Why do Chase and TPG list different values for Ultimate Rewards points?
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Before you start signing up for your first travel rewards credit cards, it helps to know how much value you can expect to receive in exchange for your spending and credit inquiry. A big question you may have is why TPG and Chase value Ultimate Rewards points differently.
This is a great question, as it hits at the very core of what we strive to do every day here at TPG: help our readers earn and redeem points at the maximum possible value.
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Let’s start by looking at the value you can get from booking travel directly through the Chase portal. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, making it one of the most valuable card offers available right now.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred gets a 25% bonus over the standard award rate (1 point = 1 cent) when you redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. This makes each point worth 1.25 cents, so 80,000 points * 1.25 cents/point = $1,000 in value.
Chase uses this number to advertise because any Sapphire Preferred cardholder — with no extra effort or knowledge of points and miles — could redeem their sign-up bonus for $1,000 worth of travel. It’s impossible to get less value when redeeming through the Chase Travel portal.
Note that this same rate applies to the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. The issuer’s most premium card — the Chase Sapphire Reserve — comes with a 50% bonus, making your points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Sapphire Reserve is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which would be worth $900 if you redeem those points for travel through the Chase portal.
Now let’s shift to TPG’s monthly valuation series, the most recent edition of which pegged Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each. That number has fluctuated over time as the program has changed (especially after Chase dropped Korean Air as a transfer partner and United switched to dynamic pricing), but this number reflects the fact that you can often get a higher redemption value by transferring to travel partners instead of going through the Chase portal. This is especially true for some of Chase’s top travel partners, including Hyatt, United, British Airways and more.
For example, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for paid stays through the travel portal at the same 1.25-cents-per-point value. This one-night weekend stay at the Andaz 5th Avenue costs $500.37 after taxes and fees this June. You can cover the stay with 40,029 Ultimate Rewards points.
Alternatively, you can book the same room by transferring 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt. This saves you over 15,000 points and gives you just over 2 cents per point in value.
Of course, 2 cents isn’t a ceiling either. I’ve redeemed Chase points for as much as 11 cents each by transferring them to United to book a Lufthansa first-class award or almost 7 cents each for a one-way EVA Air business-class award from Shanghai to New York. TPG settled on the 2-cent-per-point valuation because that’s what a general reader can realistically attain by leveraging transfer partners thanks to high-value international premium-class redemptions, along with high-priced domestic travel. This is the value of transferable point currencies.
While you can generally get more value from transferring your points to a travel partner, that won’t be true in every case. You’ll ultimately need to run the numbers for yourself and see which avenue costs the least amount of points. Let’s take a look at this example of a one-way flight between Newark (EWR) and Chicago O’Hare (ORD). The cash price of this ticket is only $141.40, which means you’ll need 11,312 Chase points with a Sapphire Preferred. If you have a Sapphire Reserve instead, it would be 9,427 points.
United, on the other hand, charges 15,000 miles for the same flight. When cash prices are low, you can often come out ahead booking directly through the Chase portal. While this is obviously a personal decision, if prices are so low you might want to think about saving your points entirely for another trip and paying cash instead. Also, note that you’ll earn airline miles when you book through the portal since your booking processes as a paid ticket.
If you’re still learning how to leverage transfer partners to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, make sure to check out these guides:
- Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for maximum value
- Best sweet spots with Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Star Alliance airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on SkyTeam airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Oneworld airlines
When Chase values Ultimate Rewards, it’s speaking to a broad audience and offering the minimum amount you’re guaranteed to receive when redeeming your card sign-up bonus for travel. For legal reasons, Chase can’t promise that you’ll get anything more than that even though it’s entirely possible to do so by leveraging the right transfer partners.
That’s where TPG comes in. Our valuation requires a bit more time and effort to achieve but often results in a higher payoff. It’s one of the most important shifts that an award enthusiast can take: moving beyond simple, fixed-value redemptions. And while TPG’s valuation is by no means the maximum, it’s a better reflection of what savvy travelers can aim for with just a little bit of additional work.
With all this in mind, always check and see if the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or a transfer partner is your best bet for booking awards. This has the potential to save you thousands of points per booking, letting you stretch your points even further.
Featured photo by Bloemenmarkt/Getty Images
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh
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TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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