September 21, 2021

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It’s Time to Fly

The best ways to use Chase points during quarantine

8 min read

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  • Chase Ultimate Rewards are among the most useful credit card points for booking travel.
  • Many people have cut back on travel during the pandemic, so Chase has come up with new ways for cardholders to use their points.
  • Some of the best ways to redeem Chase points during quarantine are for things like groceries and home improvement purchases through the Pay Yourself Back tool.
  • Read more stories from Business Insider’s “Credit cards in quarantine” series »

Chase Ultimate Rewards are some of the most versatile and useful travel points thanks to the ability to redeem them both directly for travel as well as to transfer them to over a dozen airline and hotel partners.

However, folks are traveling less due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their spending habits have been drastically altered from before. In that light, some issuers, including Chase, have expanded the benefits available with certain cards to reflect people’s changing needs, and have made it possible for cardholders to redeem their Ultimate Rewards in exciting new ways.

That’s good news for existing customers, but also for those who were considering applying for a new credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It is currently offering a  sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. 

Cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Regular APR

15.99%-22.99% Variable

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
    • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
    • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
    • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
    Pros
    • High sign-up bonus starts you off with lots of points
    • Strong travel coverage
    Cons
    • Doesn’t offer a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit or any other statement credit benefits

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    Regular APR

    16.99%-23.99% Variable

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 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. From 6/1/20 through 6/30/21, 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, 50,000 points are worth $750 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 1,000+ 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✓®
    • Earn 3x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services
    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
    Cons
    • 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

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    Regular APR

    15.99%–20.99% variable APR

    Featured Reward

    100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
    • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
    • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don’t expire as long as your account is open
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Employee cards at no additional cost
    • $95 Annual Fee
    Pros
    • High sign-up bonus
    • Offers 3x bonus points on several spending categories, including travel and advertising purchases
    • Includes comprehensive travel coverage
    Cons
    • Welcome bonus has a very high minimum spending requirement

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    The best ways to use Chase points during quarantine

    Here are the best ways to use Chase points during quarantine, even if you don’t plan to travel anytime soon.

    Chase’s new Pay Yourself Back feature

    At the end of May, Chase introduced a new Pay Yourself Back feature. It allows Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card holders to redeem their Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits toward purchases specifically from grocery stores, home improvement stores, toward donations to 12 eligible charities including the American Red Cross and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and on dining, which includes restaurants, but also takeout and eligible delivery services.

    If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your points are worth 1.25 cents apiece toward these purchases, while Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders enjoy a redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point.
     
    If you have the Ink Business Preferred or Ink Plus Business card, your points are worth 1.25 cents apiece toward online advertising and shipping purchases through December 31, 2020. Meanwhile, if you have the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom Unlimited® — you can just redeem your points toward cash back at a rate of one cent apiece, but will get 1.25 cents each toward eligible charities.

    To take advantage of this new feature, just log into your Ultimate Rewards account, select the Earn/Use tab and you should see an option to “Pay Yourself Back.” Click on that, and you should see a roster of eligible purchases from the last 90 days for which you can redeem your points. It will list both the dollar amounts and points needed. Pay Yourself Back is currently available through April 30, 2021.

    Dining and experiences through Tock

    Chase just announced an expanded partnership with the Tock culinary platform that will give folks with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® (as well as those with Ink and Freedom cards) access to a booking page integrated into the Chase app.

    Through that, they can browse, reserve, and even pay for unique experiences at restaurants, pop-ups, wineries, and bars. Chase also promises more high-end and personalized experiences to come, though details are still scant.

    Regular cash back and gift cards

    Chase lets you redeem Ultimate Rewards for statement credits toward pretty much any purchase – not just those eligible for the Pay Yourself Back feature – at a flat rate of 1 cent apiece.

    While this generally isn’t the best value you can get for Ultimate Rewards points, it can save you in a pinch when your finances are stretched and you’d rather burn through some points than some cash. You can also redeem directly through the Chase portal for gift cards from hundreds of merchants including Target, Home Depot, and Macy’s at the same rate of 1 cent per point.

    Apple and Amazon purchases

    You can also redeem your Chase points directly toward purchases from Apple and Amazon. With Apple, you get one 1 per point.

    After you link your Chase account to your Amazon one using your eligible Chase card, you’ll see an option to use points for all or part of purchases. If you do a little math, you’ll see that your points are worth a mere 0.8 cents apiece this way, so it’s best to avoid it.

    If you do want to use your points for Amazon buys, redeem them through the Chase portal for Amazon.com gift cards at a full 1 cent apiece, and then use the gift card toward your purchase. Otherwise, you could buy whatever you wanted on Amazon and then just use your points for a statement credit, also at a rate of 1 cent each.

    Chase points are the most valuable for booking travel

    Let’s not forget that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are still most useful for travel redemptions – of which there are a few to choose.

    The simplest is just to make a reservation – for flights, hotels, cruises, etc. – through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your points are worth 1.5 cents each. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred, they’re worth 1.25 cents, while with the Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited, they’re worth 1 cent.

    Now, you might not be booking travel at the moment, but this is actually quite a broad category that includes some socially distanced possibilities like car rentals for road trips, and vacation rentals where you won’t have to fly or interact with others in a hotel setting if you don’t want.

    Transfer them to partners

    Again – this is not an ideal moment to travel. But when the time comes and you do want to get out and explore the world again, remember that you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points 13 travel partners, including …

    • Aer Lingus AerClub
    • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
    • British Airways Executive Club
    • Emirates Skywards
    • Iberia Plus
    • JetBlue TrueBlue
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards
    • United MileagePlus
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
    • IHG Rewards Club
    • Marriott Bonvoy
    • World of Hyatt

    So while your next vacation may be a ways off, keep these partners in mind and strategize how you might use the flexibility of transferring to your benefit.

    For example, if you want to book a stay at Hyatt, this is an excellent window since World of Hyatt will refund you 15% of your redeemed points (25% if you have a Hyatt co-branded card like The World Of Hyatt Credit Card), which means your Chase points will stretch even further.

    It could make sense to hold onto your points

    Although primarily intended as a travel rewards program, Chase has transformed its Ultimate Rewards portal into a one-stop redemption shop for customers who are looking for new and relevant ways to use their points. That said, don’t burn through all your points right now for things like groceries and a new couch.

    You might be better off getting a cash-back card, many of which offer bonus rewards on groceries, to take the edge off purchases and reserve your Ultimate Rewards points for a long-overdue trip when you’re ready to hit the road again.

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