hotels are owned by Starwood we've included them all in the table below:

    Aloft Element Four Points
    Le Meridien The Luxury Collection Sheraton
    St. Regis W Hotels Westin

    * See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

    Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

    How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.