The Secret Way to Stretch Your Chase Points Even Further on Travel

If you’re willing to trade upgraded seats for more free flights, it’s time you learned our secrets to booking economy airfare with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Last updated Sep 25, 2020 | By Lindsay Frankel
Secret Way to Stretch Chase Points Even Further on Travel

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, and so on — if you still have a lot of destinations to cross off your bucket list, you’re going to want to make the most of your travel rewards. And while it may be tough to turn down a free business- or first-class seat, booking economy will allow you to travel farther and more frequently with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

This strategy is especially beneficial for people who want to purchase additional tickets for their family members or have multiple trips planned throughout the year. So while it may be tempting to get an upgraded ticket with points that you wouldn’t be able to afford in dollars, remember that you can rack up more free travel experiences when you book economy.

How to find cheap flights to book with Chase points

If frequent travel is what’s most important to you rather than luxury amenities, consider looking for flight deals on sites like Dollar Flight Club, Scott’s Cheap Flights, or Secret Flying. You can also use Google’s flight calendar feature to find the cheapest dates to fly if you have a destination in mind. Here’s how it works:

1. Find a flight deal you want to book

You can always go directly to the Chase portal to book a flight, but you’ll be much more likely to find cheap fares if you head to a deal site first or use a fare calendar tool. You’ll need to sign up for a free account on Dollar Flight Club or Scott’s Cheap Flights; but on Secret Flying, you can access deals just by putting in your location.

For example, I found a round-trip flight from Denver to London for only $367, and one of our FinanceBuzz team members found a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Barcelona for $309. Click “Read More” on the deal to view available dates. Select the dates you want or write down a few options while noting the price point as well.

Another way to find a cheap travel destination is to use Google Flights’ Explore tool. With this tool, you can either add in specific dates — which is helpful if you don’t have a lot of options for when you can travel — or keep your dates flexible and see the lowest prices over the next six months. This helped me find a $466 round-trip flight from Denver to Dublin.

2. Head to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account

Log in and select the credit card with the points you want to use. If you have multiple credit cards with points, you may want to transfer them to one card.

Put in the same dates you found on the deal site to replicate the deal. In other words, use Google or a deal website to find the cheapest dates to fly and then relocate the same flight to the Chase portal so you can use points to purchase it. You might notice a slight difference in the dollar amount due to dynamic pricing. Flight prices fluctuate constantly, so the cost of the deal might not be exact. But finding a flight this way can help you score some unusually cheap fares.

And there are no blackout dates on the Chase portal, so if you can book a flight with cash, you’ll be able to pay for that same flight with the points you’ve racked up.

3. Select and book your flights.

The check-out process is similar to booking on an airline’s website, only you’ll be using points. Just follow the steps to complete your purchase.

Use a Chase Sapphire card to get even more value

When you use a premium rewards credit card from Chase, you’ll get more value out of your points. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card gets you 50% more value when you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. In other words, every point is worth 1.5 cents in travel. 

You can get started when you earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You can also earn 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else.

If you don’t want to come up with the annual fee of $550  for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You’ll get 25% more value out of your points when booking travel. Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. All for a $95 annual fee.

You can check out our comparison of the two Chase Sapphire cards if you’re not sure which one is the best travel credit card for you. Each of them offers such an impressive sign-up bonus that either could get you to Europe for free using our strategy.

If you do sign up for a Chase Sapphire card or if you already have one, be sure to move any points from other Chase credit cards to your Sapphire card to get the most bang for your buck.

Transfer your points to an airline partner

Booking your flight through the Chase portal is simple and sometimes, but not always, gets you the best value for your flight redemption. To make sure you're getting the best deal, you should also take a look at how many points you'd need to book the same flight on the airline directly. If it costs fewer points to book it on the airline's website, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to the partner at a 1:1 ratio.

Bottom line

Booking cheap economy flights might not be everyone’s favorite way to travel, but if you’re the type who wants to see the world, this excellent strategy will get you further from home or allow you to travel more frequently. But remember: Chase Ultimate Rewards are flexible, and this isn’t the only way to get value from your points. Decide what matters most to you and check out our guide to redeeming and maximizing your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 3X points on travel and at restaurants
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access