I love my Chase Ultimate Rewards points and mostly get great value by transferring them to United or Hyatt and using them for awards like a first-class ticket on Lufthansa or a suite at a Park Hyatt or Andaz. However, of the interesting benefits of the Chase Sapphire and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards is access to Chase Sapphire Exclusive Experiences just for cardholders, who can either pay cash or redeem points for unique events and packages not available to members of the general public. Chase Sapphire is a huge sponsor of events around the world, and as a benefit, they give their cardholders access to one-of-a-kind experiences like a package to attend the Conde Nast Traveler 25th Anniversary Gala that I attended with a TPG reader a couple weeks ago.
The Conde Nast Gala package I bought was available for either $1,200 or 120,000 Ultimate Rewards points (at a rate of 1 cent per point). However, as you’ll see from the itemized list of inclusions, the value of the package was much higher. In this instance, I paid rather than redeem points because I know I can get a lot higher value out of my Ultimate Rewards points by redeeming for various travel options that are right for me, like my recent Lufthansa first class flight, which was only 67,500 points (transferred to United).
As you can see in the letter above, my package included:
-Admission for two to Conde Nast Traveler’s 25th Anniversary Visionaries Gala and reception including food and beverages. Our seats were the absolute best in the house in the front row- right in front of honorees like Sir Richard Branson and Susan Sarandon. Not only did we have an unfettered view, there was unlimited legroom!
-Accommodation for two nights at the Mandarin Oriental New York in a Central Park view room
-Pre-event hair staying and makeup service for two at Warren-Tricomi Salon at the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South
-Ground transportation between the Mandarin Oriental and the gala (which was kind of silly since it was a 5 minute walk from the hotel)
-A $150 gift card to The Palm steakhouse for lunch
-A $250 gift card to Marea for dinner for two
Tickets to the Conde Nast gala were not available to the general public, so this was a great opportunity to attend an exclusive event I would never otherwise have had the chance to participate in. Where the package made up for itself monetarily, though, was with the two nights at the Mandarin Oriental, where standard rooms like the one I stayed in were going for $1,200 a night (as quoted to me by the front desk agent who checked me in) – so just one night there would have been worth the package alone.
Then you add on the $400 worth of dining credits at The Palm and Marea, one of New York’s hottest restaurants, as well as the haircuts for two at Warren-Tricomi in the Plaza Hotel ($400!), and I was over $3,000 in value. In this case, if you didn’t want to spend the cash, redeeming 120,000 points might be worth it since you’d be getting 2.5 cents in value.
How To Redeem or Buy Packages
To find these Exclusives experiences, when you log in to the Ultimate Rewards portal and click on the Experiences tab across the top, you’ll have the choice of selecting experiences by category such as Arts & Entertainment or Sports & Leisure.
If you just click on the Experiences tab, though, on the bottom of the next page, you’ll see images for Exclusives experiences available, including the upcoming Sundance packages (which I’ll talk about below).
In addition to those, you can also just redeem for packages in various cities at a fixed rate of 1 cent per point, like a massage in San Francisco for 12,400 points or $124, or a private yoga session in Dallas for 13,400 points or $134.
To find these, you can either search by category under the Experiences tab, or search by city and date range.
You can narrow your search down by points range or by city.
Chase Ultimate Rewards members also have the option of bidding on Auctions using their points to redeem for experiences if you think you can get a bid in at a lower price than the outright redemption.
Just click to “View all auctions” then search in your city or date range. Personally, I find the auctions annoying because they last a really long time, and I hate having to keep track of bids, but you can pull at least marginally better value out of your points this way, so it might make sense for some people.
Sundance Festival Packages
As I mentioned earlier, the reason I’m writing about these now is that Chase Sapphire’s Sundance 2013 packages are going on sale tomorrow. I know none of them are cheap, but I’m thinking about attending Sundance and hotels are hard to come by, especially the first weekend, which my industry friends tell me is the must-attend time for the festival, so I’m considering getting in on these myself.
This year’s Sundance will take place from January 17-27. Chase Sapphire and Sapphire Preferred are sponsors of the event, so cardmembers can get the inside track on festival passes, screening tickets, hotel stays, VIP parties and more through a series of pre-sales on October 9-11.
You can find all the information here, but to lay out what’s being offered:
On sale October 9 starting at 11:00am EST
Opening Weekend Celebration: Includes 3 nights at the Hotel Park City (rooms are starting at $849 a night at this time), tickets to the Day One screening and party, festival credentials, 2 film screenings and a VIP party for $4,000 or 400,000 points. There’s a package at half that price that includes 2 nights at the hotel, festival credentials, tickets to 2 screenings and a VIP party. Finally, you can just get tickets to the Day One screening and party and festival credentials for $300 or 30,000 points.
On Sale October 10 starting at 11:00am EST
Closing Weekend Celebration: Includes 3 nights at the Hotel Park City, tickets to Closing Night screening, awards and party, festival credentials and 2 film screenings. There’s a package at half that price that includes 2 nights at the hotel, festival credentials, tickets to 2 screenings and a VIP party. Finally, you can just get tickets to the Closing Night screening, awards and party and festival credentials for $300 or 30,000 points.
On Sale October 11 starting at 11:00am EST
Mid-Week Package: This is just a mid-week package that includes 2 nights at the Hotel Park City, festival credentials, tickets to 3 film screenings and a VIP party for $2,500 or 250,000 points.
So, are these redemption worth it? As always, it depends on what you want to get out of your points. Speaking strictly in terms of cash value, getting 1 cent per point in value is not a great redemption in my book. However, though the “price” Chase puts on these packages equates to 1 cent per point, often the value of these packages are much higher, as my Conde Nast Traveler Gala package demonstrated.
For that same reason, it might make sense to pay for these packages in cash if you are interested in buying one of them and calculate just how much buying all the individual components would be and then find that the package cost is less overall – plus take into consideration that you’ll be getting into events and parties you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Just remember that if you have multiple Chase cards, you’ll need to go through Sapphire or Sapphire Preferred to get access to these events because those are the lifestyle cards and they’re the ones sponsoring them. Remember, if you have a Freedom, Ink Bold or Ink Plus card, though, you can always transfer points from those into your Sapphire or Sapphire Preferred account to redeem for these.
As always, do the math and make sure the value you’re getting out of your redemption makes sense for you and your needs.
I haven’t made up my mind whether I’m going to buy one of these, but I did want to talk about them here in case any of you are interested in hobnobbing with celebrities this winter and taking a turn on the slopes of Park City.