Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards
February 21, 2012

I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Yes, it does get a little bit annoying when inevitably every store clerk gawks and asks me about it, but the value proposition of the entire Ultimate Rewards program trumps any minor inconveniences (like Payless Car rental rejecting it because they couldn’t take a manual imprint of the numbers since they are printed on the card and not raised).

For the longest time I thought American Express Membership Rewards points were the only way to go. I have been an American Express customer for years and have been using Membership Rewards points since I was a teenager. I still think American Express Membership Rewards is a good program. I put a lot of my spend on my Premier Rewards Gold Card (domestic) and Platinum (international) cards, however after becoming more familiar with Chase Ultimate Rewards, I find there are five areas where the Chase Ultimate Rewards excels.

1) There is no fee to transfer points. American Express charges $6 per 10,000 points transferred to US frequent flyer programs for a “Airline Excise Tax Offset Fee.” Chase charges no such fees. To test this, I just transferred 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Continental and after a quick confirmation, they were instantly in my account. I tried to do the same thing with Amex and had to pay 60 cents. Not horrible, but if you do a 100,000 point transfer you are looking at $60 in fees.

2) Chase is very flexible with external transfers. Unlike Amex, you don’t need to go through a linking process before transferring points. Chase just asks for the name of the person you want to transfer to (and it doesn’t have to be you). A couple clicks later and the transaction is done. This is amazingly helpful when family/friends need to top up accounts and you can come in and save the day, saving them potentially hundreds of dollars from having to buy miles directly from the airlines. Chase’s transfers are all instantaneous, whereas some of American Express’ can take several days (for partners like ANA and Singapore). American Express also lets you transfer to other people, but I just feel like Chase’s process is easier and more efficient.

3) Chase is very flexible with internal transfers. Chase allows points to be transferred to anyone else! For example, my friend who moved to Madrid had 2,000 points leftover in her Freedom account. She wasn’t going to use them, so she transferred them to me for free  (all we had to do was enter my Sapphire Preferred credit card number). Instantly I had 2,000 points that could be transferred to either Continental, British Airways, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club or Amtrak. Awesome.

4) Ultimate Rewards Mall shopping points are reliable and post quickly. Last year I posted about 2,500- and 4,500-point deals for signing up for Stamps.com and  Pitney Bowes. Within 2 weeks I had those points in my account – normally you need to wait months and often track down vendors for your rightful points. So kudos to Chase for running a tight ship at the Ultimate Rewards shopping mall.

5) As a result of the flexible transferability of points, with Chase you can maximize the points you earn by taking advantage of other cards. For example, the no-fee Freedom card (which also comes with a 20,000 point sign-up bonus) gives 5 points per dollar on specific categories during the year. The Freedom card is supposed to be a cashback card, but instead you can transfer those points and major bonuses to your Ultimate Rewards account and then transfer them to the programs of your choice. So each quarter you can be earning 5 airline/hotel miles per every dollar spent in the category spend up to $1,500 quarterly. If this sounds confusing I highlighted this strategy in this post.

FYI the bonus categories for Q1 (January-March) are:
Gas Stations

To be fair, American Express blows Chase out of the water in several areas, like breadth of transfer partners and transfer bonuses, but I’ll save that argument for another post.

Overall, I am really impressed with the Ultimate Rewards program and hope they continue to add transfer partners like the recent additions of United and Southwest. Whatever happens, I think it’s a good thing that there is competition on the market and I’d love for Citi, Capital One and any other major credit card player to start transferable points programs. The more options the better!

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