Amassing Ultimate Rewards

Ultimate Rewards Balance Greg Ultimate Rewards Balance Pam Personal

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):

Ultimate Rewards Activities Muir Woods Ultimate Rewards Activities Food Tour Ultimate Rewards Activities Ghost Tour Ultimate Rewards Activities Hop-On

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):

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.

Category Bonuses

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
Gas Ink Cash
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.

Chase Freedom Calendar Q2 2017

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.

eGiftCards-from-Staples.png

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.

Shop with Chase

Note that for any given merchant, other portals may offer better rewards.  See CashBackMonitor to find current portal rates for each merchant.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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  1. […] What if you don’t fly often?  In that case, in my opinion, Membership Rewards is not the best rewards program for you.  Consider instead Chase Ultimate Rewards which can offer very good value not just for flights, but for hotels, cruises, car rentals, excursions, and more. See: Amassing Ultimate Rewards. […]

Comments

  1. Hi Greg,

    I’m over 5/24 but I was recently in branch and told I was pre-approved for the Freedom Unlimited. Based on reports here and elsewhere I applied thinking the process was a done deal. I was denied due to 5/24 despite the pre-approval. I’ve called reconsideration and they say there is nothing I can do. Do you know of any other options? It’s pretty frustrating to be denied following a “pre-approval.”

    • I was in a branch asking about preapprovals and they put me on the phone with one of their credit specialists, and he basically said, “preapprovals are really just a marketing thing. It still has to go through our credit approval process.” It’s possible that prepapproval will make some difference, but it doesn’t appear to be all powerful.

    • Adam, how recent was this? There have been many reports of people succeeding with pre-approvals despite being well over 5/24. Maybe something has changed.

      I can think of a few possible explanations for your situation:
      1) You weren’t really pre-approved. Maybe your banker was confused about what this means.
      2) Your application was denied for a reason other than 5/24, but you were told it was due to 5/24 (this wouldn’t surprise me at all)
      3) Chase has changed their process to where pre-approvals no longer get around 5/24

      If the real answer is #2, above, then a few more recon calls might do the trick. Otherwise, I can’t think of any solution for you other than trying to get under 5/24 before applying again.

      • Hi Greg,

        The language on the rejection letter is: “Too many credit cards opened in the last two years associated with you.” So I think 5/24 is definitely the reason. I wasn’t able to see the banker’s screen, so I can’t comment on #1, but I specifically also asked about the Chase Sapphire Reserve and was told I was not pre-approved for that card.

        My second reconsideration call seems to have unearthed the issue: they are saying the application did not come through with a pre-approval notice, which is why I was denied. This either means #1, or it means the banker made a mistake prior to submission of the application. I’m hoping it’s the later and I’ll follow up again once I get to the bottom of this.

        • UPDATE: After calling my banker I was told that I was denied the Freedom Unlimited due to 5/24 despite the pre-approval. It’s certainly possible that I’m in the minority in this case, or it’s possible that Chase has changed their rules regarding pre-approval.

          Greg – I forgot to add last time that I applied on 3/31 and was denied the following day (according to the decision letter).

          If any one has any ideas for any other approaches I can try, I’d be happy to do so and report back.

  2. In your table near the top, you mention the ink cash as a 2x dining category. Are you sure it’s as broad as the dining on the reserve and preferred? I remember when I got my ink cash it specifically said 2x at restaurants while my preferred said 2x on dining. Not sure if there’s a difference or not.

    • Great question! You stumped me so I did a bit of research. You’re right that they advertise this differently. In some cases they say “dining” and in others “restaurants”. However, if you look at the Sapphire Reserve terms it says that you earn 3X in the “dining at restaurants category”.

      And their page explaining their various category bonuses lists “restaurants” and describes “dining” within the restaurants category description. Found here: https://www.chase.com/index.jsp?pg_name=ccpmapp/shared/assets/page/Online_Rewards_FAQ

      So, with Chase, restaurants = dining

      That said, the Ink Cash does charge foreign transaction fees, so you’re better off using the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve when dining abroad

  3. Are there restrictions on transferring Ultimate points from multiple household family members’ Chase Reserve points to another?

    Four family members of our household all recently acquired the Chase Reserve and each Ultimate account individually acquired over 105k Ultimate points. We were attempting to combine all points into “one” Ultimate account. After transferring one card’s points into one account, we received an error message when attempting to transfer the other two cardholder’s points into that account.

    • Yes, Chase limits you to moving points to “one member of your household”. While I haven’t tried it, it may be possible to do something like this (assuming the people in your family are named A,B,C, and D):

      Assuming person B has already moved points to A, then:

      D moves points to C
      C moves points to B
      B moves points (again) to A

      If you try this, please let us know if it works

    • Hi Tom. I’ve run into that same situation. You need to first unlink the first card that you used. Then, you have to wait about a day before you can link the second card. When I transfer points between cards, I always unlink the card after completing the transfer.

  4. Do you get most of your points from shopping portal, 5x ink/freedom, or sign ups? I wish chase would add 2x grocery to the saph pref or something like that. The freedom bonus is nice but is a big missing category and it would may have people keep the CSP and the CSR at the same time.

    • A large percentage are from signup bonuses, but that will decrease to almost nil now that Chase enforces 5/24 for Private Client customers. Otherwise, most is from category bonuses. My wife and I have a total of 4 Freedom cards, so we like to maximize the 5X bonuses when there are easy options like this quarter’s drugstores and grocery stores. And I use Ink cards to spend at Office supply stores and to autopay Comcast and AT&T for 5X. And we spend a lot on travel & dining (3X with Sapphire Reserve)

      • Nice. The 5/24 is really cramping my UR earning ability. I would love to get a freedom unlimited to do everyday spend but I am unable to get it and the only UR I have is an old Ink Plus (glad I have it though). The 5/24 came into play like 2 months before my 24 months was up on the CSP :(. My wife does have one 5x freedom and that is it so we are kind of stuck with what we have!

  5. Great post. Thanks for the info. Question: Why would you transfer to Hyatt or airline programs rather than booking straight through the Chase travel portal.

    • Because sometimes those individual travel partners will give you more than 1.5 cents value per point when transferred directly to them.

      Here’s a real-world example from a few weeks ago: I booked 3 nights at the new Hyatt House Chelsea for my family and I. The retail price for this stay was been $2,045, which would’ve cost 136,333 points through the Sapphire Reserve’s UR portal. However, Hyatt only charges 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night for the same room! So, I transferred 60,000 UR points to World of Hyatt, booked the room, and saved myself 76,333 points!

    • To get much better value. Walker’s got the right idea for you.

      To give you a quick for instance with an airline, I recently wrote about my trip to Africa. The following itinerary would cost 80k United miles each:

      Newark–>Munich (Lufthansa business class)
      Munich—>Johannesburg (South African Airways business class)
      Johannesburg–>Cape Town (South African Airways business class)

      The day I booked it, I looked up the price of those exact flights — it was a ridiculous $18,000+ for 2 people. I know — nobody would pay that. But if I’d have booked through the Chase portal, that would have been 1,266,666 Ultimate Rewards points instead of 160,000 United miles for 2 people (a transfer partner). That is an extreme example (and a very over-priced itinerary) — but the point is that sometimes, partner redemptions offer much more value.

      With hotels like Hyatt, you also might consider transferring points for elite benefits. For example, if you are a Hyatt Explorist and you want to use one of your club lounge upgrades, I don’t believe you can if you book through the Chase travel portal. If you are a Globalist member, you wouldn’t get free breakfast/lounge access when booking through the Chase portal. Additionally, on stays booked with Hyatt points, Hyatt waives the resort fee (which could be $40 a night in some places) and Globalists receive free parking on award stays.

      That’s not to say that it always makes sense to transfer — it doesn’t always make sense to transfer, but sometimes it does for some of those reasons.

    • Because it can be much cheaper to use transferred points to book the same thing. For example I’m staying at a Hyatt next week that would charge me over $300 a night. But the award on the Hyatt site only required 12k Hyatt points. So I transferred 12k UR points into my Hyatt account. Let’s assume that same hotel was bookable through the Chase Travel Portal for the same price. That would be: ($300 * $.01 per points) = 30k / 1.5 bonus for using the portal = 20k Chase points. So I transferred 12k points instead.

    • I’ll add a great example to the list. When my family recently visited Costa Rica over the holidays, the Andaz Papagayo’s cash rate came to nearly $1500 per night after including resort fees. That would have been nearly 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night if I had paid with UR points through Chase.

      Instead, I transferred to Hyatt and booked for only 15,000 points per night. And on award stays Hyatt doesn’t charge resort fees.

      Here’s my write-up: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2017/01/12/andaz-peninsula-papagayo-costa-rica/

    • And, of course, our examples are just examples answering your question as to why you would transfer. There are examples to be had the other way around. Last year, I stayed at a Ritz-Carlton that would have been 60,000 Marriott points per night, but I booked it for just over 26,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points by booking through the Chase portal. So the moral of the story is the same whether you’re booking travel or buying a new fridge: you gotta shop around.

  6. I have a stockpile of miles from INK so I’m switching to Amex Everyday Blue for 5% cash back at office supply stores and 3% in my category of choice.

  7. Will this stacking work below or do cash back portals & “Shop through Chase“ exclude gf’s

    5% cash back using AmEx Blue at Office Depot for a merchant gf
    5%+ cash back (Ebates) portal
    Pay with gf
    10% cash back

    How about
    5%+ discounted gift card (Raise+)
    5%+ cash back portal
    Pay with gf
    10%+ cash back

    • I assume gf is “gift card” not “girlfriend”. In that case, yes those stacks should work. Most merchants (but not all) will pay out through portals when you use gift cards, but rarely when you buy them. Some merchants do the opposite. For example Lands End will give you portal rewards when you buy gift cards, but not when you use them.

  8. Greg, I’ll be out from under 5/24 in a few months (Hooray!). The early cards that I’m looking at are obviously with Chase. I know that some business cards are subject to, but don’t actually count toward 5/24, and so should obviously be the first cards applied for from Chase. Any idea which cards would qualify? I don’t want to screw this up. Thanks.

  9. Thanks so much for doing all this work. I will be under 5/24 next week. Will it lift on the day?
    I’m thinking about going to a Chase Branch. And, maybe opening up a checking account w/ a $500 signing bonus. What I really want is the Ink Business Card. The 5% on internet subscriptions is rather amazing. Is there any trick to all this? Or is it as good as it seems?
    thanks

    • As Adam said, it’s better to wait until the next month. To help ensure getting pre-approved for the Ink Cash card, I’d recommend waiting until then and then opening a business checking account. Be prepared with a dba (doing business as) registered to your county. Often, after setting up the new account you’ll be told that you are pre-approved for certain cards. If the Ink Cash is an option, go for it (the Ink Business Preferred is a good pick too thanks to its huge signup bonus!).

      Yes, getting 5X for internet is as easy as paying your Comcast (or whatever) bill with your Ink Cash card. I use the older Ink Plus (no longer available), but it’s the same idea. You should also pay your mobile phone bills this way.

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