I first got into credit card points and “travel hacking” last year, when an elevated welcome bonus (that’s no longer available) on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® pulled me into the world of premium travel cards and the generous welcome bonuses that came with them.
Up until then, my credit card strategy had been fairly basic. My main focus was earning maximum rewards from the few no-annual-fee cash back cards I had and making sure I practiced good credit habits like paying my bills on time and staying below my credit limit. I didn’t put much thought into redeeming rewards -- cash (back) was king, always.
But with a stack of Ultimate Rewards points on my hands and access to a host of new airline and transfer partners, a whole new world opened up. I read blogs and joined forum discussions. I learned about the many ways to get to Europe on points for cheap (I’m partial to AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue), hotels that offer the most bang for your points (Hyatt all the way) and the best tips and tricks to get the most out of the Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem.
I also learned a valuable lesson I hadn’t known as a beginner: Sometimes maximizing your credit card rewards is less about how you earn them and more about how you redeem them.
Take, for example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, one of the best entry-level travel cards on the market (and honestly, the one I wish I’d started out with). The card currently offers a 60,000-point welcome bonus when you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership, which is worth $600 in cash back, $750 in travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal or potentially much more if you use Chase’s transfer partners strategically. But there are also suboptimal redemption options that can gut the value of your points.
If you’re just dipping your toes into the world of credit card rewards, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your options and sacrifice value for convenience. That’s why I’m here to walk you through the best -- and worst -- ways to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The best redemption option by a mile: Transfer partners
Points value varies
One of the best features about Chase’s premium travel cards -- which includes the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card -- is the ability to access transfer partners. These partners aren’t available through Chase’s no-annual-fee cards (though you can pool your points from some of those cards onto a premium card), and they’re part of what makes the premium cards worth their annual fees.
They’re also the ticket to getting more than the standard 1 cent per point you would get with a regular cash back redemption.
Chase has 1:1 point transfers to 11 airline and three hotel transfer partners. This means you can transfer your points to an airline or hotel’s own loyalty program and book travel directly with the hotel or airline. Chase’s current airline partners are:
- Aer Lingus, AerClub
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards®
- Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
- United MileagePlus®
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
And its hotel partners are:
- IHG® One Rewards
- Marriott Bonvoy®
- World of Hyatt®
To redeem your rewards this way, you need to find space on your desired airline or hotel, transfer your points to the necessary loyalty program and then book your desired itinerary.
For example, let’s say I want to book a plane ticket from New Jersey to Paris. I might look directly on United Airlines’ website to check for an available flight and see the miles cost for my desired dates:
In this case, I found an economy flight on May 11 for 30,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. To book this flight, I’d transfer 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my United MileagePlus account, then use those 30,000 newly converted United miles to book my flight.
Hotels work the same way. I can go to Hyatt’s website, find the hotel and room I want and check the points price. I can then transfer the exact amount of Ultimate Rewards points necessary to complete the booking.
Unlike with the Ultimate Rewards portal, booking directly with a hotel or airline gives varying values for your points. To calculate the cents per point value of a particular booking, divide the points price by the cash price you otherwise would’ve paid. In the examples above, the United flight would’ve cost $1,030, giving me a value of 3.4 cents per point (not including taxes and fees). The Hyatt room would’ve cost $125, giving me a value of 2.5 cents per point (not including taxes and fees).
The cents per point value can get even higher if you find the right booking, especially if you spend them on business or first-class flights or at luxury resorts. It’s also how many credit card point collectors can book premium travel they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Consider this business-class flight from New York to Madrid via Iberia, worth approximately a whopping 10.8 cents per point (not including taxes and fees):
Finding good deals on reward bookings with airlines or hotels takes some legwork, of course, and it may vary depending on availability. But looking at the potential value you can get for your points this way, all the other redemption options pale in comparison.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s 60,000-point bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) isn’t just $600 in cash back or gift cards -- it’s potentially a multithousand-dollar vacation if you play your cards right.
Easy, but not always the best: Ultimate Rewards travel portal
1.25 cents per point
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a travel card, so it’s to be expected that two of the best redemptions come from booking travel. If you don’t want to bother with transfer partners or complicated awards charts, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal is the simplest way to redeem your points for travel. Points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred get a fixed 25% redemption bonus this way, meaning your 60,000-point bonus would be worth $750.
Here’s how it works: You can access the Ultimate Rewards portal -- which works much like online travel portals such as Expedia or Priceline -- through the Chase site and search for your desired flight, hotel or car rental. The portal will aggregate results from multiple providers, allowing you to take your pick. You’ll have the option to pay with either cash (and earn 5x points when you pay with your Chase Sapphire Preferred card) or points (and get a 25% points redemption boost). If you don’t have enough points to cover the full price, you can pay with cash and points combined. Then you finalize your booking and receive all your itinerary information and documents through the portal.
The portal is great for travel newbies and provides a guaranteed 25% value boost over cash back, bringing your value to 1.25 cents per point. But it can’t quite compete with Chase’s transfer partner offers, which average 2 cents per point, according to The Points Guy.
One caveat: Since Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal is a third-party booking platform -- meaning you’re not booking directly with the airline or hotel -- it can be more difficult to get help from the airline or hotel, according to The Points Guy. But it’s still a solid value and worth considering if you’re planning a trip and don’t have the patience to sift through partner offers.
A few other solid options: Cash-like redemptions, Apple products and Chase Experiences
Typically 1 cent per point, occasionally more for gift cards
Cash is king, as the saying goes, and if you don’t want to travel or bank your points for future trips, direct cash back will be your best redemption option. After you earn your 60,000-point bonus by spending $4,000 in the first three months, you can redeem your points via direct deposit into your bank account or as a statement credit that reduces the amount you owe on your credit card balance. Both options give you a fixed redemption rate of 1 cent per point and can take up to three business days to process. The cash back value of your points should be your absolute baseline -- if anything offers less than that, just pay in cash and get a statement credit later.
Pay Yourself Back works much like statement credits, except you can only apply them to purchases in specific categories and have a limited time to do so. Chase sometimes offers redemption bonuses for Pay Yourself Back, making them a better deal than direct cash back if you have qualifying transactions on your statement. The only Pay Yourself Back bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred right now is for donations to select charities, which offers a value of 1.25 cents per point, the same as the travel portal. The bonus for donations to select charities is valid through Dec. 31, 2023.
While gift cards are typically a poor redemption option with most cards, Chase sometimes offers special deals on gift card redemptions, usually ranging from 10% to 20% off. That may net you more than 1 cent per point. If Chase isn’t running a special on gift cards, however, most can be redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards portal for 1 cent per point.
You can also shop through Apple on the Ultimate Rewards store to score a new iPhone 14 -- the welcome bonus will get you almost three-quarters of the way to the 82,900 point requirement. Points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed this way.
Lastly, Chase Experiences, which lets you redeem points for events and experiences like sporting event tickets or a dining package, also has a redemption value of 1 cent per point. But you won’t get a boosted rate when using your points to book experiences as you do with the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. If you want to take advantage of an experience, we recommend paying for it with your credit card and redeeming your points with a statement credit to offer more flexibility.
Not a good deal: Pay with Points through Amazon or PayPal
0.8 cent per point
Strictly speaking, there’s no wrong way to redeem credit card points. Short of forfeiting them altogether, you’re always getting real value for what’s technically a made-up currency.
But you should avoid redeeming your points through the Pay With Points feature on Amazon or PayPal.
Chase’s Pay With Points feature lets you redeem your points for purchases with certain merchants -- currently Amazon and participating PayPal merchants -- directly at checkout for a flat value of 0.8 cents per point. Although convenient, that’s 20% less than the standard rate of 1 cent per point you’d get by redeeming your points as cash back or a statement credit. If you were to redeem the current 60,000-point bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) through Pay With Points, you’d only get $480 of merchandise, which means you’re missing out on $120. You’ll almost always be better off paying with another method and using cash back to reimburse yourself.
If a shopping spree brings you more joy than a vacation, you might prefer to use your points to offset your purchases. But Pay With Points isn’t the way to do that.
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