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Chase Ultimate Rewards is a terrific rewards program for redeeming high-end hotel awards and premium cabin airfare. Ultimate Rewards transfer to 13 different hotel and airline partners at a 1:1 ratio, each with sweet spots for high-value redemptions, and are comparably easy to obtain using Chase’s portfolio of Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards.
Collecting Ultimate Rewards also provides access to the Chase Travel Portal, where cardmembers can redeem points for a variety of travel including airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals. Each option can offer substantial value under the right circumstances, and today we’re digging into the benefits of redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for airfare through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
Which Credit Cards Allow You to Use The Travel Portal?
Chase offers a total of six generally available rewards-earning credit cards that allow you to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
- Chase Freedom – Points worth 1¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Points worth 1¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card – Points worth 1¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- New! Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card – Points worth 1¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – Points worth 1.25¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- Ink Plus® Business Credit Card (no longer open to applications) – Points worth 1.25¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card – Points worth 1.25¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Points worth 1.5¢ per point in the Chase Travel Portal
Each card features its own earning and redemption ratio, which can be affected by other cards you hold within the Ultimate Rewards family. For example, the Freedom Card earns 5% on revolving bonus categories and 1% on all other purchases, and you can redeem points for cash back, or at 1¢ per point via the portal. However, if you also hold a Sapphire Reserve, you can combine points between your Freedom Card and your Sapphire Reserve account, and redeem those points at 1.5¢ per point. That’s a return of 7.5% on every dollar spent on the Freedom Card in the 5x category!
You can redeem points earned on any of the cards above in the Chase Travel Portal. However, you’ll need to pair the three no annual fee cards with one of the premium cards to redeem for a higher rate through the portal, and if you want the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards to travel partners.
No Blackout Dates or Searching for Award Availability
Saver-level award space is a declining resource. And except for revenue-based rewards programs like Rapid Rewards, competition for those award seats is stiff.
One of the downsides of award travel becoming so popular is more people competing for a limited (and in many programs declining) number of award seats, particularly premium cabin awards. As airlines carry more passengers and continue to be more profitable, they have less of an incentive to offer up those seats for fewer miles.
Airfare purchased through the Chase Travel Portal is treated as a revenue ticket. If there is a seat available for cash, you can buy it by redeeming Ultimate Rewards through the travel portal.
If your travel dates are locked in, and there is no award availability, booking through the portal allows you to use points and book an award flight without blackout dates or the need to search for award availability.
Book Low-Cost Carriers for Cheap Travel
Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to partner airlines for premium cabin redemptions returns the best cent-per-point value for your rewards points. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for redeeming economy fares through airline transfer partners.
The Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal operates similarly to Online Travel Agencies like Priceline.com or Expedia.com. You can book flights on any airline that participates in a global distribution system like Sabre or Amadeus, and your reservation will be treated as a revenue ticket.
While low-cost carriers Southwest, Allegiant, GOL, and Norwegian won't be displayed when searching in the Chase Travel Portal, you can still book them with your Ultimate Rewards by phone on 866-951-6592.
Likewise, you can also redeem points through the Chase Travel Portal for mistake fares, a subject tackled in detail in our Facebook community, Award Travel 101.
You Earn Frequent Flyer Miles and Elite Status Credits
Booking hotels through the Chase portal, you typically won’t receive elite status benefits, elite night credits, or points for your stay as the portal is considered a 3rd party booking site.
When booking airfare, however, you are eligible to earn miles. Your reservation is treated as a revenue booking, and you earn frequent flyer miles and elite status credits, plus you'll enjoy any benefits granted by your elite status — just watch out for any “basic economy” fares, which come with their own set of restrictions regardless of where you book them.
Portal Redemptions Include Taxes & Fees
Award travels' biggest out-of-pocket expense is typically taxes and fees, particularly on airlines that levy carrier-imposed surcharges (often labeled fuel surcharges) like British Airways.
These fees can top $1,000 on round-trip international business class awards, and we’ve dedicated entire posts to avoiding these additional costs, which details the best carriers, routes, and frequent flyer programs to avoid paying excessive fees.
One of the benefits of redeeming points through the Chase Travel Portal is that taxes and fees are included in the redemption, not added to the top as an additional expense. Your Ultimate Rewards points pay for the entire cost of the ticket, including taxes and fees, reducing your cash outlay.
The Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal Is Easy to Use
Learning the ins-and-outs of every transfer partner is a daunting exercise that can take years of fumbling through award charts, routing, and airline partnerships. It’s intimidating for beginners. For those with only a casual interest in award travel, the time invested can be better spent on more profitable activities.
In stark contrast to this, the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is ultra-beginner friendly. The booking engine is easy to navigate and functions similar to an online travel agency. You have the option of paying with points only, a mix of cash & points, or solely using the Chase credit card attached to your account.
When to Transfer Points Rather Than Use the Portal
We love using the Chase Travel Portal to book award flights. You receive a guaranteed return on your points depending on the card you hold, avoid blackout dates or a lack of award availability, and can save thousands of points booking low-cost economy airfares. But there are still plenty of situations where you’ll get a better return on your Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to travel partners.
An excellent example of when to transfer rather than use the portal is when booking normally-priced business or first class airfare. First class round-trip awards to Seoul with Korean Air SKYPASS (Ultimate Rewards transfer to Korean @ 1:1) will set you back 160,000 miles plus taxes and fees, an exceptional value compared to other frequent flyer programs. Those same flights can fetch more than $18,000 when paying cash. If you were to pay via the Chase Travel Portal, you would need to drop over 1,200,000 points, even taking advantage of the Sapphire Reserve’s 1.5¢ per point redemption rate.
Booking close-in is another circumstance where transferring points can provide better value than redeeming via the portal. The cash price of tickets typically rises the closer you get to the departure date, whereas the award price in miles stays the same.
Airlines are known to release additional saver/low-level award seats close in, increasing your chances of bagging an award ticket. That said, waiting until the last minute isn't a strategy we'd recommend unless you're ultimately flexible.
The key takeaway is; do your homework before transferring points to frequent flyer programs. There are plenty of scenarios where redeeming your Ultimate Rewards directly through the travel portal will net you a higher value for your points than transferring them to partners. To recap:
- Redeem points from the Freedom Card, Freedom Unlimited, and Ink Cash through the Chase Travel Portal for 1¢ per point if it’s the only Ultimate Rewards earning card you hold.
- If you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus (no longer open to applications), or Ink Preferred, you can redeem points for 1.25¢ per point through the portal.
- Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem points for 1.5¢ per point through the portal.
If you hold both a no annual fee card and another card from the Sapphire or Ink family of cards, you can combine all of your points to the card with the highest redemption rate, potentially getting 7.5% back on every dollar you spend (during those 5x earning promos)! Holding one of the four annual fee cards also allows you to transfer points to airline and hotel partners for redemptions against that particular airline or hotel programs award chart.
Don't forget, by using Ultimate Rewards for a travel booking, you're still covered by the trip insurance offered on your associated Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, even if you don't pay any cash!
If you have any questions about how to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points through the travel portal, please reach out below.
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