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Why Chase Ultimate Rewards is the best rewards program

If you’re in to credit card points and travel rewards, you should be collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

This is the recommendation I give to both my friends starting out with credit cards and travel rewards, as well as seasoned veterans looking to expand their collections of points or optimize their spending strategies. Why? Chase makes it easy to earn and redeem your points while minimizing the fees you pay.

I think that Chase Ultimate Rewards is the best rewards program for beginners AND the best rewards program for seasoned travel rewards veterans alike.

Here are my top reasons why Chase Ultimate Rewards is the first program that you should start out with when collecting rewards.

Cash back options on every point

Cash is the most flexible rewards point. Whatever your reason for seeking out credit card rewards, cash can get you there. Airline and hotel rewards programs never offer cash back. But not all bank rewards programs offer cash back rewards. Some offer cash back rewards with unattractive restrictions. With Chase, you can always cash out your Ultimate Rewards points at a penny each.

ProgramCash back options (point value)
Chase Ultimate Rewards1 each for cash back, regardless of what card you hold
American Express Membership Rewards0.6 cents each to cover purchases
1.1 cents each as a credit in your Schwab account – If you hold the Amex Schwab Platinum ($695 annual fee)
1.0 cents each as a credit to an Amex Business Checking account – If you hold the Amex Business Platinum ($695 annual fee)
Bilt RewardsNot redeemable for cash back
Capital One Miles0.5 cents each for cash back rewards
1.0 cents each for statement credits redeemed against travel
Citi ThankYou Points1.0 cents each with most cards
0.5 cents each with some cards
Cash back redemptions available for popular rewards programs

Easy ways to redeem travel

With Chase, you can use your points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This is an easy way to get 1.25 cents per value out of your points if you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred or 1.5 cents per point if you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

You can use your points to book hotels, flights, cars, activities, and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. And the prices charged by Chase for hotels and airlines are similar to the prices that you might get by booking your hotel nights or airline tickets directly.

Points combinable across cards

If you hold multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to another card.

This is especially useful if you hold a premium Ultimate Rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Preferred. The points you might earn with your Chase Freedom Unlimited card are worth 1 cent each for cash back, but as soon as you transfer them to a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, they become worth 1.25 cents each toward travel or can be transferred to Chase’s travel partners.

But point transfers can also be useful if you’re planning on closing a card. If you plan to close a card, but don’t want to redeem your rewards points immediately, you can simply transfer them to another card.

There is no limit to the number of points you can transfer between your own accounts and your points remain valid as long as the card they are on is open.

Frequent, easy to get welcome bonuses

If you’re looking to earn a lot of points, going after credit card welcome bonuses is the fastest way to get there. Chase frequently offers a list of compelling welcome bonus offers that are easy to get. Just by shopping around for new credit cards, most people can easily amass a six-figure number of points, enough for either $1,000 of cash, a few domestic trips, or trip to Europe in business class.

Other issuers offer large welcome bonuses, but there’s frequently a catch. American Express certainly offers larger numbers of points on its welcome bonuses, but those welcome bonuses often come with a requirement to spend $10,000 or $15,000 within three months. This simply isn’t doable for most people. In contrast, most of the welcome offered by Chase have spending requirements that are much more reasonable. Capital One’s early spending bonuses can be generous, but they don’t offer as many of them. And Citi has some quirky rules about getting welcome bonuses within the same card family.

Card synergies and spending categories

Like any other rewards program, going after the Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card welcome bonuses is the fastest way to earn points. But Chase offers compelling bonuses for ongoing spending as well. Here are the best earning rates in several categories that Chase offers on its cards that earn Ultimate Rewards.

10x categories

  • Hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase – Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase dining – Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Lyft – Chase Sapphire Reserve

5x categories

  • Flights purchased through Chase – Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Travel purchased through Chase – Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom Flex, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Lyft – Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Office supply stores – Ink Business Cash (5x on up to $25,000 in purchases annually)
  • Internet, cable, and phone services – Ink Business Cash (5x on up to $25,000 in purchases annually)
  • Rotating categories – Chase Freedom Flex (5x on up to $1,500 in category spending each quarter)

3x categories

  • General travel purchases – Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred
  • Dining – Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom Flex
  • Drugstores – Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom Flex
  • Shipping – Ink Business Preferred
  • Online grocery store purchases – Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Select streaming services – Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines – Ink Business Preferred

2x categories

  • Gas stations – Ink Business Cash (2x on up to $25,000 in purchases* annually)
  • Restaurants – Ink Business Cash (2x on up to $25,000 in purchases* annually)

1.5x on all purchases

Finally, Chase also offers a few cards with no annual fee that get 1.5x back on all purchases. On the surface, this is less exciting than a 2% cash back card. But when combined with a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, these cards’ points can get you 2.25% back on your general purchases when you spend your points toward travel.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Ink Business Unlimited

*The spending limit on some bonus categories applies across multiple categories, meaning that the amount of rewards you can earn is capped across total categories.

Referral program

Chase is one of the few banks that offers a referral program for its credit card customers. If you are collecting Ultimate Rewards and have a friend who is interested in a Chase card, you can earn some points if they sign up through your link.

Just go the Chase Refer-A-Friend website, enter your card information and have your friends apply through your link for Chase cards. If they are approved, you can often get a bonus.

The best selection of transfer partners

Travel transfer partners are the best way to get increased value from your transferable points. And they are the path to luxury travel redemptions like business and first class. Chase Ultimate Rewards has the most transfer partners that are both easy-to-use and provide opportunities to increase the value you get from your points.

Simply looking at the number of transfer partners is deceptive. Other programs have more transfer partners. But not every transfer partner is equally usable. Some transfer partners simply don’t have compelling redemption options, meaning most of the time you’re better off simply redeeming points for cash and paying their published rates. And some partners are notoriously hard to use, requiring hours on the phone just to book a simple award.

Here are the airline and hotel programs that provide consistent opportunities for value and are easily usable. As you can see from the table below, Chase offers the most transfer opportunities among this group of programs.

Chase Ultimate RewardsAmex Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou PointsCapital One Miles
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Avianca LifeMiles
British Airways Avios
Hyatt
United MileagePlus
The most usable transfer partners by program

Bottom line

If you’re collecting travel reward points, you should be collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It’s a great program for beginners for its ease of use. But it also provides plenty of value for seasoned rewards experts. All other things equal, I’d rather have a Chase Ultimate Rewards points than any airline mile, hotel point, or other bank rewards program point.