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Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards: The Complete Guide

Introduction to Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program offers discounts, cash back, and other perks just for charging purchases using eligible Chase credit cards. Depending on your spending habits, the Ultimate Rewards program could pay for your next transatlantic flight or add a few hundred bucks back into your bank account.

Chase Ultimate Rewards have been making headlines for quite some time. The most recent news they generated came with the introduction of the Sapphire Reserve card.

That started with an absolutely ridiculous introductory offer: 100,000 points just for signing up (a deal that's unfortunately passed). As a result of this offer, Chase actually ran out of the metal they used for making this card due to the huge amount of sign-ups for the card .

Even with so many people clamoring for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you could be leaving money on the table if your lifestyle fits better with a different credit card company's rewards program. Also if Chase Ultimate Rewards offers the best deal for you, you could still miss out on opportunities to maximize its benefits if you're not careful.

Find out whether your bank account would be better off with or without the Chase Ultimate Rewards program using this comprehensive guide.

Would you be better off with or without the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program

Know the basics of Chase Ultimate Rewards to see whether it's right for your wallet

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program offers a simple proposition: Make purchases using a card that qualifies for Chase Ultimate Rewards and earn points. You can redeem these reward points for cash back, travel expenses, gift cards, and shopping.

These points can all be redeemed for cash back at a rate of one point per one cent. You can make your points go further by using them on special deals offered by the Chase Ultimate Rewards program on things like travel, depending on the card you use.

For instance, if you booked a trip through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program using your points and the Sapphire Reserve card, you would get 50% more value than normal for your points. That means you would only need 50,000 points to book a $750 flight instead of 75,000 points.

Different types of purchases net you a different amount of points, again depending on which card you use. Each card offers specific categories that offer double, triple, or even higher point multipliers.

As an example, the Sapphire Preferred card earns double points on travel and dining purchases. That means a $70 restaurant bill would net you 140 points instead of 70.

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Earn rewards with four different cards

Four cards offer Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Each of these cards offers different ways of earning rewards, sign-up bonuses, and annual fees:

Each card caters towards a different kind of spender. We'll cover the specific details of these cards in a later section.

Get the most out of Chase Ultimate Rewards by knowing why it's important

Chase isn't special in offering a rewards program. Mastercard, American Express, and all the other big credit card companies offer rewards as well.

There's no one-size-fits-all credit card rewards program, though. Different rewards will cater to different lifestyles, and Chase Ultimate Rewards is no exceptions.

What that means is if you're a frequent flyer and a foodie, then a card like the Sapphire Preferred that nets you double points on travel and dining would match perfectly with your spending habits. However, for those that hate airports and prefer staying in to cook would be better matched with a different card.

By picking the right rewards program, you'll get the most cash back or other benefits just by making everyday purchases.

Find out whether you could get ultimately rewarded with Chase Ultimate Rewards

Even though the four cards offered by Chase vary significantly in their rewards, fees, and perks, it's important to make sure upfront if you're broadly a good fit. If you fall into all of these broad categories, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program would likely bring you big benefits.

  • You regularly use credit cards.

    You regularly use credit cards. If you prefer paying with cash or debit cards, then there's not much point in signing up for a rewards program that won't reward you. You've got to spend money to make money here, and not spending could actually cost you with the annual fees for some of these cards.

  • You have a good credit score.

    You have a good credit score. 645 was the lowest reported credit score qualifying for a Chase Freedom card, which offers the fewest rewards out of the program. You need even better than that to get approved for the high-end cards.

  • You frequently travel or dine out.

    You frequently travel or dine out. While all of these cards offer at least one point per dollar spent, restaurants and travel expenses will earn you two or three times as many points with the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards. That's great for frequent fliers, but those looking for getting rewarded for everyday expenses would probably be better served with another card.

  • You don't regularly open a lot of credit cards.

    You don't regularly open a lot of credit cards. There's a whole subculture of people who open card after card, chasing introductory offers and maximizing their points. Chase doesn't cater to that crowd, as opening five cards in the past 24 months will get your application for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card denied.

If all of these requirements sound like you, then you could see some serious savings or cash back by using Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The top five things about Chase Ultimate Rewards

Before going any further, let's cover the five biggest things you should know about this program:

  1. This is one of the most flexible rewards programs out there. Your points never expire as long as your account is open, and you can transfer your points to any Chase Ultimate Rewards partner like British Airways, Marriot, and Hyatt as long as you have the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred cards. With every card, you can also redeem your points for gift cards, cash back, shopping discounts and other rewards.
  2. Some of these cards can come with some huge sign-up bonuses. The Sapphire Reserve card offers 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first three months – that's worth $500 or more, depending on how you spend.
  3. Most of these cards are aimed at travelers. Your points go up to 50% when you book a trip through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program with the Sapphire Reserve card and 25% with the Sapphire Preferred card. You also earn twice as many points on travel spending with the Sapphire Preferred card and three times as many with the Sapphire Reserve card.
  4. You can transfer these points between cards to maximize their value. That means you could earn five times as many points by using your Freedom card for certain purchases, transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred card, and then redeem them for 25% more on travel.
  5. Some of these cards come with high annual fees. For example, the Sapphire Reserve card costs $450 per year to get those rewards.

Everything you need to know about Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Verdict

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program isn't for everyone. Some of the cards come with high annual fees up to $450, only accept people with great credit, and focus their big-ticket rewards heavily within the travel category.

For those that travel a lot, Chase Ultimate Rewards offers one of the best programs available. Its main strength is how your points go the extra mile for travel costs, with half the cards offering between 25-50% additional value for redeeming points for flights, hotels, and other trip expenses.

These points can also be transferred to any airlines or hotels partnered with Chase Ultimate Rewards. Even cards that don't offer a travel discount can save you big on trips using this feature.

For instance, even though the Sapphire Preferred card's points are worth 25% more when booking trips through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the experts over at Million Miles Secrets point out you could transfer them over to Southwest and get around 43% more value for these points.

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Another big benefit of these cards is their huge sign-up bonuses. These range from a $150 bonus for spending $500 within the first three months with the Freedom Unlimited card to 50,000 points worth $750 in travel for spending $4,000 in the first three months on a Sapphire Reserve card.

Again, there are a few drawbacks with these cards. The high credit score needed for the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards puts them out of reach for those whose financial history may have taken a few dings.

Half of these cards also come with annual fees ranging from $95 to $450. If you don't regularly use credit cards or redeem your rewards points, they could end up costing you more than they save.

Finally, the types of purchases that net you the most points are somewhat limited. While the Chase Freedom card offers a rotating set of categories offering five times the points in categories like grocery stores, gas stations, and others, The Sapphire Reserve and Preferred cards offer extra points only for travel and dining expenses.

That means if you just want a card that saves you money on everyday purchases, you may be better off with something like the Target REDcard that gets you 5% off all Target purchases.

For those that spend a lot of time in an airport, hotel, or restaurant, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is hard to beat. Its huge sign-up bonuses, flexibility, and point multipliers provide the most point-purchasing power for the diner on the go.

Strengths

Chase Ultimate Rewards strengths

With lots of different ways of earning and redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards, this program can provide many benefits for your bank account.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards cards start off strong right from the start with huge sign-up bonuses. These range from $150 cash back after spending $500 in the first three months of opening a Freedom card, to 50,000 points worth $750 in travel for spending $4,000 in the first three months of opening a Sapphire Reserve card.

More than that, there are plenty of spending categories that multiply your points for each card. The Freedom card features rotating types of expenses that earn you five times more points per purchase, while the Sapphire Preferred card gets you double points on travel and dining.

Ross Frasier of Credit Donkey also loved the flexibility for using Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Each point a single card earns isn't locked to that specific card, but can be transferred between each card so you can get the most bang for your buck.

That means you could get five times the points by using your Freedom card to pay for certain expenses, then transfer those points over to your Sapphire Preferred card and redeem them for 25% more of their value on travel.

So say you spend $200 on one of those Freedom card categories that nets you five times the rewards for 2,500 points, or $25. Transferring those over to the Sapphire Preferred card would let you redeem them for $31.25 on travel.

You can also transfer your points to one of the many Chase Ultimate Rewards partners with the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred cards, some of which will redeem the points for more than their cash back value. These include Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, and Hyatt Gold.

Chase is also good about finding the cheapest flight for redeeming your Chase Ultimate Rewards. Richard Kerr of The Points Guy found that Chase helped his points go farther by tracking down the lowest-priced flights in most cases.

More than that, there are a ton of options Chase gives you for using your points. Aside from travel, you can redeem your points for gift cards, cash back or events at a one point to one cent ratio.

These points also never expire. As long as your account is open, you keep them.

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More perks, more money

Half of these cards don't come with an annual fee, so you won't pay a cent no matter how much or little you use them. The same 50/50 split applies with half of these cards not charging foreign transaction fees, making it free to use them no matter what country you find yourself in.

One thing the experts of AskSebby highlighted was how some Chase Ultimate Rewards cards offer a bunch of travel perks. Booking a trip through your Chase card gets you things like delayed baggage insurance, trip interruption/cancellation insurance, and primary CDW rental car insurance, as long as you use a Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card.

On top of that, if you get the Sapphire Reserve card it can cover the fee for your TSA Precheck application. You can skip the line just by using your card – and this bonus defrays some of the card's hefty $450 annual fee.

On top of that, the Sapphire Reserve card offers a $300 travel credit per year. Book your flight or hotel using your card, and the credit kicks in on the anniversary of when you opened your account.

Dan of Dan Deals points out how some of these cards provide protection for non-travel purchase as well. These include stolen or damaged item purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranties.

Weaknesses

Chase Ultimate Rewards weaknesses

Chase Ultimate Rewards aren't perfect by any stretch. There are a few drawbacks to watch out for before jumping into the program.

One thing that WiseBread's Jason Steele pointed out was the excellent credit score required to get approved for one of these cards, putting a high barrier to entry between them and anyone with a rougher financial history. Aside from this requirement, Chase will deny your application if you've opened five credit cards in the past 24 months.

You also have to be flexible when booking travel using your Chase Ultimate Rewards due to blackout dates when you cannot redeem your points. These are usually during peak travel season or around major holidays (though that's not a problem with the Sapphire and Reserve card).

J.R. Duren of Highya noted that Chase Ultimate Rewards didn't always find the best deals on hotels. In many cases, searching on Kayak, Marriot, and IHG yielded better rates on hotel rooms.

Richard also took issue with a few of his encounters with the Chase Ultimate Rewards customer support, noting instances when it took many phone calls before they could resolve issues regarding flight changes or technical difficulties with the flight-booking system.

Also bad for travelers is that half of these cards come with a 3% foreign transaction fee, according to Dan Deals. Even if you save money getting out of the country, these cards could cost you extra while you're abroad.

Half of them also come with an annual fee. The Sapphire Reserve costs you $450 per year, while the Sapphire Preferred card will set you back $95 per year.

Competition

Chase Ultimate Rewards competition

Chase does have some competition when it comes to credit card rewards programs, and its biggest challenger is American Express Membership Rewards.

Its cards have a similar point structure, with certain categories that get you more points than the standard 1% back per purchase. Plus, you can redeem these points for travel, cash back, or other areas.

Five out of seven American Express cards charge an annual fee. These range from $95 to $650 per year, so it's pay to play, similar to Chase.

A few of its cards offer 20% of redeemed points back in 6-10 weeks following their use, which is still lower than the extra 25%-50% of added value the Chase Ultimate Rewards points generate when they're cashed in for airline tickets or hotels. Combining this with the triple rewards points you can get for using the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card on travel, and this can unlock some great deals for globetrotters.

When it comes to booking flights through American Express Membership Rewards, its prices trended higher than Chase Ultimate Rewards. Leana of Miles for Family noted that American Express doesn't let members redeem their points at higher rates for travel, meaning you can get a better deal through Chase Ultimate Rewards in many cases.

American Express does offer some substantial benefits and great customer support. However, considering the greater amount of cards with membership fees and more expensive flights, you're better off sticking with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Biggest Consumer Complaints

The biggest consumer complaints about Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase has a one-star rating on Consumer Affairs and a B grade by the Better Business Bureau. However, most of the complaints raised by Chase customers are similar to what you would hear about any credit card company.

Here's a small sampling:

Unexplained card freezing. Some customers, like William, on Consumer Affairs, complained of going shopping only to find out his card no longer worked.

Complete guide to chases ultimate rewards credit cards

"I had my Chase Credit Card for three years and used it for Almost Everything. I attempted to make a purchase for something from Home Depot over the phone because it was the last one they had in stock and due to the price of almost $800, the store wouldn't just hold the item. Attempting to purchase the item over the phone, somehow triggered my account to "flagged" by the Fraud Department and suspended."

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Lack of customer support. Other customers, like Shari, on Better Business Bureau, vented their frustration with customer support when dealing with erroneous charges on her credit card:

Customer Review 2

"When I call this number, I get a recording and NO one to answer to the charges. I have complained that I do not want these charges on my card but they continue to happen. PLEASE STOP THE CHARGES THAT I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THEY ARE HAPPENING. THANK YOU!"

Bad stolen card policy. Finally, customers like Franklin, on Consumer Affairs, took issue with how Chase's slow response when his card was stolen.

"I pay $95 annual membership instead of a FREE cc to use their benefits such as protection with purchases. I have been w/ Chase for over 20 years and NEVER filed a lost/theft report. The 1x I did after almost 3 weeks, it's declined!"

Again, these are all fairly common complaints against any credit card company. However, you should know what you're getting into before signing up for any card.

Where you can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

All of your rewards points can be redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. From there, you have plenty of options for spending your points.

  • Travel

    Travel. This includes booking flights, hotels, rental cars, and experiences on your trip. You can also transfer your points over to other rewards programs for hotels and airlines, which can get you even better deals.

    These airlines include:

    • Korean Air Skypass
    • British Airways Executive Club
    • United Airlines Mileage Plus
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

    The hotels include:

    • IHG Rewards Club
    • Marriott Rewards
    • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
    • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Gift Cards

    Gift Cards. You can trade in your points for gift cards from Kohl's, Olive Garden, and other popular shops and restaurants.

  • Experiences

    Experiences: Chase Ultimate Rewards lets its members use their points for concerts, sporting events, and other activities.

  • Shopping

    Shopping: Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be used to pay for purchases on Amazon. Points only redeem at 80% of their value when used this way, so a $8 purchase would take 10,000 points.

What the Card Does

What Chase Ultimate Rewards sells and does

Chase Ultimate Rewards aren't offered out of the goodness of Chase's heart. Like any other rewards program, the cash back and other incentives are meant to prod users to pay with their credit cards more often and thereby grant Chase a processing fee or cut of the proceeds.

Aside from these processing fees, Chase also charges interest on cardholder accounts that carry a balance.

Each credit card comes with a different credit line, also known as a credit limit. This is the maximum amount of money you can charge on the card.

If you don't pay this amount off at the end of the month, you get charged interest. This is typically known as APR, or the annual percentage rate.

There are different types of APR, including:

Introductory APR. Some cards offer a lower or non-existent amount of APR for a set amount of time right after the card is opened. Be very careful about making payments during this introductory stage though, because if you miss any, the regular APR kicks into effect.

Purchase APR. This interest rate gets applied to credit card purchases.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards charge 15.99% to 24.74% purchase APR, while the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards charge 16.99% to 23.99%.

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Cash Advance APR. This is how much you'll get charged for borrowing cash from your credit card. It's usually higher than purchase APR (25.99% for all Chase Ultimate Rewards cards), so make sure you pay off any ATM visits quick.

Aside from these methods for making money, some Chase Ultimate Rewards cards charge an annual fee. These range from $95 to $450.

Chase can also charge other fees, such as for foreign transactions. These occur whenever you use your card in a country outside of the United States.

There are also balance transfer fees, which are basically when you use a new credit card to pay off an old credit card. Chase charges either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

By knowing how the Chase Ultimate Rewards program makes Chase money, you can be better prepared to avoid the penalties and fees that may well end up draining your bank account.

  • What people love about Chase Ultimate Rewards

    What people love about Chase Ultimate Rewards

    One thing every expert loved about Chase Ultimate Rewards was its travel options. Aside from getting extra points for using certain cards on travel expenses, these points can also be redeemed for an extra 25-50% when booking trips through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

    Something consumers loved was the different options you had for redeeming points. A person profiled in Sam Grobart's Bloomberg article on the Sapphire Reserve card noted how they loved using their points for concerts or other events through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

  • What people hate about Chase Ultimate Rewards

    What people hate about Chase Ultimate Rewards

    As mentioned previously, most Chase credit card users found their customer support lacking. They also noted that their cards were sometimes inaccurately frozen for suspected fraudulent charges, leaving them in a bind when making big purchases.

    Chase only offers flights through 11 airlines compared to the 20 partners of American Express Membership Rewards, according to Brian Graham of UpgradedPoints. While that's still a lot, it can be somewhat limiting if your favorite airline isn't on the list.

Overview

Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards overview

Now that you know about the Rewards Program in general, let's get into the specific details of each card. We'll outline the benefits, drawbacks, and other information that will help you know whether these different cards are right for you.

Chase Freedom credit card

Rewards

Just signing up for the Chase Freedom card gets you $150 cash back after spending $500 within the first three months of signing up for the card. You can also get an extra $25 for adding an authorized user to this card within the same three-month period.

You'll also earn 1% in cash back for all purchases automatically.

However, Chase offers certain rotating categories of expenses every quarter that provides 5% cash back. These can include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other everyday purchases.

Additional Benefits

Buying things with your Freedom card enrolls them in a purchase protection program, which covers these items for 120 days against damage or theft. This protects you up to $500 per claim for a maximum of $50,000 per account.

This card will also extend any manufacturer's warranty three years or less by an additional year. That makes it perfect for charging items like electronics that may break down after a few years.

What the experts say

Daniel Dreier of Get.com loved the rotating 5% cash back categories this card offers. The opening sign-up bonus of $150 is a nice touch too.

However, the 3% foreign transaction fee was seen as a pretty substantial flaw. Considering the emphasis Chase Ultimate Rewards puts on travel, it's a pretty big drawback if your card charges you extra for using it while abroad.

guide to all of ultimate rewards cards

One thing Doctors of Credit noted was that this card's points couldn't be transferred to hotel or airline partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards without using a Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card. While you can still book travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, missing this feature makes this card a little less flexible than the others here.

Doctors of Credit also noted that it takes a pretty high credit score to qualify for this card. The average approved score was 704, which may put it out of reach for those hoping to rehabilitate their credit score.

The Freedom card's biggest competitor

The Freedom card's biggest competitor

If your credit score puts this card out of reach, Money Under 30's David Weliver recommends using an AmEx charge card instead.

Charge cards are different from credit cards in that they don't let you carry over a balance from month to month, while still providing fraud protection, rewards points, and credit-building opportunities provided by credit cards. Since there's less risk for the company providing the charge card, they frequently accept riskier applicants that would get rejected for normal credit cards.

The cards provided by American Express offer a little more minimalist of a rewards program than Chase Ultimate Rewards, and charge a $95 annual fee for the American Express Green Card.

Chase Freedom Overview

  • Credit Line. $500-$25,000
  • Introductory APR. 0% for the first 15 months
  • Purchase APR. 15.99%-24.74%
  • Balance Transfer APR. 0% for the first 15 months, then 15.99%-24.74%
  • Cash Advance APR. 25.99%
  • Balance Transfer Fees. $5 or 5%, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance Fees. $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
  • Foreign Transaction Fees. 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Late Payment Fees. Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more
  • Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card

Rewards

Just like the regular Chase Freedom card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 within the first three months of opening the card. Adding another authorized user within that time period also nets you an extra $25.

The Freedom Unlimited card doesn't have the rotating purchase categories qualifying for extra points like the Freedom card. Instead, every purchase gets you 1.5% cash back regardless of its type.

Additional Benefits

The Freedom Unlimited card gets you a purchase protection program that covers new purchases against damage or theft. You're covered for $500 per claim up to a maximum of $50,000 per account.

You also qualify for an extra year added to manufacturer warranties of three years or less.

What the experts say

Over at CardRates, Brittney Mayer noted that you need a 645 credit score before thinking about snagging a Chase Freedom Unlimited card. That's the lowest score Chase was reported to accept, so you'll need 700 or above to have a good chance of having your credit card application accepted.

While the 1.5% cash back on all purchases is higher than the regular Freedom card, it doesn't feature the rotating categories of purchases where you can earn five times as many points.

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That's a pretty big drawback, considering that you can't transfer this card's points to Chase Ultimate Rewards partners without a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink credit card. That lack of flexibility is one knock against the Freedom Unlimited card.

The Freedom Unlimited card's biggest competitor, Citi Double Cash Card

The Freedom Unlimited card's biggest competitor

If you're looking for a card that will get you points for all kinds of everyday purchases, consider the Citi Double Cash Card.

That's according to Nick Clements of Magnify Money, who highlighted how this card gives you two opportunities for earning cash back. You get one percent back for using your card, then an additional percent when you pay off your balance for a total of two percent cash back.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Overview

  • Credit Line. $500-$20,000
  • Introductory APR. 0% for the first 15 months
  • Purchase APR. 15.99%-24.74%
  • Balance Transfer APR. 0% for the first 15 months, then 15.99%-24.74%
  • Cash Advance APR. 25.99%
  • Balance Transfer Fees. Either $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance Fees. Either $10 or 5% of each transaction, whichever is greater
  • Foreign Transaction Fees. 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Late Payment Fees. Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more
  • Annual Fee. $0

The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card

Rewards

The Sapphire Preferred card offers a heavy-duty introductory offer: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of opening the account. That's worth $500 if you go the straight cash back route.

However, the points for the Sapphire Preferred card are worth 25% more when redeemed on airfare, hotels, car rentals, or cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. That means the 50,000 point bonus is worth $625 in travel expenses booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

You earn double points for using your card on travel and dining. Throw down your Sapphire Preferred card to pay for a $50 meal, and you'll get 100 points.

All other purchases earn rewards at a one dollar for one point ratio.

These points can be exchanged at a one-to-one ratio for Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline partner programs as well.

Additional Benefits

Most of the Sapphire Preferred card's additional benefits make it a great card for travelers.

There are no foreign transaction fees for the Sapphire Preferred card. You can use it anywhere in the world without racking up additional charges.

Booking a flight through Chase Ultimate Rewards with your Sapphire Preferred card gets you trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. That means if your trip gets canceled or shortened due to sickness, severe weather and a few other situations, you can get reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses like passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

Paying for the entire cost of a rental car in the U.S. or abroad with your Sapphire Preferred card and declining the rental company's collision insurance gets you an auto rental collision damage waiver. That covers the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage in most cases.

Chase's benefit administrators can also help you with emergency assistance services. While you're overseas, you can call them for legal or medical referrals.

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You also get the purchase protection and extended warranty protection while doing your everyday shopping. That covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account, and adds an additional year to any manufacturer warranties of three years or less.

What the experts say

David R. of Credit Donkey noted that this is one of the best cards for travelers. The insurances that Chase throws in for booking trips through this card provide extra peace of mind, and the flexibility to transfer your points to any Chase Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel partner helps you keep your travel expenses low.

This card also doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees, which is an added bonus for those who frequently go abroad.

The introductory bonus for this card is also huge. Those 50,000 points you get for spending $4,000 within three months could pay for a flight costing $625 or less, or transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards partner for hotel- or airline-specific benefits.

However, David noted a few drawbacks. First off, qualifying for this card takes excellent credit – like above 700, on average.

There's also no introductory APR. If you regularly carry a balance on a card, you'll start paying for it immediately.

While you won't feel the bite of the Sapphire Preferred card's $95 annual fee the first year, you'll start paying it every year after that. If you don't rack up or spend your points regularly, you could end up losing money on this card.

The Sapphire Preferred card's biggest competitor

The Sapphire Preferred card's biggest competitor

The knowledgeable team over at MileCards found that the Capital One Venture card could go head to head with the Sapphire Preferred card's benefits.

One big thing the Venture Card has going for it is the opportunity to earn double points on everything, while the Sapphire Preferred card only racks up double points for travel and dining purchases. That makes the Venture card aimed at folks who want travel rewards for their everyday expenses.

It also comes with a lower annual fee at $59 compared with Chase's $95 fee.

However, each point earned by the Venture Card is worth just one cent for travel purchases, while the Sapphire Preferred card pays them out at 25% higher for trip-related expenses. You also can't transfer the Venture Card's points to a network of hotel or airline partners like you can with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

The introductory bonus for the Venture card is also lower than the Sapphire Preferred. Capital One offers a sign-up incentive of 40,000 points worth $400 in travel expenses, compared with 50,000 points worth $625 from Chase.

You only get half the value of your points when you choose the cash back option with Venture Rewards. That means that that initial 40,000 point bonus is only worth $200 in cash.

If you want a more flexible rewards program for travel, the options to transfer points through Chase Ultimate Rewards with Sapphire Preferred makes it worth your while. If you want a card that helps you rack up points faster, then consider the Capital One Venture card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred overview

  • Credit Line. $5,000-$100,000
  • Introductory APR. N/A
  • Purchase APR. 16.99%-23.99%
  • Balance Transfer APR. 16.99%-23.99%
  • Cash Advance APR. 25.99%
  • Balance Transfer Fees. Either $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance Fees. Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
  • Foreign Transaction Fees. None
  • Late Payment Fees. Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more
  • Annual Fee. $0 for the first year, $95 after

Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card

Rewards

The Sapphire Reserve card offers another big introductory bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account. That's worth $500 in cash back.

It can also be worth $750 because using Chase Ultimate Rewards points redeemed for travel are worth 50% more with the Sapphire Reserve card. These points can be used anytime – there's no blackout dates or travel restrictions with this card, which is huge.

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You also earn one point per dollar on everyday expenses and three points per dollar on travel and dining purchases. These points can also be transferred to any of the airline or hotel partners within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Additional Benefits

The Sapphire Reserve card goes all out with extra benefits for frequent travelers.

That starts with the $300 annual travel credit cardholders receive every year. This kicks in once per year on the anniversary of when you opened your Sapphire Reserve account and reimburses you for $300 worth of travel expenses from the past year.

The card also covers $100 towards a TSA Precheck application or the Global Entry program. That helps you skip the security line and board your plane faster.

Using the Sapphire Reserve for booking your trip gets you the same trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance the Sapphire Preferred card offers, as well as the auto rental collision damage waiver.

On top of all that, you get lost luggage reimbursement of up to $3,000 for any check or carry-on luggage damaged or lost by the airline carrier. There's also trip delay reimbursement for any trip that gets delayed by more than six hours, covering up to $500 per ticket for meals and lodging.

There's no foreign transaction fee with this card, so you're free to use it in any country you find yourself in.

The Sapphire Reserve card also gets you access to over 1,000 airport lounges.

You also get better protection for non-travel purchases than the Chase Preferred card.

The purchase protection program covers you for 120 days against damage or theft, going up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.

There's also return protection, reimbursing you for eligible items that stores won't take back within 90 days of purchase. That covers up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.

Finally, you still get extended warranty protection of an extra year for any manufacturer's warranty three years or less.

What the experts say

The MileCards team noted a few drawbacks to the Sapphire Reserve card.

There's a high annual fee — $450 every year, with no deferment period. There's also no introductory 0% APR period, and it takes a high credit score to qualify.

You also only get access to airport lounges, not airline lounges. That means no visiting United Clubs, American Admiral Clubs, or other clubs during a layover.

However, that $450 annual fee gets easier to manage considering the annual $300 travel credit and $100 TSA Precheck coverage.

Add that in with all the other travel benefits and rewards, and this is one of the best cards for travelers, period.

The Sapphire Reserve card's biggest competitor

The Sapphire Reserve card's biggest competitor

MileCards noted that the Citi Prestige card offered some competition with the Sapphire Reserve card.

It comes with an annual $450 fee as well. This gets defrayed a bit by an annual $250 travel credit, though that's still less than the $300 travel credit offered by the Sapphire Reserve.

One benefit unique to the Citi Prestige card is that anytime you book a hotel stay of four nights or longer through Citi's reward program, you get the fourth night free. That can add up to some serious savings.

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However, the Citi Prestige card doesn't offer any U.S. airline rewards transfer program like the Sapphire Reserve card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Overview

  • Credit Line. $10,000 to $100,000
  • Introductory APR. N/A
  • Purchase APR. 16.99%-23.99%
  • Balance Transfer APR. 16.99%-23.99%
  • Cash Advance APR. 25.99%
  • Balance Transfer Fees. Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Cash Advance Fees. Either $10 or 5% of each transaction, whichever is greater
  • Foreign Transaction Fees. None
  • Late Payment Fees. Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more
  • Annual Fee. $450

Website, Apps and Digital Services

The Chase Ultimate Rewards website, apps and digital services

You have two options for managing your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, both of which are almost identical. You can either use the Chase Ultimate Rewards website or the Chase app for Android and iPhone.

Consumers seem to like both versions of the app, as they each have 4.5/5 stars in the Google Play Store and on iTunes.

Christopher Baily of Centric Digital created an awesome review of Chase's digital services.

The visual design of the dashboard on the app and website is modern and easy to navigate. You can easily locate your points, redeem them for various rewards, and both view and pay your credit card transactions and statements.

Logging into the app is also very secure. When logging in on a new device, you will receive either a text or email verifying that you're the person trying to access your account.

You can also login to the app with a fingerprint scan on newer Android or iPhone devices.

However, Christopher did identify a few flaws.

There's no option for letting Chase know that you're going out of the country. Given that many consumers complained that Chase would freeze their accounts when they would use their cards in new areas, this seems like a fairly significant missing feature.

Turning on the fingerprint login option also isn't available when setting up your account on your mobile device. This is something you have to set up manually within the app, which is a bit of a pain.

How to Get Started

Best way to get started with Chase Ultimate Rewards

Signing up for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card isn't any harder than applying for any other credit card. However, knowing all the ins and outs of the process will help you have a better chance of having your application accepted and taking advantage of the great introductory offers.

Take steps to make sure you qualify for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card

A little preparation goes a long way when applying for these cards. Brittany Mayer of CardRates offers some great advice on ways to increase your chances of getting a Chase Ultimate Rewards card.

First, check whether you've opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months. Your application will be rejected if you have, so check whether you need to wait a bit for a better chance.

Next, check your credit score. Nick Clements of Magnify Money lists out the best way to see your score from all of the three major credit bureaus.

You'll need at least a 645 to qualify for the Chase Freedom card, and the 700s for the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards. Checking your score will help you know which card you have the best chance of getting.

Also, see how much credit you currently have extended. You have the best chance of getting accepted for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card if you're using 30% or less of your total credit limit.

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To find that out, first look up all of your current credit card balances. Add these up, and then divide it by your total credit limit to see how much credit you have extended.

That means if you had one card with a $5,000 limit and a $500 balance and another card with a $300 balance on a $3,000 limit, you would divide $800/$8,000. In this case, you would have 10% of your credit extended.

Spend money to make money with Chase Ultimate Rewards introductory offers

If you successfully get a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you can qualify for some big introductory offers. Find out how to take advantage of these rewards with a few easy steps.

Chase Freedom

This card comes with 0% APR for the first 15 months. If you have any big purchases coming up, consider putting them on this card during that time period since you won't be penalized for carrying a balance month to month.

You'll also earn $150 in cash back as long as you spend $500 within the first three months of opening an account.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

This card also comes with 0% APR for 15 months, and $150 cash back after spending $500 within the first three months.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The $95 annual fee for the first year is automatically waived. You don't need to do anything to take advantage of this introductory benefit.

Make sure to spend $4,000 within the first three months when using this card to earn 50,000 bonus points. You can redeem them on travel for an extra 25% in value, making them worth $625.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

There's no introductory offer for this card's annual fee or APR.

You can get 50,000 points just for spending $4,000 in three months with this card. If you spend them on travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you get 50% more value and make these points worth $750.

Closing Your Account

How to close your Chase Ultimate Rewards account

Canceling your Chase Ultimate Rewards account is easy, but you'll want to make sure you do it the right way in order to avoid penalties or leaving money on the table.

To cancel your account, call the number on the back of your credit card. You'll speak to a customer service representative who will help walk you through the next steps.

Fred Williams of CreditCards.com offers some essential advice when it comes to canceling your card.

First, make sure you use all of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points before closing out your account. These will disappear as soon as your card is canceled, so get the most value out of them while you can.

If you're transferring your existing credit card balance to another card, check whether the new card charges a balance transfer fee. Otherwise, you could end up with a higher balance on the new card, canceling out any introductory offers or savings.

FAQ

Chase Ultimate Rewards FAQ

  • What is the minimum credit score one should have before applying for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card?

    The lowest recorded score accepted for Chase's relatively no-frills Freedom Card is 642. If you want a better chance of qualifying for that or another card, make sure your credit score is 700 or above.

  • How do you redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards?

    Use the Chase Ultimate Rewards website or app on iPhone and Android. From there you can choose to redeem your points for travel, gift cards, shopping or cash back.

  • Are there restrictions on the rewards offered by Chase?

    If you use a Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, or Sapphire Preferred card to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you will be subject to blackout dates. However, using the Sapphire Reserve card to book travel isn't subject to this restriction.

    Another thing to watch out for is using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for shopping on Amazon since your points are only redeemable for 80% of their value through this method. Opt for cash back or gift cards for a one-to-one ratio instead.

  • How can you use your rewards?

    Chase Ultimate Rewards points are redeemable for gift cards, cash back, travel, shopping, and experiences like concerts or tickets to sporting events. You can also transfer your points to any loyalty programs for Chase Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel partners

  • What airline and hotel loyalty programs will accept my Chase Ultimate Rewards points?

    You can transfer your points to any of the following programs:

    Airlines

    • British Airways Executive Club
    • Flying Blue Air France KLM
    • Korean Air Skypass
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
    • United MileagePlus
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

    Hotels

    • IHG Rewards Club
    • Marriott Rewards
    • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
    • World of Hyatt
  • Which card should I sign up for?

    The short answer is the one that's right for your situation.

    Here's how to determine that:

    If you want a basic rewards card with no annual fee and rotating spending categories offering bonus points, go with the Chase Freedom card. This card is especially useful when combined with the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card, as you can transfer points earned with the bonus categories to a card where they're redeemable at a higher amount for travel.

    If you prefer a card with no annual fee and are willing to accept a higher base rate for every purchase without bonus spending categories, choose the Freedom Unlimited card. Again, consider transferring points earned on this card to a Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card to maximize their value for travel.

    If you can pay a $95 annual fee and frequently travel or dine out, go with the Sapphire Preferred card.

    If you spend more time in airports or restaurants than you do at home, the $450 annual fee for the Sapphire Reserve card is more than worth the extra points, travel incentives, and lack of blackout dates for using your rewards to book trips.

  • Can Chase take away my points if I cancel the card too quickly?

    Yes. Your points disappear when you close your account, so make sure to spend them all before canceling your Chase Ultimate Rewards card.

  • Do you get Chase Ultimate Rewards if you pay your card balance early?

    Your Chase Ultimate Rewards kick in at the beginning of each billing cycle. That means you'll get the same amount of points whether you pay your balance all at once or after every purchase made using your card.

  • Are the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards metal?

    Yes. Both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards are made out of metal.

If you're looking for your next credit card, you may enjoy these in-depth 2017 reviews.

Do you have a Chase card? Is it one that you'd recommend to a friend? A loved one? We'd love to know your thoughts. Please let us know in the comment section below.


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