Yes. Yes. Yes. I think booking non-chain and independent hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is one of the best ways to use Ultimate Rewards points. Let me explain further. But first, how do you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points?
Breaking It Down:
How To Earn Ultimate Rewards Points
My husband has a Chase Sapphire Reserve card and we combine all our Ultimate Rewards points under his account to get the maximum value and redeem them at 1.5 cent per point.
The Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Ink Business Cash and Chase Ink Business Unlimited don’t have an annual fee and can earn Ultimate Rewards points too (instead of cash back). However, you do need at least one “premium” card (i.e. a card with an annual fee to be able to redeem Ultimate Rewards for travel.) Without at lease one premium card in a household, the Ultimate Rewards points can only be used as cash.
Why I Use Chase Ultimate Rewards To Book Independent Hotels
Personally, I have no loyalty to any one airline or hotel chain. My husband and I often travel to places that don’t even have any American chain hotels, such as Hoi An in Vietnam or Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera. Moreover, I can book the room type I want, including a rate with breakfast, and I don’t have to depend on the hotel honoring elite or loyalty benefits. I’ve always preferred to be a hotel free agent.
Europe especially has so many excellent charming small or medium-sized non-chain hotels where you will be treated like top-tier elite without needing to have any status whatsoever.
I am going to Spain soon to meet my extended family at a tiny seaside town near Barcelona. There are no chains there, so I am really glad to have a good stash of Ultimate Rewards points at my disposal. It is also peak vacation season in Europe and cash rates are pretty high, even for somewhat basic properties in Spain.
These examples illustrate why I love Ultimate Rewards so much and why I book independent hotels through the Chase travel portal often.
How To Book Independent Hotels With Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Booking hotels on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is easy. If you think the interface is similar to Expedia, well, you’re right because Expedia runs the backend of the travel portal. Navigate to the Ultimate Rewards site, login with your Chase credentials. and click Travel.
Enter the travel details and click Search.
You can set filters on the next screen to make the search results more manageable. Here’s an example of what came up when I searched for a hotel in Rome, Italy for October dates.
And here’s an important tip: when booking a refundable rate, it’s always a good idea to keep checking the prices periodically. For example, I booked a basic room in Tokyo, our first stop on around the world trip. But when I went back and checked the price a couple of weeks later, I saw that executive rooms were on sale. I changed my reservation and in the end, we used fewer points for a better room with lounge access!
We’ve stayed at lots of great properties all over the world booked through the portal. My recent favorite finds include THE THOUSAND Kyoto (full review coming soon), Royal Park Hotel Tokyo Nihonbashi and Louis Hotel, Munich. All are independent hotels, and in these expensive cities, provide excellent value.
Independent Hotel: Royal Park Tokyo Nihonbashi
Royal Park Tokyo Nihonbashi is located next door to an airport bus terminal, there’s even a pedestrian bridge connecting the terminal and the hotel. The subway station is located in the hotel’s basement, we didn’t even have to go outside (really a blessing when it’s 85 degrees and humid). The location, for us, was perfect. Tokyo is a huge city with excellent and easy to use subway system. So staying close to a subway station was one of my top priorities. If anyone is thinking about going to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, this might be a great option away from the crowds.
The confirmation page for each hotel booking made through Chase travel portal will show the cash price for each night, as well as the total price in points.
At the end of the day, we got a great room, at a great hotel with breakfast and lounge access included. We took advantage of the lounge every day to get some work done and to get snacks and drinks in the afternoon. I also asked the attendants lots of questions about Tokyo, they spoke good English and were always happy to help.
Independent Hotel: THE THOUSAND Kyoto
THE THOUSAND Kyoto is another great property I booked through the portal. This is a brand new hotel and it’s pure understated Japanese luxury. I love modern design and spare Japanese aesthetic. Everything from location to staff to breakfast was perfect.
We had a big room, the staff spoke excellent English and were happy to answer my five million questions about Kyoto. Everything, including the bedding, the towels, the amenities and the breakfast buffet was top quality. I could be really picky, but even I couldn’t find anything wrong with this property.
Kyoto is a very expensive city, so I don’t consider spending just over 85,000 Ultimate Rewards points on a luxury hotel a bad deal. If anyone’s looking for a great place to stay in Kyoto and doesn’t want to spend 30,000 Hyatt points/night on a new Kyoto Park Hyatt, this is a good alternative.
Why Not Transfer To A Hotel Or Airline Partner?
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Could I have transferred Ultimate Rewards points to an airline or hotel partner to get a higher cent per point value? Sure. But Ultimate Rewards points are fairly easy to earn and points don’t pay my mortgage, cash does. And for hotels, I don’t necessarily want to always be booking a chain property. Or sometimes a chain isn’t available in city I’m going to be in.
Keep in mind that when booking independent hotels through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal you won’t receive elite benefits or qualifying nights. However, if the cash rate (and therefore the rate in Ultimate Rewards is low) it might still make sense to use the portal.
So if you haven’t used Chase Travel Portal to book hotels, give it a try. If you booked any great properties with your Ultimate Rewards, let me know in the comments. I am always looking for travel inspiration!
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