How to book travel (and save points) with the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of the best flexible rewards currencies around.
Many of us at TPG love to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partners for award flights and hotel stays. If you recently applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to earn the welcome bonus, your initial plans might also be to transfer the points to an airline or hotel such as United Airlines, Hyatt or beyond.
However, redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for “paid” travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal can sometimes make more sense and potentially save you points. It can be especially helpful when there's no traditional award space available, as you can book almost any flight you'd like through the portal so long as there are seats for sale.
Why use the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal?
With various partners across airlines and hotels, including United, 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.
Transfer your way to your next destination in record time: Download the free TPG App to see where your points could take you!
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 if transferring to the partner program. 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 it that way.
Related: Sweet spots: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points
How to earn Ultimate Rewards points with credit cards
But before you can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you need to have some Chase points. If you’re not already familiar with Chase’s most popular cards and welcome offers, here are a few current ones to be aware of:
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is a TPG favorite. It currently comes with one of the highest sign-up bonuses from Chase or on any business credit card — 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
The bonus points alone are worth a whopping $2,000, based on TPG’s most recent valuations, mainly because the points can be transferred to an array of travel partners, including British Airways, United Airlines, Iberia, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG.
Related: A great all-around business card: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card review
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is another fantastic card to add to your wallet. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The bonus is worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations.
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offer 1.25 cents per point when redeeming points through the portal, and points linked to no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (like the Chase Freedom Flex and Ink Business Cash Credit Card) are worth 1 cent apiece.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card's bigger brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, which is worth $1,200 based on TPG valuations.
This card includes additional perks, like a PreCheck or Global Entry credit, Priority Pass lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit and other perks. This card also boosts your portal redemption rate to 1.5 cents per point, effectively giving you 0.25 cents per point in additional purchase power.
Related: How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value
How to earn Ultimate Rewards points on travel bookings
Remember that 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 typically earn frequent flyer miles and qualify for elite status. This can make a lot of sense when fares are cheaper. For example, check out this round-trip flight on United from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
The ticket will cost you 59,198 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve (to redeem at 1.5 cents per point). As this is considered a paid ticket rather than an award ticket by United, you’ll earn award miles on this ticket too.
In contrast, it would cost 63,000 miles and $130.38 in taxes to book this as an award with United MileagePlus, and you won’t earn airline miles.
In this case, it’s a 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.
Related: Why are some flights more expensive in the Chase travel portal?
How to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal
The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is relatively simple to access. First, you’ll need to log in to your Chase account, then navigate to the right side of the page, 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 “Travel” to access the travel homepage, where you can search for airfare, hotels or vacation rentals.
How to book flights
Once you’ve navigated to the portal’s travel page, 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 looked for a one-way flight from New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD).
Then, you'll be greeted with the available flight options. When you find a flight you like, select the fare type you want to book and click the blue "Select" button.
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.
Then, you’ll be directed to the checkout page where you can choose to pay with cash or points, or a combination of the two. Again, points linked to a Chase Sapphire Reserve account are worth 1.5 cents each. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, points are worth 1.25 cents each.
Finally, you'll be directed to a page where you will enter the traveler's information and finalize your flights.
Once you press “Complete Booking,” your flight will be ticketed, and your confirmation will be sent via email.
How to book hotels
Booking hotels is similar to booking flights on the travel portal. This is an advantageous 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).
It’s worth comparing Ultimate Rewards rates against the points required by these hotel loyalty programs to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Related: When to book travel through Chase and when to transfer points
Here’s a sample search for hotels in Kosice, Slovakia, which hosts mostly boutique hotels.
In this case, I’ve chosen the Horse Inn Pension, where I’ve selected my room type and navigated to the payment page:
Here you’ll see the box which lets you specify how many points you’d like to use:
Then, run through the on-screen prompts to finalize your booking and you’ll get an email confirmation.
Related: The best ways to book hotels through online travel agencies and bank portals
How to book rental 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 of renting cars is similar to booking flights and hotels. Navigate to the “Cars” header from the main landing page and type in your itinerary, even if it’s a one-way rental. Then, hit “Search,” and the results page will pop up. Once you choose your car, you’ll be prompted to select add-ons.
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. Remember that to qualify for the rental car insurance, you must decline the car rental company’s collision damage waiver and make sure that anyone driving the car is on the rental agreement.
Related: The top 3 easiest ways to save on rental cars
How to book cruises and activities
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 fantastic tours while still redeeming your points for 1.25 or 1.5 cents each. This can be an excellent 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 to maximize your experience with the portal:
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 considering going the transfer partner route, take the taxes and fees you’ll have to pay on the award into account. But before you book directly, consider how many airline miles you might earn from your booking.
Related: Should you use points or cash for a travel booking?
Avoid booking hotels if you have or want elite status
As mentioned, you can typically earn redeemable airline miles and elite qualifying miles when you book airfare with Chase. Still, if you book hotels this way, you won’t receive credit toward elite status, and you probably won’t even be offered the benefits of any status you already have. Unless you’re already looking at booking a non-chain hotel or don’t mind not having the status or the perks of status, you might want to avoid booking hotels.
Book with caution if you're paying for a flight
Sure, it’s possible to book through Chase’s travel portal and pay only in cash — and you'll earn extra points when you do.
As mentioned, Ink Business Preferred and Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn 5 points per dollar on all travel booked through the portal. Meanwhile, Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 5 points per dollar on flights and 10 points per dollar on hotels and rental cars.
Sometimes, you may even find a better rate for what you’re looking for. However, if your plans aren't set in stone, you might be better off booking directly with the travel provider. CxLoyalty powers Chase’s travel portal, which would functionally be the same as booking through a third party like Expedia, Orbitz or any other online travel agency.
If issues arise, hotels and airlines are more likely to help you if you’ve booked directly with them. Plus, you may miss out on elite benefits and points by booking hotels and rental cars through a third-party site. But if your plans are set in stone and rates are similar, it could be worth booking flights, boutique hotels and rental cars through the portal to earn extra points.
Related: Should I book through the Chase portal if I’m not redeeming points?
Save time by saving your details
If you’re using the portal regularly, it makes sense to keep your information on file.
Chase has traveler profiles, which you can use to store your details and those of anyone you travel with (including your frequent flyer numbers). Shave time off each booking by selecting your information from the provided drop-down (and ensuring 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 than 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). Remember, however, that 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 Ryan Patterson and Andrew Kunesh.