5 Ways to Save Points on Travel With the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Oct 17, 2016

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When the Chase Sapphire Reserve was announced in August, everyone noticed its standout features, such as the $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Lounge access and of course the 100,000-point sign-up bonus. But one valuable perk has flown relatively under the radar: You can redeem points from the Reserve card for 1.5 cents apiece toward reservations made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center — more value than you’ll get with any other Chase card.

In today’s post, I’ll explain why this is such a powerful benefit, and share five ways that you can save points on award reservations, including some that you’ve already made.

How This Benefit Works

Several Chase cards participate in the Ultimate Rewards program, but how you can use your points varies based on the card that you use. With no-fee cards like the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants), Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and the standard Sapphire (no longer available to new applicants), points are worth a mere 1 cent each when you use them to make reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center.

With more premium rewards cards such as the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, points are worth 1.25 cents toward travel reservations booked directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and you have the option to transfer your points to the following partners:

Traditionally, you’ve usually been able to receive better value from your Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to travel partners and redeeming them for awards rather than by booking travel directly through Chase. But if you have the Reserve card, you now have the option of getting 1.5 cents per point in value on all travel booked through Chase, opening up new possibilities.

If you’d like to take advantage of this benefit but your Reserve card account is low on rewards, keep in mind that you can transfer points to this account from any of your existing Ultimate Rewards accounts, or those of your spouse or domestic partner.

Once you have the Sapphire Reserve in your wallet and you decide to redeem points from this card (and points from other Chase cards that you transfer over) toward travel through the online travel center, you’re effectively boosting your return on spending. Here’s an example of what that looks like for me:

After I received my Reserve card, I requested a product change of my Sapphire Preferred to the Freedom Unlimited. The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5x points on all purchases, while my Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on all dining and travel spending. This means that I’m earning a minimum of 1.5x points on all purchases. And when I transfer those points to my Sapphire Reserve card and redeem them for travel via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, I’m enjoying unlimited 2.25% returns.

When I’m earning 3x points with my Sapphire Reserve, my return through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center works out to 4.5% of my spending, and when earning 3x points with my Ink Business Preferred Card on shipping and on telecommunications bills, I’m receiving a whopping 4.5% return. And what’s especially amazing is that you have the ability to transfer points to your Sapphire Reserve account, and use this benefit moments after your application is approved.

Five Ways to Leverage This Benefit

1. Search revenue flights. 

If the price is competitive, it could be worth booking through the Chase travel center so you can earn miles and elite status credit for your flight.

In the past, redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for just 1.25 cents each toward flights wasn’t necessarily the best-value option, so many award travelers didn’t even consider the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center when searching for flights. However, on two recent trips I booked, I was surprised to find very low ticket prices that translated into extremely cheap Ultimate Rewards redemption rates.

On my return from Los Angeles after TPG and I attended the Emmy Awards, Delta had an “E” fare to Denver of just over $50, or approximately 3,000 points. These fares don’t allow any Medallion benefits like complimentary upgrades, and seats can’t be selected until 24 hours of departure, but since I don’t have status — and the regional jet flight had no middle seats — I couldn’t see the downside, especially for just 3,000 points! I had a similar experience when booking a flight from Denver to Dallas with American that was only $68.10, or just 4,540 points from my Sapphire Reserve. British Airways now charges 7,500 Avios for this flight, but I was able book it for just a bit more than the old rate of 4,500 points for this quick trip.

Beyond simply stretching your rewards, there are several other advantages to booking revenue flights rather than award flights. You’ll earn miles, receive credit toward elite status and be eligible for upgrades (although not with Delta “E” fares). In addition, revenue flights can be much more flexible (and available) than awards. Thanks to the current low fuel prices combined with a proliferation of low-cost carriers, revenue ticket prices are at low levels we haven’t seen in decades.

Plus, you can add your frequent flyer number and trusted traveler number into the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center, and you can even select seats there with some airlines. Note that Southwest is the only major US airline that doesn’t appear in the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center.

2. Explore a wider variety of hotels. 

Booking a hotel through the Chase travel portal could make sense — especially if you want to stay at a smaller, non-chain property.

Many award travelers stick with their hotel loyalty programs of choice. Previously, I booked award nights primarily with just three programs: Hyatt, Starwood and Wyndham. These are great programs, but sometimes they just don’t have properties in the right location for my needs, or for the right number of points. Plus, I prefer to conserve my valuable points in these programs whenever possible.

Once I started searching for hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center, I found a wealth of new properties worth considering for award trips. Especially if you like staying at B&Bs or other small properties with character, this could be a great option. Unfortunately, though, you can’t expect to earn hotel points with most programs when you book your room through a third party like the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

3. Re-book existing reservations with hotel partners. 

Check to see if it’s possible to save points by rebooking your hotel stay through the travel portal. Image courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort.

Another strategy for leveraging your new Sapphire Reserve card is to go through your existing list of hotel reservations to see if you can save points by rebooking your room directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel center. For example, you might have an award booked with the Hyatt Gold Passport program that costs 8,000 points per night, but if the room is available for $120 per night or less, you can book it directly with points and conserve your rewards. You could even do this with airline award flights, but you’d likely incur change fees that would make it uneconomical. Still, if your itinerary has a schedule change that opens up the option of a refund, it could be worth considering.

4. Consider rental car rewards.

Book a National car rental through the Chase travel center, and enjoy elite perks courtesy of the Reserve card. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Rental car awards have always been harder to book than airfare awards — at least for a reasonable number of points. Many airline, hotel and credit card programs offer car rental award redemption, but typically with a value of just 1 cent per point or mile. But with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you get a strong 1.5 cents per point toward rental car awards, making this a solid option when you want to minimize out-of-pocket expenses on an award trip.

When you book a rental car through the Ultimate Rewards travel center, you can still use your National Emerald Club Executive status, a benefit of the Sapphire Reserve card. Simply input your Emerald Club number when making a reservation for a mid-size car, and you’ll be able to select from any vehicle in the Emerald Aisle. Just note that the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal doesn’t allow for one-way rentals, where you pick a car up in one location and drop it somewhere else.

5. Check out activities. 

If you have a wealth of Ultimate Rewards points, you could even use them to book excursions such as bike tours.

In addition to paying with points for airfare, hotels and car rentals, you can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards online travel center to book another type of reservation called “activities.” This catch-all label includes all sorts of things, such as transfers, tours, theme park admissions and adventure excursions. For example, I found rock-climbing trips, fly fishing and brewery tours when searching for options around Denver.

Bottom Line

The new Sapphire Reserve is loaded with impressive benefits, and the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece toward travel through Chase’s portal is one of its best. By taking a closer look at this feature, you could find new ways to use your rewards and stretch your points further than you may have thought possible.

Have you used points from the Sapphire Reserve to book a redemption through Chase’s travel center?

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