Nowadays most major credit card companies have online travel portals, through which you can book travel (for example, I’ve written about the Capital One travel portal). These are worth being aware of, especially for those looking to maximize points. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
What is the Chase travel portal?
Chase Ultimate Rewards has an online portal through which you can book flights, hotels, and rental cars. Think of it as Chase’s version of an online travel agency, like Orbitz or Expedia. Why should you care about the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal?
- You can earn bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points when booking travel through the portal
- You can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points in an efficient way toward travel using the portal; the nice thing is that when you book flights through the portal, you generally still earn miles and elite perks with an airline, which you may not otherwise get when redeeming points
Why does Chase want you to book through its portal? Well, credit card companies get a commission for travel bookings through these portals, so they’ll often give cardmembers incentives to book that way. It’s a win-win.
Which credit cards get you access to the Chase travel portal?
The Chase travel portal is open to anyone with a card earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, including the following:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review)
- Chase Freedom FlexSM (review)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review)
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review)
- Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card (review)
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (review)
You can access the Chase travel portal through this link, by logging in with your Chase online account credentials. Once you’re on the main Ultimate Rewards page, just click the “Travel” button at the top right of the menu.
How do you earn points with the Chase travel portal?
Chase offers select cardmembers an incentive to book their travel through the Chase travel portal, by offering bonus points on these bookings. For Chase travel portal bookings:
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10x points on hotel and rental cars, and 5x points on flights (as opposed to usually offering 3x points on all travel purchases)
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 5x points on hotels, rental cars, and flights (as opposed to usually offering 2x points on all travel purchases)
- The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer 5x points on hotels, rental cars, and flights (as opposed to usually offering 1-1.5x points on all travel purchases)
For context, personally I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 1.7 cents each, so that is a pretty significant return on that spending. In other words, depending on the card and travel purchase category, by my valuation you’re getting an 8.5-17% return on your portal spending Just keep in mind the opportunity cost of booking through the portal, which I’ll cover below.
How do you redeem points with the Chase travel portal?
This is probably the aspect of the Chase travel portal that will most interest cardmembers. In addition to being able to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners, you can also redeem points toward the cost of a travel purchase directly through the portal.
The catch is that the redemption value through the portal will differ based on which cards you have. You’ll get anywhere from 1-1.5 cents per point, depending on the card.
As you can see, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers redemptions of 1.5 cents per point through the portal, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred offer redemptions of up to 1.25 cents per point.
The fantastic thing is that you can combine all of your Chase points and then redeem at the rate offered by your most premium card. In other words, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, then points earned on all of your cards can be redeemed at the rate of 1.5 cents toward a flight, hotel, or rental car purchase.
Do you earn loyalty rewards when booking through the Chase travel portal?
The biggest catch with booking travel through the Chase travel portal is that you won’t always earn rewards with the loyalty program of the airline, hotel, or rental car, you’re booking with. As a general rule of thumb:
- You usually earn airline miles and elite perks when booking flights through the Chase travel portal; there’s even an option to add your airline loyalty account number during the booking process
- You usually don’t earn hotel points or elite perks when booking hotels through Chase travel portal
- You usually don’t earn rental car points or elite perks when booking rental cars through the Chase travel portal, though the policy does vary by rental agency
Personally if I were to book through the Chase travel portal, I’d generally try to book flights, rather than rental cars or hotels. That’s because the opportunity cost with rental cars and hotels is simply too high, given the potential perks and points that you’re forgoing.
How do you book travel through the Chase travel portal?
The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is powered by cxLoyalty. It gives you access to all kinds of airlines, hotels, and rental car companies, though there are also some limitations. Let’s go over the basics of some of the booking options, while noting the things to be aware of.
Booking flights with the Chase travel portal
The Chase travel portal gives you access to over 200 airlines, and the booking process is mighty similar to what you might otherwise find with an online travel agency.
The flight booking page isn’t necessarily the most visually appealing, but it’s easy enough to use. You can sort flights by class of service, travel time, number of stops, airline, etc.
Once you select your option, you’ll see most of the ticket conditions. For example, I pulled up a $499 JetBlue Mint ticket from Boston to Seattle (quite a good deal, eh?).
Then when you get to the booking page, you can choose how many points you’d like to redeem. You can choose to pay for your ticket entirely in cash (and earn 5x points), can choose to pay entirely in points (at the rate of up to 1.5 cents per point), or can mix and match.
A few more things to note about booking flights through the Chase travel portal:
- As is the case when booking direct with an airline, you can typically refund your ticket within 24 hours, regardless of whether you’re paying in cash or points
- Most ultra low cost carriers unfortunately can’t be booked through the Chase travel portal; this includes airlines like Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, etc.
- In almost all cases you should find that pricing through the portal matches the pricing you’ll find directly with the airline
- You can generally still earn airline points and take advantage of elite perks when booking through the Chase travel portal, so the opportunity cost here is fairly limited
Booking hotels with the Chase travel portal
The Chase travel portal gives you access to an endless number of hotels around the world, ranging from large chain hotels to independent boutique hotels. I find the booking process to be pretty straightforward. You can search by the market you want to stay in, and can then sort by star rating, price, or even name.
When you select a hotel, you’ll have a choice of room types, which should match up with what’s being sold directly by the hotel.
Much like when booking flights, when you get to the booking page you’ll be asked whether or not you want to redeem points. You can choose to pay for your ticket entirely in cash (and earn 5-10x points), can choose to pay entirely in points (at the rate of up to 1.5 cents per point), or can mix and match.
Personally I’d generally avoid booking hotels through the Chase travel portal:
- It could make sense to book an independent hotel through the Chase travel portal, where the opportunity cost of booking this way is limited, and you can earn 5-10x points per dollar spent; always make sure to compare prices, though, because you may sometimes find lower rates through other channels (especially if you’re a AAA member, a senior, etc.)
- If you’re engaged in major hotel loyalty programs and are staying at a chain hotel, it’s probably better to book direct, and be able to earn hotel points and receive elite perks; that being said, for some it could be worth booking through the Chase travel portal, so you can earn 5-10x points for these purchases instead
- For luxury hotels, there are typically better ways to book, like through Virtuoso, so you can score free breakfast, a room upgrade, a hotel credit, and more
Booking rental cars with the Chase travel portal
The Chase travel portal lets you book rental cars around the globe. While earning bonus points or even redeeming points for rental cars might sound lucrative, personally I’d avoid booking rental cars through here. Why?
- There are so many opportunities to get discounted rental cars using websites like Kayak and Autoslash, so you often won’t get the best price when booking through a credit card portal
- You’re generally forgoing elite perks when booking a rental car through the Chase travel portal, and the value of those perks can add up
Booking vacation rentals with the Chase travel portal
One of the unique features of the Chase travel portal, which you won’t find with some other portals, is that you can book vacation rentals through it as well. This is a good opportunity, in the sense that it’s an efficient way to redeem points for an experience that often can’t otherwise be booked with points.
I’ve gotta be honest — I’m not a huge vacation rental person, so I can’t really chime in on the value proposition of this rather than booking through another VRBO site (how the pricing compares, what the downsides are, etc.). But it is something to be aware of.
Do you get travel protection with the Chase travel portal?
There’s a lot to love about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred. Among those things is that all three cards offer excellent travel protection, including delayed and lost baggage coverage, trip cancelation and trip insurance, collision damage waiver coverage on rental cars, and much more.
It’s worth noting that these standard coverage perks also apply when booking through the Chase travel portal, regardless of whether you’re booking with cash, points, or a combination of the two.
Is using the Chase travel portal worth it?
People have very different takes on the value of the Chase travel portal.
Personally I’ve been a Chase customer for over a decade, and I don’t think I’ve once booked travel through the Chase travel portal. That’s not intended to knock the portal, but rather it just doesn’t make sense for my travels and redemption patterns.
Even though I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and could redeem my points for 1.5 cents each toward a travel purchase, that’s still not how I like to redeem my Chase points. I’d much rather transfer them to World of Hyatt, for example, where I get way more than 1.5 cents of value per point.
When it comes to earning points, I also can’t make sense of using the portal. For booking flights, I use The Platinum Card® from American Express (review), which offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines. To me this is more straightforward than booking through a portal. For hotels and rental cars, I’d also rather book direct so I can take advantage of elite perks and earn rewards.
Now, I also want to acknowledge that many people strongly disagree with me, and basically exclusively redeem their points this way. Here are a few of the things that make booking through the Chase travel portal awesome:
- When you transfer points to Chase’s airline partners, you deal with the complexity of airline frequent flyer programs, plus blackout dates; with the Chase travel portal you can just book whatever flight you’d like
- Many people are trying to earn status with airlines, so being able to redeem your points for “revenue” tickets that still earn you miles and count toward elite status can be worthwhile
- At the end of the day the value proposition of spending on Chase cards makes sense if you can “cash” them out for 1.5 cents each toward travel purchases, assuming you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase travel portal is essentially Chase’s online travel agency for those with cards earning Ultimate Rewards points. Through this portal you can book flights, hotels, rental cars, and vacation rentals.
The Chase travel portal can be useful regardless of whether you’re looking to earn points (as you can earn 5-10x points on these purchases) or redeem points (as you can redeem points for 1-1.5 cents each toward these purchases).
For those engaged in the Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem, this can be a great way to earn and redeem points. Personally I don’t use the portal much, since I’d rather redeem my points by transferring them to Chase’s airline and hotel partners. Furthermore, when it comes to earning points, I’d rather book direct.
Do you use the Chase travel portal? If so, do you use it when earning or redeeming points, or both?