It’s very rare that I’ll read something and act on it immediately. However, when I read speculation online about possible changes to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, I did just that. Here’s what I’ve been reading and how you can protect yourself, with no downside risk. First, here’s a little background information that will be important later. (If you’re already familiar with Ultimate Rewards and transfer partners you can skip to the bottom of the article):
Ultimate Rewards is the program run by Chase where you earn points that can be used in many different ways. How you’re able to use your points depends on what type of card you earned the points with.
Several Chase cards with no-annual fees earn Ultimate Rewards Points. These are:
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Chase Sapphire (no longer taking applications)
- Chase Ink Cash Business
- Chase Ink Business Unlimited
With these no-annual-fee cards, you’re able to redeem your points for cash back, gift cards, travel (booked through Chase) and to pay for things on Amazon.com
There are also “premium” Chase cards that charge annual fees from $95 to $450
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Ink Business Preferred
- Chase Ink Plus (no longer taking applications)
- Chase Ink Bold (no longer taking applications)
If you have one of these cards, Chase allows you to use points in all the same ways as the no-annual-fee cards. You do get extra value (25 to 50 percent) when booking travel through the Chase portal, depending on which card you have. There is also one additional option available to Chase “premium” cardholders, the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners.
Here’s where the rumor I’ve seen could make a huge difference to the value of your Ultimate Rewards points.
If you have multiple cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, those points are stored in separate accounts. Each card has its own Ultimate Rewards page with options specific to that card.
The nice thing about Ultimate Rewards is that Chase will allow you to transfer points in between your accounts. Here are two important rules about transfers:
- You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points, but only to another Chase card with Ultimate Rewards belonging to you, or one member of your household (Chase business cards also allow you to transfer points to a joint business holder if they are an authorized user on the account).
So I can transfer points from my no-annual-fee Chase Ink Cash card to my “premium” Chase Sapphire Reserve account. By doing that, the points immediately become worth 50% more if I use them to book travel through the Chase Travel Portal and they also become eligible to transfer to any of the airline and hotel travel partners.
This was a huge perk, as different cards from Chase earn bonuses in different categories. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 points for all charges. The Chase Ink Cash business card earns 5 points per dollar for purchases at office supply stores. Instead of just getting a statement credit for those points (which is OK), I’d much rather transfer them to my Sapphire Reserve account and then transfer them to Hyatt and book a hotel room in Key West where I could get 2.5 cents of value per point. That’s a 12.5% return on points earned in a 5x category (5 x 2.5).
The Rumor And What To Do
The big rumor is that Chase is planning a major change to what type of transfers they will allow between accounts. The problem is that no one knows if that change will ever happen, what that change will be and if/how much notice Chase will give before it takes effect.
So here’s a worst case scenario: Chase decides that you can no longer transfer points between any Ultimate Rewards accounts, effective immediately. This has not happened, nor do I think it will. It would take Chase from the most generous program to the most restrictive one and I don’t think they want to do that.
What I do see as a possible future is one where Chase doesn’t allow you to transfer points from a no-fee card to a “premium” card. This would mean the points earned with a card like the Chase Freedom would only be worth 1 cent each for cash back or gift cards. You couldn’t transfer them to your Sapphire Reserve account, where you could then send the points to airline or hotel programs.
This is similar to what American Express already does with their cards. The no-annual-fee Blue Cash cards earn cash back whereas other cards earn Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to airline and hotel partners. The problem with Chase is that they’d be going backward. It’s always harder to cut benefits than to start fresh.
I’d hope that if Chase is going to make a change like this, they’d give some notice. That would give people who spent money on these cards and earned points with the intent to transfer them between cards, to be able to do that. That would mean at least waiting a bit before already completed spending shows up on customers’ statements and corresponding points deposit into their accounts so they can be transferred. I’m not going to bet my points on that. I protected myself against any possible changes and I suggest you do the same. The great thing is that you’re not risking anything. You just need to move all of your points into the account where are the most valuable.
Here’s how to do it on a computer. I’m sure there’s a way to do it on the app but it might be easier on a mobile browser instead.
Log into the account where your points are the least valuable. That would be one of the no-annual-fee Chase cards.
When you have your account up, click on the link where it says “See Balance”
You will be shown your current balance for that card. Click on “Earn More”. This will take you to the Ultimate Rewards page.
On the banner on top of the page, click on the “Combine Points” link on the far right side of the screen.
This will bring up the transfer screen. You’ll need information from the credit card you want to transfer points TO when you get to this next part.
The card account you are logged into will be on the left. There should not be a card on the right unless you’ve done this before. The website will prompt you for the account number and the last name on the account you want to move your points into. Enter that and then click “continue.”
On the next screen, you’ll be asked how many points you want to move. If you’re doing this for the reasons listed above, you should move all the points from the no-annual-fee card. Just leave the “All my points” box checked.
The last step is the confirmation page. There’s a warning about the transfer being final and not reversible. Click on the “Confirm & Submit” button and you’re done.
The points should transfer between accounts immediately. If you log into the account you transferred points TO, the new balance should reflect the increase from the transfer. There’s one thing I need to stress if you are going to do this.
DO NOT CLOSE THE ACCOUNT YOU TRANSFERRED THE POINTS INTO!!!
Transferable points only stay active if you keep the account open. If you’re planning on closing the Chase “premium” card with the annual fee, don’t transfer points into it. When you close an account, any Ultimate Rewards points you have in the account are gone. There are things you can do to keep your points, but that’s for another article.
I don’t plan on canceling my Sapphire Reserve so I went ahead and transferred all of the points from Sharon’s Ink Cash and her Sapphire Preferred to my Reserve account. The points are all now in the account where they’re worth the most and I’m protected just in case Chase decides to make any rash decisions, which I sure hope they don’t. I also plan on doing a sweep every month when the points get added to each account.
If you have any questions about this process, the possible changes or Ultimate Rewards, in general, you can ask in the comments or join our Facebook group and ask there.
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