The pandemic isn't over, but here's why I'm hoarding Chase Ultimate Rewards points again

By Holly Johnson

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While I'll always be a travel rewards enthusiast, the pandemic changed the way I pursued credit card rewards at first. For example, I pretty much stopped using airline credit cards in the middle of last year, and I put a lot more focus on the cash-back credit cards I have. 

I even did the unthinkable toward the end of 2020 when I used the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature to redeem points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve® at 1.5 cents each for a new refrigerator from Lowe's. With no imminent travel on the horizon, letting go of my usual intense focus on earning rewards for airfare seemed like a smart thing to do — at least for a while.

But with vaccines finally here and a renewed hope of international travel filling the air, I have started focusing on earning rewards for travel again. Specifically, I have traded out all my other credit cards from my wallet with the goal of paying for everything with Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards for the time being.

Here are the main reasons I am once again hoarding points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, as well as why you might want to do the same thing.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives me 50% more value when redeeming points for travel

First off, I love the fact that my most-used Chase credit card — my Chase Sapphire Reserve®— gives me 50 percent more value when I redeem points for travel through the Chase portal. This gets me 1.5 cents per point in value when using points for airfare, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more. 

You can book almost any flight with any airline on the Chase portal, as well as more than 1 million properties worldwide. While the Chase Travel Portal does not have access to all of the properties other online travel agencies offer, you can find most options there and certainly enough to choose from.

Either way, I like having access to a travel portal where I can book practically any type of travel I want without having to worry about blackout dates, capacity controls, or specific loyalty program rules.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has the best transfer partners

The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is always my backup for booking travel, but I prefer to rack up Chase points due to their robust selection of transfer partners. Specifically, I usually transfer Chase points to Southwest Rapid Rewards for domestic travel or flights to Mexico or the Caribbean.

I also frequently transfer points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue for cheap economy flights (in miles) to Europe for my family of four, and I also occasionally transfer points to the United MileagePlus program for various itineraries.

Using transfer partners is a great way to get outsized value for Chase points — potentially much more than the 1.5 cents per point in value you can get through the Chase portal with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Consider this example: 

When I travel internationally, I usually fly out of Chicago. I can frequently find one-way flights to Europe with Air France-KLM Flying Blue for less than 50,000 miles round-trip, plus airline taxes and fees. 

In the example below for October of 2021, a round-trip flight requires 44,000 miles + $229.31 in airline taxes and fees. The retail price for this same flight worked out to $1,227 on the day I compared pricing, so the value of this redemption works out to more than 2 cents per mile, even after deducting the cost of airline taxes and fees.

Flying Blue Sample Booking
Air France-KLM Flying Blue

I can (and do) pool points with my spouse

Another reason I choose to hoard Chase Ultimate Rewards points is the fact they make it so easy to collect points with a spouse or partner. Basically, Chase lets you add one member of your household to pool points with, although you can combine points from all of their cards with any of your Chase credit cards.

I love having the chance to pool points based on the convenience factor alone, yet it's also nice when I'm trying to make a large redemption and I don't want to break it up. If I'm booking four round-trip international flights for myself, my husband, and our kids, for example, I wouldn't want to break that up into two separate bookings since we might get bumped separately onto different flights.

The Chase trifecta lets me maximize rewards on all my spending

Another reason I am hoarding Chase points has to do with the combination of credit cards I have and how they work. I personally have the Chase trifecta plus some other cards. Here's a rundown of all the Chase credit cards my household uses:

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening,  5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories after activation (then 1%), 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on drugstore and dining purchases, and 1% back on everything else
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Earn $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening, 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on drugstore and dining purchases, and 1.5% back on everything else
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, 10x points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3x points on travel (after the $300 travel credit) and dining, and 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, 3x points on up to $150,000 in combined spending on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, online, and social media advertising each year (then 1x points) and 1x points on other purchases
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card: Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, 1.5% on all purchases 

Here's how I use each of these cards to my advantage before pooling all of my rewards in my Chase Sapphire Reserve account for convenience and for better redemptions through the Chase travel portal:

Bottom line

Chase credit cards make it easy to earn rewards for travel, and that's definitely why I'm hoarding them again. While an international trip may not be on our agenda in the immediate future, I want to make sure I have the rewards stashed away for travel once it's safe to do so.

Also know that you don't have to redeem Chase points for travel if you don't want to. You can also cash in Chase Ultimate Rewards for gift cards, statement credits, cash back, or merchandise, so you'll never be stuck with points you can't use. As long as you have an Ultimate Rewards card open and in good standing, your Chase points won't expire.

Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel.