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Chase Ultimate Rewards - limitations and issues for travel

2,454 689 October 28, 2017 at 01:07 PM in Finance (4)
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Last Edited by buzzy October 30, 2017 at 08:17 AM
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IOW, why Chase Ultimate Rewards is fail for travel, for me anyway.

We all know that if you're willing to travel when and where a program wants you to, you can get great deals. And the sign-up bonuses were good. (Those aren't the topics here.)

But I was hoping UR might be more flexible. It's not flexible enough, so I'll be switching back to a cash rewards program soon.

Hotels:

- Hotel choices are limited, and in some cases the rates are not competitive.

- In particular, you can't take advantage of discounts that are available via hotel loyalty programs, which undermines the supposed value of the points / points multiplier.

- Your reservation gets booked as if it were made by Expedia, so (1) you (mostly? always?) don't get hotel points and (2) they often put you in less attractive rooms. You (mostly? always?) don't get the perks of being a member of the hotel loyalty program. (I originally thought you were booked as if you paid cash.) Also, the reservation in the hotel's system might not be one the hotel's reps can edit, so it limits the service options. None of this seems consistent with the upscale promises of the Sapphire cards.

- You can't book hotels same-day, even by phone, so can't use UR for last-minute or emergency stays.

Car Rentals:

- You can't book non-airport locations, even by phone.

- I think you can't book same day, from what I recall last time I looked at the portal.

To their credit, posts online say that you are covered by car rental insurance if you book using UR, and the coverage is primary for cards that qualify for that.

Airlines:

- For airfares, it seems Ultimate Rewards is more competitive, even for direct purchases.

- Though LivininSC reports below that not all fare codes are available, even by phone.

- If you want to travel business or first and have a flexible schedule (and time to work out the points transfers), there seem to be some great deals.

There are lots of posts around about how to maximize point value by transfers to airline and hotel partners, especially if you're looking for more expensive travel. But the Sapphire Reserve and the Ultimate Rewards portal are sold as more than just an airline portal, and in practice it's somewhat limited for general travel.

I get that it works for some people. For example, if you travel a lot for business and can put the charges on a CSR, you can rack up a lot of points at 3%.

But all of that is true of many airline points programs / cards. It just wasn't what I thought I signed up for.

It was worth it for the signup bonus and the extra travel reward.

Any other ways in which Chase Ultimate Rewards falls short? The various credit card and points program review websites often don't get into this (and some even delete negative posts), because they make money by persuading people to sign up for cards, not discouraging it.

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#2
Thanks for sharing -- don't usually hear about what's wrong with a program until I've bought into it. Repped.

AmEx has a few cards that offer the primary car rental although there is a $25 charge per rental period -- which is either a month or 6 weeks. I had a blue card but got Delta when they had a points promotion and have the car rental insurance option on both.
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The airfare prices they sometimes offer are more than young can easily get elsewhere for the same exact flights. There was a crazy good deal to the Cook Islands but the UR site listed them at several hundred per ticket more. I called and apparently they don't offer all fare codes. In the end we passed and got 3 tickets to Hawaii for like $1,000 total or $700 worth of UR points. Even cheaper than the usual BA method. So while UR can be great for redeeming points it does admittedly have its downsides.

The other thing I think that sucks is with the CSR we get primary rental coverage but if you redeem points you don't get that benefit. Would be nice to get the card benefits with the points that you use I have to admit.
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Quote from LivninSC
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The other thing I think that sucks is with the CSR we get primary rental coverage but if you redeem points you don't get that benefit. Would be nice to get the card benefits with the points that you use I have to admit.
There are some internet blog posts around that say that if you book with points via an eligible account, you do get primary coverage. Here's one [frugaltravelguy.com] and here's another. [millionmilesecrets.com]

I haven't checked directly with Chase, which I would have done to be certain, if I'd been able to use the points at the non-airport location I needed.
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You're doing it wrong. Transfer partners are the way to use the points. Booking direct only gives you a crappy 1% redemption rate.
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Quote from buzzy
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There are some internet blog posts around that say that if you book with points via an eligible account, you do get primary coverage. Here's one [frugaltravelguy.com] and here's another. [millionmilesecrets.com]

I haven't checked directly with Chase, which I would have done to be certain, if I'd been able to use the points at the non-airport location I needed.
You're doing it wrong. Transfer partners are the way to use the points. Booking direct only gives you a crappy 1% redemption rate.

If you book with transfer partners, you can definitely book last min. I've been able to book rooms at 2am after getting a trashed at a bar with girls I don't remember.
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Quote from CrazyFoool
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You're doing it wrong. Transfer partners are the way to use the points. Booking direct only gives you a crappy 1% redemption rate.

Actually gives you 1.5% if you have a CSR card.... or 1.25% with a CSP or Ink Plus or Ink Preferred.

It's only 1% on the "free" chase cards, which can't transfer to partners.


THAT said- yeah- transfers generally (though not always) get you more value than the portal for economy fares and some Hyatt hotels at least.... and virtually always get you WAY more value for business or first class flights (and some Hyatt bookings).... so much so that I almost never use the portal as why would I "spend" them at 1.5c value when I can spend them in other ways for higher value?



If the OP doesn't have flexible travel dates BTW it's worth looking into airlines like SW without blackout dates... (and it gets a ton better if you have a SW companion pass- this effectively gives you ~3 cents per point on the cheapest SW airline tickets... meaning you're getting cash-equivalent of 9% back on your 3x CSR or Ink Prefered purchases, and 15% cash-equivalent back on Freedom or Ink Cash/Plus category purchases


Can't speak to using UR for rental cars as we typically book those via a corporate discount rate and only use the CSR for its free primary insurance on the rental.
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OK, but noting that the best deals are transfers to airlines or hotels only underscores the main point here - that the Ultimate Rewards portal doesn't offer much that's valuable or unique. So the benefit of the Ultimate Rewards cards is similar to other cards that one can use to generate airline or hotel points.

If someone can use the points, and has a lot of travel expenses, the 3% earnings rate on the Chase Sapphire Reserve could be a reason to go for that card.

We have a lot of non-travel small business expenses that can generate 2% cashback, and using cash doesn't require jumping through hoops to use.

And my last hotel experience confirmed that via Ultimate Rewards you get booked under a prepaid rate for which at least some hotels give lower priority for rooms and service. There wasn't anything Ultimate about it.
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Last edited by buzzy January 16, 2018 at 12:59 PM.

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Quote from buzzy
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OK, but noting that the best deals are transfers to airlines or hotels only underscores the main point here - that the Ultimate Rewards portal doesn't offer much that's valuable or unique. So the benefit of the Ultimate Rewards cards is similar to other cards that one can use to generate airline or hotel points.
I mean-kind of?


The only things similar are Amex MR, Citi Thankyou, and arguably Starwood SPG. And realistically Citi and SPG suck for different reasons compared to Amex and Chase for this kind of thing. (Citi because they have so few cards and restrictive rules you basically can't get more than 1 signup bonus total every 2 years and their transfer partners are the worst of the bunch- SPG because they only have a few cards you can get signup bonuses with AND earning from normal spend is terrible compared to everyone else)


Because the whole point is you can generate points that can transfer to many DIFFERENT airlines or hotels- so you can get the best value for any given trip.

Versus, say, a "hilton credit card" that only earns hilton points (and does a pretty crap job of that even)


And chase, among those other options, is the one where it's the easiest to earn the most points with normal spend, because they offer the most and highest bonus categories via the freedom, ink, CSR, etc.

So you have lots of chances using Chase cards to be earning 3-5 points per dollar- and it's not hard to get ~2 cents a point for coach airfare (and some Hyatt hotels), and 2-3 times more than that for business class bookings.

That's a cash-back equivalent rate of 6-10% for economy/Hyatt, and 12-20% cash back equivalent for business class flights.

That beat's the hell out of 2% cash back.


Quote from buzzy
:
We have a lot of non-travel small business expenses that can generate 2% cashback, and using cash doesn't require jumping through hoops to use.

What categories are your spending in? A lot of common business costs can do a lot better than 2% with other cards.

And hell, even if none of it can get into categories, if you have a "lot" of such spending you still do better than 2%.


Quote from buzzy
:
And my last hotel experience confirmed that via Ultimate Rewards you get booked under a prepaid rate for which at least some hotels give lower priority for rooms and service. There wasn't anything Ultimate about it.
Not really sure what you're looking for there... I've never used points and gotten any experience different from a cash booking (including both booking hotels where I did and did not have status)

But if you do a lot of hotel stays and don't like using points you might consider the Citi Prestige card- all bookings of 4 nights or more they refund the 4th night- the hotel sees it as a cash booking (because it is)- and you can get the same discounted rates AND hotel points for the stay as normal.
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Last edited by Knightshade January 19, 2018 at 02:35 PM.
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