JPMorgan Chase on Monday announced it acquired the loyalty arm of cxLoyalty, a little-known company that could nonetheless have a big impact for Chase credit cardholders, the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and how travelers use their points in 2021 and beyond.
In some ways, it’s a return to normal for Chase. cxLoyalty previously ran Chase’s travel portal – where travelers with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve can book flights, hotels, or rental cars using points – until the bank partnered with Expedia in 2018. The Connecticut-based loyalty company already provides travel services for other major banks like Capital One, Citi, and U.S. Bank.
Monday’s acquisition makes it certain Chase will ditch its Expedia-powered travel search portal and bring it back in-house. And that will come with tradeoffs. The current Expedia travel portal is far from perfect: Many budget airlines don’t show up, and it struggles with properly pricing flights at times. But in our experience, the Expedia portal did a better job than its predecessor displaying all the fares available through Google Flights or directly through airlines.
Booking through the Chase travel portal is one of the easiest ways to travel more for less. Unlike airline award tickets that also come with additional taxes and fees, it’s one of the few ways to book a flight completely free using points – and you can earn airline miles on your free flight, too.
It’s unclear when the changeover may happen, and Chase was tight-lipped about what other changes may be in store for Chase credit cardholders. Any reservations already made through Chase for travel in 2021 won’t be affected.
Chase could eventually use cxLoyalty and its travel partnerships to offer more redemption options or perhaps even additional bonuses or perks, and start tailoring search results to individual consumers – both a good and bad thing. In a statement, Chase said that current Chase cardholders “will continue using Ultimate Rewards as usual and over time, will have access to enhanced travel experiences.”
But above all, Chase pointed to the acquisition as a sign that it’s doubling down on travel as 2021 and renewed hope to resume seeing the world approaches.
“This investment demonstrates our commitment to deliver exceptional travel benefits at-scale to our large and rapidly growing customer base,” Marianne Lake, Chase’s chief executive officer of consumer lending, said in a statement. “People across the globe want to vacation and travel again, and hopefully that will become a reality for many in the near future. Acquiring the travel and rewards businesses of cxLoyalty will provide enhanced experiences to our millions of Chase customers once they are ready, comfortable and confident to travel.”
Read our ultimate guide to earning and using Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
Change is on the way for using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. At a bare minimum, the Expedia-powered travel portal’s days are numbered. But just when that portal disappears – and what other changes may be on the way – is up in the air.