Why The Chase Travel Portal Is Completely Useless Now

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Chase Travel Portal Is Completely Useless

Why The Chase Travel Portal Is Completely Useless Now

I have been thinking about this for a while now and the Southwest devaluation yesterday really hammered this home. I have been thinking that the Chase travel portal is completely useless now. People may be thinking, wait the portal is more valuable with the Southwest devaluation news. The points are worth more booking their flights this way vs transferring them from Ultimate Rewards to Rapid Rewards. You can get 1.5 cents per point using the travel portal vs 1.4 cents per point in Southwest’s program. Plus, you earn Rapid Rewards for the flight since it is treated as a cash booking.  While that is true it still isn’t the best option for you.

Pay Yourself Back Is The Answer

We got news a few weeks back that Pay Yourself Back was extended until September 30, 2021 and would include the following categories:

  • Grocery stores
  • Dining
  • Home improvement stores
  • Eligible charities

As long as you have some of those charges on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card you can cash your Ultimate Rewards out at 1.5 cents a piece.  You could then use that money you saved to book your Southwest (or other airline) flights, excursions, hotels, car rentals etc. It takes an extra step but it is well worth it for these reasons.

Chase Fountain

Better Earning Rate

By going this route vs just booking through the portal you will earn more points. While you still earn frequent flyer miles on flights booked through the portal you get nothing from hotels.  And this doesn’t include the additional points you will earn paying for the travel with your credit card.  That could be an additional 3X-12X more points!

Better Protections

Not only will you earn more points but since you are paying with a credit card you can get travel, or car rental, insurance protections.  If you are paying with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card then you will get primary car rental insurance and some of the best trip delay insurance out there.  You will get none of that if you book through the Chase portal.

UPDATE: My error – you do still get travel protections when using points for the booking.  Just be sure to use points from the card with the travel insurance you want to use.

Lower Level Of Pain

Who wants to call in to book a Southwest flight? Who wants to call in to cancel a flight?  How about 8 hour hold times to make a simple adjustment?  I don’t want any of that, do you?  Having to deal with a third party when things go wrong is a mess. A lesson many have learned over the past year.  This option removes that added barrier to proper customer service, especially when issues arise. It also reduces the amount of phone calls you need to make.

Southwest

Potential Double Dip

If you are making purchases at the grocery store or home improvement store solely to be able to cash out your points then you can look at this as a double dip.  You make the grocery purchase to be able to cash out points.  You will earn 1X on that purchase with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card (3X with the current promotion). Then you will be using that same money to make the travel purchase after paying yourself back. That is essentially getting to swipe twice to make one booking. This of course isn’t possible for everyone.

Potential Pitfalls

That sounds great but there are a few downsides to this.

Need To Have Enough Spend

If you don’t have enough spend in the categories listed above to cover your travel expenses you may be out of luck.  The good thing is Chase allows you to go a few months back when redeeming so that should help the issue some.

Chase Travel Portal Is Completely Useless

You Can Miss Out Using More Valuable Cards

If you are putting purchases on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card simply so you can cash your points out then you may be losing out on some points. It isn’t as much of an issue on dining, with the 3X earning you are getting, but 1X on grocery is hard to swallow.  If you maxed out the 3X promotion these last few months you have some breathing room but once that is gone you would have to swipe for 1X on grocery purchases.  If you used another card, like the American Express Gold Card, you could be earning 4X on those purchases.  So that should be added into the calculations.  But you should make it back up when you go on to book the travel and earn points there.

Final Thoughts

I kept seeing people in Facebook Groups and blog comments saying that I will just continue to book my Southwest flights via Chase Travel for 1.5 cents per point.  I screamed as loudly as I could (VIA TYPING OF COURSE): NO! Use Pay Yourself Back instead and then book the flights.

It is true that without a Chase Sapphire Reserve card this doesn’t make sense. You would be better off transferring the points to Southwest or one of the other partners since you would only get 1-1.25 cents per point with Pay Yourself Back.  But that is true of the travel portal as well, since other cards only get 1-1.25 cents per point when using it.  So, if the travel portal is only worthwhile with the Sapphire Reserve card anyway, and you can do better with Pay Yourself Back, the portal is essentially worthless now.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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19 COMMENTS

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Another point which you alluded to — who actually manages the portal bookings. Have not used it since Expedia was in charge. terrible service. Waiting for Chase to take it over again (any ideas when that is going to happen?) before considering using again.

  2. Lower level of pain is an understatement. New to URs, not new to points/miles, signed up in 2020 during the CSP 80k bonus, my first attempt using portal to secure a car rental was a total waste of time. Vehicles would come up with great pricing, but then clicking to secure the rental just ended up with endless web cycling “wait, do not click/close browser, securing your reservation…” or similar message, but never any reservation. Worse yet, on reattempts, the prices came up 3X higher, then back to 3X lower. Attempted with CSP card, and with UR points, same result. CSP charged for the rental 3X with credits back 3X. Appears that the attempts with URs never charged for the URs, but then again, need to dig for transaction details. Total waste of time. Now, full disclosure, this was a rental in Scotland in October, but even so, it should have gone through – using the rental company’s website directly, it did go through immediately.

  3. I understand you receive coverage for the collision damage waiver with the Chase Sapphire Rewards card, but what does one do for liability coverage?

  4. Right now, the Chase Pay yourself Back portal says you only have 15 more days to pay yourself back. Everyone has reported that Chase is extending it until September 30, but the portal still says only until April 30. I wonder if they might start from scratch on May 1 meaning if you make a purchase at the end of April you won’t be able to pay yourself back for that purchase once April ends. It might be a good idea to hold off any purchases in the last week of April until May.

  5. I really like this thinking, and thanks for the good content (now and always!) Mark. Generally a few reasons why I think NOT cashing out for pay yourself back may still be useful:
    1. Companion Pass on Southwest — if you’re running low on Southwest points, transferring from Chase for use on a Companion-linked trip could provide outsized value. That said, if you’re playing the right 2-player mode on Companion Pass (timing card applications every 4 years for each player in 2-player mode to get perennial Companion benefits), you’ll hopefully have a solid store of Southwest points pretty regularly.
    2. Transfer to Hyatt — I typically find that if you’re booking at Category 4-8 hotels at Hyatt, transferring from Chase to Hyatt can have huge value. Hyatt’s portfolio has grown a lot so there are more options for redemptions in good markets, too.
    3. Transfer to British Airways — For those pesky American flights… better to book this way in many cases for outsized value!
    4. Flexibility and discounts — If you’re always earning Chase points, then beating the paying-yourself-back scheme with the cool (but rare) discounts off of market price that Chase’s portal sometimes has. But this is rare 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words and for reading Justin.

      For the companion pass I think it still makes sense to PYB and then book it with cash. You will get more value for the point vs transferring to Southwest this way and earn points on your ticket as well. The companion still goes free so adding the pass doesn’t really change anything there.

      I agree that transfers will get you more value some of the time. This was more about if you were going to use the travel portal I think this option offers more value. Not really talking about cashing out all points…just for those specific redemptions.

  6. Thanks for telling me what’s best for me! the 1.5 is the same same, but some people budget themselves for Grocery but not vacation.

    • I guess I am not following your comment Ryan. They both get 1.5 on the redemption but PYB offers you an opportunity to earn even more points on the same booking so it comes out ahead.

  7. I just checked my CSR Guide to Benefits, and every single type of coverage that’s linked to a transaction on the card includes the wording “and/or rewards programs associated with Your Account.” So you’re still covered even if you pay with UR.

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