Chase Ultimate Rewards Program Review

by Credit Card Wisdom on July 2, 2010

Chase Ultimate Rewards Program ReviewUpdate: After enrolling and using the Ultimate Rewards, I posted an updated review which you can read here.

If you haven’t heard about Chase Ultimate Rewards, you soon will. Chase announced today that they will be launching a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to promote enhancements to the Ultimate Rewards program and highlight some of its unique features.

Although I favor cash back over credit card rewards points, I must confess that I have a Chase Freedom® Visa in my wallet and use it to earn points (it can also can be used for cashback).  The Chase Freedom card, along with Chase Sapphire® Card, Ink and some Chase debit cards will all get linked into the Ultimate Rewards program. According to a press release from Chase, this will enhance redemption options. After visiting www.ultimaterewards.com, I think that’s true.

There was never anything wrong with the old Chase rewards interface; it was merely adequate. The new Ultimate Rewards site is very web 2.0:  aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate and rich with images. That’s all well and good, but a shiny new website isn’t a reason to hitch your wagon to a rewards program. Value is.  More precisely, point value.

In terms of point value, Chase points are better than most. As with American Express points, one Chase reward point tends to be worth one cent if you redeem enough of them for particular items. Presently, 2,000 points can get you a $20 check and 5,000 can get you a $50 giftcard. This is much better value than you can get with Citi Thank You Points or Bank of America Worldpoints.

Giftcard redemption options are pretty solid with Ultimate Rewards. They have a lot of gas stations, chain restaurants and retailers like Best Buy and Target available. To get the best value out of your points, however, you’ll need to save up 2,500 to 5,000 points.

Giftcards aside, the main changes to the Ultimate Rewards program are the travel and experiences sections. The travel section is very similar to Orbitz or Travelocity. You do a search, pick a flight and then can use a combination of points and cash to book your travel. Its pretty straightforward with an easy to use interface.

The experiences section will likely be heavily pitched in advertisements for the Ultimate Rewards program, though not everyone will be able to benefit, as many of the experiences are based in specific cities. Thus, if you live in Alabama and  want to learn stand up paddle boarding with pros, you’ll need to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of these experiences are interesting, but may prove elusive.

Overall, the Ultimate Rewards program is pretty good as far as points rewards programs go. There are a lot of redemption options and the current value of points is generally one cent. However, the downside to any points based rewards program is that the value of points can change at any time. Today, you could have enough points to take a private golf lesson with a PGA Pro. Tomorrow, you made need twice as many points for the same reward.  That’s why I prefer cash back credit cards.

Ultimately, I don’t think there’s any immediate need to be concerned about the value of Chase rewards points. They’re putting a lot of money behind the program and it would simply be bad business to devalue rewards points after luring in new customers. So, while I still think American Express has the best overall point reward program, the Ultimate Rewards program is probably the best points based program among the major Visa and Mastercard issuers.

For information on current Chase credit card offers, please see the Chase credit card section of CardWisdom.com where you can compare offers before applying online. You can also compare offers below.

Please wait

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

gregory burke December 1, 2010 at 8:31 am

Totally dissatisfied with this program. about 2 weeks ago my wife and I saw a pressure cooker that we liked for about 7600 points. we were also interested in a particular teakettle called Bonjour but decided to get the pressure cooker then build up points to get the kettle. since 11/26/10 to 11/30/10 i have been trying to get the  pressure cooker. the only message comes up that it is unavailable at this time and I should try later. not even the whole line of different pressure cookers shows up, the same results for the teakettles. I called Chase and lodged a complaint. they could not give me a reasonable explanation why this is so. i  can understand removing one product but two whole lines. if the lines are removed why not say the lines are discontinued instead of saying try again later?  how much later after 5 days. we really wanted this pressure cooker and are really disappointed.

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom December 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Greg,

I understand your frustration, but the good thing about the Ultimate Rewards program is that you can turn your points into cash and buy the item online. I typically recommend against using Ultimate Rewards or any other credit card points to buy merchandise. Often, it is much cheaper to buy these items with cash. With a different rewards program, you wouldn’t be able do so. But with Chase, you can just get a statement credit and go to Amazon and to find the item.

Reply

aman verma December 16, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I rate it 1 star. I cannot encash, I need to call them for hours to get 20 bucks.

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom December 17, 2010 at 3:24 am

Aman,

It sounds like you had a frustrating experience, but I have found redeeming rewards online to be easy. I just tested Ultimate Rewards to see if there were issues and I used the pay yourself back function to redeem 2,240 for a $22 purchase. It took a grand total of three minutes. With Chase, as with any credit card company, doing any business over the phone is a hassle. But if you use ultimaterewards.com, it really is pretty simple.

Reply

MarcoSuzi December 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I was purchasing 3 airline tickets thru Chase and found I had enough points to do so. After speaking with a very savvy agent, we decided that it would be more to my advantage to purchase the tickets on-line at a discount price and "pay myself back".  For three tickets I only paid approximately $48.00 !!! after I used the points to get reimbursed ! Going directly to Chase fr the tickets, I would have had to pay (after points) about an additional $85.00 !!! What a difference and thanks to the savvy agent, saved over 1/2 of the out-going portion.  Thank You, Chase!!

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom December 22, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Marco,

I’m glad to hear you had a great experience. In my calls, I’ve dealt with US reps and all have been helpful. This is one reason why I like this program. I think Chase is really putting a lot of effort into building it up to be of a similar quality to the American Express program and the pay yourself back option is by far its best feature. If only you could earn double points.

Reply

MarcoSuzi December 22, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Thank you!!

Reply

Dave January 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I have never had any problems with the rewards programs at Chase.  You can't blame issues that you have on technology, which seems to be the majority of complaints about this program.  My wife and I both love it and we wouldn't trade it for any other deal!

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom January 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Dave,

I think you nailed the issue. If you do everything online, the ultimate rewards program is very straightforward and easy to use. However, it is always a pain to deal with credit card companies on the phone, so I think the previous complaint could apply to any credit card rewards program.

Reply

Benji June 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I tried using the program for the 1st time and I’m very satisfied with it. I had been using my card as a credit card to buy gas and racked up points that way. Then this past week when I needed gas money I cashed in points and problem solved. The website is easy to use. From reading the replies on here I’ll stick with the cash back or “pay yourself back” options instead of purchasing anything through the rewards store. But still a great program. My girlfriend is thinking of leaving her bank and enrolling with Chase because I keep bragging about the rewards program.

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom June 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience. I really like this program and think it is neck and neck with American Express Membership Rewards in terms of quality and ease of use, but also superior in some ways because you can get in without a massive annual fee and you can get cash back, which you can’t with Amex.

Reply

Kelly July 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Good riddance. We booked a hotel room through chase ultimate rewards on our debit card…a room with a king size bed and a jacuzzi…we got to the hotel..not only was there no reservation..that room did not exist at that hotel…so we were left, out of town, with a room that didn’t exist, the hotel was booked up, and no where to stay…we spent 2 hours on the phone with them, attempting to book another hotel room, only to be told that they can’t do that because it requires it to be booked 24 hours in advance (they could have told us that 2 hours earlier) and we ended up having to track down a hotel on our own and pay $161 out of pocket….the whole thing ruined our evenings plans as well, as we spent 2 hours on the phone, had to drive to a new hotel, check in…we didn’t eat dinner until 10:30 pm (had planned to eat at 7:30/8pm) and couldn’t do our other plans for the night at all. We tried to get them to reimburse us for the hotel cost and they would only reimburse the difference between the rewards amount we had spent originally and the cost of the hotel..not the total cost.

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom July 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Kelly,

Was this a small hotel by any chance? I had a very similar issue with American Express and I had used a Platinum card to book the reservation. Essentially, I arrived, the person at the desk pretended I didn’t have a reservation even though I had a printed reservation. I called Amex and the best they could do was refund my money. I think you would have likely had the same problem if you had used any travel booking service, so while I am absolutely sympathetic, I think this issue was likely more the hotel’s fault and that Chase really didn’t have the ability to cover added expenses.

Reply

Amy W July 29, 2011 at 3:07 am

The Ultimate Rewards Travel company is separate from Chase. The rates published by Ultimate Rewards are loaded with their third party rates – which means – that after booking my reservation, I checked the website, and paid over $100 more for the stay than if I booked through the hotel directly. The booking was for 2 nights. This point system could actually entice you to buy at higher prices – does this bother anyone else?

Called Ultimate Rewards and they can’t adjust the booking. I’m going to call and cancel the card – having over 60K in points should buy close to market price options.

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom August 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Amy,

I think the discrepancy in points used vs total costs arises from how points are used towards for hotel taxes. I know with American Express membership rewards, hotel bookings drop the value of points from one cent to something less depending on the cost of hotel taxes, which can be a significant portion of the total bill. That is one possible reason.

Another could simply be that the price dropped after booking.

I haven’t used my Chase Sapphire points for travel in the system, but I cross checked airline expenses pretty extensively before writing my review and found them identical to other travel sites.

Reply

Ms Anonymous October 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I’ve been a loyal Chase Credit Card holder for the past 8 years or more. My credit score is about 826 (the last time I checked) and I always pay my monthly payments in full.
Last month, I had about 34000 Rewards points, and I needed to travel to Colorado, and immediately redeemed 30000 points towards a flight for about $400, out of which I had to pay $60 out of pocket.
Due to my conflicting schedule, I called back a few days later to get a price quote if I needed to reschedule my flight time. The price quote I was given was double what I would’ve originally paid, so I just told the representative to not bother changing anything, since there’s absolutely no way I’m paying about $600 for a flight. And she confirmed that nothing has been changed.
So! On September 29th, I arrived at the airport to print my ticket at the Frontier Airlines counter, and the system was prompting that there’s nothing under my name. A representative came over to assist me, and she checked on her computer, and to my shock, tells me that I’m due for a 9am flight on the 30th, not the 29th! She said there’s nothing she can do on her end as my credit card company had originally booked the ticket, and my best bet would be to contact them directly to see if they can buy another ticket. And so began a miserable day at the airport – I called the phone number that’s printed on the back of my Chase Freedom card. The person tells me, you’ve got the wrong #, call Chase Rewards and gives me the #. I call that #, that person says, you’ve got the wrong #, call the Travel Desk. I called the Travel Desk, and was able to explain my dilemma, and that person asks me to hold for a moment, comes back on the phone, and says I tried reaching so and so, but the office isn’t open yet (around 8am EST). Then I lashed out at that person, who seemed to be absolutely oblivious to the fact that I’m stranded at the airport and I needed to be in Denver by 1pm that day! He keeps telling me to calm down and be patient! Now a supervisor comes along, Heather, sounded new but assured me that she’ll find a solution here. She went to look on her “notes” that were apparently written by the previous Chase representatives whom I’ve had contact with since my original redemption of points toward the flight purchase. She found out that the problem stemmed out of that time when I had called a few days earlier for a price quote if I needed to reschedule my flight, that representative whom I spoke with, had intentionally or unintentionally, saved my flight as 9am on the 30th, as opposed to the original date of the 29th! Heather then looked around for flights departing out of Reagan Nat’l Airport to Denver that would reach there by 1pm. She found an American Airlines flight that would reach there around 1:20pm, but she said since it’s “last minute” flight, she’ll need to call her Manager to approve this purchase. So, I waited another few minutes, and Heather told me that she left a message on her manager’s phone and waiting to get the approval for the purchase, which she did a few minutes later. Now atlast I was able to board the 10am flight at the last minute! BUT! To reach Denver, I’ll need to change over at the Chicago airport, something I dreaded since I had originally specifically asked for a non-stop. However, I needed to get on a plane- no matter what- so I did. I landed in Chicago – on time – and as I waited at the terminal to catch my connecting flight, the American Airlines rep. announced on the PA system that they’re experiencing mechanical problems with the plane and the decision announcement will be made at 12pm (the time it was supposed to fly out). There was nothing else to do but wait and then finally they said, the plane is ready to depart. So, in total the delay time of departure was about half an hour. Which will now lead to another delay in my arrival. Mind you that I’m already late for my 1pm arrival time which was critical. So, after everything that I went through, I finally landed Denver at about 2:30pm, Thurday the 29th.
Finally on Saturday I had some time to breathe, and contacted Chase because I never received an email to confirm my return flight! Again, after speaking to about 3 people, I specifically asked for Heather, who had originally helped me – the rep told me that she’s here at work. So, while I was waiting for her, another person “Allison” – I think was her name – picked up the phone and said she’s another one of the supervisors, and told me that Heather is on break. So, I explained to her what I had gone through and I needed to know about my return flight. She gave me the information and assured me that she’ll send me an email and I gave her my email address. Then I told her that I’ve gone through so much trouble and I needed to be compensated for it – she was reluctant, and she said something to the effect of “has Heather started anything on this?” And in my mind I’m thinking, Geez – I was so preoccupied just trying to get on a plane, let alone have the time and really the sense to see how I can be compensated for going through this much trouble all because one of the Chase employees had made a mistake in my itinerary. Allison then said that she’ll have Heather contact me. I gave her my phone #, all the while knowing that I will not be contacted. Now today is Wednesday – four days since that phone conversation – and true to my instinct, no phone calls yet.
A person in my flight to Denver told me that she was given a $350 voucher by American Airlines because they asked her if she could get on a different flight, and she did. For that little inconvenience, AA compensated her, and I went through all that trouble because of Chase, and I’m being told that they’ll call me back.

Absolutely flabbergasted and truly disgusted,
Ms. Anonymous

This message is followed by letter of complaint to the head of the Chase Rewards program and the head of the company.

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom October 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Ms. Anonymous,

After reading you story, I’m actually impressed by what Chase was able to do. I realize a mistake was made with the original flight, but the fact they corrected it for you and set you up for a new flight reflects well on them. I understand your frustrations were compounded by the airline’s delay, but there was nothing Chase could do about that. Thus, while I understand your frustration, I think Chase actually did a great job resolving your problem as best as they could.

Reply

Ms Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm

So. You’re telling me that I should applaud Chase for doing what they’re supposed to do in the first place? Sounds a little ludicrous, don’t you think?

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom October 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I’m not in any way saying they didn’t make a mistake with your original flight, but I do think if you were dealing with Travelocity or Orbitz or some other online travel service, I highly doubt you would have been helped out and put on a flight that – if the airline didn’t mess up – would have gotten you to your destination on time. I completely understand your frustration, but I also read your comment thoroughly and was surprised they were able and willing to handle the flight change without slapping you with a huge fee.

Reply

L Yoder February 9, 2012 at 2:09 am

I redeemed my points for a flight. After I booked the flight I wanted to talk to someone to see if I could make changes to my trip. Beings it was within minutes of submitting it I thought there might be a possibility that I could change it. So I call the number that was labeled “to make changes to your trip call ### ### ####” and obviously was put on hold after the automated voice says the wait is about 1 min. I have spent about 90 min. on hold now and have not spoken to anybody. Totally reminds me of Peggy from USA Prime Credit….. FRUSTRATED!!!!!

Reply

Credit Card Wisdom February 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I’m very surprised about that. I know this doesn’t help now (and also sorry about the delayed response) but the best bet to deal with those situations is to use the number on the back of your card and have a customer service agent get you connected to the partner. I’ve used this method before, especially if I need to contact an airline and don’t have an hour to wait on hold.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: