Multiple Chase cards can mean better travel options

Tony Mecia
Personal finance writer
Rewards expert who writes the "Cashing In" reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

Strategies to boost Chase rewards

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If you’ve been following rewards credit cards for any time at all, you’ve heard of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

You probably know that it has a high annual fee ($450). But for all that money, you get a number of perks, including a $300-per-year credit toward travel purchases, a Global Entry credit (worth $100), triple Chase points on travel and dining out, and a generous sign-up bonus (50,000 points as of March 2018). The initial response was so strong that when it debuted in August 2016, Chase temporarily ran out of the metal version of the cards and had to issue them in lowly, ordinary plastic.

There is one perk of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, though, that receives scant attention, even though it should – especially if you have another Chase card, such as Chase Freedom (or Freedom Unlimited), Chase Ink, or Chase Sapphire Preferred.

If you have one of those cards plus a Sapphire Reserve, you can dramatically boost the value of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book travel.

How to boost your Chase rewards

Those other Chase cards all earn Ultimate Rewards points. The Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are commonly considered cash back cards, but they do earn points that can be put to other uses, such as merchandise and travel. When you use those cards to book travel online through the Chase travel portal, those points are worth either 1 cent per point (Freedom cards) or 1.25 cents per point (Chase Ink and Sapphire Preferred).

But with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, those points are worth 1.5 cents per point. And if you have the Reserve and one of the other cards, you can transfer the points to the Reserve and take advantage of that higher redemption rate.

You might be saying “big deal” – that’s only a half cent per point or 0.25 cents per point. But look how that difference can add up. Say you have a Freedom Unlimited card with 100,000 points on it. Ordinarily, those points would be worth $1,000 in travel. But if you transferred them to the Reserve, they are worth $1,500 in travel – or $500 more.

A lot of people are probably still carrying the Sapphire Preferred after acquiring the Reserve. In that case, too, there are gains to be had by transferring to the Reserve.

If you do have the Reserve and one of those other cards, transfer those points to the Reserve before you book travel, because the value of the points will rise. If you book travel on the account connected to the other card(s), the points will not go as far.

Recall that one of the perks of the Reserve is the ability to redeem Ultimate Reward points for a healthy rate through the Chase travel portal. Sometimes using Chase points on that portal is a smarter move than another option you have – transferring the points to an airline.

Using points on the portal vs. transferring to airline 

For instance, if you are considering a domestic flight on United that costs $350, you might be tempted to transfer 25,000 Chase points to United, then book the ticket through United.

But by booking that same flight through Chase using Chase points at the 1.5 cents per point rate, that same itinerary is only 23,333 points. You save nearly 2,000 points and you also earn United frequent-flyer miles. If the domestic coach round-trip flight costs $375 or less, you should strongly consider using the travel portal rather than transferring the points.

You might find similar advantages in other travel bookings, such as hotels. You can also use points to book rental cars, activities and cruises.

Those possibilities are open to you, too, if you have one of those other Chase cards in addition to the Reserve. And the more options you have for worthwhile redemptions, the better. 

 See related: Smart tips for using points during peak season, Which reward is better: Cash back or travel? 


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Updated: 09-24-2018