Chase offers 4 personal and 2 business credit cards which earn points called Ultimate Rewards (UR) and that I introduced in my Chase Branded Credit Cards post. Chase advertises the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards as cash back rewards cards, but the Sapphire cards and Ink+ can make those rewards worth much more.

These points can do a lot of things:

  • 1 cent/point ($0.01/point) Value
    • cash back
    • redeem for gift cards
  • More than 1.25-1.5+ cent/point
    • book airfare or hotels
    • transfer to airline or hotel partners (1:1 point transfers)

Ultimate Rewards (UR) points can be redeemed for cash back either as a statement credit or by sending the cash value directly to a checking account. In the Ultimate Rewards portal, there is a search engine for travel which allows for UR points to be redeemed as if they were cash. The different cards offer different values for the points:

  • Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Cash
    • 1000 UR points = $10.00
  • Sapphire Preferred, Ink+
    • 1000 UR = $12.50
  • Sapphire Reserve
    • 1000 UR = $15.00

Let’s say you look up a flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) and you have either the Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, you would see something like this:

screenshot-2016-10-12-22-21-48
Ultimate Rewards flight search results

There are different flight options with various airlines and departure times to choose from. On the right side you see the price in both $ and pts (UR points). If you did this search with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink+ card you would see the pricing as:

  • $58.10, or
  • 4,648 pts

And searching with a Sapphire Reserve would yield the results:

  • $58.10, or
  • 3,873 (or 3,874 depending on Chase’s rounding)

The difference in points required is because, as listed above, UR points can be worth more through the UR search with different cards.

Another option is transferring Ultimate Rewards points to hotel or airline partners like United or Southwest, or Marriott or Hyatt. Let’s look at an example where it would be cheaper to transfer points from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards to an airline instead of paying through the UR travel search.

screenshot-2016-10-12-22-29-56
Ultimate Rewards flight search

 

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United website search results

 

Booking a flight from SFO to Tokyo (NRT) on December 14, 2016 would cost just under 130,000 (129,290) UR points with the Freedom cards. This is just over 100,000 (103,432) UR points with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink+, or 86,193 UR with a Sapphire Reserve. Booking with United, however, would cost only 75,000 points, making transferring points 11,000-54,290 points cheaper depending on the card you have.

There can be situations where transferring UR points does not make sense like with the SFO to LAX flight. United would cost 10,000 points for the one-way trip, nearly double the points it costs through the UR portal.

One benefit to booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal instead of transferring to the partner airline or hotel is using points to pay acts as if you paid cash, so you can earn airline or hotel status through the UR search.

Review

Ultimate Rewards points earned from Chase branded credit cards have a wide variety of uses and have a minimum value of 1 cent/point ($0.01/point). Depending on your personal needs and situation, redeeming for cash back can be the best option or transferring to an airline or hotel will save you loads of money on a trip you otherwise would not have the money for.

 

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