When You Should (or Should NOT) Book Hotels Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
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One of the best things about earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points is their flexibility. While you can use them for cash back, gift cards, or Amazon purchases, you’ll usually get much more value when you redeem them for travel.
- You have the ability to transfer your points to airline and hotel partners like United Airlines, Southwest, or Hyatt
- You can book airfare, hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation rentals, and activities with points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at an improved rate compared to other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards
However, booking hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal only makes sense in certain situations. In some cases, you could save a significant number of points compared to transferring points to a hotel partner for an award stay – plus there are no blackout dates!
One of the major downsides is you won’t earn hotel points or elite status credits (and possibly won’t have your status recognized) at chain hotels, because the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is considered a 3rd-party booking (like Orbitz or Expedia). But in some cases, that might not matter because you could end up saving a significant number of points.
Here’s what you should consider before you book a hotel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Should You Book Hotels Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal?
Here’s a quick primer on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal if you’ve never used it before:
- You can book hotels, airfare, car rentals, cruises, vacation rentals, and activities using Chase Ultimate Rewards points, paying with your Chase credit card, or a combination of points and cash
- With no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (like the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card, Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card, Chase Freedom, and Chase Freedom Unlimited) your points are worth 1 cent apiece when you redeem them for travel through the portal
- Points linked to annual-fee cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth more through the portal (1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, and 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve)
- If you have any of the annual-fee cards mentioned above, you can combine your points from other Chase cards and get the improved rate when you book
- Only Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders have the additional option to transfer their Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners
- The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is run by Expedia, and works similarly – so if you’ve used Expedia, Orbitz, or other 3rd-party travel sites, you’ll already be familiar with many of the search functions
Now, there are a few good reasons to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to book hotels. It’s most handy for folks who aren’t flexible with their travel, and don’t want to worry about blackout dates or available award nights at chain hotels – you can still book using points for a free stay this way even if there’s no availability. And the portal also includes independent hotels and vacation rentals or bed and breakfasts.
BUT – you’ll get stung on chain hotel bookings. Because the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is a 3rd-party site, you won’t get any of the benefits you would with booking directly with a chain hotel, including earning hotel points or elite status credits, participating in hotel promotions, or often having your elite status recognized (like getting upgrades or free breakfast).
When to Book Chain Hotels Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
If you’re comfortable not earning hotel points for your booking, don’t care about stay credits, or aren’t worried about getting perks from your current elite status, booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal makes sense if:
- You don’t have enough points in a specific hotel program to book an award, but still want to stay at a chain hotel
- There aren’t award nights available for the hotel you really want to stay at
- The number of points required to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is far less than what you’d pay for an award stay
1. You Don’t Have Points in a Program but Still Want a Free Stay
Here’s an example. Wyndham has lots of hotels around the globe, but many folks don’t collect Wyndham points because they’re hard to earn if you don’t stay with them often or have their credit card.
Even if you don’t have Wyndham points onhand, you can still book a stay with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Keep in mind, some rates on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal are non refundable. So be sure to read the fine print before you book.
You’ll also want to consider resort fees. Some hotels waive resort fees for members who book award stays with points, but you’ll pay resort fees (if the hotel charges them) when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
2. There Aren’t Award Nights Available
You might find that award nights aren’t available if your dates aren’t flexible or you’re booking last minute. Here’s an example of a Marriott hotel, the EMC2 in Chicago, looking at a room for next weekend – there’s no award availability. Normally, this hotel costs 35,000 Marriott points a night (and you could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott for an award stay, but that rarely makes sense unless you’re topping off your account, because there are far more valuable transfer partners).
But looking at the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, you can book a refundable room at the same hotel, on the same date, for 17,764 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred (1.25 cents per point). Or even less if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve – you’d pay 14,804 Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents per point.
Now, keep in mind you won’t earn Marriott points or stay credits when you book this way, and you might not get your elite status perks. But if staying at a particular hotel is a priority (or you can’t find a room elsewhere), this strategy is a good option.
3. Award Nights Are Pricey but Paid Nights Are Cheap
It’s always worth checking the portal to compare what you’d pay for a hotel using Chase Ultimate Rewards points, versus transferring them to a hotel partner for an award stay. Particularly if paid rates are low, you might get a much better deal booking this way.
Here’s an example of the Hyatt Place Niagara Falls in the low season. You could transfer 12,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to book this room, but the paid rate is only $72 plus tax so that’s not a good redemption at all.
Most folks would likely just pay the cash rate because it’s so cheap. But if your objective is to not pay any money at all, the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal offers the same room for significantly fewer points. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred (1.25 cents per point), you’d pay just 6,076 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. And with the Sapphire Reserve (1.5 cents per point), the price drops to 5,064 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
It bears repeating that you won’t earn Hyatt points or stay credits when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. And in this case, even though Hyatt Place offers free breakfast to World of Hyatt members, they require that you book directly through the hotel to get this benefit.
Personally I wouldn’t care in this situation because the number of points saved (nearly 50% or more if you have the Sapphire Reserve) are worth much more than a free breakfast and the points you’d earn on the stay. You’ll have to run the numbers for your situation to see if it makes sense for you.
When NOT to Book Chain Hotels Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
Again, the biggest downside of booking through the portal is you won’t earn points, stay credits, or always have your elite status recognized. This can be a very big deal for folks who:
- Are trying to qualify for elite status with a particular chain and need as many stay credits as they can get
- Already have elite status that would otherwise qualify them for valuable benefits, like free breakfast, suite upgrades, or late check-out
If you’re trying to earn bonus points from any of the current hotel promotions, you’ll almost always not be eligible if you book through a 3rd-party site. Also keep in mind that booking through any 3rd-party site decreases the likelihood of getting a preferred room or better view, because most hotels reserve the best rooms for folks who book with them directly.
And expensive rooms will cost you a lot of points – often much more than what you’d pay for an award stay. Always compare!
What About Booking Non-Chain Hotels Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal?
Independent, specialty, and boutique hotels usually don’t have loyalty programs, which means using points for a free stay isn’t an option. But you can still redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for many of these stays, as long as the hotel appears on the travel portal.
I recently booked an independent water park hotel for my family using ~10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which included the room rate and four 2-day water park passes (which I later canceled due to a winter storm – yes, I got my points back). The cash rate on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal was actually cheaper than booking through the hotel directly.
So you might consider this strategy even if you intend to pay cash. Chase sometimes has access to special pricing which could save you a few bucks on a paid stay.
That’s actually what I ended up doing when I rebooked the same property. Instead of redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I booked with my Chase Freedom card through the Ultimate Rewards portal. That’s because there’s a promotion for Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders to earn 10% cash back (10X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1) on Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel bookings through March 31, 2019 (up to $2,500 in total hotel purchases). I couldn’t resist earning a nice chunk of rewards!
Again, it’s always worth comparing prices no matter which way you decide to book.
Bottom LineBooking hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal with points is a good strategy in certain situations, particularly if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, or Chase Sapphire Reserve. That’s because you’ll get an improved redemption rate (1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, and 1.5 cents per point with the Sapphire Reserve) compared to other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards.
You might consider redeeming your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a travel portal hotel booking if:
- You don’t have points in a chain hotel program but still want a free stay
- There aren’t award nights available on your travel dates
- Award nights cost more points than redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the portal
That said, hotels treat Chase Ultimate Rewards bookings like any other 3rd-party booking. So you won’t earn hotel points or stay credits, aren’t eligible for hotel promotions, or often will not your elite status recognized (like getting upgrades or free breakfast). If that’s important to you, it’s better to book an award or paid stay directly with the hotel chain.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is also useful if you want to redeem points for a free stay at independent, non-chain hotels without a loyalty program. Again, it’s always worth comparing pricing between the portal and booking through the hotel directly (sometimes the portal is actually cheaper!).
What’s your experience been like booking hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal?
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