How to Book Flights Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal
A good bank travel rewards card is a must in any Thrifty Traveler’s wallet, as it gives you more options to get the most out of your miles. The best of these points cards allow you to either transfer your points to a handful of airline partners or book directly through the bank’s own travel portal.
There are some titans in this field, like Citi Bank, American Express and Chase, which offers our #1 starter card: the Chase Sapphire Preferred. In this post, we’ll show you how to book a flight directly through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Fares booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal are tied to the cash price of the ticket, where every point counts as a cent toward your trip. So a plane ticket that normally costs $200 would run you 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Carrying Chase credit cards helps your miles go farther. The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 1.25 cents for every point, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes it 1.5 cents per mile.
Using the example above, that $200 airline ticket would cost you 16,000 points if you held the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and only 13,333 points if you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Before you spend all those hard-earned points you have to ask yourself which approach makes more sense. Should you book your ticket through Chase? Or transfer those points to one of Chase’s 9 airline partners and book directly?
Do the Math
Often, your cheapest bet is to book directly through the airline. That’s because most airlines set their award prices on a zone-based chart, making the number of miles charged for a given trip more stable than a cash fare. Here’s a round-trip flight from Chicago to Tokyo as an example. United is currently charging about $1,800 for the flight, meaning you’d have to spend more than 144,000 Chase points if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (1.25 cents per point).
You’d only have to transfer 70,000 Chase points to your United MileagePlus account to book the exact same flight. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
That’s an extreme case, as you could get two roundtrip tickets by transferring the miles for fewer points than one ticket purchased through Chase. Case in point: When flight prices are high, booking through Chase’s travel portal rarely make sense. However, when the cash price is cheap, Ultimate Rewards points can shine.
Booking a Fare
The flight deals you find here or in your inbox from your Thrifty Traveler Premium subscription are one of our favorite ways to use Chase points. When you’ve found a great fare, log in to your account at www.chase.com and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards portal. Search for the route you found and verify it’s the flight you’re looking for by its flight number.
Thrifty Tip: If you have several Chase credit cards in your wallet, make sure you’ve selected the card that gets you the best per-point value like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Use the top-left menu button to pick your card.
Here’s a quick example: We recently posted a great deal for a round trip from Minneapolis to Seattle for $192. By booking this deal through the Chase portal with a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, it’d be just over 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’d be less than 13,000 points.
The exact same flights would cost at least 18,000 SkyMiles by booking directly through Delta. And as an added bonus, you can still earn miles and build status on the flights you book with points through the Chase portal. That’s not the case with a standard award ticket. Just double check the fare code to make sure it allows you to earn miles.
If you’re short on miles, don’t worry. Chase allows you to use what points you have to buy down the cost of the flight, then pay the remainder with cash.
Thrifty Tip #2: Make sure you enter your frequent flyer account for the airline(s) you’re flying as you check out through the Chase portal.
Beware Basic Economy
If you’re flying domestic, many of the cheapest deals you’ll find on the Chase portal will be in basic economy. That means no advance seat assignment and, unless you’re flying Delta, no carry-on luggage. If that’s not your thing, Chase can help.
Chase allows you to filter out basic economy to make sure you’re paying for a main cabin economy fare. Better yet, Chase recently added a great new function that shows you the price of both basic economy and main cabin fares, along with a breakdown of what each fare includes.
One other thing to keep in mind: Many basic economy fares limit, if not restrict entirely, earning miles or status credits on that airline. Search your flight’s fare code (It’s that upper-case letter in parentheses) on that airline to check what you’d earn.
Pool Your Points
Whether you have several Chase credit cards or a frequent travel companion, combining Chase points is simple. You can quickly combine the points from several Chase cards under your name through the Chase menu. Just look for the “Combine points” option in the Ultimate Rewards menu. And be sure to consolidate those points under the Chase account that gets you the best return through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
You’ll use the same function to pool your points with a family member or significant other if you’re looking to book travel for yourself and others. Rather than transferring points between your accounts, select “Add household member” and add their account number and last name to the form. Just beware: Both account holders must share the same billing address for the transfer to go through. That’s the main thing Chase verifies to ensure its users aren’t illegally selling points. Unlike most airlines and hotel chains, Chase does not charge for transferring points between accounts of household members.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are among the most flexible and valuable currency out there. It also doesn’t hurt that they offer some of the most lucrative credit cards in the world of miles and points. While transferring the points you collect to Chase’s airline and hotel partners may be alluring, using Chase’s own travel portal can be the obvious choice.