No mention of the world Ultimate is complete without this guy!

This is part #1 of my The Ultimate Guide to Ultimate Rewards series.  Other posts include:
#2- How to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Through Online Shopping
#3- How to Combine Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Between Accounts (with video)
#4- How to Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Travel Partners (with video)

Introduction

Chase Ultimate Reward (UR) points are the currency that Chase uses to reward people who use their cards that are not tied to a specific airline or hotel chain.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points offer some incredible value, and if used right, can actually be more beneficial than credit cards that offer miles with a specific airline because they UR points are extremely flexible.

UR points are in direct competition with American Express Membership Rewards points and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points.

This series will explain all the facets of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, including ways to earn them, ways to use them, how to transfer them (both between accounts and to partner airlines and hotels), and lastly, the best ways to maximize them.

By the end, you’ll be a Chase Ultimate Rewards pro and you’ll see why they are my preferred frequent flyer currency!

For now, though, let’s start with how to earn UR points.  You can love them all you want, but if you don’t have any, they aren’t doing you any good!

The absolute easiest way to earn a huge amount of Ultimate Rewards points at one time is through credit card signups.  Luckily, Chase has quite a few good offers out there, so unless you’ve collected them all already, you have some good options to pick from.

Before we start looking at cards, there is one VERY important distinction that you must understand; the difference between “premium” Ultimate Rewards points and “limited” Ultimate Rewards points.  

This is an area that quite a few people get confused on, so its time to set the record straight.

Premium Ultimate Rewards points vs. Limited Ultimate Rewards points

“Limited” UR points vs. “Premium” UR points is just as one-sided!

 As the name implies, premium UR points are much more valuable than limited UR points.  Premium UR points can be used two ways:

  1. To transfer, at a 1:1 ratio, to a range of airline and hotel partners, including United, Southwest, and Hyatt. (a full list of partners can be found here)
  2. To redeem as cash for travel bought through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, at a value of 1.2 cents per point.

Limited UR points can only be used as cash for travel bought through the Chase Rewards Mall, at a value of 1.0 cents per point.

And while it is nice that the premium UR points are worth 20% more when redeemed as cash for travel, the MAJOR difference is that premium UR points can be transferred to partners whereas limited UR points cannot be transferred.  

This opens up a range of possibilities and usually gives you much better value than simply redeeming them for 1.2 cents per point.

Now, it’s important to know which Chase cards earn you which type of points, as many people often get confused about this.

What Cards Earn Which Type of Points

The following cards earn you “premium” Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which ARE transferable to partners:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Ink Bold [No longer available]
  • Chase Ink Plus

The following cards earn you “limited” Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which ARE NOT transferable to partners:

  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Sapphire
  • Chase Ink Classic
  • Chase Ink Cash

So does this make cards that offer you limited points worthless?

Luckily, no!

Chase allows you to combine your Ultimate Rewards points by transferring between your accounts, regardless of if they are “limited” or “premium” points.  

What this means is that as long as you have one of the cards that earns “premium” points, you can transfer the points you earn on the “limited” cards to “premium” account and VOILA!, those “limited” points are now “premium” points.

Just remember though:  You need to have at least ONE “premium” card to transfer the “limited” points to or else they will remain limited points and have very little value.

To recap:  Premium UR points are great, limited UR points are not that great.  If you have a card that earns limited UR points, get a card that earns you premium points and combine your points in that premium account.

Now that you understand the difference between the two types of UR points, let’s take a look at which cards will earn you what points and how many!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Card Signup Bonuses

Below is a list of the cards that earn Chase UR points and the current signup bonus.

Personal cards

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 “premium” Chase UR points (full review here)
  • Chase Freedom:  10,000 “limited” Chase UR points
  • Chase Sapphire:  10,000 “limited” Chase UR points

Business cards:

  • Chase Ink Bold:  50,000 “premium” Chase UR points (This card is no longer available)
  • Chase Ink Plus:  50,000 “premium” Chase UR points (full review of the Ink Plus here)
  • Chase Ink Classic:  25,000 “limited” Chase UR points
  • Chase Ink Cash:  25,000 “limited” Chase UR points

My Recommendations

The Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus my three favorite credit cards.  Yes, they are #1, #2A and #2B in my mind (the Ink Bold and Ink Plus are virtually identical cards).  I use them for all of my everyday spending.

Obviously, I highly recommend all three of the cards.  The signup bonuses for all three cards are substantial (40k and 50k) and because they earn “premium” Ultimate Rewards points, they are super valuable since they can be transferred to many partners, including my favorites, United and Hyatt!

In addition, all three cards also offer some nice category bonuses for spending, which we’ll discuss in a later post.

The Freedom, which offers 5x points on different rotating categories, is another card to consider.  I wouldn’t suggest it right now since the signup bonus is a paltry 10k, but if the bonus gets bumped up to 20k or 30k, then go for it!

Just remember that you’ll need either the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus to turn those “limited” points you earn with the Freedom in to “premium” points.

I’d only recommend applying for the regular Sapphire, Ink Classic, or Ink Cash after you’ve received all the “premium” cards.  The signup bonuses are lower, and unless you have a premium card, you’ll be earning limited points.

If you have exhausted all the “premium” options, wow, good for you!  Then, it’s time to start thinking about nabbing the 25k signup bonus for the Ink Cash or Ink Classic.

Final Word(s)

Signing up for a Chase credit card (or two…or three) is BY FAR the quickest way to build up your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

However, when signing up, make sure that you applying for cards that earn “premium” points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus.

Since these are all different products, you can earn the signup bonus from each.  Opening these three cards would net you a quick 140k Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Talk about a nice jump-start!

Personally, Chase UR points are my favorite frequent flyer currency and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Chase are three of the best cards out there.  If you don’t already have them, I would strongly suggest you consider getting one and start earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points now!

What Chase signup bonuses have you snagged?  Which ones are you targeting in the future?  Let me know in the comments below!

(photos courtesy of mario zucca illustration, asianboyprodigy)

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