To get the most out of any credit card rewards program, you've got to know how to work it. Here's how serious travel hackers get more free travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards®---and how you can, too.

Marketing speak can be a real turn-off: Companies always claim to offer the “greatest” this or the “most incredible” that, but the reality often falls short. By calling its credit card rewards program “Chase Ultimate Rewards®,” Chase is basically begging you to differ.

In this case, however, the actual benefits of the program live up to the promise of its pretentious name.

Most people, unfortunately, will only get minimal value from the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, since it can be confusing. The key to getting this program to live up to its name is to understand the best ways to earn the most points and the ideal way to spend them.

Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards® points

Chase offers several credit cards that give you Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for every dollar you spend. Each card has different features and benefits, and you need to hold the right combination of cards to earn the most points.

Here’s a brief rundown of what Chase offers:

Chase Freedom Flex℠

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The Chase Freedom Flex℠  offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.

Cardholders can earn $200 cash back after spending $500 within three months of account opening. Cash back rewards never expire, so if you’re trying to travel for less, the goal is to gain as many points are possible. Other incentives with the Chase Freedom Flex℠  is you’ll earn 5% cash back on travel purchases when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining, takeout, and drug store purchases, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

There is no annual fee for this card; so lots of opportunities to save toward your next trip.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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This card offers double points on all dining and travel expenses, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Rewards can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points, or redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards travel reservations.

There is a $95 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees. New applicants earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening.

Chase Ink Plus®

This business card offers 5x points on all purchases from office supply stores and on all telecommunications purchases such as phone, television, and Internet service. You also get double points at gas stations and hotels, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Rewards can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points, or redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards travel reservations. There is a 60,000 point bonus for new cardmembers who spend $5,000 within three months, and there’s a $95 annual fee for this card.

Chase Ink Cash®

Earn five percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.

Points can only be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, and merchandise.

You’ll also get two percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year, plus 1 percent cash back on everything else.

This card offers $300 bonus cash when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

There’s no annual fee for this card.

Choosing the right card(s)

What’s great about the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program is that you can transfer points between the different cards you have, and even between your spouse or domestic partner. The best way to max out this feature is to have multiple cards that you use for different purchases.

Start with a cash-back card—either Freedom Unlimited or Freedom-–which will earn you rewards on every purchase, but don’t allow you to transfer points to airline miles. If you really want to max out your rewards, you should get:

  • Both Freedom and Freedom Unlimited or
  • Freedom or Freedom Unlimited and Ink or Ink Cash or Ink Plus

Finally, you need a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to get bonuses for travel and dining. With this combination, you will get a minimum of 1.5 points on all of your purchases, and as much as five points on many of them. Use this strategy, and your balances of points will soar.

Transferring your rewards to points and miles

As long as you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus card, then you can get the most value from your points by strategically transferring them to seven different airlines and four different hotel partners.

You can then redeem points and miles for expensive reservations such as luxury hotel rooms, last minute flights, or seats in business or first class.

There are many great deals that you can take advantage of when you transfer your points to airlines and hotels, but here are a few:

  • British Airways Avios—You can redeem them for flights on American Airlines. 7,500 points gets you any one-way flight that’s 1,151 miles or less.
  • Korean Air SkyPass—Get a round-trip, first-class award to Hawaii on Delta. Economy class is just 25,000 points.
  • Singapore Airlines—Enjoy their incredible First Class Suites for 91,375 miles one-way between Los Angeles and Singapore.
  • Southwest—Your points are worth about 1.4 cents each towards any flights in their “Wanna Get Away” fare class.
  • Hyatt Gold Passport Program—You can enjoy free night stays starting at just 5,000 points. This program allows points to be redeemed for free nights in any unsold room with no blackout dates.

Summary

The Chase Ultimate Rewards® program is incredibly valuable, but only if you know how to max it out. By using the right credit cards to earn the most points, and transferring those points to airlines and hotel, you can stretch your rewards further than you may have thought.

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About the author

Total Articles: 35
Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards, travel and personal finance since 2008, and is passionate about using his cards to travel for free. Jason contributes to many of the top personal finance and travel sites and has been widely quoted in mainstream media as a credit card expert. Jason lives in Denver Colorado where he enjoys bicycling, snowboarding and flying. You can follow Jason on Twitter, Facebook or on his website.