Chase Ultimate Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide

Learn about the Chase Freedom card and how it earns 1% cash back on every purchase and up to 5% on purchases in quarterly categories.

Disclosure: We are committed to recommending the best products for our readers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to products, but this never affects our reviews or recommendations.

If you aren’t loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain, a general credit card rewards program like Chase Ultimate Rewards can offer a relatively simple way to earn points, valuable travel redemption options, and all sorts of flexibility. Chase credit cards also boast great new-cardholder bonuses that can jump-start your points stash. 

If you’re considering opening a Chase credit card to earn Ultimate Rewards points, or you want to maximize your use of a card already in your wallet, here’s what you should know about this rewards program.  

What Is the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program?

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a point-based credit card rewards program that allows holders of certain Chase-branded credit cards to earn rewards on travel and everyday purchases. 

Credit Cards That Offer Ultimate Rewards Points

Pros

  • Points can be worth significantly more than 1 cent each when redeemed for travel 

  • Program has more than a dozen travel partners that allow 1-to-1 point transfers

  • Rewards don’t expire

Cons

  • Premium travel cards charge annual fees

  • Rewards earned with cash-back cards can’t be directly transferred to travel partners

How Do You Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points?

When you apply and are approved for one of the aforementioned Chase credit cards, you’ll get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and can start earning points right away.  

There are four ways to get Ultimate Rewards points: 

1. Earn a New Cardholder Bonus

All of the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards currently offer a bonus to new cardholders who can meet a spending requirement within three months of opening their account. 

For example, if you open the Chase Sapphire Reserve and spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of opening your account, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points.

Earning a sign-up bonus can be a great way to quickly boost your Ultimate Rewards point total, especially if you’d like to redeem points sooner rather than later. Bonus points should be available for use about six to eight weeks after you earn them. 

Be mindful of Chase’s unofficial 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more cards within the past 24 months (even if they aren’t from Chase), your odds of being approved for a new Chase card are slim, which means racking up rewards from a bonus offer may not be an option either. 

2. Use Chase Card for Travel and Everyday Expenses

Unlike some airline- or hotel-branded travel rewards cards, several Chase credit cards offer extra points on a wide variety of travel purchases and other routine expenses like dining out. Small business owners may even earn additional points on certain types of business expenses, depending on which business card they use. 

According to Chase, you can earn extra points on all of the travel purchases from all of the following: airlines; hotels; motels; timeshares; car rental agencies; cruise lines; travel agencies; discount travel sites; campgrounds; operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges, and highways; as well as parking lots and garages.

The Ultimate Rewards points-earning rates for each Chase credit card varies depending on the type of card: travel, cash-back, or business.

3. Shop Through the Ultimate Rewards Portal or Chase App

Log into your Chase account either online or through the free Chase app to shop more than 350 retailers like Macy’s, H&R Block, Staples, and Sephora for extra points on each purchase.

Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping points
Current online shopping offers are posted in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for cardholders. Screenshot by The Balance

You can earn up to 15 more points per $1 spent, depending on the retailer and current offer, which can change periodically. 

Don’t use this as an excuse to shop more than usual. Instead, watch your Chase account for bonus-point promotions that align with what you would buy anyway and rack up more rewards on planned or routine expenses. 

4. Earn a Bonus Through Chase Refer-A-Friend 

You can also earn extra points for each friend who is approved for a Chase credit card after you invite them via email through the Chase Refer-A-Friend program. Referral bonus point offers vary between cards, so check your online account for more details.  

Do Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Expire?

No, not as long as your account is open and in good standing, which means you’ve made minimum payments on time, haven’t filed for bankruptcy, and Chase doesn’t suspect you of abusing the program, among other things. If you close your account, you’ll have 30 days to use up any remaining Ultimate Rewards points before they disappear. 

What Are Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Worth?

There are several ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points that give you a per-point value of at least 1 cent, but often much more than that, which is one of this program’s best qualities. A rewards value of 1 cent per point is the baseline that many rewards chasers use for redeeming rewards. If your credit card points are worth less than that, you’re better off looking at a different redemption option or credit card.

Based on The Balance’s calculations, here’s the average value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points for each redemption option: 

  • Transfer points to travel partners: About 2 cents per point with eligible cards, depending on the airline or hotel partner
  • Chase travel portal: 1-1.5 cents per point, depending on the card (more about this in the Book Travel Through the Ultimate Rewards Portal section below)
  • Statement credits or gift cards: 1 cent per point
  • Shop with points at Amazon: 0.8 cents per point 

If you have one of the cash-back credit cards tied to the Ultimate Rewards program (such as Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited) you can’t transfer points to travel partners directly. You can work around this limitation by first transferring points to a Chase travel card that permits travel partner transfers. We explain how to do this in the section below titled, “How to Earn More Points by Pairing Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards.”

How to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

You have lots of flexibility with how you can use Ultimate Rewards points, which is particularly useful if you’d rather find the best travel deals or travel itineraries than stick with a particular airline or hotel chain as you have to do with airline and hotel credit cards. 

Point values can vary greatly, but overall, you’ll get the most from your rewards when you use Ultimate Rewards points for travel. Here’s how, starting with our favorite—and the most valuable—way:

Transfer Points to Travel Partners

This is often the most valuable way to use your points, especially if you’re already a loyalty program member with one of the 13 Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partners:

The transfer ratio for Chase Ultimate Rewards points is 1-to-1, so you can, for instance, transfer 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to your MileagePlus account and get 50,000 United miles. 

Ultimate Rewards stands out from some competing programs because of this great transfer ratio, and because there are two major U.S. airlines you can transfer to, as well as several hotel chains whose points are valuable.  

It’s pretty easy to transfer Ultimate Rewards points, too. Just log into your Ultimate Rewards portal, click “transfer to travel partners” on the redemption option menu, and choose how many points you’d like to transfer to one of the partner loyalty programs in increments of 1,000. You’ll need to provide your name and loyalty program number to start the transfer, and you can save that account information to make future transfers even easier. 

If you’re in a pinch, you can also transfer points by calling the number on the back of your card or visiting a Chase branch. Just note that transfers can take up to a week to process (though Chase claims most requests process within one business day) and cannot be reversed or canceled. 

You’ll get the most out of your Ultimate Rewards when you transfer points to a United MileagePlus account and use them to book flights. The Balance found those are the most valuable airline miles among U.S. carriers, on average. Turning your Ultimate Rewards points into United miles will make them worth about 2.16 cents each.  

Depending on which Ultimate Rewards credit card you have, that may be a much greater value than what you’d get by booking travel directly through Chase (more about that below).

Book Travel Through the Ultimate Rewards Portal

If you don’t want to use one of the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners or you like the convenience of using rewards for travel right away, booking travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is the next best way to use your points. 

When booking travel through Chase’s portal (either online or through the free Chase mobile app), the average per-point value of your points will vary, depending on your card:

The Chase travel portal is powered by Expedia, so the travel search and booking experience is very similar. When you’re logged into your Ultimate Rewards account, you can look for flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, or tours.

Chase Ultimate Rewards travel reservation search tool
You can look for more than just award flights using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel reservation search tool. Screenshot by The Balance

You can book award travel online using Ultimate Rewards points for the entire purchase, or pay partially with points and put the rest on your Chase credit card. Ultimate Rewards award travel can also be booked by phone, but you may pay a fee up to $20 per transaction. 

There are no award travel blackout dates to worry about when you book trips through Chase Ultimate Rewards.  

Redeem for Cash Back

If you’re more interested in putting money back in your pocket than traveling, you can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back, which can be issued as a statement credit or deposited directly into a U.S. checking or savings account. Your points are worth 1 cent each when used this way, regardless of the credit card you have. That’s a pretty standard cash-back rewards value, albeit less than the value of the points when used for travel, as we explained above.

There’s no minimum number of points required to redeem cash back, and cash-back reward redemptions can take up to three days to process. 

Other Ways to Use Ultimate Rewards Points

There are a few other ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points:

  • Redeem points for gift cards (points are worth about 1 cent each when used this way)
  • Shop with points on Amazon.com or the Apple Ultimate Rewards Store (points are worth only 0.80 cent each this way)
  • Buy tickets to special experiences such as concerts, restaurant dinners, or sporting events. Ticket prices for these limited-time offers vary, so refer to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to see what the latest deals are.

However, because Ultimate Rewards points are worth more when used for travel—either by booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal or by transferring points to a travel partner—we don’t recommend these redemption options if you want to maximize the value of your earnings. 

How to Earn More Points by Pairing Ultimate Rewards Cards

One way to boost your rewards-earning potential is to pair a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card with one of the cash-back cards connected to the Ultimate Rewards program. Let’s say you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and a Chase Freedom Unlimited card. You can use your Sapphire Preferred card for travel and dining to earn 2 points per $1 spent on those purchases, and then use your Freedom Unlimited for everything else to get 1.5% back (or 1.5 points). 

You can then combine Ultimate Rewards points balances, which may give you higher point-redemption values and the option to transfer points to a travel partner loyalty program. The transfer destination just has to be a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred to get those perks. 

For example, if you move Chase Freedom points to a Chase Sapphire Preferred account, those points will be worth 1.25 cents each instead of just 1 cent each when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. They can also be transferred at a 1-to-1 rate to one of the travel partner loyalty accounts. 

Moving Ultimate Rewards points between Chase card accounts is fairly simple. Chase calls this option “combining points,” and you can request a transfer online through the Ultimate Rewards portal by providing your name and the number of the account where you’d like your points to go. 

Combining Chase Ultimate Rewards points
To transfer Ultimate Rewards points from one Chase card account to another, provide your account number and last name in the "Combine Points" section of your cardholder portal.  Screenshot by The Balance

You can only move points between your own accounts, or to the account of someone else in your household. You can’t game the system with friends or another third-party account. 

Key Takeaways

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a great credit card rewards program for travelers, especially if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card, which offer higher value on travel redemptions and the flexibility to transfer points to a partner hotel or airline loyalty program.

Ultimate Rewards points are best used for travel, either on bookings through Chase, or by first transferring them to a loyalty program with higher average reward values, such as United Airlines MileagePlus (if your card permits transfers, of course). We recommend pairing a Chase cash back with a premium Chase travel card to ensure you’ll get more value out of each point you earn when you book your next trip. 

Article Sources

  1. Chase. "Rewards Category FAQs." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  2. Chase. "Chase Ultimate Rewards." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  3. Chase Credit Cards. "Refer friends. Earn rewards." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  4. Chase. "Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards Agreement." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  5. Chase. "Chase Sapphire Reserve with Ultimate Rewards Program Agreement." See page 4 under "Transfer points to frequent travel programs" section. Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  6. Chase Ultimate Rewards. "Chase Sapphire Preferred with Ultimate Rewards Program Agreement." See page 2 under "Travel." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  7. Chase. "Chase Ultimate Rewards." See fine print at bottom of page. Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.