The following news is a rumor and not confirmed, but I feel it’s important to share because it’s easy to protect yourself against the potential fallout.
Looks like we *might* be losing our ability to combine Ultimate Rewards between our own accounts as well as between household members. By that I mean, for example, moving Ultimate Rewards in your Freedom Unlimited account to your Sapphire Reserve account, for the purpose of increasing their value.
Two days ago, Frequent Miler wrote the following: “We have received a report from a trusted source that Chase is actively looking at eliminating the ability to pool points in a household and the ability to move points to a more valuable card.”
Another possibility, based off of a survey Chase sent to customers last year, is that while they may not eliminate the ability to pool points completely, they may only allow transfers between no-annual fee cards or between annual fee cards. Or they might change the transfer ratio between no-annual fee and annual fee cards to 3:2.
Why Does This Matter?
The value of an Ultimate Reward point depends on what card earns it.
- The Sapphire Reserve’s Ultimate Rewards are redeemable three ways:
- Through the Chase travel portal, for 1.5 cents each
- By transferring to an airline or hotel loyalty program partner, which turns them into airline miles or hotel points (when, if redeemed wisely, you can on average get around 2 cents of value per point…of course this varies)
- For 1 cent each cash back
- The Sapphire Preferred’s and Ink Business Preferred’s Ultimate Rewards are redeemable three ways:
- Through the Chase travel portal, for 1.25 cents each
- By transferring to an airline or hotel loyalty program partner, which turns them into airline miles or hotel points
- For 1 cent each cash back
- The Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Business Cash’s Ultimate Rewards can only be redeemed for cash or cash-like things at a maximum rate of 1 cent per point.
But there has been a long-standing work around to increase the value of your Ultimate Rewards by combining points. Move your points earned by your Freedom to your Sapphire Reserve account, and they magically turn into the kind of point you can redeem for 1.5 cents each through the Chase travel portal, or by transferring to airline or hotel loyalty programs for outsized value.
The basic idea is that you can move any Ultimate Rewards to another one of your own Ultimate Reward accounts, and it becomes the kind of Ultimate Reward earned by that card.
Losing the ability to do this would put a real dent in many people’s earning strategy, which involves putting otherwise non-bonused spend on their Freedom Unlimited (to earn 1.5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar on all purchases), spending on their Freedom card to maximizine the quarterly rotating category bonuses for 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent, and then moving those Ultimate Rewards to a more valuable Chase card’s account to then transfer them to airline or hotel programs (or redeeming them through the Chase travel portal for at least 1.25 or up to 1.5 cents each). Either way, you’ll get much higher return than 1 cent each.
What to Do to Protect Your Points
I think it is likely that we would get some notice from Chase if they were to halt customers’ ability to combine points. But just in case they don’t give us any warning, it is wise to move all your Ultimate Rewards to your most valuable account. If you have a Sapphire Reserve, then it’s that account. If you don’t have a Reserve but you have an Ink Business Preferred or Sapphire Preferred, then it’s that account.
Moving Points Between Accounts: Step-by-Step
1. Login to your Chase account online.
2. Click the Ultimate Rewards section of the toolbar on the left-hand side of your screen.
3. Pick which card account you want transfer points from.
4. Scroll to the top of the next page and toolbar will expand. On the right-hand side, click Combine Points.
5. Choose which card you want to transfer points to.
6. On the next page, input the number of points you want to transfer. In this case, I recommend moving all your points to your most valuable account.
7. Confirm on the following page. Done.
I would continue to move any points earned on lesser cards to your most valuable account after you statement posts (and the points along with it) each month.
What does this mean for pooling points between family members?
Transfers between two people’s Ultimate Rewards accounts are allowed as long both people live at the same household or are married. There isn’t anything in their terms that requires you to have accounts actually registered to the same address– like SPG– but if they find out that you don’t live in the same place or are married, they could shut down your account and you would loose all your points. You can also only choose one person in your household to share points with.
Policy for transferring Ultimate Rewards earned by the business cards is a little different. You can transfer those Ultimate Rewards to another owner of the company that doesn’t necessarily have to be a member of your household.
Transfers are instantaneous and free.
So will chase cut out the ability to pool points between family members/business owners? They might. Or they may allow it as long as the account you are transferring to earns the same type of Ultimate Reward/an Ultimate Reward worth the same amount. Example: Transferring your Ultimate Rewards earned by your Sapphire Preferred to your husband’s Sapphire Preferred account will likely still work. But transferring your Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards to his Sapphire Reserve account would likely be a no-go. Or they might change the transfer ratio between no-annual fee and annual fee cards, as mentioned above, to 3:2.
The take-away is that if you live with someone who has a more valuable Ultimate Reward earning card than you, I’d transfer your points to theirs now. You may run into issues doing this, as I just did attempting to transfer the Ultimate Rewards from my mother’s Sapphire Preferred account to my father’s Sapphire Reserve account. I got the following pop-up when I tried…
…so I sent a secure message to Chase through her online account, asking them to resolve the problem. That seems to have helped others facing the same issue (also see comment on this post from mikeb). I’ll update this post with results when I get a resolution.
If you and/or someone in your household/fellow business owner have Ultimate Rewards spread across various accounts, now is the time to combine them into the single most valuable account.
The word on the virtual street is that Chase might be changing the Ultimate Rewards program to block us from advantageous transfers between an account that earns less valuable Ultimate Rewards (i.e. the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, or Ink Business Cash) to an account that earns more valuable Ultimate Rewards (i.e. the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred, or Sapphire Reserve). While we don’t have 100% confirmation this is true, the solution is simple enough that it’s worth taking a few minutes to protect the value of your points.