How I Earned And Redeemed My First Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (2023)

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A credit card can be more than just another way to make purchases and occupy space in your wallet. More and more credit cards come with incentives that benefit the cardholder, such as points, cash back, miles or other rewards. Taking advantage of those rewards can seem complicated when you’re not an avid user, but learning the ins and outs is worth it.

As someone new to the credit card space, I can relate to those who find disclosures, rewards and potential costs intimidating. I was recently approved for only my second credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. I used my first bunch of miles ever earned to spend a night in a premium hotel, explore a new city I otherwise wouldn’t have and meet one of my bosses in serendipity, all for half the cash price. Here’s what I did.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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How I Earned And Redeemed My First Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (3)

Forbes Advisor created additional star ratings so that you can see the best card for specific needs. This card shines for this use, but overall the star ratings may differ when compared to other cards.

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Up to 5x Reward Rate

Earn 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plusRead More

Welcome Bonus

60,000 bonus points

Annual Fee


Regular APR

21.49%-28.49% Variable

Credit Score

Excellent, Good(700 - 749)

Editorial Review

Offering a rare mix of high rewards rates and redemption flexibility, this card is a dream for frequent spenders on travel & dining - while charging a modest annual fee.

Pros & Cons

  • Earn high rewards on several areas of spending
  • Transfer points to travel partners at 1:1 rate
  • Many travel and shopping protections
  • Annual fee
  • No intro APR offer
  • Best travel earning rates are only for bookings through Chase

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Credit Score ranges are based on FICO® credit scoring. This is just one scoring method and a credit card issuer may use another method when considering your application. These are provided as guidelines only and approval is not guaranteed.

What Points I Used

I don’t come from a credit card background. In fact, weeks before my interview for this job as Updates Editor with Forbes Advisor, I had canceled my only credit card after I felt regularly confused and misled by its user interfaces and communication.

So when the Credit Cards division of Forbes Advisor came calling, I figured that even if I didn’t get the position, I would be introduced to an incredible resource to help navigate the credit card space and get the most out of it. (Yes, they’re paying me now but they’re not paying me to say nice things!)

I began gathering credit card points only two months before my trip. At that time, the only credit card in my wallet was a cash-back rewards card that really didn’t feel too rewarding. I knew that for my second card, I wanted one that would offer me travel rewards. I recently moved to a new area, was expecting a remote job and was eager to travel.

The card choice was pretty easy: I spotted the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Its travel rewards are on par with many premium travel cards despite having a more reasonable annual fee of $95 (which still made me a little nervous at first, having come from a card with no annual fee). Since it was also offering an enhanced welcome bonus at that time of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, I recognized it was my best tool to pick from the cardware store.

How I Earned Them

Welcome bonuses are earned once you spend a certain amount of money on the card in a time frame from opening the account. In this case, I had three months to meet the minimum spending requirement. “No problem,” I said. I had just moved to a new apartment, needed a ton of home items and also was planning my first trip to Amsterdam.

Plus, I would be earning points for all those purchases along the way to meeting the card’s welcome bonus minimum spend threshold. The Sapphire Preferred card earns 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Soon after getting my new card, I bought:

  • My flight to Amsterdam, a round trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LGW) and a skipper to Amsterdam from there
  • Three hotel nights in Amsterdam
  • A couch
  • Groceries (at painful Southern California prices)
  • Home decor
  • Food out, food in, and I definitely bought In ‘n Out

I was earning points with ease.

How I Earned And Redeemed My First Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (5)

By the time my first statement closed, I had nearly 5,000 points for my first-ever rodeo collecting travel points with a credit card.

How I Decided Where To Stay

Since I was simultaneously planning travel, I looked through the Chase travel portal to see what I could purchase using points. Unfortunately, flying from California to Amsterdam produced no flight options that worked between my location, budget and current points amount. Instead, I opted for a nonstop flight from LAX to LGW with Norse Airlines.

I still needed lodging for one more night and I planned to use points for it. I would be solo that night and was excited to redeem points I had earned for the first time to have a new kind of travel experience. This is when the travel portal’s search function shined. I could browse through hotel options by price, location and different amenities all for my specific date range.

However, as I looked through the hotels around the airport, I struggled to find a reason to stay anywhere specific. I asked one of my coworkers and travel gurus, Caroline Lupini, for any recommendations. She said something that surprised me: She was going to be in Rotterdam the night before I flew out of the Netherlands and would love to get dinner together.

That answered my question. I changed my location browsing to Rotterdam instead of Amsterdam and began perusing through hotels. It was less than a month away. Since I was certain I wanted to spend my points, I just decided to see what Chase had to offer.

How I Earned And Redeemed My First Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (6)

After looking through my options I found that Rotterdam was offering a premium room with a sunrise view on the Nieuwe Maas for $121.86. Not my favorite price tag, but comparing it with the other options that didn’t have sunrise views, I opted for the more memorable experience. I had to get up for sunrise anyway to get to my flight, so this room would be an ideal spot to wake up on my last morning in the Netherlands.

(This would be the part where I share my gorgeous sunrise photo, but another part of this trip humbled me. The lack of early morning Metro trains meant a 40-minute walk to the train station from the airport, turning into a morning that began around 3 a.m., far before the sunrise.)

I had 4,963 points available to redeem. I spent all of them and paid the remaining $59.81 in cash to secure the room.

How I Earned And Redeemed My First Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (7)

End Result

Points spent: 4,963
Cash spent: $59.81

Out of the three hotels I stayed in over seven nights in the Netherlands, this one was my favorite. And the reason I stayed in it was because I had the option to use points.

Arriving exhausted and in desperate need of a nap, I checked in early, which was no problem. The hotel receptionist said the only outstanding payment needed was the city tax, which was just 6.5 euros. I paid the tax with my card (thankfully the Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees!). So the next morning I was expecting a smooth checkout to quickly get to my train toward the airport.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, though the pain was only a minimal inconvenience. Going to check out at 3:30 a.m., I was informed I still needed to pay for my room. I let them know I had already paid online. Five minutes of Dutch-speaking and mouse-clicking between the two receptionists ensued. Nervous about missing my train, I mentioned that I booked the room through my credit card rewards system after a few minutes. But from their reaction it seemed like they already knew this. They just needed to confirm payment on their end.

Figuring out the situation took the two employees about 10 minutes when all was said and done. If the Uber I had ordered showed up on time, this would have been a bigger problem (instead, it never showed up, and that was my bigger problem). If I know I’ll be in a rush to check out in the future after booking with points, I’ll make sure when I check in to confirm my payment is all set.

I also inquired what I could have done differently to expedite the process. But the kind women at the desk said I did everything right and their system just could not easily locate the payment since it had been through a third party.

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Bottom Line

For my next trip, I look forward to having more time to accrue points for larger purchases rather than splitting one night in a hotel. But for this situation, it was worth it. I’m excited that in a month I should have my 80,000 welcome bonus points deposited into my account. And when the time comes to redeem them through Ultimate Rewards, I’m glad that I’ll already know how the system works.

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