Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards When Closing Sapphire Reserve
The Miles to Memories Facebook group is a wonderful resource to learn about miles/points and saving money. Each week we feature one or more questions from the group that we feel will be helpful to readers of the site.
“Semi-newbie here (experienced at gathering points, but not in spending them). I have 65000 Ultimate Rewards points with Chase. I am about to close my account and need to transfer them before I do so.
What’s the best airline partner for: low/no transfer/surcharge/fuel fees, good award availability/cost, and available business or first class award tickets?”
The great rush to the Chase Sapphire Reserve happened about a year ago, which means the $450 annual fee is due again. Right now, many of our readers are faced with the difficult decision of whether to keep it (and pay the $450 annual fee), downgrade or close the account completely. Chase has further complicated the issue by changing their rules relating to sign up bonuses and the number of Sapphire branded cards a person may have.
For people who no longer want to pay the $450, a big issue is what to do with Ultimate Rewards points before you lose them.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards When Closing Sapphire Reserve – Downgrading
If you decide to downgrade the Sapphire Reserve to a $95 annual fee Sapphire Preferred, you’ll keep your points and retain the ability to transfer them to Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, an option many people believe offers the best value. You can also use them to book travel through the Chase portal at a value of 1.25 cents per point. While this is less than the 1.5 you get with the Sapphire Reserve, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world.
You also have the option of downgrading to the no annual fee Sapphire card, but that card gives the points a flat $.01 value and doesn’t allow for points transfers to partners. A better no annual fee option is the Chase Freedom which features rotating 5X categories each quarter. Unfortunately like the Sapphire, it doesn’t allow for points transfers or a value of higher than $.01 per point.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards When Closing Sapphire Reserve – Closing Your Account
Now, lets talk about those of you who are not interested in a Sapphire Preferred account and don’t have any other premium Ultimate Rewards cards. What can you do with your points before closing your account so that you don’t lose them?
Cash Back or Statement Credit
Each Ultimate Rewards point is worth $.01 when redeeming for cash. This is a good option if you are not a huge traveler or already have way more points than you need and who can’t use extra cash?
Gift Cards (Not Recommended)
Each Ultimate Rewards point is worth $.01 when redeeming for gift cards. If you are looking for a gift card, it generally makes sense to redeem your points for cash and then to use a credit card to buy the gift card so you earn rewards. However, sometimes Ultimate Rewards has sales where you can redeem your points at a higher value towards certain gift cards. For example, at the time of this writing, Gap Brands gift cards are on sale for a 20% discount, effectively giving you 1.25 cents per point.
Redeem Points on Amazon (Don’t Do It)
DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. When going this route you’ll get less than $.01 per point value when you can simply redeem points for cash or an Amazon gift card at a value of $.01 each.
Redeem for travel
This is a great option if you have a trip coming up and can purchase your airfare or hotel immediately because you’ll get an extra 50% value from your points! They’ll be worth 1.5 cents each. Not too shabby and very simple. Sadly, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article if it were that easy and I’m guessing you don’t have any travel that you need to book right away.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards When Closing Sapphire Reserve – Transferring to Travel Partners
Chase allows free point transfers to their 11 airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio and this is often the best way to maximize the value of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Depending on the program you transfer to and the price of the award, you can often achieve more than $.02 per point value.
If you have a favorite loyalty program or future redemption in mind, it should be easy enough for you to choose which program to transfer your points to. However, if you have no current plans and are looking for a transfer that will give you flexibility, there are a few things to take into consideration.
- Does the program have an expiration period for the points?
- What potential value will you get with the new program?
- How easily will you be able to book an award that you can actually use?
Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Partners
While each program has an expiration date for points, among the most generous is Korean Air Skypass. Their points expire 10 years after you earn them. Skypass Miles can be quite valuable for booking premium and economy award tickets on their many partner airlines.
Korean Air partners include the Sky Team Alliance as well as Alaska and Hawaiian. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic also have a generous expiration period of 3 years, which can be easily extended by earning or spending miles. Virgin Atlantic now has a Joint Venture with Delta, KLM and Air France, so these miles have increased flexibility.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Partners
As far as hotel transfer partners, there are only 4 options: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton and IHG. World of Hyatt points are valuable and represent the best option for redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for hotels. World of Hyatt points can also be kept alive easily with account activity. If you stay at Hyatt properties often, then parking points in this program can often be a good idea.
Unfortunately, the other hotel transfer partners don’t generally give a great value for your UR points. Of course, there will always be exceptions with specific redemptions and again, if you have one in mind, that’s great. Otherwise, you can at least sleep easy transferring your points to Hyatt, knowing that you’re likely to get upwards of $.02 per point.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great card and Ultimate Rewards is a wonderful program, but not everyone can justify the hefty annual fee. Thankfully there are several downgrade options and if you do decide to close your account there are still ways to ensure you will get a great value from your Ultimate Rewards balance.