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- The Points Guy
- You can combine balances from multiple Chase cards for bigger rewards.
- Different cards offer unique bonuses on various purchase categories.
- Combine your Chase Ultimate Rewards points with a household member to earn even more together.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are among the most valuable and flexible of any credit card reward program. With a long list of airline and hotel transfer partners and its own booking portal, you can use Ultimate Rewards points to subsidize or cover the cost of a trip to nearly any destination in the world.
If you have the travel bug, you know how much flights and hotel nights can add up when taking just a short weekend away. When you turn that into a week or longer or add an international component, the cost can easily pass the $1,000 mark and beyond.
Follow these strategies to get the most possible points for every dollar you spend.
Restaurants and travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Start your Ultimate Rewards point collection when paying for restaurant and travel purchases. The Chase Sapphire Reserve pays 3x points per dollar for purchases coded to these categories. The only card that pays a better value for travel rewards on restaurant purchases is the American Express® Gold Card at 4x points per dollar.
The Reserve currently offers a 50,000-point bonus to new cardholders after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening a new account. That is worth $750 when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and perhaps more when transferring to a partner airline.
While the card has a steep $450 annual fee, it is easy to see how you can get more value from it than the cost. To start, you get a $300 credit on the first $300 in travel purchases you make each year. The card also includes Priority Pass lounge access, a credit worth up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every four years, travel and purchase protections, and those valuable points you earn from each purchase.
Rotating bonus categories: Chase Freedom
The “everything else” purchase categories only give you 1 point per dollar with Chase Sapphire Reserve, so we have to look elsewhere to earn more when not shopping at restaurants or travel providers. One great way to do that is with the Chase Freedom.
The Freedom gives you 5% cash back on all purchases up to $1,500 per quarter in rotating bonus categories. For Q1 2019, that includes gas stations, drugstores, and toll purchases. But you don’t have to take that as cash back. When you also have a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card, you can turn that cash back into points at a 1 cent = 1 point ratio.
That means you get an effective 5x points per dollar in those rotating categories. But even if the category isn’t useful to you for a quarter here and there, the card has no annual fee. As long as you pay it off in full each month, it doesn’t cost you a thing and it can further boost your Ultimate Rewards balance.
Everything else: Chase Freedom Unlimited
Now you are earning 3x points per dollar on restaurants and travel, 5x on the rotating bonus categories, and 1x everywhere else. We are finally going to fix that 1x to give you a little more. In my family, my wife has a Chase Freedom Unlimited card we use for “everything else” purchases at a 1.5% cash-back rate.
Just like the Chase Freedom card, this one gives you an option to turn that into points at 1 cent = 1 point. That gives you an effective 1.5x cash back on everything else with no annual fee.
This is a great card overall, and earning a minimum 1.5x points per dollar is pretty good. Considering that Chase points are often worth around 2 cents each, that gives you a minimum earning rate of a 3% equivalent cash back on every purchase.
Business: Ink Business Preferred or Ink Business Cash
If you also own your own business, you can earn even more bonus points with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or Ink Business Cash Credit Card. With Ink Cash, just do the same trick to turn your cash back into points at the 1:1 ratio.
Ink Business Preferred pays 3x points per dollar on up to $150,000 in combined purchases per year on travel, shipping, telecom services (internet, phone, and cable), and online advertising at major search engines and social media sites. It currently offers an 80,000-point bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. It charges a $95 annual fee.
Ink Business Cash has no annual fee and gives you 5x points per dollar on the first $25,000 in purchases per year at office supply stores and on telecom services. Get 2x on the first $25,000 in purchases on gas and restaurants. It currently offers a $500 bonus (that’s worth 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Combine points for the biggest awards
Your points are not stuck with each card. You can log in to your Chase account to merge, combine, and transfer balances between cards.
You can combine balances with one member of the same household. If you are married or live with a committed partner, you can build balances together and combine them for a big award booking of your dreams.