Chase Ultimate Rewards points: How to redeem points for travel

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You have two options, and each has benefits and drawbacks

Travel and cards writer
Travel expert who writes the “Have Cards, Will Travel” column for CreditCards.com

Chase Ultimate Rewards: How to book flights with your points

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It’s one
thing to earn credit card rewards points, and a whole other thing to know how
to use them to book the travel you want. 

Chase
Ultimate Rewards
points are one of my favorite credit card reward currencies. Not
only do Chase Ultimate Rewards points add up fast because the earning bonuses align to how I spend
money, their flexibility in redemption makes them very easy to use. 

There
are only two basic things you need to understand to redeem your Chase points
like a pro. 

Two options for Ultimate
Rewards Points redemption
 

Chase
offers cardholders two very distinct options for spending points on travel. 

First,
you can use your points to book travel directly through the Chase Ultimate
Rewards travel portal. 

Second,
you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to one of Chase’s 13 travel
partners and book your hotel or airline award directly through that partner’s
own program. 

The
biggest difference between these two options is that the number of points your
travel will cost is based on the price of the ticket or hotel room in the first
option, while the cost of your “free travel” in the second option is based on the
redemption system set by an external hotel group or airline program’s rules. 

Here’s an
overview of both options, some tips on how to decide which booking option is
the best deal for you, and a brief note on the logistics detailing how to make each type of
redemption.  

How to book through the Chase
Ultimate Rewards travel portal
 

The most
straightforward way to redeem Ultimate Rewards points is through Chase’s travel
portal – where you can shop for flights, hotels, cars, cruises and travel
activities – and pay for these items with your points. Point amounts are based
on the item’s cost in dollars. 

Ultimate
Rewards points essentially have a monetary value of 1 cent per point when you’re redeeming
them through the travel portal. 

For
example, if you want to use your points to purchase a plane ticket from Seattle
to Orlando, Florida, that costs $500, you’ll need 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to purchase
your reward ticket.

The
exceptions to this value are Ultimate Rewards points redeemed from a Chase
Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve account. 

As one
of the Sapphire Preferred card’s premium benefits, the same Ultimate Rewards points
upgrade in value to 1.25 cents per point. This means that the same $500 plane
ticket would cost about 33,000 Ultimate Rewards points when booked through the
travel portal using a Sapphire Preferred account. 

Sapphire
Reserve
cardholders get an even higher upgrade on their points, as they are
worth 1.5 cents per point at redemption through the Chase travel portal. 

Booking
through the Ultimate Rewards travel is easy, and works great when you’re
booking flights that are inexpensive. The lower the dollar amount of the
ticket, the fewer points you’ll pay. 

This
option also comes in handy when you have little flexibility in your travel, need
to book multiple tickets, are booking an obscure airline that isn’t part of any
alliance, or you need to book during peak travel times when airline websites
are showing no availability or blackout dates. 

Redemption tip from a pro: Family traveler Kathrin
Spacarelli from Taking the Big Break is always
collecting and redeeming her Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal, which she says is the easiest way to find four seats on the same flight. Spacarelli earns her Ultimate Rewards with her Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred, which she uses
for all her small-business expenses. 

Her method: Look for the cheapest flights
that work for her family’s schedule, then book directly through the portal. And
because these are considered “paid” tickets by the airline (Chase pays for them
when you redeem your points) her family is earning additional miles in the program
of the airline on which they are flying – an added bonus that you don’t get when you
book an award ticket directly through an airline. 

The logistics: Simply
log in to your Ultimate Rewards account, and find “Redeem for Travel”  link (this
is always on the home page menu, but its location changes often as Chase
optimizes its site). Search the travel deals and make your choice. Chase will automatically deduct the points from your account and issue your
ticket. 

Important note: If you
have multiple accounts that earn Ultimate Rewards points, including one Chase
Sapphire Reserve account, be sure to move your points to your Reserve account before
you redeem as they’ll stretch further in the transaction. To move points
between accounts look for the “Combine Points” option in the menu. 

Transfer to one of Chase’s 13
travel partners and book
 

Another
option for using your points for travel is to transfer your points from
Ultimate Rewards directly to your loyalty account of any of Chase’s nine
airline or four hotel group transfer partners. 

Transfer
partners represent airline options from each of the three main alliances
including United and Singapore (Star Alliance), British Airways, Iberia and
Aer Lingus (onerworld), Korean Airlines and KLM/AirFrance (SkyTeam), as well as
independent carriers Southwest and Virgin Atlantic. For hotels, points transfer
to IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt. 

Ultimate
Rewards points transfer 1:1 with all of the transfer partners, which usually happens almost instantly, and are available in 1,000-point increments with no transfer
fees.  

This
means that one Ultimate Rewards point immediately becomes one mile or point in the partner airline or hotel program of your choice. You then book the reward directly
through the hotel or airline program following
the booking terms and process of this program. 

For example, that $500 Seattle-to-Orlando ticket that we were looking at above, when booked as a United award ticket through MileagePlus would cost
25,000 United miles according to United’s award chart which is based on
location rather than cost.

What this means: You saved 15,000 points by transferrring your points to United and booking there, instead of through the Chase travel portal. 

If
you’re good at booking partner award tickets through the airlines, there’s lots
of value to be had with this option.

The biggest benefit of transferring your
points and booking through a partner:
You can take advantage of lower points
costs on tickets and hotel bookings with a high cash cost. 

For example, very
expensive international first- and business-class tickets are
almost always the best value when booked directly through an airline partner. 

Redemption tip from a pro: When I
was helping Chelsea Maricle and her fiancé Kevin use their points to plan a honeymoon
to Asia, they were stockpiling points in their Ultimate Rewards account from
their Chase Sapphire Preferred so that they might fly business class on
Singapore Airlines – a ticket with a retail price around $3,000 per person one
way!  

While
booking two tickets through the Ultimate Rewards portal was possible, the
points cost at this ticket price would have been prohibitive at 240,000 points each,
or 480,000 for the pair. 

Because
Singapore Airlines is a Chase transfer partner, however, the couple had a more
feasible option. Maricle created a Singapore KrisFlyer account online (even
though they’d never flown the airline before), found award availability for the
same ticket at a cost of 88,000 miles each (176,000 for the pair), and then
transferred the points she needed from Ultimate Rewards to KrisFlyer and
completed the booking. That’s a huge savings. 

Important note: You won’t always save big by transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to a travel partner. The easiest
thing you can do to determine which option has the best value in your situation
is to check the redemption cost for both the portal and through the airline or
hotel directly. 

Hotel points transfer tip: Another
time when the points transfer option may be better is if you’re booking hotel rooms through a
chain with which you have elite status benefits (even if it’s free status that you
have from a credit card
). Hotels usually won’t
offer benefits like upgrades, stay credits, free breakfast and late checkout
when you book through a third-party system (as opposed to directly through
the hotel website which is how you’d be booking if you transferred your points). 

One word
of warning about transfer bookings:
Be sure the flight or hotel room you want is
available before you move your points. All transfers are one way. You can’t move
your points back to Ultimate Rewards once they’ve been transferred. 

The logistics: Select
“Transfer to Travel Partner” from the Ultimate Rewards home page, and then
select the partner to which you want to transfer your points. To make the
transfer you’ll have to enter and verify your account number in the partner’s
loyalty program. If  you are going to
transfer to a program in which you don’t already have an existing account,
you’ll have to set this up this account separately first through that airline
or hotel group’s website. 

Enter
the number of points you want to transfer (in 1,000-point increments) and
confirm.

Wait a
minute or two, then log in to your account in the partner’s program – you’ll see
that your points have magically appeared there. 
Finally, make the booking directly through the
airline or hotel. 

Ultimate Rewards but two ways to redeem your points for travel

If one
of these options seems to fit your travel style, start there. No matter which
option you lean toward, the best thing you can do to get started turning your
points into actual rewards is to pick a destination that you’re dreaming about
and explore what options are available. The greatest value you’ll get from your
points is the memories you make from the trips that you spend them on! 

 




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