The best way to use Chase points is usually to transfer them to airlines, but there are 2 scenarios where you're better off redeeming directly with Chase

The best way to use Chase points is usually to transfer them to airlines, but there are 2 scenarios where you're better off redeeming directly with Chase

November 11, 2020

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  • If you have a premium Chase credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your points to airline and hotel programs.
  • This option gets you great value for travel, especially for first-class flights, but it's not always the right move.
  • If you want to save money on everyday purchases like groceries, you're better off redeeming points directly through Chase using the Pay Yourself Back tool.
  • Additionally, hotels are often cheaper when you use points to book through Chase's travel website rather than transferring to Chase's hotel partners. 
  • See Business Insider's list of the best rewards credit cards »

Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of the most versatile and valuable types of credit card points out there. Chase has several different credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, making it easy to get a large amount of them quickly.

On the redemption side, Chase provides maximum flexibility. If you have a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards to Chase's 13 hotel and airline travel partners. Or, you can choose to use your Ultimate Rewards at a fixed rate toward airfare, hotel, or other travel through Chase's Ultimate Rewards travel website.  

Usually, you'll get the most value from your points when you transfer them to airline and hotel partners — especially for first-class flights that would cost thousands of dollars if you booked with cash. However, there are a few scenarios where you're better off redeeming your Ultimate Rewards directly with Chase: if you want to save money on purchases eligible for Pay Yourself Back, and if you're booking a travel reservation that's cheaper to book through Chase than through its travel partners.

Chase's cash-back cards are more versatile than you might think

Some of Chase's no-annual-fee credit cards market their rewards as earning cash back. For example, the marketing copy for the Chase Freedom Flex℠ says it earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 (then 1%) in purchases in rotating quarterly bonus categories after activation.

But the cards actually earn Ultimate Rewards points, not actual cash back. However, if you only have the Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited card, your Ultimate Rewards points come with restrictions. You can't transfer them to travel partners, and you can only redeem them for 1 cent per point (including as a statement credit).

But if you also have a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can use the Ultimate Rewards you earn on the Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited in a couple of different ways.

Combine your Ultimate Rewards on your card with the highest payback

The biggest and most immediate advantage of applying for a premium Chase card if you already have Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited is the ability to redeem your Ultimate Rewards at a higher level.

As an example, let's say you already have a Chase Freedom Unlimited® and you've already put a lot of spending on it. You have 55,000 Ultimate Rewards, which Chase markets and displays to you as $550 cash back.

Now you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. In addition to the 60,000 points from the initial sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, you'll get the ability to transfer your existing Ultimate Rewards to your Sapphire Reserve account.

Your 55,000 existing Ultimate Rewards combine with the 60,000 Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card bonus, giving you a new total of 115,000 Ultimate Rewards. But even better, instead of redeeming your points at a value of only 1 cent per point, because you have the Sapphire Preferred you can redeem your points for 1.25 cents per point. Now you could use your Ultimate Rewards for $1,438 in travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you want to use your points to fly in business or first class, it's hard to top the value you can get from transferring your points. But, especially if you have the ability to use your points for 1.5 cents apiece for travel with the Sapphire Reserve, you'll want to check the Chase travel portal before transferring your points.

As an example, consider this one-night stay at the Salt Lake City Marriott University Park. Even at the lowest Pointsavers rate, it costs 32,500 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

That same night only costs $117.23 per night if you use cash.

If you have the Sapphire Reserve, your stay would only cost you 7,816 points — a 76% savings — if you book through the Chase travel portal rather than transferring your points to Marriott. So in that case, rather than transferring 32,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott, you'd want to book your hotel stay via the Chase travel portal.

It's not always the case that you'll save points by using the travel portal, but it pays to do a quick check both ways and see which way costs you the fewest of your hard-earned Ultimate Rewards.

Citi Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit CardChase Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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