Does the Chase Travel Portal Include Bonuses in Prices?
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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
While you'll often get a much better value transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners, booking directly through the Chase travel portal lets you skip the painstaking step of searching for award space, instead allowing you to use your points to book a ticket on any flight with open seats. TPG reader Mike wants to know how the prices are displayed on the portal ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER MIKE"]If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, points are worth 1.25 cents when booking through the Chase portal. When you see prices, is that 25% bonus taken into account, or are the prices actually 25% lower than what you see?[/pullquote]
Three of Chase's top cards offer bonuses when redeeming your points for travel through the Chase portal. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card each offer a 25% bonus, making your points worth 1.25 cents each. Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a 50% bonus, boosting the value of your points to 1.5 cents apiece.
To answer Mike's question, it's important to understand that without these bonuses, your points are worth a fixed one cent each. This applies to non-travel awards like cash back or gift cards, and it's also the case with lower-tier cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited. In other words, a flight that costs $257.98 would require 25,798 points, while a $50 gift card would set you back 5,000 points.
However, when you log in to the Chase portal to search for flights with the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred, the prices aren't that simple. A flight that would cost $489.97 will only set you back 32,664 points if you have the Sapphire Reserve. That's because Chase is already accounting for the 50% bonus.
Note that a 50% bonus on the value of your points is not the same as a 50% discount on the price. To figure out how many points you'd need, divide the cash price by 0.015 (or 0.0125 with a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred) to estimate the number of points you'd need.
Chase isn't the only issuer to offer a pay-with-points bonus when redeeming through its travel portal. Amex, for example, provides a similar option on several of its business cards. However, instead of structuring this perk as a bonus, Amex offers a rebate when paying with points at the following rates:
- American Express® Business Gold Card: 25% rebate, points are effectively worth 1.33 cents each (up to 250,000 points per calendar year)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: 35% rebate, points are effectively worth 1.54 cents each (up to 1 million points per calendar year)
- The Business Centurion Card: 50% rebate, points are effectively worth 2 cents each
Unlike the Chase portal, these rebates are more limited. You need the full number of points in your account at the time of booking, and the rebates will post within 6-10 weeks. With the Business Gold and Platinum cards, the rebate is only valid for first and business class flights or economy flights with your designated airline. With the Business Centurion card, it's valid on all flights.
Note that these rebates will not display in the online price. As an example, I currently have the Business Platinum card, but when I log in to Amex Travel and search for flights, the 35% points rebate doesn't appear. For a $618.20 flight, I would need to pay the full 61,820 points up front. While I would receive a 35% rebate — 21,637 points — in my account within a month or two, that information doesn't show on the checkout screen.
Finally, holders of the Citi Premier® Card can use their ThankYou points for flights at an identical rate to the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred: 1.25 cents apiece. And like Chase, this bonus is reflected online at the time of booking.
The short answer to Mike's question is that Chase does factor in the pay-with-points bonus when showing you pricing, as does Citi when redeeming ThankYou points directly for flights. This is because those bonuses affect the cost you pay at the time of booking. However, Amex doesn't include that information, because your rebate comes after the fact. If you're ever unsure, you should always stop and double check the math before checking out to make sure your benefits are being properly applied.
And for additional tips for how to use your credit card points for even more valuable rewards, check out the following guides:
- Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for Maximum Value
- Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for Maximum Value
- Redeeming Citi ThankYou Points for Maximum Value