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Maximizing cash back with Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature


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Here at TPG, we value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, thanks to the program’s fantastic travel partners. In the past, I’ve transferred points instantly to United at a 1:1 ratio, then booked Lufthansa first class to Europe for 110,000 miles — a flight that would have easily cost over $10,000. United has since removed its partner award chart, so the new redemption amount will likely be higher, but it remains a (relatively) fantastic value.

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Similarly, I’ve transferred 30,000 points instantly to Hyatt, for a free stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, when the cash rate exceeded $1,000 per night. In both cases, my redemption values far exceeded TPG’s 2-cent valuation of Ultimate Rewards points.

More recently, however, I’ve booked travel directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards, including flights and experiences — both at a far lower redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point. With healthy frequent flyer and hotel program balances, I found those redemptions to be a good use of my Ultimate Rewards points. That hasn’t been an option lately, since I haven’t been traveling due to the pandemic — which is why I’m especially excited about Chase’s latest redemption option, Pay Yourself Back.

Statement credit options

Chase has long offered the option to redeem points for a statement credit — simply log into your Ultimate Rewards account, hit the drop-down menu and select “Cash Back.” You’ll be presented with an option to enter the amount you’d like to redeem, and where you’d like your rewards deposited. All cash-back redemptions are fixed at 1 cent per point, which is only half of TPG’s valuation for Ultimate Rewards.

Source: The Points Guy

Even so, Chase’s traditional cash-back option is more generous than what you can expect from some other issuers. Here’s how it breaks down for some of the most popular programs and cards:

What is Pay Yourself Back?

As of May 31, there’s a far better option for customers with both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve. Branded as “Pay Yourself Back,” Chase’s new program lets you use your Ultimate Rewards points to offset certain purchases at a much more favorable rate.

While the program may be adjusted to include additional cards and new categories in the future, through Sept. 30, 2020 Chase Sapphire Reserve customers can redeem points at 1.5 cents apiece while Chase Sapphire Preferred customers can redeem Ultimate Rewards at 1.25 cents each to offset purchases made at grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments, including take-out and delivery services.

So rather than receiving a statement credit of $100 when redeeming 10,000 points, a Chase Sapphire Reserve customer would receive a credit of $150, for the same redemption amount, when offsetting purchases in the categories outlined above. This is the same redemption rate offered on Ultimate Rewards Travel redemptions.

Related: Sweet spots: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Requesting a credit

As of May 31, customers are able to log into their Ultimate Rewards accounts, select the Pay Yourself Back option and offset any eligible transaction within the previous 90 days, including those made before the program’s launch.

Simply log into your Ultimate Rewards account via mobile app or desktop and select the “Pay Yourself Back” option in the sidebar.

Next, you’ll see a list of eligible restaurant and grocery purchases you can redeem points for. Points can be redeemed for purchases as far back as 90 days, at a rate of 1.5 cents each for Sapphire Reserve cardholders and 1.25 cents if you have the Sapphire Preferred. The example below are based on redemption rates for a Sapphire Preferred Card.

Simply check off the purchases you want to redeem and proceed to the next page.

You can choose to offset the full purchase amount, assuming you have enough points to cover it, or you can redeem a smaller amount, if you prefer.

From there, you can confirm the redemption value and amount, and choose to complete the transaction.

And that’s it! Your statement credit should post within three business days.

Boosting your return

While some purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent, it’s easy to do far better than that. And since you can combine Ultimate Rewards points earned across multiple cards, you’ll want to mix up your spending to earn more points, then redeem for up to 1.5 cents in statement credits apiece (if you have Chase Sapphire Reserve).

Say in a given month I spent $200 on Lyft rides with my Chase Sapphire Reserve for a total of 2,000 points; $500 on dining for a total of 1,500 points; $100 on internet or cable with my Ink Business Cash Credit Card for 500 points; and $500 on all other purchases with my Chase Freedom Unlimited, for a total of 750 points.

At the end of the month, I’ll have earned 4,750 points, which I can then redeem for $71.25 toward purchases made at grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments. In total, I’ll have earned a return worth almost 5.5%, based on $1,300 in monthly spend — far higher than what I’d be able to achieve with any single cash-back card.

Higher-value redemptions

As I mentioned, TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, thanks specifically to the program’s valuable 1:1 transfer partners, including a variety of airlines and hotels. The current list includes:

Personally, of the list above, my preferred airline transfer partner has been United Airlines, due to the carrier’s simple online booking platform, decent redemption rates — especially for elites and co-branded cardholders — and the fact that miles no longer expire.

For example, you can book a one-way flight in ANA’s brand-new first class for 121,000 miles, compared with nearly $15,000 if paying cash for the same flight — a redemption value of over 12 cents per point.

Screen Shot 2020 05 27 At 5.32.55 PMSource: The Points Guy

Recently, United removed award charts for its own flights, and those operated by partners, so be sure to check pricing and availability before you initiate a transfer.

Meanwhile, on the hotel front, I’ve had great success redeeming awards through Hyatt. Two of my personal favorites include the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and the Park Hyatt New York — both are priced at 30,000 points per night, with cash rates that often exceed $1,000, netting me well over 3 cents per point in value.

Screen Shot 2020 05 27 At 5.28.52 PMSource: The Points Guy

There are plenty other high-value redemption options to choose from — be sure to check out our guide for more.

Bottom line

Does it make sense to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents apiece, 25% shy of TPG’s 2-cent valuation? Ultimately, that decision comes down to how you plan to use your points, how many you currently have with airline and hotel programs, and whether or not you’d benefit significantly from statement credits.

If you’re hoping to use your points for a premium-cabin trip in the not-too-distant future, it could certainly make sense to hold onto them and transfer to partners down the line. On the other hand, if you don’t plan to travel soon, or you’re worried about your financial situation, redeeming points at a slightly lower rate is surely preferable to carrying a balance or cutting back on essential spending.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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