How to book travel (and save points) with the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
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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, 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.
Unfortunately, between Chase’s move to use Expedia’s platform and the sometimes opaque rules regarding booking, navigating the portal can be confusing. In this case, we’re here to help with a step-by-step guide on how and when you should be using the portal.
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Why use the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal?
With various 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 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.
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 we’ve seen from Chase or 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.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred 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.
Its bigger brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offers a 50,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, which is worth $1,000, based on TPG valuations. Points in your Sapphire Reserve account can be redeemed on the Ultimate Rewards portal at a rate of 1.5 cents each.
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.
How to earn Ultimate Rewards points on travel bookings
Keep in mind 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 both frequent flyer miles and qualify for elite status. This can make a lot of sense when fares are cheaper. Take a look at this round-trip flight on United from Newark (EWR) to Barcelona, Spain (BCN), via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal:
The ticket will cost you a total of 39,276 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred (at 1.25 cents per point). As this is considered a paid ticket rather than an award ticket by United, you’ll earn Premier Qualifying Miles and award miles.
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 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points plus taxes and fees, and you won’t earn any miles or elite 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 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 even 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 used a sample itinerary of New York-JFK to Atlanta (ATL) in June.
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 began using Expedia, you’re no longer initially be made aware of whether you’re booking main cabin or basic economy during a search. Be mindful of which fare type you’re booking and double-check before you complete your transaction as it typically offers options later in the booking process.
After choosing your flights, you’ll get to the checkout page, where you need to enter the traveler’s information:
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. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, points are worth 1.25 cents 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 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.
Here’s a sample search for hotels on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, which hosts solely boutique hotels. There’s not a Marriott hotel in sight, so transferring points isn’t even an option here.
In this case, I’ve chosen La Fortaleza De Haro, 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 finalized, and you’ll get an email confirmation.
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. With the current rental car disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this feature may save you quite a bit of money.
The process of renting cars is similar to both 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. Hit “Search,” and the results page will pop up. Once you choose your car, you’ll be prompted to add 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.
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.
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 thinking about going 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, think about how many airline miles you might earn from your 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. So 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.
Only use the portal when redeeming points
Sure, it’s possible to book through Chase’s travel portal and pay only in 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. Expedia 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 through a third-party site.
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 your details 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 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). Keep in mind 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.
Featured photo of Tokoriki Island Resort by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.
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