The Trick to Getting 2.25 Cents Per Dollar On Chase Ultimate Rewards

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Plenty of us are familiar with 2% cash back cards, and when we tell you that you can earn 1.5 cents per points toward travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or 1.5X points on all purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you might wonder why in the world you'd take those cards over a 2% cash back card, especially if you aren't planning on transferring the points. Well, here's the trick to maximizing the value of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program and beating 2% cash back cards!

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Why Chase Ultimate Rewards Matters

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most powerful points around. Because of their extensive number of transfer partners, you can use Chase points to book international business class and first class flights, like the time we used Chase points to fly business class to Asia on Korean Air.

You can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a variety of hotels near Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well. This won’t be the best value for the points, but you can easily get more than 1 cent per point with this method.

Combining Chase Cards to Beat 2% Back

If you're looking to transfer points and fly international business class, it's obvious you need a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and not a 2% cash back card. But if you're not looking to do that, it's natural to wonder why you shouldn't just use a 2% cash back card. So here's why.

Earning 1.5x points on all categories

The trick to maximizing the value of the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes in pairing it with other cards, most simply the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases. There are no bonus categories. If you don't have a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you'll just use those points for 1.5 cents each for a statement credit. More on this below.

1.5x Back vs. 1.5x Toward Travel

The 1.5x points back you get with the Chase Freedom Unlimited is totally different from the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 1.5 cents per point booked on travel. Here's a quick example. Annie and Betty both spend $1000 at Best Buy. Annie uses her Chase Sapphire Reserve. Betty uses her Chase Freedom Unlimited:

  • Annie will earn 1000 Ultimate Reward Points, which would yield $10 if used for a statement credit, but if she uses those to book travel through Chase's portal, she'll use them to get $15 off of a flight, hotel, or activity.

  • Betty will earn 1500 Ultimate Rewards Points. If her Freedom Unlimited is her only Chase card, those points are worth $15 when redeemed as a statement credit.

Notice that here it even looks like Betty is better off with her non-premium credit card, since she gets $15 cash back instead of $15 for just travel. (Important Note: Annie still earns 3x points on Travel and Restaurants, gets other Chase Sapphire Reserve perks, and can transfer her points to partner airlines. This post isn't about those options, though.)

But wait! Carrie, who gets 2% cash back, would get $20 back, placing her ahead of Annie and Betty. So far nothing in this post looks any better than just getting 2% back.

Earnings on $1000 Spent at Best Buy
NameCardPoints Earned
AnnieChase Sapphire Reserve$15 on Travel
BettyChase Freedom Unlimited$15 Statement Credit
Carrie2% Cash Back Card$20 Statement Credit

Stacking the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom Unlimited

The crucial trick lies in the fact that the points earned on the Freedom Unlimited can be transferred onto the Chase Sapphire Reserve's Ultimate Reward account, where they are worth 1.5 cents when spent on travel. This means your 1.5 points per dollar spent earned with the Freedom Unlimited can be redeemed for 1.5 cents of travel each.

In other words, each dollar spent on the Freedom Unlimited gets you 2.25 cents of travel, which is better than 2% cash back if you travel enough to use it. Keep in mind that this is without even considering other redemption options with your Ultimate Reward points (like transferring them to partner airlines for premium redemptions).

Combining Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

To take advantage of this trick, you need to consolidate all of your Ultimate Rewards points onto your best card. Here's a simply walkthrough of how this is done.

1. Log In to Ultimate Rewards

When I (Ken) log on, this is the screen I see, indicating the two cards I have. I obviously transfer my points regularly.

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2. Tell Chase You Want to Combine Points

Hover over your points number on the top tight, and click "Combine Points."

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3. Choose the Right Combination of Cards

In this case, we're moving from the Chase Freedom Unlimited to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That second option we have is a household member card.

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4. Choose How Many Points to Move

When consolidating your points onto a single card, this will be all of your points. If moving to a household member's card, you may want to move fewer points.

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Once you confirm, the transfer will happen instantaneously!

And then There's Debbie

Continuing our earlier example, let's say Debbie spends $1000 at Best Buy. Debbie has both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Case Sapphire Reserve. She puts Best Buy on her Chase Freedom Unlimited and gets 1500 points. Then, she logs into her Chase Ultimate Rewards account and transfers those points to her Chase Sapphire Reserve card. When she goes to buy a flight or hotel through the travel portal, she'll get 1500 x 1.5 cents, or $22.50 off! That's better than what Annie, Betty, or Carrie got!

Earnings on $1000 Spent at Best Buy
NameCardPoints Earned
AnnieChase Sapphire Reserve$15 on Travel
BettyChase Freedom Unlimited$15 Statement Credit
Carrie2% Cash Back Card$20 Statement Credit
DebbieChase Sapphire Reserve +
Chase Freedom Unlimited
$22.50 on travel

Bonus Hack: The Chase Quadfecta

A final thing to know...the Chase "Quadfecta" comprises the following cards: the Chase Freedom, the Chase Freedom Unlimited, a Chase Sapphire card (usually the Chase Sapphire Reserve), and a Chase Ink card (usually the Chase Ink Business Preferred). Because the Freedom has rotating 5x points categories (which can be useful in getting discount Disney gift cards) and the Ink Business Preferred has 5x in certain categories, this collection of cards can be quite powerful for earning and spending points.

For example, if the Chase Freedom has 5x points on electronics stores when our characters go shopping, Elizabeth will be the winner by a huge amount if she puts the $1000 on her Chase Freedom and then transfers those points to her Chase Sapphire Reserve. She'll get 5000 points for the purchase. Then, when she goes to book a flight or hotel, she'll have a whopping $75 off!