Why We Love Chase Ultimate Rewards For Award Travel
Traveling opens your mind to the beauty of the world. Traveling also opens your wallet and sucks out your hard earned moola. We try to spend as little as possible out of our own pockets and thankfully there are credit card reward programs that help us save money. There are many credit card reward programs out there such as American Express’s Membership Rewards and Citi’s ThankYou Points, but our particular favorite is the Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) program.
Anna and I both travel regularly for work and are able to accrue frequent flyer miles and hotel points with ease. Even though work travel isn’t as glorious as it sounds, earning these miles and points are huge perks. To further maximize our points and miles earning potential, we use a credit card that can earn extra points. After examining the earning potential of all the credit card reward programs, we determined that the Chase program will allow us to earn the most points possible. Let’s take a deeper look into why we chose the UR program as our go-to.
Although points earning potential is a large criteria in our choice of credit cards and credit card reward programs, the sign-up bonuses really seal the deal. Chase’s premium cards, such as the Reserve and Preferred, typically give you 50,000 points as a bonus after meeting a spend requirement. Until last week, the Reserve card was giving 100,000 points as a bonus. That was an incredible deal on top of the already great perks! Sadly though, you won’t find that anymore and will have to settle for a 50k bonus. While 50k points isn’t spectacular, it is in the “great” category for credit card sign-up bonuses.
We have earned a ton of points from the get-go by jumping on these bonus offers. For example, we had both gotten the Reserve card while the bonus offer was 100k. After meeting the spending requirements, we had an immediate 200k UR points in our account which equates close to a $3000 minimum value (1.5 cents per point) if booking travel through Chase’s UR portal. That valuation adds a lot if you plan on transferring to airline and hotel programs. We recently booked 2 One-Way First Class tickets to New Zealand using 160k UR points. That price of those tickets would have costed us at least $7,400 and all we paid was $62.80!
Ease of Earning Points
Earning UR points is relatively easy as Chase has many cards that you can use to earn points. Our favorites are the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Freedom. Chase just released a new card last year, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and it has become our favorite out of all of the cards as it allows 3X earnings on travel and restaurant purchases. As traveling consultants, this is a enormous benefit to earn 3X points. It also comes with perks such as Priority Pass Club lounge access, $300 annual travel credit, $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. While these are awesome perks, the annual fee on the Reserve card is a whooping $450 annually. Fear not though, if you factor in the $300 annual travel credit, you’re pretty much only paying $150 annually which isn’t bad at all for a card like this!
Our current card inventory includes the Reserve, Freedom Unlimited, and Freedom card. We had the Sapphire Preferred card until the release of the Reserve card but downgraded to a Freedom Unlimited. The Freedom Unlimited is considered a cash-back card that isn’t suppose to earn UR points but since we have a premium card such as the Reserve, we are able to turn the 1.5% cash back into 1.5 UR points on all purchases. The regular Freedom card allows us to earn 5X points but only on rotating categories so it becomes more of a niche spending card. With this trifecta of cards, we are able to maximize our earning potential from our work travel as well as everyday expenditures.
Below is our current Ultimate Rewards points earning strategy:
|Chase Reserve||Used to spend on all travel and restaurants|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Used to spend on everything that isn't travel and restaurants.|
|Chase Freedom||Used only if the rotating category is appropriate|
Ability to Use UR Points
Another criteria in our selection of the UR program is the ability for us to use the points that we earn. We like to use our points only for travel redemptions which include flights and hotel stays. This is where you can to make the most of your points. We would strongly advise our readers to not use UR points for cash or credit redemptions! Cash redemptions and credits to your statement are not the best use of UR points. We won’t go into point valuation here but you can easily search Google for how to value your points.
There are two ways to spend your UR points, purchase travel through Chase’s portal or transfer to airline or hotel programs. We have not purchase travel through Chase’s portal but the points are valued at 1.5 cents if booking directly through Chase. Our favorite way to spend the points is to transfer to other programs such as United Airlines and Hyatt.
While the UR program doesn’t have as many transfer partners Amex Membership Rewards, it does have airline and hotel programs that we like to use most often. Our favorite airline to use for international travel is United. It isn’t because of the planes or the flight service, which in our opinion is lacking, but because United allows stopovers and open jaws on their round-trip award redemptions. We used 120k UR points for two round-trip tickets to Europe for our honeymoon last summer which included a stopover and open-jaw return. This was an awesome redemption which allowed us to save a ton of money!
If you’re looking to travel lavishly, Korean Air and Singapore are great transfer partners. We also love Hyatt for hotel redemptions. Transfer speed varies but the transfer partner but for the most part, they are instantaneous.
List of Airline and Hotel Transfer Partners
Every credit card rewards program has their own pros and cons and there isn’t one that is overly better than the other. The combination of sign-up bonuses, points earning potential, and transfer partners has made the Chase Ultimate Rewards program our favorite at the moment. For the time being, we are going use the UR program to try to maximize our points earning to help us travel more.