As you can see in the images above, my wife and I have a nice stockpile of Ultimate Rewards points. We often transfer points to Hyatt for award or points + cash stays, or to various airline programs when booking flights. We can also move points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve account in order to get 1.5 cents per point value when booking travel. In this way, points needed to book airfare or hotels are sometimes much less than when transferring points and booking awards directly. This method also makes it possible to book car rentals, cruises, tours, and more while getting 1.5 cents per point value.
Just to give you an idea of what’s possible, here are some activities I found in the San Francisco area that are bookable with Ultimate Rewards points (note: I picked these somewhat randomly. Their presence here is not an endorsement):
If you don’t have enough points within one credit card account to book your travel, you can move points from other accounts you own, or from a selected household member, or from a joint business owner. See Chase point transfer rules made simple [Infographic] for details.
Also note that some cards are advertised as cash back cards, but they actually earn Ultimate Rewards points. This is true of the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Cash cards. In each case, you can redeem points for 1 cent each (hence the cash back idea), or move them to a premium card account, such as the Sapphire Reserve, which gives you more valuable options.
Credit Card Signup Bonuses
The quickest and easiest way to amass Chase Ultimate Rewards points is through credit card signup bonuses. At the time of this writing, the following bonuses are publicly available (in some cases better offers may be available through targeted offers or in-branch):
- Chase Ink Business Preferred: 80K points after $5K spend
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: 55K points. 50K after $4K spend + 5K for adding an authorized user
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50K points after $4K spend
- Chase Ink Cash: 30K points after $3K spend
- Chase Freedom: 17.5K points. 15K after $500 spend + 2.5K for adding an authorized user
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 17.5K points. 15K after $500 spend + 2.5K for adding an authorized user
Each of the links above will take you to a page with more details about the card and up-to-date signup offer details.
Without accounting for points earned from spend, one person could earn 250,000 points by signing up for each of the above cards. And a couple could earn twice that many if each signed up for the same cards. Of course you can’t sign up for all of these cards at once, but it is possible to sign up for 1 or 2 every few months.
The problem, of course, is that Chase enforces their unwritten “5/24 Rule” for all of the above cards. Unless you are pre-approved, Chase will deny your application if you have opened 5 or more cards, from any bank, in the past 24 months.
For this reason, if you are new to signing up for cards, I recommend starting with Chase cards. Also, while I used to avoid recommending business cards to those just getting started, I no longer suggest waiting. The Chase Ink Cash card, in particular, is great to have for its 5X categories. And the Ink Business Preferred is great for its huge signup bonus and 3X categories. You do need to have a business to sign up for a business card, but you might have one without knowing it! You have a business if you sell things at yard sales or on eBay, or you’re an aspiring artist or writer, or you do consulting work on the side… While I can’t promise that you’ll get approved, if you do anything that can be considered a business, then you can legitimately apply for business cards. You can request a business Tax ID (EIN) online for free from the IRS, or simply use your Social Security Number as the business Tax ID. For the business name you can use your own name or register a dba (“doing business as”).
If you are over 5/24, you can try your luck in-branch to see if you are pre-approved for any cards. Or, you can cure your 5/24 status by signing up primarily for cards that do not appear on your credit report (Amex business cards, for example). Some couples opt to have one person stay under 5/24 while leaving the other free to sign up for every non-Chase offer that appears.
The next best way to earn Ultimate Rewards points is through category bonus spend. If you spend a lot personally or through your business on any of the following categories, you can do very well:
|Spend Category||Best Options|
|Dining||Sapphire Reserve 3X
Sapphire Preferred 2X
Ink Cash 2X
|Travel||Sapphire Reserve 3X
Ink Business Preferred 3X
Sapphire Preferred 2X
|Phone / TV / Internet||Ink Cash 5X
Ink Business Preferred 3X
|Shipping||Ink Business Preferred 3X|
|Advertising via social media||Ink Business Preferred 3X|
|Office Supply Stores||Ink Cash 5X|
|Rotating Categories||Freedom 5X|
Not shown in the table above is the Freedom Unlimited card which earns 1.5X everywhere. So, a great approach is to use the Freedom Unlimited card for all spend that doesn’t fit any of the above categories.
The Freedom card (not the Freedom Unlimited) offers different 5X categories each quarter, up to $1500 in spend. This quarter Chase is offering 5X at grocery stores and drugstores. You must enroll each quarter.
Gift cards and other strategies for increasing category bonus spend
If you don’t naturally spend a lot within the above category bonuses, you may still be able to earn lots of Ultimate Rewards points by buying gift cards or via other strategies. Here are some examples:
5X office supply stores with Ink Cash
Office Supply stores such as Staples and Office Depot carry gift cards. Merchant gift cards can be bought with no fee in-store or online via Staples.com (if you purchase e-gift cards). Examples include Amazon.com (in-store only), Whole Foods, eBay, Southwest, Target, and much more.
You can easily earn 5X on purchases you would make anyway, by buying these gift cards from an office supply store with your Ink Cash card.
You can also buy more flexible bank gift cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex). For example, Staples.com sells $300 Visa gift cards for $308.95. That 3% fee is steep, but it can be well worth paying in order to earn 5X rewards. In-store, the best you can usually do is buy $200 Visa gift cards with fees ranging from $4.95 to $6.95. Even better, subscribe to this blog to get alerted when Staples or Office Depot offers discounts or rebates on these gift cards. This week, for example, Office Depot is offering an instant $15 rebate on $300 or more in Visa gift cards!
5X merchant gift cards with Ink Cash through various websites
A number of merchant gift card sellers count as office supply stores for earning the Chase Ink Cash 5X category bonus. You can find details here: Merchant gift cards, best options for stacking deals.
5X grocery / drugstore with Chase Freedom
This quarter, Chase Freedom is offering 5X at grocery stores and drugstores (but keep in mind the $1500 maximum on 5X earnings each quarter).
Both grocery stores and drugstores tend to carry huge selections of gift cards. And at grocery stores you can often double-dip by earning member rewards (many grocery chains offer fuel rewards programs).
If you don’t need merchant gift cards, it should be possible to buy $500 Visa gift cards with a $4.95 fee at some drugstores or up to a $5.95 fee at many grocery stores.
If Chase brings back 5X at Sam’s Club again (as they did last year), that’s another great option for buying Visa gift cards.
2X to 5X gas station gift cards with Ink Cash or Chase Freedom
Some gas stations sell gift cards and will let you pay with a credit card. And, many numerically named convenience stores code as gas stations even when they are not truly gas stations. Availability of gas stations that sell gift cards and that allow credit card purchases of gift cards varies tremendously by region. So your mileage may vary.
The Ink Cash card earns 2X at gas stations. And with the Chase Freedom card, “gas stations” is a common 5X quarterly bonus category.
3X rent with Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred
If you have rent payments to make, consider paying via RadPad through Apple Pay or Android Pay with your Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred card. When paid this way, the purchase codes as travel. You will have to pay a 2.99% fee, but it may be worth it in order to earn 3X rewards. More details can be found here.
Shop through Chase
When shopping online, it is often possible to earn bonus points by starting with “Shop through Chase”. To find Shop through Chase, log into your Chase account, click “Go to Ultimate Rewards“, then under the “Earn Points” menu, select “Shop through Chase“.
Find the retailer where you want to shop and click through. In most cases prices will be exactly the same as if you had browsed directly to that merchant, but by going through Chase you’ll earn bonus points in addition to those earned by your credit card.
Note that for any given merchant, other portals may offer better rewards. See CashBackMonitor to find current portal rates for each merchant.