This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.
Advertiser Disclosure: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. This relationship may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. All information about the Ink Business Unlimited®, Chase Freedom Flex®, Ink Business Cash®, and Chase Ink Plus Business® Credit Card has been collected independently by Lonely Planet. These cards are not available through Lonely Planet.
When it comes to earning and redeeming points for flights, hotels, rental cars and other travel-related activities, it doesn’t get much easier than Chase Ultimate Rewards, one of the best loyalty programs on the market.
With a robust portfolio of transfer partners and points-earning credit cards — most of which offer lucrative welcome bonuses to help you get started and bonus spending categories to ensure you’re earning as many points as possible — you’ll be saving money on travel in no time.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
Pros and cons of Chase Ultimate Rewards
There are two important things to remember:
First, your points won’t expire as long as your account is open — if you need to close it, make sure you redeem or transfer your points first or they’ll be lost.
Secondly, Chase is known for its 5/24 rule, which prevents you from being approved for a new Chase credit card if you’ve already opened five or more personal credit cards — with any issuer — within the past 24 months. Note, however, that having Chase business cards won’t count against you as long as you were under the 5/24 mark when you applied for them.
Other than that, here are some general pros and cons to be aware of for Chase travel rewards and cash-back rewards credit cards:
- High welcome bonuses for new cardholders. You’ll have a solid start by fulfilling the spending requirements and earning the bonus.
- Flexible options for redeeming points. Book trips through the Chase travel portal, transfer points to airline and hotel partners or redeem them for cash-back rewards, gift cards, magazines and more.
- Many ways to earn points. From paying attention to rotating bonus categories to maximizing your spending at restaurants and gas stations, the sky’s the limit when it comes to earning Chase points.
- Not all Chase cards participate in Ultimate Rewards. Cobranded airline and hotel credit cards aren’t part of the program, just the seven Chase cards outlined below.
- Chase travel rewards cards have annual fees. You’ll have to fork over anywhere from $95 to $550 per year for the three top cards.
- Chase cash-back rewards cards have foreign transaction fees. You’ll be docked a 3% fee anytime you use one abroad.
How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards
You’ll need to sign up for a participating Chase credit card first, but once you get started with points and miles, the following methods will go a long way toward reaching your earning and redemption goals.
Maximize welcome bonuses
If you’re signing up for a new credit card, meet the minimum-spend requirement so you can earn the welcome bonus. Whether it’s a pile of points or cash-back rewards, you’ll have a solid base to work with.
Pay attention to bonus spending categories
See if your preferred card gives you extra bonus points for select categories — for instance, travel and dining, hotels and flights booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards, grocery shopping, or other business-related purchases.
The Chase Freedom Flex®, detailed below, offers special quarterly bonus points for certain spending categories, so be sure to check the calendar and activate each bonus in your account by the date listed on the website.
Use the Chase shopping portal for retail therapy
With the holidays coming up, it’s a great time to rack up bonus points in the Shop Through Chase shopping portal. Choose from more than 450 online stores, more than enough for some sweet retail therapy, receive discounts and earn 1–15 points per dollar while you shop with your Chase card.
Refer a friend
Chase rewards you for referring friends to sign up for certain cards. Here’s what you’ll earn:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: 15,000 bonus points per referral, up to 75,000 points per year.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: 10,000 bonus points per referral, up to 50,000 points per year.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Up to $50 in cash back per referral, up to $500 per year.
Travel Rewards Credit Cards
If your goal is to accumulate enough points to transfer to Ultimate Rewards’ various airline and hotel partners, you’re going to want to sign up for a travel rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.
Here’s a closer look at the cards that let you earn Ultimate Rewards points.
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
New Chase Sapphire Preferred applicants can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account. That’s worth $750 when the points are redeemed via Ultimate Rewards.
If you prioritize travel, dining, streaming and online grocery shopping, this card can be very lucrative when it comes to earning points. Cardholders also receive an annual $50 credit to put toward hotels booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. And you’ll score a 10% points bonus based on how many you’ve earned over the past year.
- 5X points for travel purchases booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards. (minus hotel purchases that qualify for your annual $50 hotel credit)
- 5X points on Lyft rides now through March 2025.
- 5X points on Peloton purchases over $150 (up to 25,000 points) now through March 2025.
- 3X points on dining (dining in, delivery or takeout).
- 3X points on online grocery shopping (not counting Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).
- 3X on certain streaming services.
- 2X points for all other travel expenses.
- 1X points for any other purchases.
Cardholders also receive a complimentary six-month subscription to Instacart+ and up to $15 in statement credits per quarter, as well as free membership to DoorDash and Caviar via DashPass.
While there is an annual fee of $95, you’ll never have to worry about paying foreign transaction fees when using it abroad.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Like the previous card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve's welcome bonus offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. In this case, that’s worth $900 when points are redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
This premium-level card offers a $300 annual statement credit meant to cover travel expenses. You’ll also receive a $100 credit every four years to take care of the membership fee for TSA PreCheck®, Global Entry or NEXUS.
For fans of airport lounges, this card also provides access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide thanks to an included Priority Pass™ Select membership. That also means you can visit the new Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club locations in Boston and Hong Kong — new outposts in Las Vegas, New York, Phoenix, Philadelphia and San Diego are opening soon, too.
To maximize points-earning opportunities, pay attention to these categories:
- 10X points on hotel and car rental reservations made via the Chase travel portal (after the annual $300 travel credit; not including hotels that are part of The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection).
- 10X points on Chase Dining purchases made via Ultimate Rewards.
- 10X points on Lyft rides, plus two years of Lyft Pink All Access service
- 10X on Peloton purchases over $150 (up to 50,000 points)
- 5X points on flights purchased via Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the annual $300 travel credit).
- 3X points on travel and dining worldwide (including dining out, takeout and select delivery services).
Cardholders receive the same DashPass and Instacart+ benefits as the previous card, only the Instacart+ subscription is for one year.
While the $550 annual fee may seem high, if you plan on taking advantage of all the included credits and benefits, it’ll pay for itself. On the bright side, there are no foreign transaction fees for using this card overseas.
Ink Business Preferred®
The Ink Business Preferred is currently offering a generous welcome bonus of 100,000 points once you spend $8,000 within the first three months of opening an account. That translates to $1,000 in cash-back rewards or $1,250 worth of travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Geared toward small business owners, this card lets you earn 3X points per dollar on your first $150,000 worth of combined travel, shipping and advertising purchases, as well as cable, internet and phone services. You’ll also earn 1X points for all other spending made with the card and 5X on Lyft rides now through March 2025.
This card lets you make 1:1 transfers to Chase Ultimate Rewards partners and comes with cell phone protection (up to $1,000 with a $100 deductible per claim) when you use it to pay your bill. And while there is a modest annual fee of $95, it has no foreign transaction fees.
Cash-Back Rewards Credit Cards
If cash-back rewards are more your style, the four cards listed below may better suit your needs.
Keep in mind that rewards for these cards are earned in the form of points, which can then be converted to cash back — or combined with points you’ve earned from one of the aforementioned travel rewards credit cards to let you make the most of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program (more on that later).
Chase Freedom Flex®
The Chase Freedom Flex® welcome bonus offers $200 in cash back (20,000 points) once you spend $500 within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also score 5% in cash-back rewards on all combined grocery shopping (except for Target and Walmart) and gas station purchases on the first $12,000 you spend during that first year.
Additional perks include three-month complimentary subscriptions to DoorDash and Instacart+, plus a $10 statement credit each quarter when you use the card for Instacart+ deliveries.
Cardholders can earn cash-back rewards for things they’re already buying:
- 5% back for travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- 5% back on Lyft rides now through March 2025.
- 3% back for dining (including takeout, delivery and dining in).
- 3% back for purchases made at drugstores.
- 1% back for all other spending.
Check the Quarterly Bonus Calendar to see when you can earn 5% back on up to $1,500 worth of purchases from different spending categories, such as online shopping or gym memberships — just remember to activate the bonus in your account by the date that’s listed.
Note that while this card doesn’t have an annual fee, there is a 3% foreign transaction fee for using it overseas.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers the same welcome bonus as the last card but has you earning cash-back rewards at slightly different rates:
- 5% back for travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 5% back on Lyft rides now through March 2025.
- 3% back for dining (including takeout, delivery and dining in)
- 3% back for drugstore purchases
- 1.5% back on all other spending
As with the previous card, there is no annual fee but there is a 3% charge for each foreign transaction made outside the U.S. You’ll also get the same perks from DoorDash and Instacart+ mentioned above.
Ink Business Unlimited®
New Ink Business Unlimited® applicants can earn $900 in bonus cash back (90,000 points) after spending $6,000 within the first three months of opening their account.
Cardholders can earn 5% back on Lyft rides now through March 2025 and 1.5% back on all other purchases. While there is a 3% foreign transaction fee, there’s no annual fee for this one.
Ink Business Cash®
The Ink Business Cash® offers the same welcome bonus as the previous card, has the same foreign transaction fees — but no annual fee — and lets you earn cash-back rewards in a variety of business-centric ways.
- 5% back for the first $25,000 worth of combined purchases made each year on cable, phone and internet services, and at office supply shops.
- 5% back on Lyft rides now through March 2025.
- 2% back for the first $25,000 you spend each year at restaurants and gas stations.
- 1% back on all other purchases.
For business owners who tend to spend a lot on office supplies, connectivity services, business lunches, gas or Lyft rides, it’s a top points-earning option.
Other Chase-issued credit cards
While there are many hotel and airline credit cards that bear the Chase logo, such as the Ink Business Premier Credit Card or any of the Marriott Bonvoy, United Airlines or Southwest Airlines cobranded credit cards, keep in mind that these do not participate in the Chase Ultimate Rewards loyalty program.
That said, two other cards do — the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Ink Plus Business® Credit Card — but because they are no longer accepting new card applicants, we’re not going to include them on our list.
How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards
According to The Points Guy, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth about 2.05 cents per point, making them one of the most valuable currencies out there, tied only with Bilt Rewards and slightly above American Express Membership Rewards (each worth 2.0 cents per point). For comparison, Capital One Rewards points and Citi ThankYou Rewards are worth 1.85 cents per point and 1.8 cents per point, respectively.
While the most lucrative ways to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are all travel-related — transferring them to airline and hotel partners for free flights and stays or booking trips and activities through the Chase travel portal — it really comes down to what your needs are.
Also keep in mind that only three cards out of the seven mentioned above — the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred — let you make the most of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program by transferring points to partners. They also allow your redemption to have a value of 1.25 cents per point or 1.5 cents per point, respectively (otherwise, they’re just worth 1 cent per point).
If you have one of those three cards and a cash-back rewards card, you can combine your points and redeem them all with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred to get the biggest bang for your buck.
For example, if you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, merge your Chase Freedom Unlimited points with your Chase Sapphire Reserve points so you can redeem them all at a higher rate.
To get the best value for your redemption, transfer Ultimate Rewards points to one of its 14 airline and hotel loyalty program partners at a ratio of 1:1.
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Air France / KLM Flying Blue
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG One Rewards
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
When redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel-related activities, your redemption will be worth 1.25 cents per point if you’re using points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred® cards or 1.5 cents per point for those earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Note that by booking trips through the Chase travel portal, you’ll still be able to earn airline miles on flights, but you won’t be able to earn hotel points, as most hotels will count the portal as a third-party booking service. Still, you won’t need to worry about blackout dates, making sense of airline award charts or other redemption-related inconveniences you may experience when redeeming points with other loyalty programs.
Other ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards
If travel isn’t on the cards in the near future, there are other ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points to suit your needs. If your bills are piling up, for instance, use Chase’s nifty Pay Yourself Back tool, which lets you redeem points to cover certain purchases you’ve made with the card. Use them to book exclusive seating at sporting events and shows or for special dining experiences available through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Points can also be exchanged for cash-back rewards — you’ll need to redeem 100 points per dollar — as well as magazine subscriptions, gift cards, Amazon purchases and Apple products through the Apple Ultimate Rewards Store. Keep in mind that your points are only worth one cent apiece that way, so those aren’t the most lucrative redemption options.
Who should get a Chase Ultimate Rewards card?
Those who enjoy having a variety of ways to redeem points — especially if they’re already frequent customers of its airline and hotel partners — should consider signing up for a card that participates in this exceptional loyalty program. Even if you’re new to all this, those welcome bonuses are a great way to get started on your points-earning journey.
What is Chase Ultimate Rewards?
Chase Ultimate Rewards is a loyalty program that allows members to earn points they can redeem for flights, hotel stays, car rentals, tours, exclusive experiences, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise or other perks. Those flexible points can also be transferred to a number of airline and hotel partners to give you the best value.
How can I build a credit history with my Chase Ultimate Rewards card?
As with any credit card, you’ll build a credit history by opening your card, not spending beyond your means — using no more than 30% of your total available credit is ideal — and making your payments on time and in full.
Are there any fees for balance transfers?
While you’re not allowed to make balance transfers between Chase credit cards, you can move a balance over from another provider’s card to Chase. If that’s your plan, the Chase Freedom Flex® Credit Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are your best bets, as each offers an introductory APR of 0% for 15 months from account opening. After that point, the interest rate will be 20.49% to 29.24% based on your creditworthiness, among other factors and subject to change (see Chase Freedom Flex® Credit Card rates and fees; Chase Freedom Unlimited see rates and fees).
Is there an annual fee for Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards?
Of the seven Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards listed in this article, three of them do have an annual fee:
That said, if you’re making the most of every single benefit and credit the card offers, the annual fee will end up paying for itself in no time.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.