“I’m just starting out earning points, since my current card only earns…interest.  What’s a good card to start with?”

a young boy holding a cell phone

Ok you’re probably a bit too young for this (or are you?)

I get that question a lot from friends, family, and followers.  And, of course, the answer is: it depends.  “Well that seems like a cop-out,” people say.  Ok ok, we’ll start with the basics, covering the Big Three: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Starpoints.  These are flexible point currencies that are useful with a variety of airlines and hotels.

Here are four easy steps to understand Chase Ultimate Rewards.

1. How to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Chase awards Ultimate Rewards points for spending money on a variety of cards, including (at the time of this posting): Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus, JP Morgan Palladium, JP Morgan Select.  If you have one of the above cards, you can also transfer Chase Freedom card points into your Ultimate Rewards account.  (source: chase.com)

2. The best way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred.  This card is the best because you earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining (3 points for every dollar spent in restaurants on the first Friday of each month, gift cards anyone?) and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.  Sign-up bonuses for the card usually stay between 40,000-50,000 points after a reasonable introductory spending requirement.  There are also no foreign transaction fees, it’s a chipped card, and the annual fee is $95.

(If you’d like to support the blog, let me know if you’re interested in signing up for this card at andystravelblog at gmail [dot] com and I can send you a referral link to an application)

3. How to travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Ultimate Rewards are very flexible, which is why it’s such a versatile program.  There are two ways of using your points: fixed value redemption or points transfer.  Fixed value redemptions are simple: you get 1.25 cent of value towards travel per point.  You can redeem this for travel on any airline and any flight.  These flights aren’t classified as award flights (you should earn miles for flying them), Chase will basically buy the ticket for you in exchange for your points.

Points transfers are where the Ultimate Rewards program shines.  You can transfer your points 1 for 1 to the following programs:

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Ultimate Rewards transfer partners (chase.com)

So you have 60,000 points available.  You could redeem these points for a $750 ticket somewhere in coach, or instead you could fly on Singapore Airlines A380 in Suites Class to Frankfurt.  No international plans in the works?  Use British Airways Avios points to fly on American’s substantial domestic network.  The airlines available cover all of the major alliances: Oneworld (British Airways), Star Alliance (United and Singapore Airlines), and Skyteam (Korean Air).

4. The best redemption values with Ultimate Rewards.

Points Transfer to British Airways Avios for domestic travel in the USA – as I mentioned above, the Avios program can lead to some great redemption values, since they’re a distance-based program (not zone-based like American).  I’m based in DFW, so I’m in the middle of these United States, close to almost anything.  If I fly DFW-New Orleans, for example, I’d pay upwards of 25000 AAdvantage miles with American’s program.  That same trip with British Airways Avios would cost 9000 points.

Points Transfer to Hyatt Gold Passport – Hyatt has some of the nicest hotels in the world, a few of which I’ve sampled in ParisDubai, and Hong Kong.  Even the nicest property in Hyatt’s network will only set you back 30,000 points/night (compared to 90,000 at Hilton, 45,000 at Marriott, and 70,000 at Ritz Carlton).

IHG Rewards PointBreaks – IHG has a really wide network of hotels both domestically in the US and abroad (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Staybridge Suites are examples of their brands).  They have a PointBreaks program from time to time where you can book nights at participating hotels for 5000 points/night.  Current participating hotels are here.


Chase has neither read nor reviewed the above, the content, editorial, and opinions are solely mine.  As always, this stuff is true at the time of posting and these programs can change at any time (I’ll try to keep you apprised of any large-scale changes of course) so please read the terms and conditions of any offer before signing up.

Please leave any questions in the comments!

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