I’m Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Again for Travel After COVID

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  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points are popular due to their overall flexibility.
  • Some Chase travel credit cards let you convert your Chase points to airline miles or hotel points.
  • While the pandemic is far from over, hoarding points now is a smart way to prepare for travel once the world is ready.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best Chase credit cards.

While I’ll always be a travel rewards enthusiast, the pandemic changed the way I pursued credit card rewards at first. For example, I pretty much stopped using airline credit cards in the middle of last year, and I put a lot more focus on the cash-back credit cards I have. 

I even did the unthinkable toward the end of 2020 when I used the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature to redeem points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve® at 1.5 cents each for a new refrigerator from Lowe’s. With no imminent travel on the horizon, letting go of my usual intense focus on earning rewards for airfare seemed like a smart thing to do — at least for a while.

But with vaccines finally here and a renewed hope of international travel filling the air, I have started focusing on earning rewards for travel again. Specifically, I have traded out all my other credit cards from my wallet with the goal of paying for everything with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards for the time being.

Here are the main reasons I am once again hoarding points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, as well as why you might want to do the same thing.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives me 50% more value when redeeming points for travel

Regular APR

16.99%-23.99% Variable

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Annual travel credit can effectively shave $300 off the annual fee if you use it
    • Strong travel insurance
    • Strong bonus rewards on travel and dining
    • Very high annual fee
    • The new DoorDash statement credits may not be useful for everyone, which can make the recently increased annual fee harder to justify
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
    • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
    • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
    • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
    • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

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    First off, I love the fact that my most-used Chase credit card — my Chase Sapphire Reserve®— gives me 50 percent more value when I redeem points for travel through the Chase portal. This gets me 1.5 cents per point in value when using points for airfare, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more. 

    You can book almost any flight with any airline on the Chase portal, as well as more than 1 million properties worldwide. While the Chase Travel Portal does not have access to all of the properties other online travel agencies offer, you can find most options there and certainly enough to choose from.

    Either way, I like having access to a travel portal where I can book practically any type of travel I want without having to worry about blackout dates, capacity controls, or specific loyalty program rules.

    Chase Ultimate Rewards has the best transfer partners

    The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is always my backup for booking travel, but I prefer to rack up Chase points due to their robust selection of transfer partners. Specifically, I usually transfer Chase points to Southwest Rapid Rewards for domestic travel or flights to Mexico or the Caribbean.

    I also frequently transfer points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue for cheap economy flights (in miles) to Europe for my family of four, and I also occasionally transfer points to the United MileagePlus program for various itineraries.

    Using transfer partners is a great way to get outsized value for Chase points — potentially much more than the 1.5 cents per point in value you can get through the Chase portal with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

    Consider this example: 

    When I travel internationally, I usually fly out of Chicago. I can frequently find one-way flights to Europe with Air France-KLM Flying Blue for less than 50,000 miles round-trip, plus airline taxes and fees. 

    In the example below for October of 2021, a round-trip flight requires 44,000 miles + $229.31 in airline taxes and fees. The retail price for this same flight worked out to $1,227 on the day I compared pricing, so the value of this redemption works out to more than 2 cents per mile, even after deducting the cost of airline taxes and fees.

    Flying Blue Sample Booking

    Air France-KLM Flying Blue

    I can (and do) pool points with my spouse

    Another reason I choose to hoard Chase Ultimate Rewards points is the fact they make it so easy to collect points with a spouse or partner. Basically, Chase lets you add one member of your household to pool points with, although you can combine points from all of their cards with any of your Chase credit cards.

    I love having the chance to pool points based on the convenience factor alone, yet it’s also nice when I’m trying to make a large redemption and I don’t want to break it up. If I’m booking four round-trip international flights for myself, my husband, and our kids, for example, I wouldn’t want to break that up into two separate bookings since we might get bumped separately onto different flights.

    The Chase trifecta lets me maximize rewards on all my spending

    Regular APR

    14.99% – 23.74%

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

    Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 billing cycles

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Generous bonus cash-back categories
    • Great welcome bonus
    • Booking through Ultimate Rewards portal can restrict outside earning potential
    • Varying percentages and rotating calendar categories require extra attention
    • 3% foreign transaction fees
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee.
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.

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    Another reason I am hoarding Chase points has to do with the combination of credit cards I have and how they work. I personally have the Chase trifecta plus some other cards. Here’s a rundown of all the Chase credit cards my household uses:

    • Chase Freedom Flex℠: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening,  5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories after activation (then 1%), 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on drugstore and dining purchases, and 1% back on everything else
    • Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Earn $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening, 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on drugstore and dining purchases, and 1.5% back on everything else
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, 10x points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3x points on travel (after the $300 travel credit) and dining, and 1 point per dollar on everything else
    • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, 3x points on up to $150,000 in combined spending on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, online, and social media advertising each year (then 1x points) and 1x points on other purchases
    • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card: Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, 1.5% on all purchases 

    Here’s how I use each of these cards to my advantage before pooling all of my rewards in my Chase Sapphire Reserve account for convenience and for better redemptions through the Chase travel portal:

    Bottom line

    Chase credit cards make it easy to earn rewards for travel, and that’s definitely why I’m hoarding them again. While an international trip may not be on our agenda in the immediate future, I want to make sure I have the rewards stashed away for travel once it’s safe to do so.

    Also know that you don’t have to redeem Chase points for travel if you don’t want to. You can also cash in Chase Ultimate Rewards for gift cards, statement credits, cash back, or merchandise, so you’ll never be stuck with points you can’t use. As long as you have an Ultimate Rewards card open and in good standing, your Chase points won’t expire.

    Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel.