“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
–Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Sal travels. He travels because he needs to, he travels because he loves it, and he travels because he is chasing something and it’s never quite clear that he finds it. Sal is filled with wanderlust. We all have a little wanderlust in us and when the wanderlust strike its helpful if we have the resources and the nerve to take advantage to get up and go!
The Chase Sapphire program is an excellent way to fuel your wanderlust and save yourself some money. Many of my friends and family have these cards which allow them to earn points and travel for free, but some of those that I’ve talked to don’t seem to be using these Chase cards to their full potential. So I wanted to outline the two valuable ways you can book free flights using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points with a Sapphire card. The first way is to book a trip through the Chase Portal, which earns you the 25% bonus (i.e. 10,000 are work $125 instead of just $100). The second way is to transfer your points to a Chase travel partner airline.
To do either of these, you need to first get into the Ultimate Rewards online site. You do this by logging on to your chase account and clicking on Ultimate Rewards in the top right.
Then, you’ll need to selected which Chase card you want to use. As you can see, I have more than one and hopefully you do too.
Read more about why I think it’s better to have more than one Chase card in my post: Chase’s Three Musketeers. When redeeming for travel, you always want to use your premium travel card, whether that is the Sapphire Preferred or Reward, so select that one. This will take you to the Reward home page which will offer to let you redeem your points for cash. You don’t want to do this because you want to book some travel!
Here is where you decide which way you want to buy your flight. The first way is through the Chase portal. Unlike other cards (like Barclays and Capital One), which let you redeem points for travel purchases you’ve already made, Chase gives you a bonus if you buy a flight with points. To get there you can either just scroll down on this screen until you find the Travel search screen or you can click “Travel” in the above screen. The travel search looks like this.
There are a couple things to notice about this screen. First, my travel points are worth more for travel! 25% more! Before, my 6,022 points were only were $60.22 for cash back (if you look at that first rewards screen I showed you.) Now they are worth $75.28 towards a flight. And you can book more than just flights. You can book flights, hotels, cars, activities, and cruises. Also, I’ve read that Chase will be replacing this search engine, which is run by a specialty third party and has some limitations (you can read more here in my post “Three Downsides of Chase Travel Cards), with Expedia! So the travel search functionality should get much better.
To purchase with points you simply search as you would with Kayak or Expedia or another flight search engine and select the flight you want! If you do not have enough points, Chase lets you buy part of the flight with points and the rest with cash, which is great. And that’s how you redeem points by booking travel through the Chase Portal.
The second way to redeem points is by transferring points to travel partners. Remember the Rewards main page? This time you click on where it says “Transfer to Travel Partners.” That will take you to the travel partner page.
In order to do this, you will need a frequent flier account with whatever airline you want to transfer points to. You then just scroll down until you find the airline you want, add in your airline loyalty program information, and transfer however many points you want at a 1:1 ratio (1 Chase Point is worth 1 mile in each frequent flier program)! Chase just added JetBlue as a partner, so domestically you can now transfer points to Southwest, JetBlue, United, and Virgin Atlantic. Some, like Southwest, allow for instantaneous (usually they post within the hour) transfer. Others may take a day or two, so if you are going this route, be aware you might have to then wait a little before booking your flight. Then you log onto your airline account, and book a flight directly through the airline website using the frequent flier miles you now have! Once you do this once, you can save your airline loyalty program to your Chase account so you don’t have to re-enter this information each time.
There are a couple of pros and cons to using each of these ways. The pros of booking a flight through the Chase Portal, with Chase points, are that you get a bonus on redeeming your points; you will get covered by travel insurance; and you can earn frequently flier miles with that airline on your trip. The main con of using this is that it is a third-party booking, so any special requests, including seat assignments, will have to be handled directly through the airline. This usually means calling the airline. As I mentioned, there are a couple more downsides, which I go into detail in my post: “Three Downsides of Chase Travel Cards.
The pros of booking by transferring points to a loyalty program are that airlines often offer discounts on flights booked with points. For example, a flight that costs 125$, which would require 10,000 points to book with Chase (including the 25% redemption bonus), might be purchasable with frequently flier miles directly for only 8,000 points! Also, because you are booking directly with the airline, you can do your seat assignment and all special requests right when you book the flight. The cons are that you don’t get the travel insurance you would have if you booked through Chase and most airlines don’t let you earn frequent flier miles on flights that you are buying with miles (that I’m aware of). Because of this, some travel-hack geeks only like to use this feature if you already have a bunch of frequent flier miles with an airline and are just a few miles short of being able to book a flight, and otherwise recommend buying flights using the Chase portal.
However you choose to do it though, booking flights using Chase points can save you a lot of money and get you on the road (or into the air) quickly! After all, life sometimes gets rough, but there’s always travel.
“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?”