In the points and miles hobby, change can be a scary thing. As we’ve mentioned in the past, issuers constantly change the rules of the game. This causes disruptions to card strategies and approaches. Recently, there’s been a lot of updates and changes with Chase, many of which affect those collecting Ultimate Rewards points for free travel. In this video/post, we explore three big updates from Chase in August 2018 and share some tips on mitigating the changes.
We’ll review the changes in the order of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good: Chase Travel Portal is now hosted by Expedia
If you use the Chase Travel Portal, you may notice that the look and feel of the portal has changed. When using the Chase Travel Portal with a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited card, you’ll notice that the portal is “powered by Expedia”. If you’re a Sapphire cardmember, then you’re probably using the portal under that account. This Sapphire version of the portal is still managed by Connexions Loyalty. Though Chase is planning to roll out the Expedia engine to all of their Ultimate Rewards card accounts soon.
While there are some differences when searching for flights, the biggest change is that you can now book and price flights up to eleven months in advance under the new portal. The old portal only allowed up to nine months to search for flights. You’ll also have access to some of Expedia’s discounted and seasonal offers, as well as more access to seats when booking flights. That’s a big one for us since we usually can’t select our seats when using the Chase Travel Portal. This means selecting our seats either a week before our trip or at check-in, which is not ideal.
A few folks online have complained that some previously available hotels, particularly Disney World resorts, are now unavailable under the new portal. If you happen to experience this situation, I recommend calling Chase and seeing if they can book it (via points). In fact, this is a good rule of thumb any time you hit a roadblock when trying to book travel using the portal.
Should you use a Freedom or Sapphire card when redeeming via the portal?
If you have both a Sapphire card and a Freedom card, you may be debating on which to use when booking your trip. It’s probably going to be a better deal to use your Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card since they have a higher per point value. For example, a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas would cost $179 on both versions of the travel portal. However, one costs 17,900 in points while the other is only 11,933. This is due to the redemption rates. The Chase Freedom has a one cent per point rate, while the Sapphire Reserve is 1.5 cents per point. If you have the Sapphire Preferred, it’s 1.25 cents per point. It’s worth using your Sapphire card for the redemption assuming that the cash price is the same for the booking.
The bad (and not so bad) news: Updates to Chase’s travel partners
Sadly, Chase lost Korean Air as one of their travel partners. This is unfortunate, but there is a silver lining. Chase picked up JetBlue as a new travel partner. JetBlue has some reasonably priced business lie-flat seats, so this new partnership could come in handy.
The ugly: Changes to Chase’s Sapphire bonus rule
Chase has increased the Sapphire bonus waiting period from 24 months to 48 months. The Points Guy recently wrote that the issuer updated their terms on the Chase Sapphire Reserve application. It also seems to be in the Sapphire Preferred application, but not from all sources.
When I checked both the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve off the Chase website, they both now include the 48-month restriction. This makes it even harder to earn the bonus. If you were planning on downgrading your current Sapphire card to one of the Freedom cards, you may want to reconsider.
My recommendation is that if you are applying for either of these cards, check the offer details. It seems like Chase has so many offer links that they sometimes neglect to update the terms on some of them. It’s possible to find offers that show 24 months instead of the 48 months. If using one with the old terms, I suggest taking a screenshot before applying. That way you have proof in case you don’t receive your bonus and Chase cites the new policy as the reason.
I may sound like a broken record, but this is yet another reminder that the points game changes all the time. This is a good opportunity to start looking at other points programs and card products. Chase and American Express are arguably the top issuers when it comes to rewards. Though I wouldn’t discount the other players in the market who are ramping up their travel rewards cards and programs.
What do you think about these new changes? Does it change your credit card strategy and approach? Let us know in the comment section below.
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