One of the most popular uses of transferable points currencies is redeeming them as cash towards the cost of a travel purchase. While you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points to airline transfer partners, the catch is that this often requires dealing with blackout dates, and the other complications that come with redeeming miles. For those of us who are in the know that can translate to outsized value, while for a vast majority of people it may not be worth the trouble.
That’s the benefit of just being able to redeem points towards the cost of a travel purchase. Arguably the best currency for redeeming points towards a travel purchase is Chase Ultimate Rewards. The value you get per point varies based on the most premium card you have:
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, you can redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, you can redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards the cost of a travel purchase
The catch is that you have to make these bookings directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal in order to get that rate. So you can’t just book an airline ticket or hotel stay and then reimburse yourself after the fact. That’s not usually an issue, though one challenge has been that these online booking portals haven’t necessarily kept up with the introduction of basic economy.
For example, the Chase Ultimate Rewards website has historically displayed the lowest fare, even if that’s basic economy (which in the case of American and United, often doesn’t come with free carry-on bags). In those cases there was no practical way to have them display other fare options, including non-basic economy fares. This has finally changed.
Chase has redesigned the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center, and now makes it easier to select your preferred type of fare, including easily being able to avoid basic economy.
Let’s take a flight between Tampa and Chicago, as an example.
Now when you look at options you’ll see that you can select whether you want a basic economy, main cabin, or even an extra legroom economy fare.
It’s fantastic to see Chase add this functionality. I assume up until now they didn’t have this because of the time it took to develop this functionality as airlines have updated how they sell tickets, rather than because they intentionally wanted to make it tough.
Personally my preference is still to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to their airline and hotel partners, because I find I can get more value that way. That’s despite the fact that I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, which has points that can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase. This makes the combination of the Reserve and the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® pretty tough to beat. That card offers 1.5x points per dollar spent, so when you combine points you can redeem each of those points for 1.5 cents each. That means you’re looking at a return of 4.5% on dining and travel, and a return of up to 2.25% on everything else.
Are you happy to see Chase make changes to their Ultimate Rewards travel center?
(Tip of the hat to @IadisGr8)