When it comes to booking domestic travel, I can rarely get myself to use points. There’s just too much value in booking international premium cabin tickets with points.
However, with the advent of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, card holders can now directly book flights through Chase with a valuation of 1.5 cents per point. If you’re booking a relatively cheap flight and you don’t feel like dropping the cash, consider using Chase points.
Here’s an example. I needed to buy 3 one-way tickets from Missoula, Montana to San Jose, California. There was a pretty good fare on Alaska Airlines at $115.80 with a stopover in Seattle. That being said, I just didn’t really feel like paying $350 for the three tickets.
Out of curiosity, I went to United to check out how much award tickets were. United typically charges 12,500 miles for one-way tickets in the USA, but for some routes like SFO-LAX, they charge a bit less.
As expected, it would be 12,500 miles plus a fee of $30.60. If the fee seems high, it’s because United charges close-in award booking fees now. A total of 37,500 miles plus $90? Forget that! I decided to check Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan options…
With Alaska Airlines, there were plenty of options for 7,500 miles plus $6. That’s a bit more reasonable at 22,500 total miles plus $18, but I really value Alaska Airlines miles. 22,500 miles is almost half of what it takes to book this trip and then continue on with a stopover. Then I decided to take a look at just booking directly with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
When you book with Chase points, they’re literally just redeeming your points for cash and buying the ticket from the airline. Because of this, that means you’ll actually EARN mileage, both elite qualifying and redeemable, on the flight. What did that option look like?
Check that out. The trip costs 23,160 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which is only 660 more points than it would take to book tickets with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan directly. Furthermore, because they’re just converting points to dollars, there are zero extra fees associated with this ticket. It gets better. I’ll earn miles on this trip. If you have elite status with an airline, the case for using Ultimate Rewards points is even furthered by the fact that since it’s just a revenue ticket to the airline, you’re fully eligible for upgrades.
Here’s a final reason I love the option of booking directly with Chase for a subset of flights. If you have a family of three or more people, it can be REALLY hard to find award inventory to book a big trip, especially when it comes to premium cabins. Most airlines just release 1 to 2 premium cabin seats per route so even if you’re incredibly aggressive with searching for award seats, you may never have a chance. If you wait for a business class fare sale and book with Chase points, there’s a chance that you’ll ues less points with Chase than you would with an airline mileage ticket, and a ticket booked with Ultimate Rewards comes with all the same benefits of booking a revenue ticket.
When would I NOT use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a ticket? I wouldn’t use them if the cash price of the ticket were high. The math is pretty easy. Take the price of the ticket. Multiply it by 66.66, and that’s how many miles it would cost with Chase. If the 3 seats I purchased were a total of $600, then if I were just looking to maximize point usage, it would have been smarter to use Alaska Airlines OR United Miles. Hopefully this wasn’t too confusing, but the bottom line is that I believe using Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card can make for interesting “redemptions” on lower cost flights. Have you used them in a similar fashion?