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TPG reader Erin sent me a message on Facebook to ask about booking flights through Ultimate Rewards:
“When booking a flight using Chase Ultimate Rewards, are you able to choose your seat and pay baggage fees?”
One advantage of Ultimate Rewards is the flexibility to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more directly through the Chase Travel Portal. While you’ll generally get the best value by transferring to airline and hotel partners, premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus Business Card allow you to redeem points for 1.25 cents apiece toward travel expenses. That can come in handy when prices are low, or when transferring isn’t an option.
The Chase, Citi and Amex travel portals all function more or less like other online travel agencies when it comes to booking airfare. You can browse a list of available flight options, and since your ticket counts as a revenue fare, you’ll typically earn miles as if you booked directly with the airline. However, there are some important differences when it comes to seat selection and add-ons like priority boarding and baggage fees.
Ultimate Rewards sometimes allows you to make seat requests after completing a booking (either online or by calling an Ultimate Rewards travel agent at 866-951-6592), but all you can do is check availability and indicate a preference for an aisle or window seat — you won’t be able to choose exactly where you want to sit. Furthermore, those requests don’t carry much weight, and the airline is under no obligation to accommodate you. Basically, you could end up sitting anywhere.
However, once your ticket is confirmed, you can contact the airline directly to request a specific seat. Policies vary from one airline to another, so not all carriers will be able to confirm your request, but that’s your best bet if you have strong preferences about where you sit. Either way, it’s worth contacting the airline to confirm your reservation (and your frequent-flyer info) in the days leading up to your departure.
The Citi ThankYou Travel Center functions similarly, and seats can only be confirmed by contacting the airline directly. However, Amex Membership Rewards Travel works more like Priceline, Expedia and others, and does allow seat selection in some cases.
As for baggage fees and other extras, you can only redeem points for the cost of airfare. The travel portals aren’t equipped to process those transactions, but you may again be able to add services by contacting the airline directly.
For more info on redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards, check out these posts:
- Is the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal Worth Using?
- Can I Change Flights Booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards?
- Earn Elite-Qualifying Miles When Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com. Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.