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.

Refer-A-Friend Bonuses

Another great way to earn Ultimate Rewards points is by referring friends to sign up for credit cards that you already have.  Referral bonuses tend to range from 5,000 to 20,000 points depending upon the card and the current referral promotion.  Visit Chase’s Refer-A-Friend site to see if your cards are eligible.

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 or mortgage with Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred

If you have rent or mortgage payments to make, consider paying via Plastiq with your Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred card.  When paid this way, the purchase codes as travel.  You will have to pay a 2.5% fee, but it is 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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48 Comments on "Amassing Ultimate Rewards"

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Adam
Guest

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.”

Steve
Guest

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.

Dan
Guest

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.

Tom
Guest

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.

Barry
Guest

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.

Tom
Guest

Hi Barry, How do we unlink the cards? Thanks.

Mark O
Guest

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.

Steven
Guest

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.

Walker
Guest

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!

Steven
Guest

Bang! Great example. Thanks! Never thought of this and will definitely use in the future.

Nick Reyes
Editor

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.

Robert Fenerty
Guest

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.

Robert Fenerty
Guest

Oops! Didn’t see the earlier replies. Sorry about that.

Nick Reyes
Editor

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.

Adam
Guest

Great use for Ink Preferred: Venmo codes as 3x. Makes manufactured spend super easy and free.

renzhen
Guest

Adam, how to do that? Pay others using Ink Preferred?

Adam
Guest

yeah just pay someone else using Ink Preferred. Venmo’s 3% credit card fee is negated by the 3x cashback.

joE
Guest

what is it coding as? Travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases?

ATX
Guest

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.

ATX
Guest

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

Christian
Guest

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.

Christian
Guest

Greg?

nadine franks
Guest

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

Adam
Guest

5/24 resets at the end of the month of your most recent application.

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Brian
Guest

Do you know if you still receive 3x points for using your Chase Ink Preferred card to pay rent/mortgage?

Nick Reyes
Editor
Brian
Guest

Ahhh! I see, Thank You! Do you have any other suggestions? I heard that Venmo might earn 3x points when using CIP? Any assistance in the best way to purchase gift cards and/or pay for mortgage outright to aide in meeting MSR is appreciated!