What will happen to Chase’s Pay Yourself Back?
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It’s hard to believe that it was just one year ago that virtually no Americans were traveling. For banks that issue travel rewards credit cards, this was a massive problem. By the end of May 2020, Chase responded to the travel crisis by adding the Pay Yourself Back feature, which offers valuable non-travel options for redeeming Ultimate Rewards points, to its Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
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How Pay Yourself Back works
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can redeem their points for 25% more value (1.25 cents per point) for statement credits toward purchases from grocery stores, restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services), home improvement stores and select charitable organizations. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive 50% more value (1.5 cents per point) toward those options.
Ink Business Plus (no longer open to new applications) and Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit cardmembers can also receive 25% more value (1.25 cents per point) for shipping and home improvement needs for business expenses, as well as select charities, through June 30, 2021.
Chase later added the option to redeem your points toward paying your annual fee and fund a vaccine ride through Lyft. You can choose an eligible purchase made with your card within the past 90 days to apply your points. You can even apply your points for all or part of the purchase and receive a statement credit.
What is going to happen to Pay Yourself Back?
When launched last year, it was initially announced that Pay Yourself Back would last through Sept. 30, 2020. Currently, most of these offers are advertised as extending until Sept. 30, 2021 (the option to use points to pay for your annual fee ends Dec. 31, 2021, and Pay Yourself Back for the Chase Ink Plus and Ink Business Preferred is currently scheduled to end on June 30, 2021).
Clearly, the current sunset dates are just the latest of numerous ones announced as Chase has repeatedly extended the program. So I reached out to Chase to ask what cardholders can expect from Pay Yourself Back in the future.
I was told:
Pay Yourself Back was always intended to be an ongoing option for cardmembers to redeem their points within Ultimate Rewards. Categories and redemption values may be updated across cards on an ongoing basis to ensure cardmembers have access to value on the things that matter most.
My predictions for the future of Pay Yourself Back
I don’t know anything for sure beyond the above statement made by Chase, but I can speculate based on past statements from Chase and the history of this program.
First, we know that this program was originally supposed to last just four months, from May 2020 until the end of September 2020. But since its original announcement, it was first extended until the end of December 2020, and then until the end of April 2021 before its announcement continuing through the end of September 2021. So in light of Chase’s statement above, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if Pay Yourself Back became a permanent feature, possibly with new non-travel categories. In fact, some outlets have previously reported that the Pay Yourself Back program was intended to have rotating categories of purchases that were eligible for statement credits.
Then there are the financial implications for the card issuer. Chase has long offered Chase Sapphire Preferred and other cardholders the ability to receive additional value when they redeem their Ultimate Rewards points for travel booked through Chase. Expedia powers the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, and it’s reasonable to assume that Chase’s cost to purchase travel on behalf of cardholders is slightly below Expedia’s advertised price. This is because some markup is essential to any travel agency, and it seems likely that Expedia offers a discount to companies like Chase who collectively purchase travel at incredible volumes on behalf of its cardholders.
Once Chase started allowing its cardholders to redeem their points for statement credits toward purchases, it’s probably incurred just a little additional cost than Expedia reservations. But it appears that the difference might be small enough that this program is sustainable for now. In fact, the key advantage of Pay Yourself Back might be its ability to draw more cardholders into the program (while helping to retain existing cardholders) than it could when its best options for redeeming rewards were strictly travel-related.
I predict that Pay Yourself Back will evolve over time to include different categories of purchases, and perhaps even for purchases from featured merchants. It could end up being roughly parallel to the rotating bonus spending categories found on the Chase Freedom Flex.
Pay Yourself Back has been an incredibly valuable feature for Chase Sapphire Preferred and other cardholders who want to receive additional value from their rewards when they aren’t traveling. But even if you haven’t used Pay Yourself Back, there’s a benefit to knowing that this option exists, should you ever need it. And while Chase hasn’t announced too many specifics for the program’s future, it appears that it will continue in one form or another. Therefore, I think it’s safe to add Pay Yourself Back to the small list of positive changes that came from the pandemic.
Featured photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images.
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