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Chase Ultimate Rewards: We Break Down How They Work

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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.

Chase Ultimate Rewards: 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 Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card 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® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. Though this selection of credit cards comes with hefty annual fees, they make up for that fact by giving your Ultimate Rewards more value -- between 25% and 50%, depending on which card you get.

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 Transfer partners are: 

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Hyatt Gold Passport®
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards®

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 the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card you can transfer your rewards to partner loyalty programs where they can be worth significantly more.

Value of 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards when redeemed for various rewards

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® Card, 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 significant savings on your spending.

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 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best way to achieve the best of both these worlds. 

Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards

Here is a side-by-side comparison of all the credit cards that will earn you Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can read on ahead if you want a more in-depth look at each of the offers and what it excells at.

Chase Freedom®Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve®Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Ultimate Rewards Bonus15,00050,00050,00015,000
Bonus Requirement$500 spent in first 3 months$4,000 spent in first 3 months$4,000 spent in first 3 months$500 spent in first 3 months
Bonus Value Estimate$150$625$750$150
Annual FeeNone$95 (Waived Y1)$450$0
APR17.24% - 25.99% Variable18.24% - 25.24% Variable19.24% - 26.24% Variable17.24% - 25.99% Variable
Foreign Trans Fee3%0%$03%
Read ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: The Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual Fee
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $95
APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Among all the cards under the Chase Ultimate Rewards banner, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the clear cut leader. For the $95 annual fee (waived for the first year), the card increases the value of your rewards significantly. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card you get a redemption discount of 20% whenever booking through the Ultimate Rewards online travel portal. That alone boosts the value of a single Ultimate Rewards point to $0.0125. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card further allows you to transfer your points to various airline/hotel loyalty programs. All these things the card offers allow travelers to amplify their rewards rate.

The card has one of the better sign up bonuses we've seen. Cardholders who spend $4,000 in their first 3 months can get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. If you use these towards travel redemptions through UR, this bonus can be worth around $625, or $500 when used for cash back.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®: The Best Premium Travel Card Around

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase's Secure Website
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Annual Fee
$450
APR
19.24% - 26.24% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is widely believed to be the best luxury travel credit card around -- certainly the best out of all the Ultimate Rewards line up. First of all, this is one of the highest-earning Ultiamte Rewards credit cards. You get three points per dollar spent on travel and dining out, and one point everywhere else. You get a 50% bonus to your redemptions when using the points on the card through the Ultimate Rewards online travel portal. Therefore, the card's rewards rate translates to anywhere between 1.5% and 4.5%. You can also get 50,000 bonus points for spending at least $4,000 with the card within your first three months of account opening. As long as you get the 50% bonus, that comes out to a value of $750 -- making this the best Ultimate Rewards bonus.

If you get this card you'll have to contend with its $450 annual fee. Fortunately, it offers more benefits that help cancel this out. First, you get a $300 annual travel credit that can pay for things like airline tickets or taxi rides. You'll also get complimentary Priority Pass membership, worth hundreds of dollars. This will get you into luxury airport lounges around the world, making your time at the airport a lot more pleasant.

The Chase Freedom®: A Cash Back Credit Card for Optimizers

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom®

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Don't be fooled. While the Chase Freedom® is advertised as a "cash back card", it earns users Ultimate Rewards points. You get 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate; all other spending get you just one point per dollar. On its own, the points with this card are worth $0.01 when used towards cash back. However, those who love optimizing their rewards can combine this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. If you get both cards, you can pool all the points together and boost their value through the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, as we described above.

Bonus hunters can get a good deal on the Chase Freedom® too. Spending $500 on the card within the first 3 months of cardmembership will get you 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited®: The Simplest Way to Earn Ultimate Rewards Points

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is designed with simplicity in mind. You earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points for every single dollar you spend with the card. While you can get more with the cards we described above, those offers require you to be more involved. Unlike those other cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® doesn't require you to keep track of where you're spending your money or whether you're shopping within bonus categories. You simply get an above-average return no matter where you shop. That can be particulary useful for anyone who has needs that don't conform to typical credit card reward categories.

Like the Chase Freedom®, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a decent sign-up bonus. You'll get 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending at least $500 within 3 months of account opening.

Compare Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards

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.

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Assumptions based on $1,430 monthly spend
Monthly spending:
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{"cardCategory":"rewards","cardIds":"196,197,166,167,35,1054,1095","initialResultsLimit":14,"endpoint":"https:\/\/creditcards.valuepenguin.com\/api\/creditcards\/models\/rewards","onCurrent":"true"}

Ultimate Rewards vs Other Programs

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

This American Express offering costs $95 per year (waived the first year), which is on-par with the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. A must-have for travelers who know they'll be staying in SPG or Marriot Rewards hotels. It's worth noting that the points you earn with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express can be transferred to several airline partners in addition to simply redeeming them for hotel stays. It's worth noting that this card packs features that can be highly valuable, like a free night award and a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months. The card's rewards rate will vary between 1.8% to 5.4%, depending on the type of purchases you make (based on our estimated point value of $0.009 multiplied by the points earned).

The information related to the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Business Credit Card Comparison

In this comparison snapshot you can get a quick look at the differences between both Chase Ultimate Rewards cards designated for business owners use. The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card is a cashback card while the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card is a more general business rewards card:

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit CardInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Ultimate Rewards Bonus50,00080,000
Bonus Requirement$3,000 spent in first 3 months$5,000 spent in first 3 months
Bonus Value Estimate$500$1,000
Rewards5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year
Annual Fee$0$95
APR15.49% - 21.49% Variable18.24% - 23.24% Variable
Foreign Trans Fee3%0%
Read ReviewRead Review

*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.

Full List of Ultimate Rewards Travel Partners

Travel

  • 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

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 to 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. One note: British Airways flights tend to come with pretty hefty fuel surcharges that apply whether you're booking normal or award 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.

Ultimate Rewards Points Redemption Summary

  • If you're using the Chase Freedom® or Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (Tier 1) you'll be redeeming points at a value of 1 cent per point.
  • If you're using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (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).

How To Earn Extra Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Beyond the sign-up bonuses, Chase has established multiple avenues for credit card holders to build up Ultimate Rewards points, with only slight differences from card to card.

Special Ultimate Rewards Promotions

In addition to the usual bonus earning rates we have covered, Chase will offer new promotions and points-earning rates from time to time. These temporary promotions may not catch your attention on their own, so if you wish to truly maximize your Ultimate Rewards points, call in periodically to check for anything you may have missed.

One important but simple example is to keep an eye on the sign-up bonus for your card for the first 90 days after you sign up. If it increases from the bonus you signed up for, you can call in to request the new bonus amount, which Chase will often grant.

Buying Gift Cards to Translate Spending Across Categories

Many retailers carry a selection of gift cards that can be spent with other merchants, both online and brick-and-mortar. These can provide a means of translating your purchases under a bonus category into a less points-friendly expense. For example, Staples, an office supply store which yields 5 points per dollar with the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, offers gift cards to places ranging from Starbucks to Home Depot, which are not bonus categories for either of those cards.

Warning: Sometimes, the purchase of a gift card may be flagged as a cash advance. This is an extremely expensive transaction that comes with fees and higher APR attached. After purchasing a gift card, make sure it registered as a purchase. If it went through as a cash advance, you will not receive any points, and will only end up losing money. You can read more about these types of transactions in our detailed guide here.

Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall

The Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall is another easy way to earn points. If you have a big purchase coming up you can get anywhere between 1 extra point per $1 to 25 points, depending on the store. The most common bonuses range between 1-2 points. As of August 2016, the mall includes 242 stores. The brands range from Apple to Rite Aid and REI. When we examined prices on the Ultimate Rewards mall we didn’t find any price discrepancies. The dozen-or-so websites we checked had prices that matched up with the original website. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about being up-charged.

Clicking through to one of the stores takes you to their respective online portals where you can complete the purchase. Be careful that you don’t close the merchant’s website. If you do, you will have to go through the Chase portal once again to get the extra points.

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* 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.

Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, Amazon Business American Express Card, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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 are ValuePenguin's alone and for illustrative purposes only. The estimates are not a guarantee, agreement, or commitment to redemption amounts and may not have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).

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