The good news: points can be incredibly easy to earn these days, and you can earn lots of them in a flash. Ok, maybe not a flash, but with a massive 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points available from just one card without a crazy annual fee, and another 20,000 available from another card with no annual fee at all, you can go from 0 to 100,000 pretty quickly these days. That’s the good news.

Used properly, those 100,000 points would be worth over $1250 toward travel, but used poorly, they might get you something worth half that, or even much less. 100,000 points comes with some real responsibility, so let’s take a look at how not to spend your Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can focus on how you will.

Establish Baseline Value For Chase Points

The most important thing with any points you earn, is to establish a baseline value of what they should be worth. That way, if you choose to use them for something sub optimal, at least you know what they could – and ok, should – have been.

Chase allows you to redeem Ultimate Rewards Points linked with a Sapphire Preferred Card at a value of 1.25 cents per point toward all travel booked via Chase Travel. Chase Travel is powered by Expedia, so you can assume you’ll have wide access to most flight options, hotels, rental cars and more. If you have the Sapphire Reserve, you can enjoy an even better, boosted value of 1.5 cents per point.

For a limited time, Chase also offers “Pay Yourself Back” at the same great 1.25 cents per point rate for groceries, dining and home improvement purchases, which you can redeem online in your account after the purchase, through April 31st, 2021. For the Sapphire Reserve, the same 1.5 cents per point applies to “Pay Yourself Back”.

Everyone Hates Math

Let’s establish an easy way to figure out what your points should be worth at a minimum, with a simple math problem. Multiple the number of points you have by 1.25, then move the decimal two places to the left. So 10,000 x 1.25 = 12,500.00. Now move the decimal over two spaces, and you’ve got $125.


That’s your baseline value of what you could get for your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.


Chase Ultimate Rewards Options

Naturally, a bank never minds if you use your points for lesser value, because it means the points cost them less money to hand out. In other words, you’re making someone in a Manhattan tower very happy, if use your points for lesser value.

Here are a few ways you might want to avoid using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, unless it’s a last resort, or you decide you’ll never travel or dine out again, like…

  • Converting Chase Ultimate Rewards Into Gift Cards
  • Using Chase Ultimate Rewards For Apple Products
  • Shopping On Amazon With Ultimate Rewards Points
  • Converting Chase Ultimate Rewards Into Statement Credit

In each of these bolded cases, you’re typically only getting 1 cent per point of value for your Chase Points, or even less in some instances. Remember: travel offers at least 1.25 cents, and often much more, so the question is: why would you take less?

Try not to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to buy Apple products.

If I wanted to use my points to buy a new Apple Watch, I’d be able to use 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at a value of $100, whereas they’d be worth $125 or more on travel. At 10,000 points it’s not a huge deal, but at 100,000 points, where it would be $1250 or more, versus maximum of $1000, it’s meaningful.


Ultimately, points are there to make you happy, and make life easier, but the more you earn, the less you want to part ways with them in sub optimal ways.


Maximizing Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Travel is the one word answer to maximizing your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. Savvy travelers can make use of transfer partners to convert 100,000 points into over $3000 in value, by taking advantage of award charts, and lucrative opportunities. We outline those sweet spots here. The downside here? Blackout dates.

Being able to use points via Chase Travel however presents another optimal choice without blackout dates. The points effectively work like cash through Expedia at the 1.25 cents per point rate for Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders, or 1.5 cents per point for Chase Sapphire Reserve holders, which means you can book anything that’s for sale using cash, with your points.

Though you can do better with value by looking into converting Chase Ultimate Rewards Points into airline hotel points via Chase Transfer Partners, an added bonus of booking via Chase Travel is that you can actually earn points when you fly.

With bookings via Chase Travel powered by Expedia, The airline thinks you paid cash, so you can earn your frequent flyer miles, and elite frequent flyer status on these trips, unlike when you cash in your miles by transferring them to an airline or hotel, with the exception of Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic famously became the first airline to award elite status points even when you use miles to book the flights.

You also really can’t beat the “Pay Yourself Back” feature either, which allows you to reduce your credit card bills for things you can buy from home, like takeout, groceries and home improvement items, at the same great rate as new travel purchases.

Should you use Chase UR Points for your next trip?

With fixed rates to “burn” points via Chase Travel, there’s no more or less optimal time to use them, versus just paying for the travel with cash. If however you’re considering transferring points to an airline or hotel partner, there’s a bit more to it, like how many points you’ll need, versus how expensive the ticket is.

As a general rule of thumb here at GSTP, if travel can easily be afforded without using points, it might be best to pay cash. Save the points for a time when you’re trying to hit new levels of luxury, or when cash prices are too frustratingly expensive, and you’ve still gotta go!

Earning Lots Of Ultimate Rewards Points

Currently, there are at least two phenomenal bonuses bringing up to 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points from just two cards, and only one annual fee. If you were to add the Chase Sapphire Preferred to your arsenal, you’d earn 80,000 points worth at least $1000 toward travel after $4,000 in spending within 3 months.

If you also added the no annual fee Chase Freedom Flex Card, which currently brings 20,000 points from $500 in spending, you could move those Freedom Flex points into Sapphire Preferred Points, so they enjoy the same 1.25 cents per point value.

That’s a new total of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, worth at least $1250, if you manage to avoid the ways “not” to use your points! Spend your points however they make you happy, but if you spend them at sub-optimal value, don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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8 Comments

  1. 2 comments:

    1 – as a former Math major (along w Computer Science) everyone doesn’t “hate math” and the “math” to calculate value based on 1.25 cent a point is hardly even math! If you think that is math try derivatives, integrals or advanced algebra.

    2 – are people so broke they have to use their points at 1.25 cent each to cover day-to-day expenses? I mean REALLY?! If that is the case you shouldn’t have credit cards anyway. I agree 1.25 cent/point is the absolute minimum you can value them at since that is easily achieved via travel expenses (or paying bills if you really have to) but I personally value them at 2 cents each (Have CSR so my baseline is 1.5 cents/point) and I find you can get even better value with selective travel point transfers and redemption. Maybe I’m an out of touch 1% but I pay for all my bills and use all my points and miles for travel and ONLY If I get more value than the baseline – otherwise I pay cash and bank more points/miles.

    1. 1) I hate math, most people do, though I very much admire and appreciate those who don’t. Rewards shouldn’t involve math problems.

      2) Yes, you’re out of touch on this issue, i’m sorry to say. It’s easy for someone with flexibility in travel dates and a vast knowledge of loyalty programs to tell other people they’re fools for redeeming at 1.25 cents per point, when they could score Singapore Suites First Class for 125K points from London to Singapore once every 30 days (that’s about how often it’s available), and get more like 5 cents per point of value. Most people have fixed travel dates, fixed travel plans, absolutely no flexibility and are looking for a viable way to turn their every day rewards into things which save them money when they need a getaway.

  2. What? Maybe I spend too much thought optimizing points, but these points are worth radically more than 1.25% if you’re even remotely thoughtful about spend and redemption on travel. To be fair, I primarily spend on entertainment / dining and travel (previously anyway). I am a fairly diehard Amex user, but the CSR is by far the best rewards card, close even to biz centurion airline MR rebate, but not a fair comp. Amex is by far the best customer service experience as they will solve almost any issue on the spot, Chase will not, but they’re well intentioned. To be clear, CSR is the best visa card available.

    1. As noted, this is about establishing baseline value. 1.25c per point or 1.5c per point is what Chase gives you on travel redemptions without any blackout dates. For many people, that’s easier to manage than transfers to a British Airline to book flights to Japan, by searching on United, for the off chance that a single seat in first is available. Should people strive for better? Sure. We mention how to do that, and link to a helpful guide with examples of like up to 10c per point, but it’s not for everyone.

  3. To me, “Pay Yourself Back” is not a bad way to spend UR points, at least when you have the CSR card. Those who advocate converting UR points into airline miles, for example, seemingly base their position on the assumption that premium airline seats are readily available for the taking at a “reasonable” redemption rate. In my experience, there was a time when they were, but they are not now. I regret having converted hundreds of thousands of UR points to United miles, which are still sitting in my Mileageplus account rotting away. Currently I do not have any frequent flyer program-affiliated credit card.

    1. I tend to agree. My feeling is that the points and miles die hards have little appreciation for how little travel flexibility 90% of people around the world have. If I can find a first class seat worth $15k for 100,000 points round trip on the dates that work, lovely. If not, I’ll take solid value that allows me to travel when I need to.

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