UPDATE Apr. 7, 2021: Chase announced an expansion of its "Pay Yourself Back" feature. Below is our article from May 28, 2020, updated to reflect other cards that have been affected and new expiration dates of existing promotions.
Chase is giving holders of its Sapphire-, Freedom- and Ink-branded travel credit cards more flexibility in redeeming their points, reflecting the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought leisure travel to a near-halt.
About the Sapphire feature
For a limited time, cardholders can redeem points for statement credit on certain purchases at the same elevated values that they usually get only when redeeming for travel. Starting May 31, 2020 and running through September 30, 2021:
Holders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can redeem points for statement credit against spending at grocery stores, restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services), home improvement stores and select charitable organizations (see below) at a value of 1.25 cents per point.
Holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can redeem points for statement credit against such spending at a value of 1.5 cents per point.
Points on these cards are typically worth only 1 cent apiece when redeemed for cash back or a statement credit. Ordinarily, cardholders get 1.25 cents per point (with the Preferred) or 1.5 cents per point (with the Reserve) only when redeeming for travel booked through Chase.
Additionally, from June 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021 for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, purchases at gas stations and grocery stores will count toward the $300 annual travel credit on the card for the remainder of 2020.
About the Ink feature
A similar "Pay Yourself Back" benefit will apply to two of Chase's Ink business-card products. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, and running through June 30, 2021:
About the Freedom feature
As of Oct. 1, 2020, the "Pay Yourself Back" benefit will also be available on cards within Chase's portfolio of Freedom products, on an ongoing basis:
Holders of the Chase Freedom®, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can redeem points for statement credit against donations to qualifying charitable organizations at a value of 1.25 cents per point.
COVID-19 benefit adjustments
The limited-time extra value on statement-credit redemptions for grocery store, restaurant and home improvement store purchases coincides with the launch of a new “Pay Yourself Back” feature on Chase cards. That feature allows cardholders to redeem points to cover the value of specific purchases, not just for general credit on their statement.
The new benefits follow Chase’s announcement earlier this month of heightened grocery bonus rewards on many cards for a limited time, including on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Preferred cardholders are getting 3 points per dollar at grocery stores during the promotion period, and Reserve cardholders are getting 5 points per dollar; that's up from the usual 1 point per dollar on both cards.
Additionally, for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase has taken steps to blunt the impact on existing cardholders of an increase in that card’s annual fee.
Keeping cards in people’s wallets
With millions of would-be travelers stuck at home and thousands of restaurants closed, many cardholders have been spending more on groceries than they usually would. Chase's extra benefits can help cardholders recoup their annual fee and make up for the travel perks they can’t use.
American Express has also added benefits to many of its travel credit cards as a result of the pandemic, including boosted rewards for grocery spend and statement credits for streaming and wireless services.
The added benefits could be enough to keep many cardholders on board, but if you're thinking about ditching your travel card, here's what to consider when making the decision.