The Best Use of Chase Ultimate Rewards

Ultimate Rewards (UR) are the currency that Chase uses for many of its Chase-branded credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, Chase Freedom, etc. To navigate to the Ultimate Rewards portal, simply sign into your Chase account and click on the  “Go To Ultimate Rewards” link on the right side of the homepage.

Ways To Use Ultimate Rewards

 

1. Gift Cards and Cash Bank Value- A Penny Per Point

You can redeem points for gift cards from a variety of retailers such as Target, Amazon, iTunes, and others. You can even get cash back. All of these redemptions yield a value of 1 cent per point. For example a $10 gift card or $10 cash back will cost 1,000 points. Depending on your financial situation, this may be a useful return for you.

2. Redeem For Travel – 1.25 Cents Per Point

The “Explore & Book Travel” option lets you book flights, rental cars, hotels and even experiences. The example valuation on the Chase website is $500 of travel for 40,000 points, which equals 1.25 cents per point. This presents a better value than gift cards or cash back, but is not exceptionally valuable. Again, this may be valuable to people with varying financial situations.

3. Transfer to Partners – Value Depends on the Partner and How It Is Redeemed

The final way to redeem URs is to transfer them at a 1:1 rate to one of the following partners:

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Amtrak Guest Rewards
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Marriott Rewards
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

 

Transferring URs to British Airways Executive Club can prove to be extremely valuable depending on how they are redeemed. British Airways Avios (Avios is the actual name of the currency) are charged according the distance flown on each leg (as opposed to being charged according to the region flown to as is the case with most frequent flyer programs). which means that short, expensive non-stop routes are extremely valuable. Example: I transferred URs to Avios to make a week-out booking for a one-way ticket from Hong Kong (HKG) to Tokyo (HND) on Cathay Pacific (a partner of British Airways and one of the highest rated airlines in the world) in Business Class. The ticket would have cost over $1,000 but I redeemed 20,000 URs – that made the value of each point in excess of 5 cents each!

Transfers to Hyatt are also an excellent value especially when redeemed at times when room rates are high. For example, a base-level room at the Park Hyatt Maldives goes for an average of $1500 after taxes or 25,000 points (note: this particular hotel is moving up a category on January 22, 2015). That makes an URs transfer to Hyatt for use at this hotel a value of 6 cents per point (5 cents after the category increase).

Most Americans don’t use Amtrak but the value can still be exceptional nonetheless. A family room for 2 adults and 2 children on the beautiful Seattle to Los Angeles Coast Starlight route would cost $1200 or 25,000 points. Transferring to Amtrak yields 4.8 cents per point.

Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER

Singapore Airlines is one of the top airlines in the world and was the first to introduce Suites for transoceanic travel. A ticket from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) can cost over $8000 in Suites Class but can be redeemed at the saver rate of 58,000 KrisFlyer miles when booked online. That’s a staggering value of 13.8 cents per point! A ticket in their well-appointed First Class from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) cost upwards of $7,800 and can be redeemed at the saver rate of 71,000 KrisFlyer miles when booked online – an 11 cent per point value.

I caution against transferring to Marriott/Ritz-Carlton (they are essentially the same program since Marriott owns Ritz) and IHG unless the point value required for getting a room is very low relative to the rate for that evening. Generally speaking, these programs have EXTREMELY high point value assigned to redemptions. So high that it would be a better value to redeem points for a room through the “Explore & Book Travel” option discussed earlier.

There are many way to redeem Ultimate Rewards but you should always calculate what will be the best value when planning your trip.