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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information
Before you start signing up for your first travel rewards credit cards, it helps to know how much value you can expect to receive in exchange for your spending and credit inquiry. A big question you may have is why TPG and Chase value Ultimate Rewards points differently.
This is a great question, as it hits at the very core of what we strive to do every day here at TPG: Help our readers earn and redeem points at the maximum possible value.
Let’s start by looking at the value you can get from booking travel directly through the Chase portal. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, making it one of the most valuable card offers available right now.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred gets a 25% bonus over the standard award rate (1 point = 1 cent) when you redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. This makes each point worth 1.25 cents, so 80,000 points * 1.25 cents/point = $1000 in value.
Note that this same rate applies to the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. The issuer’s most premium card — the Chase Sapphire Reserve — comes with a 50% bonus, making your points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Sapphire Reserve is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which would also be worth $750 if you redeem those points for travel through the Chase portal.
Chase uses this number to advertise because any Sapphire Preferred cardholder — with no extra effort or knowledge of points and miles — could redeem their sign-up bonus for $750 worth of travel. In fact, if you’re going through the Chase portal, it’s impossible to get lower than this. But you can do better.
Now let’s shift to TPG’s monthly valuation series, the most recent edition of which pegged Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each. That number has fluctuated over time as the program has changed (especially after Chase dropped Korean Air as a transfer partner and United switched to dynamic pricing), but this number reflects the fact that you can often get a higher redemption value by transferring to travel partners instead of going through the Chase portal. This is especially true for some of Chase’s top travel partners, including Hyatt, United, British Airways and more.
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That 2 cents isn’t a ceiling either; I’ve been able to redeem my Chase points for as much as 11 cents each by transferring them to United to book a Lufthansa first-class award or almost 7 cents each for a one-way EVA Air business class award from Shanghai to New York. TPG settled on the 2-cent-per-point valuation because that’s what a general reader can realistically attain by leveraging transfer partners thanks to high-value international premium-class redemptions, along with high-priced domestic travel. This is the value of transferable point currencies.
So while you can generally get more value from transferring your points to a travel partner, that won’t be true in every case. You’ll ultimately need to run the numbers for yourself and see which avenue costs the least amount of points. Let’s take a look at this example of a one-way flight between Washington-Dulles (IAD) and Boston (BOS). The cash price of this ticket is only $80, which means Chase wants 5,354 points for it since I have a Sapphire Reserve. If you have a Sapphire Preferred instead, it would be ~6,400 points.
United, on the other hand, would’ve charged you 10,000 miles for the exact same flight. When cash prices are incredibly low, you can often come out ahead booking directly through the Chase portal. While this is obviously a personal decision, if prices are so low you might want to think about saving your points entirely for another trip and paying cash instead.
If you’re still learning how to leverage transfer partners to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points, make sure to check out these guides:
When Chase values Ultimate Rewards, it’s speaking to a broad audience and offering the minimum amount you’re guaranteed to receive when redeeming your card sign-up bonus for travel. For legal reasons, Chase can’t promise that you’ll get anything more than that even though it’s entirely possible to do so by leveraging the right transfer partners. That’s where TPG comes in. Our valuation requires a bit more time and effort to achieve but often results in a higher payoff. It’s one of the most important shifts that an award enthusiast can take: moving beyond simple, fixed-value redemptions. And while TPG’s valuation is by no means the maximum, it’s a better reflection of what savvy travelers can aim for with just a little bit of additional work.
Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.