In yesterday's post we talked about the cheapest* way to book flights to Europe using points. That was a bit of a teaser for this post, because often the absolute cheapest way to book a flight to Europe (or anywhere) is via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This is because the portal lets you use your points at a fixed value to book a cash fare.
The Chase Portal: Powered by Expedia
When you hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) or Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) or the Chase Ink Business Preferred (CIBP) card you have access to the Chase Travel Portal to book travel directly using your Ultimate Rewards (URs). Chase assigns a fixed value for URs redeemed through the portal: 1.25 cents per UR for holders of the CIBP or CSP, and 1.5 cents per UR for holders of the CSR.
Log into your Chase account and on the bottom left-hand side of the screen is an icon that shows your Ultimate Rewards points balance. Click on it, and it will take you to the Ultimate Rewards landing page where you can choose from a variety of ways to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points. Now, we're biased because we're travel bloggers, but PLEASE trust us when we say that the ONLY way you should be using your URs is to redeem them for travel. Either by transferring to a partner (another blog post all its own), or by booking directly through the portal. Ignore the offers for cash, gift cards, and buying other merchandise.
When you click on “travel” at the top of the Ultimate Rewards page, it takes you to a site that should look familiar. In fact, it should look a lot like Expedia, because Expedia is the search engine behind the portal. From that landing page you can search flights, hotels, cruises, etc. For this post we're going to focus on flights.
Booking a Flight
Booking a flight through the portal is as easy as booking a flight through Expedia. Search for your cities and dates, and sort to find the flight you want. The portal will list the cash price of the tickets and will also show you how many points you'll need. Click through, confirm the details, and book. Your URs will be deducted from your account and you'll get a confirmation email with the booking. It's that simple.
Here's a search I did for flights from SFO to CDG (Paris) departing November 13, 2019 and returning November 18, 2019:
The cheapest flight is $480.53, or 32,035 URs when booked through the portal (1.5 cents per point with my CSR). That's a great deal! And the flight is direct which is a huge time saver.
I selected my flights and got to a page like this:
Click through, fill out your details and book. You're on your way to Paris!
How do I know when to use the Portal?
When you have a destination in mind, the best thing to do is to search via Google Flights. You can set up flight alerts for specific flights (for example if you know that United flies from your home airport to CDG at a particular time everyday) or for any flights between your destinations. When you've done your research on Google Flights, you can then go to the Chase Portal and look for the exact flight at the price you saw on Google, and book with URs.
There are also several email subscription services that will notify you of flight deals, such as Scott's Cheap Flights, The Flight Deal, etc. When you get an email that interests you, you can find the flights on Google and then book through the portal.
The Chase Portal has no minimum redemption. If you find a fare sale for $300, you could book that flight for 24,000 URs with the CSP or CIBP, or 20,000 URs with the CSR. Keep your eyes open for great cash deals, and then use the Chase Portal to book.
But wait, it gets better!
You booked the flight you wanted for the least amount of points possible and didn't have to worry about transferring to partners or putting availability on hold. What more could you ask for?
How about *earning* miles for your flight? When you book through the Chase portal you are essentially making a cash booking (remember: the portal is “powered by Expedia”). That means you'll earn miles for the flight, too. Just be sure to enter your frequent flyer information when booking, or before you fly.
Have you booked a flight through the Chase portal? If not, what are you waiting for?! Comment below with your thoughts or questions, or join us over in our Facebook group for more tips and discussion.
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