How to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
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Chase Ultimate Rewards is of the best flexible-rewards currencies around, and lots of us love to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partners for award flights and hotel stays from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for paid travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal can make more sense and potentially save you points in some instances.
Unfortunately, between Chase’s move to using Expedia and the sometimes opaque rules regarding booking, it can be confusing navigating the portal — or knowing whether you should use it at all. In this case, we’re here to help with a step-by-step guide on how and when you should be using the portal.
Why use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal?
With a variety of partners across airlines and hotels, including United Airlines, Hyatt and British Airways, you can often get the most value from your Ultimate Rewards points when you transfer points and book an award rather than using the portal.
It’s always worth comparing the number of points you’ll need to book the same flight or hotel stay directly through the portal to the number of points required for an award. When you book through the portal, the points price is tied to the cash cost of the flight or stay, and in some cases, you’ll pay fewer points by booking directly through the portal.
Among the numerous benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, one of the least appreciated is the ability to receive 1.5 cents per point in value when you redeem through the Ultimate Rewards portal. In fact, this benefit could change how you redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, when you want to earn redeemable miles and elite status credit on flights or when the hotel you want can’t be booked through a Chase transfer partner, among other situations.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offer 1.25 cents per point when redeemed through the portal, and points linked to no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (like the Chase Freedom and Ink Business Cash Credit Card) are worth 1 cent apiece.
Keep in mind when you book hotels through the portal with Ultimate Rewards points, you typically will not earn hotel points and elite credits and may not receive elite status perks because it’s considered a third-party booking.
However, flights booked through the portal will earn both frequent flyer miles and qualify for elite status. This can make a lot of sense when when fares are cheaper. Take a look at this round-trip flight on United from Seattle (SEA) to Milan (MXP) via the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal:
The ticket will cost you a total of 38,704 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve (1.5 cents per point), and as this is considered a paid rather than an award ticket by United, here are the miles you’ll earn as a result:
You can see that this ticket will earn 1,185 award miles and 6,411 Premier Qualifying Miles for a member without elite status. In contrast, take a look at how much it’ll cost to book this as an award directly on United:
Since Ultimate Rewards transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio, you’ll be out of pocket 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, and you won’t earn any miles or credit. In this case, it’s a much better deal to redeem points via the travel portal than to book an award flight on United. It’s also handy if there aren’t any award flights available for your desired travel dates.
How to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is fairly simple to access. First, you’ll need to log in to your Chase account, then navigate down and to the left, where you’ll see a little box with your total Ultimate Rewards balance:
Click that box and it’ll bring you to the Ultimate Rewards dashboard, which looks like this:
Click ‘Redeem for travel’ and it’ll take you to the travel homepage, which has all you need to begin your search, whether you’re looking for airfare, hotels or even rental cars.
How to book flights
Once you’ve navigated to the travel page of the portal, booking your flights is a straightforward process. Type in your arrival and departure airports and travel dates and hit the search button. For this search I used a sample itinerary of San Francisco (SFO) to New York-JFK in January.
Once you’ve selected your preferred flights, you’ll be taken to the next page to review your flight information, as well as look over any upgrades you’d like to make.
Note that since Chase moved over to Expedia, you’re no longer made aware of whether your economy cabin is main cabin or basic economy during your regular search. You’ll find out when you get to the page above, which shows you that standard economy fares cost a full $30 more. Be mindful of which fare type you’re booking and double check before you complete your transaction.
After you choose your flights, you’ll be brought to the checkout page, where you’re prompted to enter the traveler’s information:
On this page you’ll see a box where you can type in the number of points you’d like to redeem. Again, points linked to a Chase Sapphire Reserve account are worth 1.5 cents each, to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 1.25 cents each and to a no-annual-fee card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card 1 cent each.
Once you press ‘Complete Booking,’ your flight will be ticketed and your confirmation sent to you in an email.
How to book hotels
Booking hotels is similar to booking flights on the travel portal. This is a particularly good strategy if you’re looking at hotels that aren’t part of a major chain that partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards (Hyatt, IHG and Marriott).
However, for those chains you’ll want to ensure that you’re booking hotels only when it’s not a better idea to transfer points to a program and book an award.
Here’s a sample search for hotels on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, which hosts solely boutique hotels. There’s not a Marriott in sight, so transferring points to book isn’t even an option here.
In this case, I’ve chosen ‘The Island Home,’ where I’ve selected my room type and navigated to the payment page:
Here you’ll see the same box, which lets you specify how many points you’d like to use:
Once you hit ‘Complete Booking,’ the reservation is confirmed and the confirmation sent via email.
How to rent cars
It’s also possible to rent cars through the travel portal — even better, it’s possible to rent cars, pay with points and still receive the excellent primary car rental insurance offered by both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
The process for renting cars is similar to both flights and hotels. From the main landing page, navigate to the ‘cars’ header and type in your itinerary, even if it’s a one-way rental (this wasn’t always the case). Hit search, and the results page will pop up:
Once you choose your car, you’ll be prompted to add on a host of different options:
When you’ve finished selecting, you’ll head to the booking page, where, like above, you’ll input your personal information and choose how many points you’d like to spend:
Keep in mind that in order to qualify for the rental car insurance, you must decline the car rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) and make sure that anyone who is driving the car is on the rental agreement.
How to book other options
There are, of course, other things you can book with the Ultimate Rewards portal, such as activities and cruises. In the case of activities, you can use your points to book some really cool tours while still redeeming your points for 1.5 cents each. This can be a good way to make a vacation truly free, instead of just your hotels and flights.
Cruises are also available, though you’ll have to call in if you want to book:
Other things to know about the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
You’ll want to follow this general guidance in order to maximize your experience with the portal:
1. Do the math
Figure out how many points you’ll need for a reservation through the Ultimate Rewards portal and compare that with how many points it will take to book an award through a transfer partner. If you’re thinking about going through the transfer partner route, make sure you consider the taxes and fees you’ll have to pay on the award. But before you book directly, also think about how many airline miles you might earn from your booking.
2. Avoid hotels if you have or want elite status
You can typically earn redeemable airline miles and elite-qualifying miles when you book airfare with Chase, but if you book hotels this way, you won’t earn credit towards elite status, and you probably won’t even be offered the benefits of any status that you already have. So unless you’re already looking at booking a non-chain hotel, or really don’t mind not having the status/the perks of status, you might want to avoid booking hotels.
3. Only use the portal when redeeming points
Sure, it’s possible to book through Chase’s travel portal and pay only cash. Sometimes, you may even find a better rate for what you’re looking for. However, all things being equal, it’s almost always better to book direct with airlines and hotels. Chase’s travel portal is powered by Expedia, so this would functionally be the same as booking through another third party like Expedia, Orbitz or any other Online Travel Agency (OTA).
If issues arise, hotels and airlines are much more likely to help you if you’ve booked directly with them.
4. Save time by saving your details
If you’re going to be using the portal regularly, it makes sense to keep your information on file. Chase has traveler profiles, which you can use to store the details of yourself and anyone you travel with (including your frequent flyer numbers). Shave time off each booking by selecting your information from the provided drop down (and making sure you earn all your points and miles).
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal allows you to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more directly with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. In the case of flights, it can make sense if award flights aren’t available or you find a cheap fare that requires fewer points to book compared to transferring to a travel partner.
Hotels, too, can be a good deal if you find a cheap rate (or are booking a boutique or independent property). Keep in mind if you book a hotel through the portal, you won’t usually earn hotel points or elite credits and might not get your elite status perks.
You can also book rental cars, activities and cruises with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. In every case, do the math to see if it makes more sense to book through the portal instead of transferring to airline and hotel partners to book an award.
Additional reporting by Jason Steele
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy
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