Points bookings are great, but loyalty perks are too…
There’s always a new flavor of the month in credit card land, but there’s one flavor which I never grow tired of: points, done my way. I’ve booked every cool, aspirational plane ticket points can possibly book and while I’ll never grow tired of transferring credit card points to airline miles for amazing values and experiences, it’s not the most practical solution to 99% of my travels.
It’s also the solution to 0% of my airline loyalty status qualification needs, and in a world of basic economy and fees at every turn, airline loyalty benefits are crucial. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the one card that lets me satisfy both important travel needs seamlessly, and it lets me do so more often than any other card. Here’s why Chase Sapphire Reserve really is the best card for flight deal fanatics…
Aspirational x Practical
Aspiration is why many of us get into the credit card game. Flying Singapore Suites for $25 in cash and 100,000 points or less is a dream. It’s also a dream which requires great patience and greater flexibility. Those seats are available once, twice or thrice a month, which may or may not be when you want them, and rarely for more than 1 or 2 people anyway. Using credit card points by transferring them to airlines can unlock extreme values like this, but you…
- don’t earn miles when you book award tickets.
- can only pick from a meager selection of available flights.
- don’t earn towards airline elite status benefits.
For decades, high flying business class tickets were never considered practical. They were a 10x multiple of economy and rarely crossed below the $5,000 mark. That was before, and that’s not today, and that’s why the quasi cash back function of this card is more compelling than ever.
Fare deals are everywhere as airlines attempt to turn excess inventory and new competition into “our lucky day” and it’s not at all uncommon to see international business class tickets from $1000 round trip, or JetBlue “Mint” business class fares from $267 one way.
Here are deals you could’ve booked in the last few months, then I’ll tell you why Chase Sapphire Reserve matters…
- $875 First Class Asia to US Cities Round Trip On Cathay Pacific.
- $1200 Business Class UK to Malaysia Round Trip on Qatar Airways.
- $267 Business Class US Cities to St. Lucia On JetBlue Mint.
- $1200 Business Class European Cities to Los Angeles Or New York.
You care because…
You care because any of these crazy flight deals could’ve been booked with points, or partly with points, and no credit card offers a better “per point” value towards each ticket than the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You could book these fares, or any other plane ticket for that matter and even though you book with points via Chase Travel, it works like you paid cash.
You can cover part, or all of the airfare with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, just like booking with Expedia. In fact, you book through Expedia on the Chase Travel website and then have the option of using some, all or no points. Unlike when you transfer points to an airline to book, you actually earn points and benefits back on these bookings because it works as if you paid cash, even if you only used some or none at all!
- You’re not stuck to “award ticket” availability.
- Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points act like cash.
- If it’s bookable with cash, it’s bookable via Chase.
- Because it’s like using cash, you earn things back.
Each year I make a point of re-qualifying for Oneworld Emerald status with British Airways. To do so, I need quite a few paid flights and ideally ones towards the front of the plane. Being able to cover some, or all of the costs of the great flight deals which help me reach status is immense.
With Chase Ultimate Rewards Points via Chase Sapphire Reserve, I get a rate of 1.5 cents per point toward any airline ticket, and that is outstanding. With this method, I could actually qualify for airline status without spending any cold hard cash, if I had enough points! And I can use them for any cabin…
If I see a $1000 ticket and say, eh, bit too rich for my blood today, I can use just 17,000 Ultimate Rewards Points at a rate of 1.5 cents each from my Sapphire Reserve and instantly take $250 off the ticket. $750 feels better than a grand!
I login to my Chase Sapphire Reserve account, hit redeem points, search for flights then select how many points, if any I’d like to use toward the total flight price. If I have enough points, I can cover the entire ticket and if I don’t, I can still cover some.
Because it processes through Expedia as if I booked purely using cash, I still get all my frequent flyer miles and elite status credits. Of course, if I want to transfer my points to an airline or hotel for even better value I can, but with fares so low – this is the hot ticket way to cash in, and the wild values of redeeming points for luxury travel via airline program transfers aren’t what they used to be. This is much easier, and this method helps me qualify for the next year of airline elite status benefits, which make the days I’m stuck in economy or traveling with guests much more fun…
If I didn’t have this two pronged option, my points would only be half as valuable to me, because I rarely have time or flexibility to work around tight loyalty program award redemption availability. Sure, I’d love to use them on the odd month when I can fly any day at all, but that wouldn’t solve 99% of my travel problems, or help me shave a few bucks off here or there.
That in itself is part of the beauty. A guaranteed value of 1.5 cents per point when redeemed through Chase Travel means you don’t need a crazy lesson in points to get solid value for your Chase Ultimate Rewards at any time. Any ticket, any time – mine. That’s true using points, cash or a combination of both.
Using 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards through the Chase Travel Portal to cover a $1,500 paid business class ticket which will earn tons of airline miles back and help me make progress toward elite status makes much more sense for me than transferring 125,000 Chase Points to an airline, hoping for availability and earning nothing back when I fly.
To unlock great value, you don’t need to learn how to convert Chase points into Flying Blue points to book Delta flights or anything convoluted like that – though you should anyway.
And then there’s earning.
3X points on travel dining is a compelling package. These are my two largest areas of spend, and though 5X points for air travel booked with airlines via The Platinum Card from American Express is tempting, I prefer the ease of how I’m able to spend my Chase Ultimate Reward points — plus trip delay coverage.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve carries an annual fee of $450, but I find that’s very easily justified for a variety of reasons. The $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership which includes 2 guests when you visit a lounge and the Global Entry/TSA Pre✓ statement credit basically get you to break even without much effort at all. I am instantly getting $300 back from my first travel purchases of the year and then I find myself using the Priority Pass benefit at least three times a year, which I value at $25 per person each time. That’s $450 right there.
There’s also the under the radar benefits too, like Chase Luxury Hotels, which is a competitor with Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. This program offers perks like dining credits, upgrades and early check-in, often at the most competitive rates.
Add in the 50,000-point welcome bonus and the ongoing ability to maximize points with great ease and there’s a lot of added annual value there. This is a card which has been in my wallet for over two years now, and as long as these programs remain intact, it will be for many more to come. There’s no better U.S. credit card for flight deal fanatics, in my opinion.