Update: 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.