Chase Ultimate Rewards has long been considered one of the most valuable rewards currencies available, and for good reason. Not only can you transfer Chase points to popular airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio if you have a premier Chase travel credit card, but you can also cash them in for gift cards, merchandise, or travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
While booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal may sound less advantageous than taking advantage of transfer partners, the Chase portal has always offered tremendous value. If you were unable to find award availability for a flight or hotel you wanted with a transfer partner, for example, you could book travel through the Chase portal without stressing over blackout dates or capacity controls.
I have also been a huge advocate of booking “activities” through Chase since you can use your points to splurge for experiences you may not want to pay for otherwise. My family has used Chase points to swim with sharks in Bora Bora, visit the Vatican Museum, take a vegan food tour in Spain, and learn how to make pizza and gelato in Tuscany. These are just a few examples of the way you can utilize these points to have fun, but there are an endless number of options to choose from no matter where your travel plans take you.
- Related: 2018 Chase Ultimate Rewards Guide
Chase Now Partners with Expedia
Up until recently, Chase partnered with a Connexions-powered site to run their travel portal. In August, however, they would begin partnering with travel behemoth Expedia.com to run their travel portal later this year.
So far, you can book travel using the Expedia-powered travel portal with either the Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited® cards. Chase has said that the Expedia portal will roll out to Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (currently unavailable through this site) customers as well as Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card customers later this year.
What does this mean for consumers, exactly? Not a ton, but there will be some notable and helpful changes coming up. If you carry a Chase travel credit card (or three, like I do), here are a few changes you can look forward to:
More Hotels and Airlines to Choose From
While the Connexions travel portal Chase is currently phasing out does offer an array of travel options around the globe, the new partnership with Expedia promises to usher in more choices for consumers over all. Chase promises the ability to search and redeem for travel among 272,000 hotels and resorts worldwide, over 250 airlines, and plenty of car rental options once the transition is complete.
Many of the travel options will be the same as the ones you find in Connexions; there will just be more options overall. And, just as before, points from a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are worth 25% more when you book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal (so $100 in points = $125 in travel credit), and you’ll get 50% more travel if you book with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Chase is also promising increased transparency when it comes to booking flights through the portal. “Total trip cost will be displayed at check-out, making it easy to see the points and cash needed to redeem for travel,” notes Chase in their press release. “Plus, more flight search options by class and opportunities to upgrade throughout the booking process, as well as integrated seat review content powered by SeatGuru.”
Will prices be the same once everything switches over to Expedia? Since you can only use the updated travel portal with Freedom products right now, it’s hard to say for sure. Still, I anticipate plenty of affordable options and fair pricing offered on top of the discounts you receive for using a premier Chase travel credit card.
Broader Range of Excursions
While the Chase travel portal has offered a wide range of excursions up until now, they promise more experiences to choose from once the transition to Expedia is complete. Specifically, you should be able to use your points to book more than 25,000 activities, tours, attractions, nightlife options, and more.
As I mentioned already, I love using Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book excursions and tours. Using points to book these extras is a great way to splurge without paying out of pocket, and I have never done a single tour through Chase that wasn’t “worth it” in my book.
Going on vacation to a new destination is always fun, but you can have a deeper experience if you go off the beaten path and try new things. Chase makes it possible to use points to book museum exhibitions, electric bike excursions, walking tours, educational tours, and more. These extras can add to your travel experience and help you save money when you book with points.
The Bottom Line
If you have a Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you can already check out how the new Expedia-powered portal will look. Once you log in, you’ll find a huge selection of travel options that range from flights to hotels, rental cars, and tours. Personally, I cannot wait until the portal can be used with my Chase Sapphire Reserve®. That’s because you get 50% more travel when you use points in your Reserve account to book.
While a lot of rewards experts say you should always utilize transfer partners over booking through the Chase portal, I tend to disagree. There are times when transferring points to an airline or hotel is advantageous, but the travel portal offers something transfer partners simply cannot — complete freedom to travel how you want.
For example, the Chase travel portal lets you book independent and off-brand hotels that don’t operate within a loyalty program. And when award availability is scarce, you can use your points to book any available flight with any airline regardless of loyalty.
Now that Chase has partnered up with Expedia, you should find more options than ever before.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .
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