3 tips for maximizing your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for holiday shopping

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Chrissy Teigen Chase Ultimate Rewards

David Slotnick/Business Insider

Chrissy Teigen and personal finance guru Farnoosh Torabi discuss holiday shopping at a Chase pop-up event in New York.

  • The best way to use your Chase points is for travel, either by using them to book travel through Chase, or transferring them to airline frequent flyer partners.
  • While you won't necessarily get as good of a value, you can also redeem points for gift cards, and even for holiday shopping.
  • Chase also has a new program - Chase Offers - that can help you save money on holiday shopping.
  • You can earn more points when you apply for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or a Chase Sapphire Reserve - you'll get 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
The most valuable way to use credit card points is by transferring them to airline partners (or hotels) and using them to book travel.Advertisement

As the holidays season continues, one obvious way to use your points is for gifts, whether gift cards or merchandise.

Not every credit card provider lets you use points this way, but one of the most popular rewards programs - Chase Ultimate Rewards - actually offers a decent value, all things considered.

Read more: Here are all the amazing ways you can use the points from your Chase credit card

Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards

However, Chase offers limited-time discounts on a handful of brands at a time, usually ranging from 10-15% off. For example, J.Crew gift cards are currently available at a 10% discount, so a $20 gift card only costs 1,800 points. That's a better 1.1¢/point value. You can filter by "Deals" in the left sidebar to see all the discounts available.Advertisement

Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points for products

If you'd rather buy products instead of gift cards, you have two options.

The first is to shop through Amazon. You can add a Chase card to your account's payment types, and you'll be able to enroll in "Shop with Points." When you check out, you'll see an option to apply points to the purchase.

However, you'll only get about 0.8¢/point, so this is a pretty bad value that we would not recommend.Advertisement

The second option is to purchase products directly from Apple. From the Chase Ultimate Rewards homepage, choose Apple from the top menu. Click through, and you'll be able to browse the Apple Store and purchase anything, including computers, iPads, iPhones, and accessories.

Currently, Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1¢ each at Apple. However, Chase lists that as a "special offer," so it's likely that this drops soon, possibly to the same 0.8¢/point value as Amazon.

The third option is to simply exchange points for cash back at 1¢/point, then using that cash to make the purchase outright. That gets you more for your points at vendors like Amazon, and means you can shop wherever you like - you'll even earn additional points on the purchases.Advertisement

Saving money on holiday shopping

Last month, the issuer launched a new Chase Offers program. Similar to AmEx Offers, Chase Offers features a variety of deals at different retailers, ranging from extra points on purchases at certain stores, to potentially significant discounts when you use your card. Also like with Amex Offers, you'll have to opt in to each offer by adding it to your card.

To see your available offers and activate them, log in using the Chase mobile app. Tap any of your credit or debit cards, and scroll down to the Chase Offers section at the bottom of the page.Advertisement

My list of available offers included a few that were useful for my everyday spending, like 10% back at Starbucks, Pret, or Staples, but also a few that would be great for holiday shopping. For instance, I can save 10% at J.Crew Factory, Cole Haan, or Sephora, and get 15% off 1-800-Flowers.

Ultimately, AmEx Offers seems a bit more varied, and often more valuable, but Chase Offers is nothing but a positive addition - it's also possible that the program will build out over time.Advertisement

Read more: 11 lucrative credit card deals you can get when opening a new card in December - including a 200,000-mile bonus

Bottom line

You will get the best value for your points by using them for travel. When you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can use points to book travel through Chase with a 25% bonus, meaning each point is worth 1.25¢; and if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll get a 50% bonus, getting you a value of 1.5¢ per point. Plus, you can transfer points to airline frequent flyer partners to potentially get an even better value.

If, however, you aren't planning on traveling anytime soon, or are sitting on more points than you could possibly use for flights, Chase offers a few ways to trade in your points for holiday gifts.Advertisement

Click here to learn about the Chase Sapphire Preferred from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

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