If I Cancel an Ultimate Rewards Trip, Will I Get My Points Back?

May 26, 2017

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

With the advent of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the ability to redeem directly for travel at 1.5 cents per point, booking travel with Ultimate Rewards points has become more popular in recent months. So TPG reader Tina wants to know what happens if you have to cancel your trip after booking it…

I am planning to book a trip through Chase Ultimate Rewards with points. What happens if I cancel the trip? Will I get my points back?

TPG Reader Tina

First, let’s be clear that Tina is not talking about transferring Chase points to travel partners, but rather booking directly at the Ultimate Rewards travel portal using points. When you transfer points to airline and hotel partners, those transfers cannot be reversed, and any changes or cancellations to award tickets booked with those points have to be handled by the airline or hotel you booked with in the first place.

But when you use your points to book directly for travel via Ultimate Rewards, how are changes and cancellations handled? Well, the Ultimate Rewards travel portal is basically just another online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia, which means it’s essentially a “middle man.” Your ability to cancel an airline ticket or hotel room is governed not by Ultimate Rewards but by the terms and conditions of the underlying ticket or reservation.

In effect, what this means is that if you purchased a non-refundable airfare — and most of the cheapest economy tickets on Ultimate Rewards are in fact non-refundable, as they would be no matter where or how you booked them — you cannot get your points back. Depending on your fare bucket, you might be able to pay a fee to change the ticket after you book it, or cancel it and get the airline to issue you a credit for the remaining value for future travel. But refunds are generally out.

IMG-ur-hotel-non-refundable
Most hotel rates on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal are non-refundable.

The same is true of hotel reservations — most hotel bookings via Ultimate Rewards are of the non-refundable and unchangeable variety. But you can know for sure when booking the hotel, as you’ll see the phrase “Non-Refundable” next to the rate to confirm it’s not refundable.

Now, what if you happen to buy an Ultimate Rewards airline ticket or hotel room that is refundable, or you want to make a change to a non-refundable airline ticket? You’ll need to call Chase Ultimate Rewards at (866) 951-6592 and speak to a specialist. When it comes to airline ticket changes, as the Ultimate Rewards website notes, “Changes to your itinerary may result in a fare adjustment and will incur a per ticket airline change fee.” Also, if you have a refundable fare or hotel room and decide to cancel it, the credit will appear on your next monthly billing statement.

So when you’re booking travel through Ultimate Rewards, Tina, either make sure your plans are firm or look carefully for the refundable — and likely more expensive — options. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

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