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Chase Ultimate Rewards stands out as one of the most valuable and flexible points programs currently available to consumers. Chase offers five separate credit cards which all earn points in the Ultimate Rewards program. You can earn points in multiple ways, including spending in specific categories, referring friends and using the Chase Online Shopping Portal. The first and easiest way to earn Ultimate Rewards points is simply by signing up and spending a set amount in your first three months.
Methods for Earning Ultimate Rewards Points
Earning Ultimate Rewards Points Through Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
Often, the quickest way to earn a ton of Ultimate Rewards points is through credit card bonuses. All six cards which earn Ultimate Rewards Points all come with welcome offers, which award points if you spend a set amount in the first three months of your account opening.
|Card||Annual Fee||Sign-up Bonus|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||$450||50,000 points after $4,000 spent in first 3 months|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||$95||60,000 points after $4,000 spent in first 3 months|
|Chase Freedom®||$0||15,000 points after $500 spent in first 3 months|
|Ink Plus® Business Credit Card||$95||60,000 points after $5,000 spent in first 3 months|
|Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card||$0||50,000 points after $3,000 spent in first 3 months|
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the optimal choice for consumers looking to earn the most points quickly. However, you should only apply if you already plan to spend at least $4,000 over your first 3 months with the card. Otherwise, you may prefer the low $500 spending requirement of Chase Freedom®.
For business owners, the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card offers the biggest Ultimate Rewards bonus. However, it also charges an annual fee of $95. Therefore, you should weigh that before signing up. If your business doesn't spend enough annually to justify the higher annual fee, the extra points won't matter.
Among personal cards, the Chase Freedom® is the most economical. You need to spend just $500 in 3 months for the 15,000 bonus points. That works out to a ratio of 30 points per $1. This in addition to the points you earn as part of the card's categorical spending bonuses. However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, whose sign-up bonus ratio works out to just 12.5 points per dollar, allows you to earn more bonus points in total, albeit at the cost of a spending requirement 8 times greater than the other two cards.
If You Missed Out On A Better Bonus, Call Chase
Sometimes, new cardholders discover that the sign-up bonus for their card has increased shortly after they enter the Ultimate Rewards program. In cases where 90 days or fewer have passed between your sign-up and the bonus increase, a simple phone call to request an adjustment to the discrepancy can net you the higher bonus. This isn't a guarantee, but it never hurts to call and ask.
Spending to Earn Category Bonuses
The best way to earn Ultimate Rewards in the long-term is through using the affiliated credit cards. All five earn at least one point per dollar spent. With all of these cards, however, certain bonus categories allow you to earn points at a much faster rate. We break this down by card below.
You can get more than one card and combine your accounts. This allows you to pool your points together. A popular combination among credit card aficionados is to get both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Freedom® -- the two complement each other nicely.
Note: Even though some of these are marketed as cash back credit cards, they do in fact reward you Ultimate Rewards points. For example, a card that says 5% cash back, really means 5 points per $1.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is luxury travel credit card with a $450 annual fee. As the most expensive Ultimate Rewards credit card, it earns cardholders the most points. You get 3x reward points on travel and dining at restaurants, and 1x points everywhere else (3 points on travel after you earn the $300 travel credit). Plus, there is a 50,000 bonus points available up for grabs. To qualify, you must spend at least $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. This is the largest Ultimate Rewards bonus we’ve seen.
Because of its annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® won’t be for everyone. The card is best suited for individuals who travel frequently and call the airport their second home. It comes with airport lounge benefits and a $300 annual travel credit – together these are valued at $699. Anyone who can take full advantage of these two benefits will be coming out ahead by using this card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is geared towards earning bonuses on travel and dining expenses. It awards 2 points per dollar in those categories with no limit. The travel category covers not only airfare and hotel reservations, but also public transport, taxis and services like Uber, car rentals, parking fees and tolls. Dining includes both sit-down and take-out food, so you will earn double points from casual eats just as easily as with fine dining.
Because of the wide range of purchases associated with travel spending, we suggest you call an Ultimate Rewards representative whenever you have a question of whether a given transaction will earn you double points.
The Chase Freedom® can earn you 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter. After that, it gets you just 1 point per $1 for the rest of the quarter. This is by far the most complicated card in terms of earning rewards. You need to keep track of the rotating categories throughout the year if you hope to maximize your rewards. Those who put in the extra legwork, however, are awarded one of the best rates on earning Ultimate Rewards.
You should review the categories selected by Chase at the start of each quarter and consider how much you will be able to spend in those categories. Keep in mind that you must visit the Chase Freedom calendar to activate your card and begin receiving bonus points.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Unlike the Chase Freedom®, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is extremely simple to use. You get 1.5 points per dollar spent in any category, and no limitation on that rate, this card is a great option if you would prefer not to invest any additional time in keeping track of what you buy and when you buy it, as you do with cards like Chase Freedom®. New cardmembers can also earn 3% cash back on all purchases in the first year for up to $20,000 spent. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is also best for people who do not spend heavily in any one category, like travel or dining, but rather find that their budget is fairly evenly spread across a wide range of different expenses.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card
The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card allows you to earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable services each account anniversary year. The spending cap is significantly lower than what we saw on the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card. Because the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card charges no annual fee, it does represent a more economical points-earning option than the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card. You don't have to spend money to make up for the $95 deficit.
This card also offers a rate of 2 points per dollar for combined gas station and restaurant purchases, on that same $25k annual limit. If your small business expenses involve restaurant-based meetings or events more often than traveling and staying at hotels, you may want to consider the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card as a means of earning extra Ultimate Rewards points.
How to Choose the Right Credit Card for Earning Ultimate Rewards Points
We built a tool that allows you to compare multiple credit cards at a glance. We reduced all the points down to a dollar value, which allows you to make more of a apples-to-apples comparison. Input your spending below to view our estimated value for each card.
Other Ways to Earn 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.
Staying Up-to-Date with Special 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.