Chase Ultimate Rewards 101

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There have been tons of posts both on my site and other similar blogs recently trumpeting the marvels of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.  Probably just for the sake of time and simplicity, most of those posts assume that everybody and their Grandma already is pretty well-versed on the Ultimate Rewards program and how it works.  While I know that many of you are indeed already well versed in Ultimate Rewards, I want to give everyone else the chance to learn some of the basics and decide if it might be the right program for his or her family to focus on.  I know from some of the comments and the emails that I have been receiving that not everyone understands how the Ultimate Reward program works or with which credit cards it works.  If you are a UR expert, feel free to chime in with some tips in the comments section!

I’m going to try to break this down into a step-by-step guide, but please feel free to ask questions or let me know if I leave out an important step.  Ultimate Rewards is hands-down the program that my family is focusing on the most right now.  We have earned tens of thousands of points doing some holiday (and household) shopping in the last couple months, and I really want to make sure that everyone who is interested has a chance to understand what the fuss is all about!

1.  Learn about some Ultimate Rewards basics. 

Ultimate Rewards are points that are earned based on the amount of money you charge on your Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit card.  The base earning rate is one Ultimate Reward point per one dollar charged.  There are many bonus categories that we will get to in a minute, but one point for one dollar is the base earnings rate.  When your statement closes each month, those points get deposited into your Ultimate Rewards account.

What makes these points so great is that they can transfer on a 1:1 ratio to many of the top airline and hotel programs.  The transfer partners include: CUnited, British Airways, Korean Air, Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott, and Priority Club.  For most people, United and Hyatt will give you the most “bang” for your point, however it is great to have so many transfer options to choose from.

If you want to transfer points, you simply go to the transfer points tab in Ultimate Rewards and type in the amount of points you want to transfer to any of your accounts in one of the transfer partner programs (in increments of 1,000).  Mine usually post very quickly – under an hour (and often under 2 minutes).  This is great since you don’t have to transfer the points out until you know for sure what award you want to use them for.  So far, I have also been able to transfer points into other people’s hotel and airline accounts without any problem.

While transferring to airline and hotel programs is typically the best redemption, you can also use UR points for gift cards, to “pay yourself back” for any purchase of $20.00 or more, or to pay for travel.  This can be a good option if you are low on cash and are flying on a very inexpensive ticket.  The tickets are treated as if you paid with cash by the airlines, so you will earn both elite qualifying miles and redeemable miles on those airline tickets with your respective carrier.  I have done that once or twice for tickets under $200.

2.  Get a card that earns Ultimate Rewards.

There are two cards that will earn Ultimate Rewards that can transfer to airline and hotel partners as a stand-alone product.  The first is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.  The second is the Ink BoldSM with Ultimate Rewards.  I personally have both cards, but the Sapphire Preferred is the logical card for most people to start with.  If you have some type of business, the Ink Bold is a great option as well.  The Sapphire Preferred comes with a 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points bonus after spending $3,000 within the first three months and the Ink Bold comes with a 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points bonus after spending $5,000 within the first three months.


The Sapphire Preferred gives 2 points per dollar for hotels, restaurants, and transportation expenses and 1 point per dollar for everything else.  The Ink Bold Business gives 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, on cable and wireless service, and landline communications (up to the first $50,000 annually).  It also gives 2 points per dollar on gas and hotels (up to the first $50,000 annually) and one point per dollar on everything else.

Both cards have no foreign transaction fee and have the $95 annual fee waived the first year.

3. Consider supplementing your primary Ultimate Rewards earning card with a secondary Ultimate Rewards earning card.

This is where some people get confused, and rightfully so.  The Chase Freedom® Visa earns Ultimate Rewards points as well, but alone doesn’t have have the ability to transfer the Ultimate Reward points to the airline and hotel transfer partners.  You could only redeem for things like “cash back” or gift cards.  That works for some people, but that is certainly not a good use of valuable Ultimate Reward points the majority of the time.  You need to also have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold in order to use the points earned by the Freedom or Ink Classic to their fullest potential.  The Chase Freedom has no annual fee.

What makes the Freedom a great compliment to the Sapphire Preferred is that it has some strong earnings potential in certain bonus categories.  Each quarter the Chase Freedom will have certain categories that earn an additional 5 points per dollar, limited to the first $1500 spent in that category per quarter.  They advertize it as 5% cash-back, but if you have the Sapphire Preferred then you can actually be earning an extra 5 Ultimate Reward points per dollar.  Here are the 2012 categories.

You do have to activate your earning bonus each quarter for it to apply to your account.

4.  Use the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal.

When you click through to a retailer from the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, you will earn up to 20 extra UR points per dollar.  It is insane how quickly it adds up.  I’d say the average bonus is in the 2x – 5x extra points per dollar range, but they have had some awesome holiday promotions and one-day bonus points specials in the past month that have been amazing.  Some examples of historical UR point bonuses are: Home Depot 5x, Sears 6x, Groupon 12x, Baby Gap 3x, Walmart 2x, and Pottery Barn Kids 3x.  Bonus points display very quickly (usually in 1-2 weeks) in the Ultimate Rewards Mall & Travel Earnings section of the UR website.  They don’t actually post to your UR account until your statement closes, but you can see them there as pending rather quickly.

Sometimes you will see different bonus amounts depending on the Ultimate Rewards card that you used when you logged into the portal.  For example, the Ink Bold may display 5x for Kohl’s, but the Freedom displays 10x.  There is no card that is consistently the best to log-in with as it varies from retailer to retailer.

You are encouraged to use a Chase credit card when you shop in the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, but in practice any credit card seems to work just fine most of the time.  Just be aware you are more likely to get support if something goes wrong if the purchase is on your Chase card.

5.  Enjoy the heck out of your earned points!

Let me know if you have questions about any this – I really want to make sure that everyone has as much info as they need about Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program.  All of the links included in this post are to the best UR sign-up offers I am aware of.  Some of them are my own affiliate links, and some aren’t.


The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. […] I personally used the Ultimate Rewards portal and earned 15 extra points per dollar for our taxes with H&R Block online.  If I were going the Turbo Tax route, I would likely choose either the 1,000 Southwest points or the Ultimate Rewards portal for 8 extra points per dollar.  If you need more info about the Ultimate Rewards portal, you can check out this post.  […]

  2. […] Many, but certainly not all, of these deals reference the Ultimate Rewards Portal and/or a credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Freedom MasterCard , Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards, or Ink Cash.  If you want to learn more about the Ultimate Rewards system, or how the online shopping portal works, read this post. […]


  1. Hi Mommy pts,
    If you have both the Sapphire and the Ink Bold, do your points get posted into the same UR account?

    Thx & great post! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great summary! My experience on the UR Portal has been somewhat mixed though. I took advantage of the, toys r us, kohls and HP bonus offers and the proper points appear on in the UR Mall Earnings section (despite using a non-chase card on some of the transactions). However, one high dollar purchase at Best Buy during their 10x points day did not post there, and neither Chase nor Best Buy is able to help figure out what happened for that transaction as of yet. Chase customer service told me I’m not eligible since I didn’t use a Chase card, and Best Buy is still investigating. I will keep you posted, but readers beware that using a non-chase card will make it difficult (if not impossible) to track the purchase back to the UR mall.

  3. Overall I have noticed that UR mall is very generous and efficient in posting points. I have also heard from many other blogs about Best Buy bonus 10X points not being posted so I presume this is an issue from Best Buy side. Definitely one can use any card from the UR mall but if the points are not posted then of course you are on your own. It is like buying an electronic gadget without warranty. My sixth sense tells me that this loophole will be closed soon. It is a question of when and not if.

  4. Thanks for this helpful post. I just got my Sapphire Preferred and am looking forward to taking advantage of all it has to offer. Now, I’m thinking the Freedom would be a good supplement, too!

  5. Thank you! I love how newbie-friendly you are. I know other bloggers about this subject are prudes about who they give helpful information to…

  6. I agree about using the Sapphire card if you want to make sure you get the points. I have only used the Sapphire card and have had orders misssing after 60 days. One quick phone call and they have added the points as a courtesy. But to do so they look to make sure the actual charge posted to the card on the day you said you made the order.

    If you use some other card then you shouldn’t get the points! It is great that it worked as a loophole, but that is not what was supposed to happen! what I love is that I am not messing with Cartera anymore and I get things fixed with a phone call.

  7. None of my 10x purchases from Best Buy have posted either (using a mixture of Chase Sapphire Preferred and non-Chase cards)… should everyone be following up with Chase or just wait a couple weeks on this one? The UR website states that it can take up to eight weeks to post so it didn’t occur to me that this was odd.

  8. UR Portal now mentions to use a Chase Card at checkout to get bonus points (while initially it never did). Having said that, I am still receiving bonuses for using other cards (trying to meet my SPG spend)[, groupon etc]. However for my big-ticket spending at Apple(10X points), I still use the chase card to be safe!

  9. Thanks for explaining this. I am very new to the cc “game” and was not very familiar with UR. These will be on my radar to add soon.

  10. @Donna, the best way is to log into your Ultimate Rewards account and click on “Holiday Deals”. Today is 10x for Lord and Taylor, tomorrow is 5x at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Friday is 10x at Sears, and Saturday is 5x at Bloomingdales.

    @Maya, glad you liked the post! You can have all of your Chase accounts display on the same login and you can combine UR points. I haven’t not combined mine, so I am not sure exactly what that looks like, but I know the points can be combined.

    @Nat, glad you liked it!

    @Bothofus2, from my knowledge, no one’s 10x Black Friday Best Buy points have posted. I also used a non-Chase card for one of my Best Buy purchases (no interest!) that day, but others did go on a UR earning card. I am personally hoping that it gets fixed and they all post in a batch whether you used a UR card or not. 😉 It has only been a few weeks, much less than their stated 6-8 weeks, but like you all my other purchases have posted. Come on, UR, fix it! Please.

    @LIH Prem, yes and no. The truth is I was much more diligent about tracking before I started blogging about points – funny, huh? I just don’t have the time to track as much as I used to, but I do absolutely keep an eye on it. I will certainly notice if a large purchase (Best Buy!) is missing.

    @caveman, good analogy. When it works it works. When it doesn’t work, well……it doesn’t work. I think you are correct that the way it is working now is probably temporary.

    @Susan, congrats on your Sapphire! It is a great card. The Freedom is a great compliment to consider in the future.

    @Erica, my goal is to provide info to anyone who needs it. Newbies are always welcome here.

    @Kelly S, that is great customer service. I agree using a UR card is best when you can. No guarantees if you use another card, but it is nice when it works.

    @scott, if you have the time to follow-up with Chase it might not be a bad idea. If they get enough inquiries maybe it will help fix the problem for everyone. I will probably follow-up with them in a couple weeks if I still haven’t seen anything post.

    @Chirag, I just saw that today. Interesting that it says Chase instead of UR card. I dug through the terms and FAQ’s last night and don’t see it written there anywhere, but it is now on that screen that pops up for a few seconds when you are clicking through to the retailer.

    @BunMama, sounds like a plan! Good luck with the refi.

  11. I believe there is also a bonus percentage offered (5%?) to Freedom cardholders who have a chase checking account. We have one, but haven’t seen this yet (but admittedly havent cycled yet since using UR mall. Anyone have experience with that bonus yet?

  12. If I am not mistaken, you can get extra bonus points if you have a Chase checking account. If you search “Chase Exclusives,” click on the Chase result, click on the Chase Freedom credit card, the T&Cs say you get 1pt for each $10 (i.e. 10% back) spent PLUS an additional 10 pts for each individual purchase.

    10 Mt. Dews run separately is a nice little bonus 😉

    Happy Holidays from me and my 5 year old, Miss O!

  13. Great Post on the UR program. I wish all the best offers weren’t all from Chase. The other banks need to catch-up to Chase’s bonus offers and quality rewards programs.

    Just need to lower the min spend req to make the bonus offer perfect. $3K for 50k UR points is not bad but $2k would be even better.

  14. Do you have a chase checking account as well? I know with the freedom card you can earn 10% extra points and 10 bonus points on EVERY purchase just because you have a checking account. Sure adds up nicely at the end of your billing cycle. Love your blog!!

  15. HI MP, I am a bit confused about the Freedom card and UR points. What is the process if you want points and not 5% cash back? Thanks

  16. Thanks for the info!. Please confirm that there are no limitations to the transferability of The Chase Freedom and the Ink Classic Business for existing Chase Sapphire Preferred or InK Business Bold cardholders. In other words, Chase Freedom and Ink Classic Business, when paired with Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Bold, share the same transfer parters and transfer rules

  17. There are a couple other (and maybe more) methods of earning Ultimate Rewards points:
    – The Chase Sapphire preferred card gives a 7% bonus for all points earned during the year.
    – You can earn 1 ultimate reward point per dollar for travel booked through the ultimate reward site (I have not personally tried this yet, but that is what it says on the website). Thus, you could actually earn 3 ultimate rewards points for travel if you book it through the site and then pay for it with your Sapphire Preferred credit card.

  18. Fantastic summary — you are swiftly moving to the best of the travel blogs spot! Would like to learn more about how the Chase checking account works with this…

  19. I also am missing bonus points from a purchase on black friday. Can anybody point me to where I would file a complaint about that? Thanks in advance.

  20. I’ve had a Chase Freedom card for some time. Any chance I can transfer points to my wife’s Chase Sapphire after she signs up? Anyone have experience with this?


  21. My favorite thing about Ultimate Rewards is that it makes everyone look like a 14 year old when they type something like “Chase will post UR points soon” or the like…

  22. @Robyn, glad to help. This is really one of the very top point programs out there right now!

    @BothofUs2, I plan to do a separate post on the Chase Checking bonus feature within the next week!

    @Rhonda R, yes and I plan to do a post on that very soon. It is a great little added bonus! Happy Holidays to your family as well.

    @Lauren, they usually show as pending within 7-10 days. They then actually post to your account when the statement closes.

    @The Travel Abstract, I hear you about the best offers seemingly almost always being from Chase!

    @Trina, I don’t personally currently have a Chase checking account, but I do plan to highlight that feature in another post soon.

    @Deborah, I don’t yet have a Freedom, so I won’t be able to give the best step by step instructions, but I know that you can link the accounts and then use the points as Ultimate Rewards. Maybe someone else can give you an exact step by step. You can also always Secure Message of call Chase and they can help you.

    @dealswelike, thanks!

    @trentswanson, that is my understanding.

    @Phil, great points. I added the 7% into the post. Thanks – can’t believe I forgot that! There is just so much that is great about this card. I also don’t have much experience booking travel directly with them, but thanks for reminding about that benefit as well!

    @CU, aw, your comments are always so nice. More to come soon about the Chase checking feature.

    @Frank, you can call or secure message Chase. If you used a UR earning card I have full faith you will get your points in the end (even if they do it manually), but it wouldn’t hurt to let them know of the issue now if you have the time.

    @Biblioman, I doubt that you are technically supposed to be able to do that, but I know the Frugal Travel Guy was able to do it for his wife recently after a couple tries. It may be easiest for you to just get a Sapphire Preferred as well so that it will be an easy process. Otherwise, I would contact Chase and see what they can do to help.

    @Nat, ha ha. True!

  23. You mention transferring points into other people’s accounts. Is there a charge? My father would like to give me his points from his Freedom card. Would I set up an account for him and then use my ff account?

    thanks for the great information

    • @Patty, there is no charge, but I have doubts that you would be able to transfer from his Freedom to your account. I know some have had success with husband/wife accounts, but I think even that is outside the bounds of the real terms and conditions. I would love to know if anyone has had success doing what Patty has described though. He can always get a Sapphire Preferred to link to his Freedom. The UR points could then be put in your hotel or airline frequent flyer account.

  24. so I’m clear on this … if he opens a Sapphire Preferred card and then transfers his points from Freedom to Sapphire, he will then be able to move his points from his UR account to my UR account with no charge. ??

    • @Patty, sorry for not being clear. If he gets a Sapphire Preferred, he can then transfer to your hotel and airline frequent flyer accounts. For example, he can put his UR points on a 1:1 transfer ratio to your United MileagePlus account, or Hyatt Gold Passport account, etc….. I don’t think he can actually put them in your UR account, but he can put them directly into your United, Continental, Marriott, Hyatt, etc….. accounts. Does that help?

  25. Hi MP,
    Thanks for the informative post! What happens to my UR points if I close my Sapphire credit card (since annual fee is coming up)? Would I still have access to the UR portal given that I have other credit cards with Chase? Or say I get a Freedom card and then close my Sapphire card and keep the Freedom card account open – will I have access to UR points? Thanks!

  26. *raises hand*

    I have a tip, I do, I do!

    If you have a Chase Freedom card, in the fine print of that little UR guide that few people read, it states that you can opt to use 25,000 points to redeem them for any flight in value up to $335. Umm…heck yes! The only thing is that you have to book them over the phone with Chase, which can incur up to a $20 service fee. But I see this as probably one of the best ways you can cash in Freedom points (since they aren’t transferable to other programs unless you have Sapphire Preferred).

    Enjoy! 🙂

  27. @Young, that is great news! I hadn’t read that yet. Do you know if it matters if it is a Freedom or Sapphire or do they both work that way? Thanks for the info.

    @Max, first I would try to see if they will offer you something in exchange for paying the annual fee. It will depend, among other things, how much you have used the card, but they may give you some points or a statement credit to keep the account open. If you do indeed want to close I would either transfer the points out to a hotel or airline where you will use them, or get a Freedom and let them sit there for a while. Keep in mind with the Freedom that you can’t transfer to the airline or hotel partners without the Sapphire or Ink Bold, so plan accordingly. GL!

    @Jared, great tip! Thanks!

  28. @mommypoints: Thanks for the tip about the secure message center. Unfortunately, when I click on “Send”, I get the following: Error 500:

  29. Hi MP,

    I just wanted to check with you as well,but based on your experience, if it doesn’t say anything about giftcards then you CAN purchase them eligible for UR points right? I’m thinking about making a staples purchase…

    Thank you! =)

  30. Regarding my earlier post about transferring miles from my father’s Freedom account to my account: I was able to transfer his miles to my Sapphire account very easily and it posted pronto!!! thanks Dad

  31. For some reason, I NEVER get points credited to my account when using the Ultimate Rewards Mall for shopping at the Pottery Barn Kids website. Anyone else have this problem? It seems to work fine for every other website…

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