Photo by Shutterstock
Combine Chase credit cards to rack up Ultimate Rewards points.
Earn, redeem, and maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points for free travel and other perks.
AFAR partners with CreditCards.com and may receive a commission from card issuers. This compensation may impact the presentation of offers or affiliate links on this site. AFAR does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Our coverage is independent and objective, and has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of the AFAR editorial team.
Although you can certainly get a lot of value by racking up and using airline frequent-flier miles or hotel loyalty points, Chase Ultimate Rewards is still one of the best travel rewards programs out there. Not only can you earn points with a variety of credit cards, but you can also redeem them in several useful ways.
Since it launched in 2009, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program has evolved from a points-never-expire system to an even more comprehensive platform and booking agent. You can now transfer points to more than a dozen airline and hotel partners; put them toward travel reservations made through Chase; and even just cash in points for statement credits, all making Ultimate Rewards points particularly relevant right now when travel patterns are curtailed. Whether you already have a Chase card, or are considering opening one, here are some of the best ways to earn, redeem, and maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
To earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you have to carry a credit card that participates in the program. The main differences between these cards are their annual fees, the bonus purchase categories they offer, and the value of each card’s Chase Ultimate Rewards points when redeemed for travel or statement credits. Two of them are offering some of their best-ever bonuses at the moment, too. Here are the basics on each.
This card became an instant hit when it debuted more than a decade ago, and it remains popular today thanks to its excellent earning potential.
This higher-end option offers extra benefits like up to $100 in statement credits toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years, plus up to $300 in credits each year toward travel.
Ostensibly a simple cash-back card, points earned with the Chase Freedom Unlimited can actually be combined with Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve if you have either of those, and redeemed for travel at their higher rates, or transferred to the program’s airline and hotel partners.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Its name and earning structure are similar to the Freedom Unlimited, with one significant difference in terms of earning.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Don’t forget about this business card—especially if you can leverage its welcome offer and bonus earning categories.
Keep in mind you can also combine points earned from some of Chase’s other cards, such as the Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card and the Ink Business Cash Credit Card, with Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred to open up your redemption options.
Article continues below advertisement
Where to start? Get the card (or cards) that earn the most bonus points on what you tend to buy. If groceries are a greater expense than dining out, you might want one of the Freedom cards. If you need a solid card for work expenses, the Ink Business Preferred might be your best bet. If you do tend to book a lot of travel and can take advantage of its other benefits, such as Priority Pass Select airport lounge access, the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be your top pick.
If you have one of the above cards, you can log into the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and navigate to the “Ways to Earn” page, where you should see an option to “Shop through Chase.” Click “Shop Now,” and you’ll be redirected to the program’s online shopping mall where you will see offers to earn bonus points per dollar at various merchants such as Kiehl’s, Blue Apron, Petco, and more.
You might be targeted for referral bonuses. When you send a personalized link for a Chase card to a friend and they apply for and are approved for it, you can usually score 5,000–10,000 bonus points per person up to 10 people (though your particular offer may vary).
At the beginning of 2020, Chase and Lyft launched a partnership to reward cardholders with bonus points. Through March 2022, folks with the Chase Sapphire Reserve can earn 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides. Those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred earn five points per dollar, while those with the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex earn 5 percent cash back (or five points per dollar).
Ultimate Rewards points give you a wide variety of ways to redeem them for travel and a decent rate of return no matter which method you prefer. Here are the best ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel.
Perhaps the simplest way to redeem Ultimate Rewards points is to cash them in for travel reservations, like booking flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation rentals, and activities, made directly through the Chase portal (look for “Travel” under the “Earn/Use” tab in your Ultimate Rewards account).
The value you get for your points will depend on the specific card you carry. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece redeemed this way, while with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, you get a value of 1.25 cents per point. The Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex only yield one cent per point, though you can redeem at the higher rates if you have one of the aforementioned cards.
Leverage the program’s airline and hotel transfer partners. Chase points convert at a 1:1 ratio to the following carriers and chains.
Chase airline partners
Chase hotel partners
For example, converting Chase points into British Airways Avios and then redeeming those for short-haul flights on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines is a great way to save miles on routes within the U.S. and from the West Coast to Hawaii, specifically.
Article continues below advertisement
Flying Blue, the frequent-flier program of Air France/KLM, fields “Promo Rewards” with discounts of 20–50 percent off award pricing on its own flights between certain cities and regions that rotate monthly. Economy awards between North America and Europe start at as little 11,000 miles each way, while business class can be as low as 28,750 miles one way. Delta, a SkyTeam alliance partner of Air France/KLM, would charge you 35,000 miles for economy or 95,000 for business class on the same routes. Plus, Flying Blue members seem to have access to many more premium award tickets on Air France/KLM flights than folks redeeming miles from other partner programs.
World of Hyatt points also present some spectacular opportunities. For example, you might need just 30,000 points per night for top-tier hotels such as the Park Hyatt New York or Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, both of which can charge well over $1,000 for nightly rates.
Another easy way to cash in Ultimate Rewards points is with a new feature Chase introduced back in May called “Pay Yourself Back.” Basically, this lets cardholders redeem their points at the higher rates normally reserved for travel bookings on other categories like grocery stores, dining, home improvement stores, and charitable donations to partner organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the National Urban League.
Although they’re mainly thought of as travel points, you can actually redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits toward purchases or for gift cards at merchants like REI, Starbucks, and West Elm. You get a solid one cent per point in value in most cases, although Chase sometimes offers a bonus on gift cards that can slightly raise your rate of return.
Similarly, you can shop for Apple products directly through your Chase Ultimate Rewards account online and check out using points at a rate of one cent apiece. If you’re points rich but short on cash, this can be a good way to save a little money, although you can generally get a much better value from your points if using them for travel rewards.
You can now link your Chase Ultimate Rewards profile to your Amazon account and use your points to pay directly at checkout. Don’t do it, though. You only get around 0.8 cents per point redeemed this way. Instead, use your card to pay and then redeem points for statement credits. That way, at least you’ll get one cent per point you cash in—a much better return.
Chase lets you redeem points for various activities and experiences, usually at rates starting at one cent per point. In the past, these have included Sundance Film Festival packages, chef-led dinners, and concerts, though as you can imagine, the options are limited currently. Hopefully some of the more interesting ones will return once people are able to travel and gather again.
Travel and limited-time “Pay Yourself Back” options will get you the best return when redeeming your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. In a pinch, points can also be useful as cash back, but they tend to hold more value for travel redemptions.
Transferring rewards points to airline miles or hotel points can also be a good value—often more than the mere 1-1.5 cents per point with other options. That said, knowing you have a solid return on spending no matter how you use your points is one of the main reasons Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so versatile.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available. This article was originally published in January 2021 and was updated in March 2021.
Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips
Please enter a valid email address.