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Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption: How 1.25 Outperforms 1.5

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Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption

Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption

Chase still bores me.  While I still earn and redeem their Ultimate Rewards point currency, I find Chase far from innovative.  Shocker – they probably don’t care about my opinion.  Maybe their biggest rewards innovation over the past few years is Pay Yourself Back.  Since PYB’s inception, I’ve been a big fan of using Ultimate Rewards points with the Sapphire Reserve to wipe out everyday expenses at an excellent redemption rate.  Indeed, that extra value has been all gravy for us, as we’ve been cashing out Ultimate Rewards for years at one cent per point before anyone dreamed of the PYB possibility.  But what is my optimal Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption value?

That was an easy question to answer when Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders could easily obtain 1.5 cents per point for redemptions in broad categories, my favorite being grocery stores.  But now, Chase has tightened the purse strings, only allowing 1.25 cents per point in that category for Reserve cardholders.  And they only commit to short-term Pay Yourself Back extensions, generally three months into the future, at most.  The only scalable 1.5 cent per point redemption method left is via the Chase Travel Portal.  I’m not falling for that, though.  As a Reserve cardholder, here’s why I’m continuing to cash out at 1.25 cents per point rather than redeem via the Chase Travel Portal.

Note:  If you’re looking to maximize Ultimate Rewards value via travel partners’ loyalty programs, this article probably isn’t for you.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption

A Simple, Immediate Benefit

One reason I enjoy cashing out Ultimate Rewards points at 1.25 cents each is my family and I immediately realize the value of those points.  On a monthly basis, we use the points to completely erase our food costs, a normal expense we already incur.  There’s no hours lost researching a possible Chase Travel Portal redemption or waiting around to complete a vacation a year from now to pick up that value.

Choosing to use these rewards for our everyday costs (instead of our savings and investments) allows those other funds to continue growing at noteworthy rates, as well.

We Have Other Rewards

Like other active points and travel hobbyists, we have plenty of other points currencies to cover our travel needs and wants.  We’ll use hotel points, airline miles, and even Amtrak points to scratch our close-to-free travel itch.  During our current life season, that’s more than enough to address our travel goals.  We actively cash out bank points, including Chase Ultimate Rewards, to optimize value unrelated to travel.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption

It’s Not Really 1.5

Redeeming via the Chase Travel Portal can provide many Reserve cardholders undoubtedly solid value.  But is it really 1.5 cents per point in value?  Not always.  Here are a few matters to consider:

  • Chase Travel Portal rates aren’t always competitive.  One can often find better rates directly booking flights, hotels, or activities directly with the operator.
  • Chase Travel Portal bookings don’t necessarily earn points.  Hotel and car rental bookings don’t earn points with the operator’s loyalty program.  Individuals can earn airline miles on flight bookings, but those miles automatically posting isn’t a safe assumption.
  • Travelers can’t stack certain savings within the Chase Travel Portal.  For instance, individuals can buy discounted gift cards to make direct bookings even cheaper.
  • There’s no point earning on Chase Travel Portal award booking “spend.”  Conversely, the “new cash” from Pay Yourself Back redemptions can be used to book airfare, hotels, etc.  This actual spend earns the normal points in any airline, hotel, etc program, in addition to any limited-time promos and elite status bonuses.

These are just a few examples of how 1.5 isn’t really 1.5; plenty others exist.  But I think you get the point (pun intended).

Overcoming Travel Lust

Years ago, I heard Sam from Milenomics mention something I think is as true as it is simple.  I’m paraphrasing, but I recall him saying, “I don’t travel as much as I think I will travel.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I do travel plenty.  But I always travel more in my head than I ever do in reality.

Using my Chase Ultimate Rewards for the “promise” of travel while redeeming at 1.5 cents per point isn’t actually doing it.  I wouldn’t really want to travel that much.  If I did, it wouldn’t feel that special.  At a certain point, there’s a diminishing return for me.

As we look at unending future travel possibilities and the rewards to book them, the idea of certain aspects is more exciting than the reality.  Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should.  As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”


I have more flexibility to adapt when I book directly with a specific airline, hotel, etc rather than with the Chase Travel Portal.  Some have had positive experiences making changes to their travel with Chase, but I’m not willing to cede that control.  And those operators will recognize my elite status in their respective programs, which can help during the process.  Chase doesn’t.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption – Conclusion

I understand my own bias here.  I come from a rewards perspective where cash is king.  Clearly, I value that redemption option more than some others in the hobby.  But every once in a good while, my mind does wander to considering a Chase Travel Portal award booking at 1.5 cents per point.  But after careful reflection, including the areas I just described, I snap back to reality and keep cashing out at 1.25 cents per point instead.  Even if Pay Yourself Back disappears in the future, I’m confident I’d keep cashing out for the same reasons.

Do you cash out Ultimate Rewards at 1.25 cents per point, book with the Chase Travel Portal at 1.5 cents per point, both, or neither?  Why?

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. It’s probably important how many Chase points a particular person has. A person with 100,000 Chase points may be less likely to PYB 1.25 as opposed to someone with 1 million Chase points, because the incremental 0.25 CPP may make a bigger difference at that point.

  2. Recently, I was booking a flight. The cash price directly from the airline was about $1630. The cash price from Chase’s travel portal was roughly $1780. That brought the effective redemption rate down from 1.5 cpp to 1.37 cpp. Not as attractive as it sounds.

  3. Got a $4000 unexpected medical bill. Plan to open one card to be sure to get something for putting this amount on it. Then may cash in my Chase points to actually pay the bill. Thoughts.

  4. Good analysis, but, that makes the rationale for keeping the CSR pretty tough. Once Chase cut PYB from 1.5 to 1.25, that cuts a cardholder’s return from 4.5% to 3.75% even on travel charges. Oh, but it isn’t 3.75 because I have to shift spending from other cards to put spending on CSR in the PYB categories, and I have to pay Chase $550 for the privilege.

    At the same time, there are many cards out there that return 3% on travel charges, with no annual fee.

    I use the primary rental car insurance benefit all the time, but I can get that elsewhere, for a lot less. The math does not work. Unless there is a change I am not going to keep the CSR next year, and Jamie Dimon doesn’t care if he loses my business.

    • Joseph,
      I can understand your perspective. Regarding the Reserve annual fee, please see my response to Jeff.

  5. My wife and I just redeemed UR points at 1.5¢, for a $12,000 Amazon cruise. It wouldn’t have fit into our budget any other way, and we wouldn’t have had enough points @1.25¢. It’s a dream come true, and I am grateful

  6. This is a pretty hot take IMO. I’ll take 1.5c through the portal all day long in the circumstances that call for it (like booking flights that would otherwise be paid for in cash). The airfares are generally identical and I earn miles just fine.

    • “You completely erase your monthly food costs.” At 1.25 cents per point, you need 100 000 points per month to pay off a $1250 monthly food bill. Not too many of us generate points of that magnitude.

  7. I agree w everything and took the same strategy myself this year except that I do it for cheaper. I have plenty of points in Cap1 and Amex so I don’t need UR points and don’t have a Sapphire card anymore. Don’t need it bc with my free Ink cards (cash and unlimited) I’m getting the same 1.25c redemption except it’s for charity. I give at least 5% of my income to charity each year so it’s as good as using points for groceries or anything else. Better than getting 1.1c redemption for cell phone. The only caveat I should add is that it works for me because I already give regularly to one of the organizations eligible: International Rescue Committee (IRC). I was already giving them over $1k/yr so this year I’m using my bonus points from the Ink Cash to cover much of the donation I would have made to IRC anyway.

    • Jeff,
      Kudos for your charitable donations. If you’re referring to the Reserve annual fee, there’s a primary benefit that more than covers it without too much effort. But I totally get it if you find the Reserve unnecessary for your goals.


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