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Is booking travel via Chase Travel Portal cheaper?

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Hello,
   I have about 266k ultimate reward points. I was wondering what would be the best way to redeem them? Is booking via the travel portal cheaper (with the the 20% discount) than finding flights or hotels via websites like kayak.com? Or is there a way to find flights + hotels via kayak.com and then apply my points to the purchase giving me a discount?

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rated:
I have found the deals there to be good, not the best you can find but perfectly good. With that bankroll of points you could travel almost anywhere on earth first class.

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1.2x on the Chase portal is not the most efficient.   I get about 1.5X for southwest WGA flights transferring to Rapid Rewards. (Closer to 1.7cents/point, but you don't earn "points" on the points flights, and those are worth about 10%, so that gets it to around 1.5cents/point). If you have the CSR, the 1.5X is not bad for flights. And most flights don't seem to be marked up on the Chase portal.

Hotels and cars, on the other hand, I've found are usually higher prices on the UR portal than booking directly, at least every time I've looked for my trips in the past year. I find cars cheaper usually even just with Costco travel site. Hotels I find cheaper (with like cancellation terms) directly with the hotel, and often there is a discount rate I qualify for and extra points earning when I book directly. For Hilton hotels, for example, I usually find Chase to be ~20% higher prices with much poorer cancellation terms than the way I usually book. Plus, booking through the hotel I earn more than 20% cash and points rebate. So, if I book through CSR (1.5X "value" on Chase portal), I would end up only receiving around 1 cent/point value booking through the Chase Portal. If I only had a sapphire preferred, I'd only receive around 0.8cents/pt value booking through the Chase Portal -- Which is half of what value I derive from Southwest Rapid Rewards Points or only 80% of the cash value of the Chase UR points.

It's still worth comparison checking the Chase portal for hotels and cars -- In some cases it may be equal or cheaper than whatever other way you are booking and turn out to be a good deal. I generally check the hotels directly, a couple other portal sites, and Chase UR portal before booking. Or, costco travel for car, a few of the companies directly with some rate codes, and the Chase UR portal. Flights I have mainly flown southwest and so have not used any on the portal yet, but almost have and plan to in the future for some other carriers -- again, because with the Reserve it's 1.5cents/pt on the Chase portal, though.

There's other reasons you might not want to wait and use the points as efficiently as possible at 1.5cents+/pt (like I have always.... then again I have ~370k points now.  I have used almost 60k in the past six months), but it still never makes any sense to use them through the portal if you are getting less than 1 cent/pt value like in one of the examples I gave above.

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There's no hard and fast rule, other than to optimize your cents per point. I wouldn't spend them at 1 cpp for hotels if you could get 1.6 cpp for revenue airfare bought through Chase (assuming CSR), or potentially higher value transferred to one of their partners like UA or SQ for biz/first awards.

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Bendr? How are you getting 1.7 on Southwest? Or are you mostly redeeming for low priced tickets in which the redemption rate is a bit higher due to the taxes?

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OP. What is the 20% discount you are referring to? The only thing I'm familiar with is the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you a 50% bonus when using point for travel, which works out to a 33.3% discount.

I don't do a ton of travel so haven't used the travel website much. Never looked at flights. On a recent 10 day car rental, I found their price about $200 cheaper then the next best option I could find (checked costco, Expedia/Hotwire/kayak/etc, rental companies websites), and that's not even counting the 50% CSR travel bonus (I paid with my CSR instead of with points for the CDW coverage). On the few hotels I've booked, they were pretty much identical to what I could get elsewhere (which made them considerably better when you factor in the CSR 50% bonus, assuming you don't have an even better way to use those points). Same with the few activities I check in on (tickets for the attractions we visited were roughly the same price as the best coupon price I could find, which made them a better deal with the 50% point bonus)

 

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TravelerMSY said:   Bendr? How are you getting 1.7 on Southwest? Or are you mostly redeeming for low priced tickets in which the redemption rate is a bit higher due to the taxes?
  WGA lower fare buckets (they now have multiple inside of wga) usually come out around there, say up to ~10k pt one way tickets.  They don't publish how they price it the fares anymore and have a range of values for wga - i don't remember exactly maybe 70-100ppc on "fare" portion of rate (excluding airport fees).

some thanksgiving weekend ones last year @16k-25k/one way were at ~1.4-1.5 cent/pt vs $ fare.  They would have came out a little cheaper booking through portal at 1.5cent (plus earn points if booked from Chase rather than SW).  However, didn't want to deal with less flexibility.  With SW points bookings it's easy to re-book if fares drop and get a direct refund of points rather than a "travel fund" and its associated restrictions.  Plus those expensive flights I was loaning points to a family member and they didn't care (thus the expensive flights in the first place).  We rebooked 3 of those 8 tickets for ~$100 of points refunds before the flights.

for a more direct answer to your question, I'll tally up point amounts for my bookings in the last year for you when i get a chance

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You also have to consider what trips you want to take and not just points per dollar. I would never spend thousands on a first class ticket to Singapore even though it is worth 10x as much when redeemed through Chase UR. You can just book whatever the regular cheapest ticket it and pay with Chase UR

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TravelerMSY said:   potentially higher value transferred to one of their partners like UA or SQ for biz/first awards.
 Don't over look KE, especially as SQ has been stingier as of late for US flights

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gnopgnip said:   You also have to consider what trips you want to take and not just points per dollar. I would never spend thousands on a first class ticket to Singapore even though it is worth 10x as much when redeemed through Chase UR. You can just book whatever the regular cheapest ticket it and pay with Chase UR
  Well that's what I do.  Points per dollar in displaced spending.  Money's fungible so it still comes to points per dollar, just limited to things/amounts I'd normally spend.  There also a slight value to liquidation at slightly cheaper rates because they could devalue at some point.  But I know I will continue traveling and eventually use the points (unless I die first).

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Bend3r said:   
gnopgnip said:   You also have to consider what trips you want to take and not just points per dollar. I would never spend thousands on a first class ticket to Singapore even though it is worth 10x as much when redeemed through Chase UR. You can just book whatever the regular cheapest ticket it and pay with Chase UR
  Well that's what I do.  Points per dollar in displaced spending.  Money's fungible so it still comes to points per dollar, just limited to things/amounts I'd normally spend.  There also a slight value to liquidation at slightly cheaper rates because they could devalue at some point.  But I know I will continue traveling and eventually use the points (unless I die first).

  
Yup, that's the right way to do it.  Value points at the cash you would have spent had you not had the points.  Saying "hey, I got $0.10 per point because I got a $10k ticket for 100k points" only makes sense if, had you NOT had the points, you would have actually spent $10k on the ticket.

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TravelerMSY said:   Bendr? How are you getting 1.7 on Southwest? Or are you mostly redeeming for low priced tickets in which the redemption rate is a bit higher due to the taxes?
  Pt amounts for my last ~12 months bookings:
1660 1660 1660 1660 1660 3667 3667 4299 4299 4339 4339 5143 5484 5484 5706 5706 6349 6349 7359 7359 8799 8799 8967 9962 9962 9962 9962 10635 13759 16570 20307 20307 20307 20670

Mean (without the last 5 largest): 6160.55
Median: 5706

I think i need to go rebook 2 of the 6 flights currently scheduled and will recover ~600 points, so i guess the average will decrease by ~20.

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That explains it. Thanks!

I tend to get better than the commonly quoted 1.43 value due to booking cheap trips as well. Average is probably $150 or less.

i definitely prefer points bookings for the reasons you mention, although it basically shuts me out of A list. From MSing 110k points for the CP every two years, I basically never run out of points and have to buy revenue tickets.

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As for the valuation debate, i ascribe some dollar value to F/J tickets, just not full fare. Maybe a comparable discount business class fare, which puts the upper limit around 2-3cpm.

Realistically, if you're semi-serious about churning cards and related MS, you'll always be spending miles or points. It's just an issue of getting the most out of whatever points currency you're holding.

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Alist is a good point. I don't fly enough for that (FT job without work travel). CSR and booking with Chase points would make more sense if I was going alist (and less of an issue being stuck with travel funds). You can book some airlines through Chase by calling their travel dept on phone that don't show online (like southwest and Allegiant, I don't remember the others).

The 1660s were an anomaly, i think those came out to ~1.9 cents/pt (not accounting for no earned points).  SW was matching some Delta fares I think.  They nearly matched some of Frontier's sale fares last week too.

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They did send out a widely targeted "fly 3 and get a-list" promo recently. But it doesn't make sense for me to cancel and rebook existing bookings at 2x the price just for A-List. Maybe it does for you. You'd probably have it anyway on rev bookings if you flew 33 segments in 12 months

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Bend3r said:   1.2x on the Chase portal is not the most efficient.   I get about 1.5X for southwest WGA flights transferring to Rapid Rewards. (Closer to 1.7cents/point, but you don't earn "points" on the points flights, and those are worth about 10%, so that gets it to around 1.5cents/point). If you have the CSR, the 1.5X is not bad for flights. And most flights don't seem to be marked up on the Chase portal.
  Small caveat/addendum for booking WGA flights on SW with points vs. CSR, is that flights booked with points are fully refundable with no strings attached. If paid via CSR, you get refunded in the form a a credit valid for 1 yr from the date of initial booking. Since SW opens up booking schedule about 6 months in advance give or take, you may only have 6 months or less to fly with them again to use that credit. That may be an issue for some, which is avoided when booking with points. Worth mentioning if you're getting around 1.5x points redemption rate either way.

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