Chase Ultimate Rewards points can earn you a multitude of items from free orders on Amazon to cold hard cash, gift cards to merchandise goodies, but by far the champion of the rewards is the option to transfer travel points. Although you earn rewards with the Freedom, Ink Cash, and Sapphire cards, the travel points can only transfer to travel partners if you have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Palladium card.
Chase employs a two-tier system where the first level can earn rewards points towards cash back, gift cards, travel points, and merchandise; it’s about one cent in value per point. With the second level, the rewards are the same but the rate of exchange is 1.25 cents per point and you can transfer your points to ten other program partners including Hyatt, United, and Southwest. The higher trade-in value of the second level is a factor to note when considering between the tiers, but the ability to seamlessly move around points between different programs offers a great deal of flexibility and better bang for your buck.
List of Current Bonuses
- Freedom: 10,000 bonus points for spending $500 in the first 3 months plus 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories (up to $1,500)
- Ink Cash: 20,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months with 5% cash back in certain categories
- Sapphire: 10,000 bonus points for spending $500 in the first 3 months with 2X points on dining at restaurants
- Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months with a 5,000 bonus point addition after your first purchase
- Ink Bold: 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
- Ink Plus: 50,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months with 5X points in certain categories
- Palladium: 35,000 bonus points for spending $100,000 annually with 2 points per dollar spent on travel and 1 point per dollar on any other purchase
What if you’re planning a trip though? How can the rewards work for you? With the various options of cash, travel accommodations, and program partners, you can essentially take your next adventure for free.
1. Hyatt: Only 22,000 Points for a $1,000 Room
Across the board, Hyatt is the best points transfer partner. Not only do they offer a gratuitous 1:1 ratio, but the redemption rates are truly unmatched. At many of the worldwide locations including the Zurich, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, Milan, and the Maldives, you can find extremely discounted rates for rooms that typically range from $650-$1000 per night.
The most commonly-referenced example is 22,000 points for a pricey room at a Park Hyatt. Instead of paying over $1,000 per night, you can gain a free night at a Hyatt hotel for only 22,000 points. An incredible deal with amazing savings. It’s top competitors charge 70,000, 95,000, and 50,000 for the same type of room. You can even book a villa for 22,000 points that you can’t book at a Marriott or Hilton. Another option is to pay the room rate and use some of your points to upgrade to a suite or club room with lounge access.
The Park Hyatt Seoul, pictured above, is certainly a worthy use of your Ultimate Rewards points.
So based solely on start-up points, you can receive two free nights at a high-end Hyatt. What’s not to love about that?
2. Korean Air: International Flights for Few Bonus Points
Korean Air has become one of Asia’s top airlines with the Seoul airport emerging as one of the world’s major hubs. They offer a Prestige business class and routes with access to almost anywhere in the world. Korean Air has great values for Chase’s Ultimate Rewards through Skypass, but buying a ticket with your rewards includes phone calls, faxes, and flashing your credit card at check-in. Beyond the difficult booking process, the value is 6.9 cents per point and international flights can be obtained for relatively low point totals. Additionally, the Kosmo Sleeper Suite in First Class is definitely worth the points for gruelingly long flights.
3. Southwest: Fly Free with Southwest Companion Pass after 110,000 Points
With a fixed value of 1.9 cents per point, Southwest provides great value for Ultimate Rewards members. Now with expanded routes after merging with Air Tran, Southwest offers domestic tickets on the cheap with Southwest Rapid Rewards. The program works like this: you can redeem your points for any open seat but the point value is determined by the ticket price. The cheaper the ticket, the less points you need. It gets even better if you get the Southwest Companion pass. Anyone can fly with you for free if you reach 110,000 points between the personal and business cards, which offers double the point value.
4. Marriott: Severely Discounted 7-night Stay with Airline Bundle and 25% off Hertz Rentals
Like United, Marriott recently made some devastating changes to their reward program. However, the program is still a mostly a great value when it comes to hotel and air deals. Marriott offers a combination hotel and airline package that provides a better price than booking them separately. Ultimate Rewards members can redeem their points for a 7-night stay and a certain amount of airline miles that are transferred to your frequent flyer account. Mileage varies depending on which airline you transfer your rewards to, but many times it turns out to be a 1:1 ratio. They also include 25% off Hertz rentals so you don’t have to feel guilty about upgrading your rental.
5. British Airways: Book a Roundtrip Ticket from New York to Montreal for only 9,000 Avios
Similar to Marriott and Hyatt, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. British Airways is exceptional for domestic flights because of their distance-based rewards style; short flight rates are extremely low. For example, a flight from New York to Montreal may cost about $950, but if you use Avios points, it’s only 9,000 with $57 in taxes and fees. That equals 10 cents per Avios; an astoundingly great rate for your Ultimate Rewards points. You can also use your Avios to upgrade your seat class easily.
6. Ritz-Carlton: Save Up to 50% off Hotel Rooms
The Ritz-Carlton is a luxury hotel partner with Ultimate Rewards where you can access discounted PointSavers awards by simply calling 1-800-542-8680. Different hotels offer various discounted rates and seasonal changes so availability may be an issue. However, if you do happen to grab a discounted opportunity, you could save as much as 50%.
7. Virgin Atlantic: Upgrade your Seat for a Mere 10,000 Points
Virgin Atlantic falls in-line with the 1:1 point transfer ratio and there is no limit to how many points you can move over. They have a similar construction to British Airways so if you’re deciding between the two, check their reward amounts and choose accordingly. Virgin Atlantic offers the best point transfers for upgrades on already-paid-for tickets. You can upgrade for 10,000 points from economy to premium economy or for 20,000 points you can upgrade from economy to Upper Class. They offer about 3.7 cents per point and buying during peak times is in your best interest since you get the best value per mile.
8. United: $12,000 Miami to Frankfurt Flight for a Tiny 67,500 Points
United has sort-of crashed in terms of what they offer points-wise. Their program used to be stellar but even with the less-than-perfect award chart, they’re still the only Star Alliance member that allows you to redeem awards for premium cabins. You can use your rewards on any of the 28 Star Alliance partners and they offer crazy discounts like the extravagant caviar-crusted $12,000 flight from Miami to Frankfurt for only 67,500 points.
9. Priority Club: Free Nights Starting at 5,000 Points
For those who really want to squeeze their dollar, Ultimate Rewards can transfer to Priority Club, which includes Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn to name a few. Although the rewards are not as voluptuous as the other hotels, the PointBreaks offer a superb value. You only need 5,000 points for a free night during the special redemption rate times and the list changes about every two months allowing for different booking options. There are perfect times to hit the jackpot of rewards, too. Hotels that were normally 20,000 points for a free night are available at random for 5,000 points. Just have to get there before the white rabbit hops away.
10. Amtrak: Sleep in Luxury at 25,000 Points
I’ve known a few engineers who love to travel by train so this category is for you. Ultimate Rewards are available for those wishing to travel by train. If you review the zone map, Amtrak can be lucrative at 4 cents per point. Let’s say you want to take a trip that falls only in one zone of the map. You can get a bedroom for 25,000 points or a roomette for 15,000; riding, and possibly sleeping, in comfort for less than many airlines would charge.
|One Zone||Two Zones||Three Zones|
11. Cash Back: Pay for Expenses While Still Receiving 5% Cash Back in Bonus Categories
All of the Chase credit cards offer cash back. This one is more of a no-brainer. You can use any left over points as straight cash for meals, gas, treats, or trinkets on your trip. You can also get up to 5% cash back on that quarter’s categories when you use your card on your trip. Having left over points allows you to spend even less on your trip and buy what you want. Cash back is a great way to save on travel expenses whether you deposit it in your bank account or in your wallet.
12. Travel Cash: Get More Punch for Your Cash Back by Booking Travel via Ultimate Rewards
You can use your cash back, instead of points, to book travel as well through the Ultimate Rewards portal. This method does open up a few more options than only using straight points and if you don’t happen to use up all of the cash back, you can easily deposit it into your bank account. The Travel Cash usually comes out to a higher number than just regular cash back because you’re using the Ultimate Rewards portal; thus another bonus when you’re looking to save on vacations.
13. Buy Travel Supplies: Save Tons of Cash by Purchasing Travel Items at the Merchandise Store via Ultimate Rewards
If you realized you need a new bathing suit for your beach getaway, make sure to look for it on the Ultimate Rewards Merchandise Store. You can save huge amounts by just shopping through their portal, gain extra rewards, and use your cash back or points for the purchase. You can even redeem your cash back for an emergency gift card. If, by chance, your credit cards were shut off unexpectedly and you’re out of cash, a gift card can buy you lunch, help with travel expenses like rental cards and hotels, and if your suitcase is lost, help you buy a new wardrobe. You have to plan ahead for the emergency gift card though because it’s shipped to your home; however, they’re excellent to have when you’re in a bind.
Chase Ultimate Rewards travel transfers can be sliced and diced, mixed between hotels and airlines, and most importantly, can get you remarkable pricing discounts for less miles.
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