In a previous post I wrote about using credit cards to travel cheaply (or even for free!). This post goes into a little more detail and explains one of the programs I use as a cheap travel tool.
You can use Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have one or more of the following cards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred- The Sapphire Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee, but it is waved for the first year. You earn a 50,000 point bonus after putting $4,000 on the card in the first three months. After the bonus you can earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel, and there are no foreign transaction fees. You can transfer these points 1:1 as airline miles with a variety of airlines, or these points can be used 1:1.25 through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Chase Sapphire Reserve- The Sapphire Reserve comes with a $450 annual fee (which is not waved). This sounds like a high fee, but the first $300 spent on travel gets credited back to the account. Also, the card features other benefits such as Priority Pass airport lounge access and Global Entry reimbursement, and there are no foreign transaction fees. Like the Preferred card, you earn a 50,000 point bonus after putting $4,000 on the card in the first three months. Additionally, while points can still be transferred 1:1 to a variety of airline partners, points used through the rewards portal are transferred at a rate of 1:1.5 (unlike the Preferred's 1:1.25).
Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited-
While the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards may not have all the benefits of the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card, they have no annual fee. The sign-up bonus for each of these cards is $150 (which translates to 15,000 rewards points) after spending $500 on the card in the first three months. For everyday spending, the Chase freedom earns 5 points per dollar on the first $1,500 spent on select categories (categories change every quarter and may be things such as grocery stores and gas stations). The Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The points earned with these cards can be stretched further when using the transfer rates from the Sapphire Preferred (1:1.25) and Sapphire Reserve (1:1.5) cards.
Additionally, if you have a small business you can use the Chase Ink Business family of cards with the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Important note: If you have more than one of the cards listed above, you can combine the points earned from each card together.
Using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal you can book hotels, flights, cruises, and car rentals. Points basically function as currency with each point worth one cent. However, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred each point counts as 1.25 cents, and if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve each point counts as 1.5 cents. You can search for the transportation or accommodation you want to book, then use points, cash, or a combination of the two to book. For select airlines (such as Southwest Airlines) you will need to call the Ultimate Rewards center to book, but most airlines are available to book easily through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Preferred- 50k after $4k, 1:1.25, 2x on dining and travel, $0 first year then $95 annual fee, no FTF
Reserve- 50k after $4k, 1:1.5, 3x on dining and travel, $450 annual fee, $300 travel credit, Global Entry, Priority Pass, no FTF
Freedom- 15k after $500, 5x on first $1,500 in rotating categories, no annual fee
Freedom Unlimited- 15k after $500, 1.5x on all purchases, no annual fee
Use points like cash when booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
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