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At TPG, our top priority is providing our readers with the information you need to make educated decisions about travel and your rewards-earnings strategy. This is not the best time to travel, domestically or internationally, as airlines have cut major parts of their route network. But we are sharing this information to provide value to cardholders for future travel once coronavirus concerns have subsided.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is of the best flexible-rewards currencies around. Many of us love to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partners for award flights and hotel stays from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for paid travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal can make more sense and potentially save you points in some instances.
Unfortunately, between Chase’s move to using Expedia and the sometimes opaque rules regarding booking, it can be confusing navigating the portal — or knowing whether you should use it at all. In this case, we’re here to help with a step-by-step guide on how and when you should be using the portal.
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In This Post
Why use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal?
With various partners across airlines and hotels, including United Airlines, Hyatt and British Airways, you can often get the most value from your Ultimate Rewards points when you transfer points and book an award rather than using the portal.
Related: Sweet spots: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points
It’s always worth comparing the number of points you’ll need to book the same flight or hotel stay directly through the portal to the number of points required for an award. When you book through the portal, the points price is tied to the cash cost of the flight or stay, and in some cases, you’ll pay fewer points by booking directly through the portal.
But before you can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you need to have some Chase points. You’re probably familiar with Chase’s most popular cards and welcome offers, but I want to bring your attention to a great limited-time offer.
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is a TPG favorite. It currently comes with one of the highest sign-up bonuses we’ve seen from Chase or any business credit card — 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
The bonus points alone are worth a whopping $2,000, based on TPG’s most recent valuations, mainly because the points can be transferred to an array of travel partners, including British Airways, United Airlines, Iberia, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG.
Related: A great all-around business card: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card review
Aside from the Ink Business Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is another great card to add to your wallet. You’ll earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $1,000 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards to cover the cost of a plane ticket, hotel, rental car or travel experience. Its bigger brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, offers a 50,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, which is worth $1,000 based on TPG valuations.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card offer 1.25 cents per point when redeemed through the portal, and points linked to no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (like the Chase Freedom and Ink Business Cash Credit Card) are worth 1 cent apiece. Points in your Sapphire Reserve account can be redeemed at a rate of 1.5 cents each. (The Chase Freedom is no longer open to new applicants)
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Keep in mind when you book hotels through the portal with Ultimate Rewards points, you typically will not earn hotel points and elite credits and may not receive elite status perks because it’s considered a third-party booking.
However, flights booked through the portal will earn both frequent flyer miles and qualify for elite status. This can make a lot of sense when fares are cheaper. Take a look at this round-trip flight on United from Newark (EWR) to London (LAX) via the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal:
The ticket will cost you a total of 34,853 Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Prefered (1.25 cents per point), and as this is considered a paid rather than an award ticket by United, here are the miles you’ll earn as a result:
You can see that this ticket will earn 1,110 award miles and 222 Premier Qualifying Points for a member without elite status.
In contrast, take a look at how much it’ll cost to book this as an award directly on United:
Since Ultimate Rewards transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio, you’ll be out of pocket 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points plus taxes and fees, and you won’t earn any miles or credit. In this case, it’s a much better deal to redeem points via the travel portal than to book an award flight on United. It’s also handy if there aren’t any award flights available for your desired travel dates.
How to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is relatively simple to access. First, you’ll need to log in to your Chase account, then navigate down and to the left, where you’ll see a little box with your total Ultimate Rewards balance:
Click that box, and it’ll bring you to the Ultimate Rewards dashboard, which looks like this:
Click ‘Redeem for travel,’ and it’ll take you to the travel homepage, which has all you need to begin your search, whether you’re looking for airfare, hotels or even rental cars.
How to book flights
Once you’ve navigated to the travel page of the portal, booking your flights is a straightforward process. Type in your arrival and departure airports and travel dates and hit the search button. For this search, I used a sample itinerary of New York-JFK to Atlanta in April.
Once you’ve selected your preferred flights, you’ll be taken to the next page to review your flight information, as well as look over any upgrades you’d like to make.
Note that since Chase moved over to Expedia, you’re no longer made aware of whether your booking main cabin or basic economy during your regular search. You’ll find out when you get to the page above, which shows you that standard economy fares cost a full $30 more. Be mindful of which fare type you’re booking and double-check before you complete your transaction.
After you choose your flights, you’ll be brought to the checkout page, where you need to enter the traveler’s information:
On this page, you’ll see a box where you can type in the number of points you’d like to redeem. Again, points linked to a Chase Sapphire Reserve account are worth 1.5 cents each, to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 1.25 cents each and to a no-annual-fee card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card 1 cent each.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Once you press ‘Complete Booking,’ your flight will be ticketed and your confirmation sent to you in an email.
How to book hotels
Booking hotels is similar to booking flights on the travel portal. This is a particularly useful strategy if you’re looking at hotels that aren’t part of a major chain that partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards (Hyatt, IHG and Marriott).
However, for those chains, you’ll want to ensure that you’re booking hotels only when it’s not a better idea to transfer points to a program and book an award.
Related: When to book travel through Chase and when to transfer points
Here’s a sample search for hotels on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, which hosts solely boutique hotels. There’s not a Marriott hotel in sight, so transferring points to book isn’t even an option here.
In this case, I’ve chosen Hotel Coloma Galapagos, where I’ve selected my room type and navigated to the payment page:
Here you’ll see the same box, which lets you specify how many points you’d like to use:
Once you hit ‘Complete Booking,’ the reservation is confirmed and the confirmation sent via email.
How to rent cars
It’s also possible to rent cars through the travel portal. Even better, it’s possible to rent cars, pay with points and still receive the excellent primary car rental insurance offered by both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
The process of renting cars is similar to both flights and hotels. From the main landing page, navigate to the ‘cars’ header and type in your itinerary, even if it’s a one-way rental (this wasn’t always the case). Hit search and the results page will pop up:
Once you choose your car, you’ll be prompted to add on a host of different options:
When you’ve finished selecting, you’ll head to the booking page, where, like above, you’ll input your personal information and choose how many points you’d like to spend:
Keep in mind that to qualify for the rental car insurance, you must decline the car rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) and make sure that anyone who is driving the car is on the rental agreement.
How to book other options
There are, of course, other things you can book with the Ultimate Rewards portal, such as activities and cruises. In the case of activities, you can use your points to book some cool tours while still redeeming your points for 1.25 or 1.5 cents each. This can be an excellent way to make a vacation truly free, instead of just your hotels and flights.
Cruises are also available, though you’ll have to call in if you want to book:
Other things to know about the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
You’ll want to follow this general guidance to maximize your experience with the portal:
1. Do the math
Figure out how many points you’ll need for a reservation through the Ultimate Rewards portal and compare that with how many points it will take to book an award through a transfer partner. If you’re thinking about going through the transfer partner route, make sure you consider the taxes and fees you’ll have to pay on the award. But before you book directly, also think about how many airline miles you might earn from your booking.
2. Avoid hotels if you have or want elite status
You can typically earn redeemable airline miles and elite-qualifying miles when you book airfare with Chase. Still, if you book hotels this way, you won’t receive credit towards elite status, and you probably won’t even be offered the benefits of any status you already have. So unless you’re already looking at booking a non-chain hotel, or don’t mind not having the status or the perks of status, you might want to avoid booking hotels.
3. Only use the portal when redeeming points
Sure, it’s possible to book through Chase’s travel portal and pay only cash. Sometimes, you may even find a better rate for what you’re looking for. However, all things being equal, it’s almost always better to book direct with airlines and hotels. Expedia powers Chase’s travel portal, which would functionally be the same as booking through a third party like Expedia, Orbitz or any other Online Travel Agency (OTA).
If issues arise, hotels and airlines are much more likely to help you if you’ve booked directly with them. Plus, you may miss out on elite benefits and points by booking hotels through a third party site.
Related: Should I book through the Chase portal if I’m not redeeming points?
4. Save time by saving your details
If you’re going to be using the portal regularly, it makes sense to keep your information on file. Chase has traveler profiles, which you can use to store the details of yourself and anyone you travel with (including your frequent flyer numbers). Shave time off each booking by selecting your information from the provided drop-down (and making sure you earn all your points and miles).
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal allows you to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more directly with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. In the case of flights, it can make sense if award flights aren’t available or you find a cheap fare that requires fewer points to book compared to transferring to a travel partner.
Hotels, too, can be a good deal if you find a cheap rate (or are booking a boutique or independent property). Keep in mind if you book a hotel through the portal, you won’t usually earn hotel points or elite credits and might not get your elite status perks.
You can also book rental cars, activities and cruises with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. In every case, do the math to see if it makes more sense to book through the portal instead of transferring to airline and hotel partners to book an award.
Jason Steele and Victoria Walker contributed to this post.
Featured photo by AnnaTamila/Shutterstock
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.