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Chase Ultimate Rewards® likes to boast that your points are worth more when you use them to purchase travel through the bank’s own booking portal.
For those who carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, points are worth 25% more when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That means if you had 50,000 points, you could get $500 cash back or $625 worth of travel – but only if you book through the bank’s online system. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a 50% boost, making 50,000 points worth $750 toward travel booked with Chase.
With such attractive bonuses, it seems like a no-brainer that cardholders should always book through the bank’s portal. But it’s a mistake to assume you’ll always get the most for your points there.
Do your homework
The alternative, transferring those points to one of Chase’s partners, sometimes gets you the same trip for fewer points. Other times, the opposite is true. You can never be sure until you compare search results.
» Learn more: Plan my trip: Top websites for travel deals
For example, a recent search turned up mid-December nonstop round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Cancun starting at 54,860 Ultimate Rewards® points booked through Chase. But the same dates would cost only 24,336 points if booked on Chase partner Southwest with a connecting outbound flight and a nonstop return flight.
Chase points transfer to partners at a one-to-one rate, meaning just 24,336 Chase points can be converted into the 24,336 Southwest points needed for that trip, cutting that trip price in half.
Similarly, 23,952 Chase points will buy a seat in mid-December on a nonstop JetBlue flight from New York’s JFK to Houston. But the same flight costs 20,200 JetBlue points.
On the other hand, sometimes the deals in Chase’s own booking portal are much better. A nonstop round trip from San Francisco to Maui in mid-December is about 33,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Nonstop itineraries for the same route and dates booked through Chase partner United Airlines start at 55,500 MileagePlus miles.
All these comparisons use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card redemption rates. A Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholder would get better deals with their 50% boost.
» Learn more: Chase 5/24 rule explained
But either way, the lesson is the same: Before you book in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, always check comparable trips on one of Chase’s transfer partners. You never know where you’ll find the better deal.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Best Chase credit cards of 2018 How I flew for free: Round trip NYC to India using Chase Ultimate Rewards 5 amazing places to visit with 60K Ultimate Rewards points