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Segway rentals in Sydney. Street food tours in Bangkok. Snorkeling in Hawaii. Did you know that you can pay for all of those activities using Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card? My family has gone dolphin watching in Gran Canaria, horseback riding in Argentina and, most recently, Ghost Touring in Savannah, Georgia, all using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are among the most versatile tools you can use to travel using your points. With the recent Disney theme park changes in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, this seemed like a good time to talk about the plethora of activity options available through Chase Ultimate Rewards outside of the usual hotel and flight redemptions or transfers.
How to Book Activities on the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
To book an activity using your Ultimate Rewards points, go to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, which will be listed alongside your other Chase accounts. From the Ultimate Rewards home page, select “Travel,” and then “Things to Do.” Note that activities are not the same as the “experiences” listed on the Ultimate Rewards site. Those are the more exclusive experiences in selected cities made available to card members. While I’m sure the Sundance Film Festival is great fun, it’s not exactly on most families’ wish lists (or points budgets).
Expedia now operates the Chase Travel activities portal so, technically, if an activity is available on Expedia you’d think it would be bookable through Chase. But, that’s not always the case. Disney is one example of things bookable with Expedia, but not via the Expedia-powered Chase site. However, if you want a specific activity in a specific destination and don’t see it, take a look at the others in the same city and see if it appears at the bottom of the page.
Once you book your tour, you’ll receive a voucher just like the one you’d get if you booked through Expedia. The voucher will contain details about the local contact for your tour. You should definitely follow up close to the departure date via email or phone call. If for any reason the tour gets canceled or you change your mind, most Chase Ultimate Rewards portal tour bookings are cancelable. Each tour will list its cancellation policy.
Real Life Example
Last year, our family spent five weeks in South America. We asked each family member to choose one “can’t miss” activity for the trip. My husband’s was to visit a working estancia (ranch) in Argentina. I really wanted to make the trip special for him but at more than $170/person, it was hard to afford. Enter Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Using the UR portal, I found a highly rated tour for four people costing 46,000 points. By saving the cash and using points, I was able to make my husband’s dream a reality. We rode horses through the Argentine countryside, my kids riding horses for the very first time. Later, we lunched on wood-fired grilled flank steak from the ranch’s own herd. Accompanied by chimichurri sauce and a lovely Malbec, the day was just about perfect.
What’s a Point Really Worth?
The value you get using Ultimate Rewards for activities depends on which flavor of Ultimate Rewards card you have. Here’s a comprehensive guide of what cards redeem at which value. The main thing to know is that the most valuable uplift, 1.5 cents per dollar, is for customers using the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
If you already have some Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned via the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited they are only worth 1 to 1.25 cents each toward travel, but if you transfer them into your (or your partner’s) Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards account, then they are worth 1.5 cents each, too! If you are thinking about booking tours with your Ultimate Rewards points, the Reserve card may be worth it for this reason alone.
TPG publishes a handy chart of monthly points valuations. At press time, TPG values an Ultimate Rewards point at 2 cents when used via hotel and airline partners. Redeeming points at 1 to 1.5 cents may seem like a bad deal on paper compared to transferring them to hotel and airline partners to travel in the lap of luxury.
But here’s the deal: Points are worth what they are worth to you. In my case, spending 46,000 points versus close to $700 for our estancia tour in Buenos Aires was a no-brainer. $700 was a big chunk of our travel budget and I might have had trouble justifying the expense if I didn’t have points handy.
We often focus on collecting miles and points more than we focus on how to spend them. Not every family cares about first class flights, achieving the highest level hotel status or staying at a Park Hyatt. For many of us, points are a means to an end — and that end is priceless memories. If priceless memories can be obtained using your Ultimate Rewards points to book tours, go for it even though it may not be the best value per cent redemption. Points and miles aren’t all about math, they are about making the unattainable attainable.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees