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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.
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 extending an all-time-high sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening — that's 20,000 more points than usual.
Cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
15.99%–20.99% variable APR
- 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
- High sign-up bonus
- Offers 3x bonus points on several spending categories, including travel and advertising purchases
- Includes comprehensive travel coverage
- Welcome bonus has a very high minimum spending requirement
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 instance, you could take advantage of a current 20% transfer bonus to Southwest Rapid Rewards through October 31, 2020. Or 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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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.
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