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104,000 points. That’s an oddly specific number, no?
It is, but it’s the minimum number of Chase Ultimate Rewards points you’ll have after meeting the minimum spend requirement of $4,000 in your first 3 months to earn the welcome bonus on your new Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
The bonus is 100,000 points, and you’ll get at least one point per dollar spent, although with double points on broad categories like travel and dining out, you’ll more than likely have somewhere between 105,000 and 107,000 points, depending on your spending habits.
That balance will obviously continue to grow as you use the card after reaching the minimum spend requirement and are awarded the bonus.
If you want it to grow really quickly, there’s one other card with a 100,000 point bonus — the Chase Ink Business Preferred. You have to have some kind of business to get the card, and the minimum spend is quite a bit higher at $15,000 in the first 3 months.
Once you’ve racked up an impressive point balance, you’ll want to do something with those points. Unlike your cash and investments, rewards points don’t earn interest, so sitting on them doesn’t really do you much good.
There are quite a few options when you go to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and some of them are definitely better than others.
For the sake of completeness, I’ll mention some options that I would never recommend, mainly so that you’re not nudged into wasting your points unnecessarilty. The better redemption options will come later down the list.
#1 Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Shop Directly at Amazon
Or don’t, I should say. Charge your Prime Day purchases directly to a credit card that gives you more points like the co-branded card that offers 5% back on Amazon purchases.
For one thing, you won’t earn any points when buying stuff with your Chase UR points at Amazon.com.
More importantly, the redemption rate is lousy. With my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the 160,946 points I’ve racked up are worth a measly $1,287.57 when used to shop at Amazon. That’s about 0.8 cents per point.
Remember what Nancy Reagan told you and Just Say No to this option.
#2 Buy Gift Cards
You can use your points to buy gift cards for hundreds of popular restaurants and stores. Gift cards can make great gifts, which I suppose is why they call them that.
While I’m not a huge fan of using points for gift cards, when the cards are on sale, this may be a viable option if you were planning to spend money with that merchant regardless.
This is especially true if you don’t have a Sapphire card that is more valuable when redeemed for travel or other redemptions, as we’ll cover below.
Most gift card options are valued at 1 cent per point, but your points can go a bit further with select redemption options. Below are the cards that are discounted in June of 2021.
#3 Get Cash Back
This is a very simple option to take, and if you never, ever travel, it might actually be your best bet, although the Pay Yourself Back option (see #8) is a better option if you are a Sapphire cardholder.
The points are worth 1 cent apiece when you get straight cash back, so 104,000 points gets you $1,040. When you consider that you only had to spend $4,000 to get $1,040 back, that’s like getting an additional 26% discount on everything you purchased with that first $4,000 charged to the Sapphire Preferred card!
You can choose to have the cash deposited to the bank account of your choice or apply it as a credit to your statement balance.
#4 Buy Apple Products Directly
From time to time (including at the time of this article’s publication), your Chase Ultimate Rewards points go further when buying Apple products with your points.
Using the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you get 1.25 cents per point. With the Sapphire Reserve card, your points will be 1.5 cents each when used to buy Apple products. The same ratio will apply to direct travel booking, as we’ll discuss below.
You can use your points to buy an iPhone, iMac, Beats headphones, and pretty much everything else Apple sells. For example, using my Sapphire Reserve card, I can get a $999 MacBook Air for 66,600 points. Using a Sapphire Preferred card, the same MacBook would set you back 79,920 points.
#5 Transfer Points to a More Valuable Card
Chase gives you the option of combining points. If you’re earning UR points on a Chase Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited card, you can transfer them to a Sapphire card where the points are more valuable.
In this example, I had just under 10,000 points on my Chase Freedom card (where I earned 5 points per dollar on gasoline in the second quarter of 2021). I transferred them to my Sapphire Preferred card where I can redeem the points for travel (or Apple products if I were an iGuy) at 1.5 cents per point.
You can also transfer points to a spouse’s card. Let say you have the Preferred card and your partner has the Reserve. The smart move would be to move the points to the account with the Reserve card. If you’re paying that $550 annual fee, you might as well get the most bang for your buck!
#6 Redeem Directly for Travel via the Chase Portal
If you’ve ever used Expedia to compare prices or book travel, then the Chase portal will look very familiar. It’s powered by the Expedia search engine.
You can search for flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more. You’ll get results from most major airlines, hotel chains, and car rental companies, and the cost is usually the same cost you’ll find when booking directly on the companies’ websites.
This is a great option for those who aren’t interested in looking into transferring points to Chase’s travel partners or participating in the various travel companies’ reward programs.
It’s also a great way to use points when you find an exceptionally low price on airfare or a hotel stay. It might be a waste of points to transfer them to a travel partner when the dollar cost of the travel you want to take is so low.
Below, you’ll see a few screenshots from my recent booking of a nonstop flight from Chicago to Minneapolis and a couple of nights at a nice hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
The 4 one-way flights cost me 17,706 points, and 2 nights at the Hilton set me back 16,572 points. That adds up just shy of 1/3 of the 104,000 points you can currently earn quickly with a new Sapphire Preferred card.
That means I could potentially book 12 one-way flights in this price range and 6 nights at a 4-star Hilton with my 104,000 points! That’s a lot of travel.
Note that if you’ve received a welcome bonus on either Sapphire card in the previous 48 months, you will not be eligible to receive the bonus again. Also, if you’ve opened 5 or more new credit card accounts in the last 24 months, Chase will probably deny your application. They like to discourage card churning behavior.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent first (or only) card with an all-time high welcome bonus! New in 8/2021 is a $50 annual hotel credit for bookings via the Chase UR tavel portal & 5x points for all travel via the portal. 3x points on dining, 2x on other travel. Flexible rewards good for cash, travel, or transfer to travel partners, great travel protection and perks, plus Peloton, Lyft & DoorDash perks!
#7 Pay Yourself Back
This is similar to the cash back option, but you actually get a lot more cash back!
I’ll be honest; I only discovered this option when doing research for this post, and I’m glad I did. The redemption value is identical to purchasing travel via the Chase Travel Portal — 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred card and 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve.
Only select transactions will be eligible — currently including travel, grocery stores, home improvement stores, and dining — and you can only pay yourself back for charges made in the last 90 days.
For some reason, you can only select 12 charges at a time to be reimbursed for, but you can submit Pay Yourself Back requests back-to-back-to-back until you run out of eligible purchases to be paid back for.
#8 Donate Money
As part of the Pay Yourself Back feature, you can be reimbursed for donations to select charities.
Simply make the donation on your credit card and later request reimbursement for those charges by using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
If you itemize deductions, you should still be able to claim the charitable donation. Yes, you are later cashing in some points for a cash amount equal to what you donated, but remember that money is fungible. Those are two separate transactions that may be connected, but the charity still received the money you sent them.
Personally, I prefer to make donations via a donor advised fund, and the charities would presumably prefer to avoid the credit card transaction fees, but any program that encourages donations to charitable organizations is A-OK in my book.
Donations to these charities are eligible for the Pay Yourself Back option:
- American Red Cross
- Equal Justice Initiative
- Feeding America
- Habitat for Humanity
- International Medical Corporation
- Leadership Education Fund
- NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
- National Urban League
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund
- United Negro College Fund
- United WayWorld Central Kitchen
#9 Transfer Points to Airline Frequent Flyer Programs
This is where you can truly get the most bang for your buck.
You also have to put in the most effort, but redemptions at 2 cents per point or better are not uncommon. If you like to travel business or first class, you may do even better.
United and Southwest are probably the two most popular U.S. airlines that are direct travel partners, but there are quite a few others, including
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- Air France / KLM
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
If you want to book a Delta flight, you can usually find them with Air France / KLM (a SkyTeam Alliance airline like Delta) or via Virgin Atlantic (a non-SkyTeam partner of Delta — Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic).
For American Airlines, again, they’re not a direct travel partner, but as part of the OneWorld Alliance, you can find their flights on member airlines British Airways and Iberia.
It will take a bit more time than a direct booking via the Chase Portal, and you must first join the rewards program of the airline before you can transfer points there.
However, if you find that you can book a flight at a redemption offering better than 1.5 cents per point (always compare the cash cost to the point redemption cost), it may very well be worth your time and effort.
Note that points typically must be transferred in 1,000 point increments.
#10 Transfer Points to Hotel Rewards Programs
You’ve got 3 options here, but given the award charts, you’re most likely to the best redemptions with the World of Hyatt program, where hotel nights start at only 3,500 points.
Your other 2 options are the many chains under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella and the IHG hotels, which are anchored by the Holiday Inn chains.
As you should with the airline redemptions, always compare the cash price to the number of points you’ll have to use to get the same room. You may find, particularly when searching higher-end Hyatt hotels, that you may find redemptions in the 2 to 3 cent per point range.
Anything better than 1.5 cents per point is a solid redemption. Happy hunting!
Chase Sapphire Preferred versus Chase Sapphire Reserve
You probably noticed that the Sapphire Reserve card gives you better redemption credit when booking travel via the Chase Portal, shopping for Apple products, and using the Pay Yourself Back option.
You do pay a price for that premium, as the Reserve card is a premium card with an annual fee to match. Currently, the annual fee is $550. That can be partially offset with a $300 travel credit that’s automatically applied, essentially making the annual fee $250.
For that, you get the better redemption options, free entry for 3 people into Priority Pass airport lounges, more Peloton reimbursement ($120 in 2021 versus $60 for the Preferred card) and a few other perks.
The Sapphire Preferred card has the much higher welcome bonus, besting the Reserve by 40,000 points (a $500+ higher value) and the annual fee is substantially lower at $95.
Both cards give you excellent travel perks, although the Reserve card does add medical evacuation coverage on trips of up to 60 days in length.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent first (or only) card with an all-time high welcome bonus! New in 8/2021 is a $50 annual hotel credit for bookings via the Chase UR tavel portal & 5x points for all travel via the portal. 3x points on dining, 2x on other travel. Flexible rewards good for cash, travel, or transfer to travel partners, great travel protection & new Peloton, Lyft & DoorDash perks! $95 Annual Fee
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers great travel perks including Priority Pass lounge access, a credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ and a $300 annual travel credit. When using Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, get 10x points on hotels and car rental & 5x points on air travel. 3x points on other travel & dining. Elevated Peloton, Lyft and DoorDash benefits. $550 Annual Fee
If you’re a frequent traveler that enjoys the airport lounges, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may be worth the extra cost.
If not, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, with its current all-time-high welcome bonus, is a great all-around travel rewards card that deserves a prominent place in your wallet.
Finally, don’t forget to consider the Chase Ink Business Preferred for another 115,000+ points if you are a business owner who plans to spend $15,000 in the first 3 months with the card.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred offers 3 points per $1 spent on travel & select business categores. 1 point per dollar on all else. No foreign transaction fees (unlike other Chase Ink Business cards. $95 annual fee.
Now start planning what you’ll do when you’ve got an extra 104,000 points to play around with!
Physician on FIRE has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Physician on FIRE and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.