5 Worst Ways to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards

Anyone who swipes credit cards on a regular basis knows they’re a great way to earn rewards for yourself. And, you probably already know that the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is one of the best credit card rewards programs available.

Benefits of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Card

Personally, I love it and utilize it to get cash back, free travel, and more – all for just using my cards responsibly! In fact, as a gigantic credit card rewards enthusiast, it’s easily my favorite program out there for a number of reasons.

For example, your points can be transferred to over a dozen big-name travel partners like Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, and British Airways. They also make travel booking travel a breeze through their Chase portal. Plus, you can always get good old cash back!

One option that typically provides a ton of value is transferring Chase points to Southwest Airlines for free flights. Although earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points through your Southwest Visa card is one way to fly for free, a better way is to use your Chase card to earn points. Those points can then be transferred to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. Since Ultimate Rewards points can also be transferred to other airline and hotel partners, you won’t get stuck with a bunch of Rapid Rewards points you can’t use. It’s a win-win!

Of course, with so many options for redeeming rewards with Chase, not every redemption is a winner. If you’re planning to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards anytime soon, it pays to avoid the worst redemptions of the bunch.

Worst Ways to Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards

While these redemptions are better than getting nothing, they’re definitely not a great way to maximize your points. Here are a few of our least favorite redemption options.

1) Low-Value Gift Cards

Most of the gift cards available through Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth one cent per point. Unfortunately, some gift cards are valued much lower than that. You might have to blow 30,000 points to get a $25 gift card. (Do the math – it’s an awful exchange rate!)

Since Chase gives so many other options that assign a higher value to your points, it’s just best to avoid these low-value cards. I’d advise you to only pick gift cards that pay you at least one cent per point.

2) Redeeming Chase Rewards for Merchandise

I almost never recommend using your credit card points to get merchandise. Compared to other redemption options (like travel), redeeming your points for merch typically offers a terrible return on your points. Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so valuable, this is an especially bad choice with this program.

Remember how we said you should only take gift cards if they give you at least a penny per point? That same rule of thumb applies when it comes to merchandise redemptions. Sometimes you can only get half a cent for each point when spending them on merchandise! That’s a terrible deal.

Again, before spending your points, be sure that you’re getting a minimum return of at least one cent per point on products and merchandise. Honestly, if you’re wanting to go this route, you’d be better off going with a cash back rewards card instead. Save your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for something that will pack a lot more value.

3) Not Price-Checking Before Transferring Points to a Chase Partner

Here’s an old-school rule you can apply to all of your spending decisions: Always check prices before you buy. The same thing goes when you’re getting ready to spend your points.

The last thing you want to do with your Chase points is to transfer them to a partner loyalty program without checking the true cost of the hotel or flight first. In fact, sometimes it pays not to transfer your points to partner programs at all. While it’s certainly not always the case, occasionally your points might stretch further if you book through the Chase portal than directly with the partners.

This is a hiccup that I’ve most commonly noticed when it comes to booking hotel rooms. By failing to check prices, you may not realize that – by booking directly through the hotel – you may be paying a much higher point value per night than you’d pay through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Sometimes, this might be as much as a 10,000 or 20,000-point difference!  That’s a ton of value lost, so just be sure to check the point “prices” before you transfer those points from your Ultimate Rewards account.

4) Transferring Points to British Airways for Flights to Europe

Flights to Europe on British Airways tend to lean on the expensive side. Those high prices are largely due to some pesky added costs – like massive taxes and fuel surcharges that are common on their transatlantic flights.

British Airways itineraries to London and other popular European destinations might be great, but there are often better ways to get there if you want to get the most value from your Chase points. Take a look at options like transferring your points to Flying Blue and hopping on a Delta flight instead. You’ll skip the majority of the extra charges and save yourself a boatload of points.

On the other hand, using your points for short-haul British Airways flights is usually a much better deal. Flying domestic can offer some super valuable redemptions on your Chase points!

5) Buying Unnecessary Stuff Just to Earn More Points

This piece of advice applies to more than just Chase Rewards, it holds true for every credit card rewards program: Don’t use rewards cards to justify foolish spending!

Credit card rewards are a fabulous tool…but only when used responsibly. Cards are great when you use them for your normal expenses, earning rewards on purchases you would have made anyway. After all, you need to buy groceries and fuel for your vehicle, right? Why not put those purchases on a rewards card, knowing you’ll earn a percentage back in some form of rewards?

The danger, though, is stumbling into the mindset that it’s OK to spend more to earn extra rewards. It’s not. Remember, many of these rewards offer just a penny or two in redemptions for every dollar you spend. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that it’s a bad idea to spend hundreds of dollars more than needed in the name of earning additional rewards.

With that said, if you’re smart enough to keep your spending in check, Chase Rewards are terrific. Never buy more than you need or blow your budget just for rewards points!

Avoiding the Worst Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemptions

As you can see, Chase Ultimate Rewards offers some great ways to get some free benefits! Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to waste those valuable points as well.

To get the most out of the points you’ve earned, it pays to be smart. Avoid the worst redemptions and target those redemptions that will provide the highest per-point value you can find. You took the time to earn those Chase points. Be sure to weigh your options so you can make the most of them!


Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. He is the co-owner of the popular blog Club Thrifty, where he teaches others how to spend less and travel more.

Totally agree with Point #5. Sometimes we spend too much just to acquire those extra points we want.

Thanks for the tips. We’ve spent a lot to earn those points and at least we could find a good value on how to redeem our rewards.

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