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Update #2: After October 25, 2014, this trick will no longer work! All flights redemptions will be based on the cost of the flight.
There’s a little-known trick to using Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Chase Freedom card.
Did you know you can use 25,000 points to book a paid round-trip ticket worth up to $335? Normally, Chase Freedom points on their own are worth 1 cent a point when used for travel. But in this case, you’re getting a value of up to 1.34 cents per point (assuming $335 ticket / 25,000 points).
Increased Bonus on Chase Freedom
Link: Chase Freedom
Now is a good time to get the Chase Freedom card because Chase just doubled the sign-up bonus to 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($200 cash back) after you spend $500 in the 1st 3 months. Normally, the bonus is 10,000 points after meeting the same minimum spending.
So with a little more spending, perhaps in Chase Freedom 5X points bonus categories, you could earn 25,000 points and a $335 airline ticket!
Chase says this offer is for a limited time. In the past (most recently last November) it stayed around for a few weeks. But I’m not sure how long it will last this time.
How Does It Work?
You can use 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Freedom towards paid round-trip airline tickets with a maximum value of $335. To redeem, you need to call Chase at 866-951-6592. You can NOT do this redemption online.
It makes the most sense to find an airline ticket as close to $335 as possible (you’d still pay 25,000 points for a $150 ticket, which isn’t a good deal at all!). If the airline ticket costs more than $335, you can pay the balance with points (at 1 cent per point) or with a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit card. You’ll earn miles for any amount in excess of $335 that you put on your card.
To compare, if you made a booking directly using Chase Freedom points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, a $335 ticket would cost 33,500 points ($335 cost of ticket x 1 cent per point).
But this isn’t quite as good a deal as transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest. With Southwest, you’ll get a value of ~1.43 cents per point (and sometimes even more).
What About Transferring to Airlines and Hotels? Isn’t That a Better Deal?
I’ve written about using Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Freedom card by transferring them to airlines and hotels. But this only works if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, (no longer offered) Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus card.
You can’t transfer points from the Chase Freedom directly to airlines or hotels. But you can transfer Ultimate Rewards from the Chase Freedom to either your Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus, or Chase Sapphire Preferred and from there to airlines or hotels!
If you only have the Chase Freedom card, you can redeem points for cash back or for travel redemptions through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a value of 1 cent per point. This is not nearly as good a deal.
And even if you do have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, (no longer offered) Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus card, you’ll only get a value of 1.25 cents per point if you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Suppose you wanted to buy a $335 ticket at 1.25 cents per point through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. It would cost 26,800 points ($335 cost of ticket / 1.25 cents per point).
I checked the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for a $335 ticket (I couldn’t find 1 for exactly $335, so ~$334 it is!) and the number of points needed is indeed ~26,800 (26,718 points to be exact).
But you could get the same ticket for 25,000 points using this Chase Freedom redemption.
You’ll save 1,800 points compared to booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal (26,800 points redemption at 1.25 cents per point – 25,000 Chase Freedom points redemption). That’s worth $23 (1,800 points x 1.25 cents per point).
So calling in to redeem 25,000 points for a $335 ticket is a better deal, especially for those folks who only have a Chase Freedom card.
Using the 25,000 points for a $335 ticket is like paying cash for a ticket – it’s not an award booking. So this deal is good when there might not be award seats available on the dates or times you need, especially during holidays or peak travel periods.
With this trick you can quickly save $85 ($335 airline ticket – $250 value of 25,000 Chase Freedom points because they’re worth 1 cent per point on their own) on ANY airline at ANY time.
You can use 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Freedom card for a paid round-trip airline ticket with a maximum value of $335. If the ticket costs more, you’ll have to pay the difference with points or with a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit card.
This can’t be done online. You have to call Chase at 866-951-6592 to make a booking.
It’s still generally better to transfer your Chase Freedom points to a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus card, then transfer the points to partner airlines or hotels. But sometimes it makes more sense just to buy a paid ticket.
I haven’t tried this way of redeeming Chase Freedom points yet. If you have, please let me know about your experience in the comments!