Ultimate Rewards is the points currency used by Chase for its awards earning credit cards. These cards are separate from the Chase co-brand credit cards from Hyatt, Southwest, United, Disney and many others. While co-brand cards earn points directly in their sponsor’s loyalty programs, Ultimate Rewards are stored with Chase until you want to redeem them.
Your redemption options depend on which Chase credit card you hold. If you have one of their no-annual-fee cash back cards, such as the Freedom Unlimited, you’ll have several choices.
The most basic of the redemptions are for cashback, where you’ll earn 1 cent per point. 10,000 points get you $100. You have other ways to use your points with Amazon or Apple and a newer (and more valuable) option to use your points to “Pay Yourself Back” for specific purchases while getting an extra 25% value for your points.
Earning 1.25 cents per point isn’t bad and during the pandemic, several bloggers have used this option to drain their Chase accounts of points. Cash is king, right?
That is, unless you have one of the premium Chase credit cards. These cards unlock a “hidden” menu on the Ultimate Rewards website.
- Chase J.P. Morgan Reserve
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Ink Business Preferred
If you have one of these cards and log into the Ultimate Rewards website, you’ll see an option not available to other cardholders—the opportunity to transfer points to travel partners.
This allows you to turn your Chase Ultimate Rewards points into one of many other points currencies. All of which may be able to unlock an amazing travel opportunity previously out of reach.
Here are the programs Chase partners with for Ultimate Rewards transfers:
- Aer Lingus AerClub (Avios)
- British Airways Executive Club (Avios)
- Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
- Emirates Skywards
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Iberia Plus (Avios)
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
- United MileagePlus®
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
Points in some of the hotel programs, like Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards Club, are usually worth less than 1 cent each. Transferring points only makes sense if you need to top up your account for a big redemption.
The only hotel program that regularly offers outsized value for points is World of Hyatt. It’s easy to earn over 2 cents per point for an everyday redemption. If you pick your spots, it’s possible to earn 5 cents per point or more.
Some of the airlines, such as Southwest and JetBlue, run cash-based loyalty programs. Transferring points to them will limit the value of your points, but they’re still worth more than 1.5 cents each in either program. So it’s not a bad deal, but not the great one you’re able to get with some of the other programs.
For example, we transferred points to Singapore KrisFlyer to book two tickets from JFK-FRA in business class on an A380. We also used Ultimate Rewards to transfer points to Flying Blue to get home from FRA-JFK in Delta One business class.
That’s just the start of what you can do when you learn the different frequent flyer programs and their alliance partners.
Articles have been written about the best ways to use points in every one of the programs mentioned above. Want to arbitrage Avios between British Airways and Iberia? Using Virgin Atlantic points to book flights on Delta. Or maybe you want to use United MileagePlus miles to book a flight in business class on ANA to Tokyo. All of those are possible if you have a stash of Ultimate Rewards and a premium card from Chase.
And if you’re wondering how you can transfer points from your cash-back card to your premium card, we’ve got a step by step tutorial.
The main reason to earn transferrable points is to have the flexibility to send them to the most lucrative program at the best time. That would usually be right before you’re ready to book an award ticket. By keeping your options open, you hedge your bets against a program devaluing their points currency. While it’s still disappointing when it takes more points to book the same trip, at least you’re not locked into that program and can see if there’s another way to book the same ticket for fewer miles.
Personally, I’m not thrilled with Chase’s transfer partners as they’re mainly focused on Oneworld and Skyteam for transatlantic flights. Transpacific flights have more options with Star Alliance partners of United and Singapore. Besides World of Hyatt, the other hotel options are mediocre.
However, the ability to earn 5x points with an Ink Cash on cable/phone expenses and office supply stores, 3x on travel expenses, and 1.5x on all charges with Freedom Unlimited always leaves me with a nice stash of points that I’m always looking for a way to spend on our trips.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary