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Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way I use my credit card rewards, airline miles and hotel points. Previously, I would typically either transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards to hotel and airline transfer partners, or redeem them at a fixed-rate for travel.
But ever since the pandemic hit, I’ve been doing much less traveling and so my balance of Ultimate Rewards (and other points) has been creeping upwards. Airlines and hotels can devalue the cost to redeem awards at any time, so it’s not a great idea to keep a large balance of rewards. That’s why I’ve been using Chase Pay Yourself Back as a way to use my points at Home Depot, Kroger and other places I shop every month.
What Is Chase Pay Yourself Back?
Chase Pay Yourself Back was introduced in May of 2020 as a perk for certain Chase cardholders. Recognizing that travel was severely curtailed, Chase came up with Pay Yourself Back as a way to retain cardholders by providing alternatives to redeeming Ultimate Rewards for travel. Currently you can use Chase Pay Yourself Back in the following categories:
Dining expenses at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
Home improvement stores
Select charitable organizations
Eligible shipping expenses
Chase Sapphire® Credit Cards
Chase Sapphire cardholders can redeem Ultimate Rewards to cover purchases in grocery stores and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services), home improvement stores and select charitable organizations. Sapphire Reserve cardholders redeem for 1.5 cents per point and Sapphire Preferred cardholders redeem for 1.25 cents per point.
Ink® Business Credit Cards
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and Chase Ink Plus cardholders can get 1.25 cents per point when using Pay Yourself Back for shipping and at home improvement stores , and for select charitable organizations.
And remember that if you have Ultimate Rewards from different cards, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points for free. So you’ll want to combine your points to your account that has the highest redemption value.
Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards
One reason Chase Ultimate Rewards points are so valuable is that there are lots of opportunities to earn them. There are several different Chase credit cards that currently have attractive welcome offers.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: This travel credit card earns 2x points per dollar spent at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, as well as travel expenses and 1x point on all other purchases. The Sapphire Preferred also offers 80,000 bonus points (a $1,000 value) to new cardholders who spend $4,000 during the first three months of account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This premium travel credit card earns 3x points per dollar spent at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, as well as travel expenses and 1x points on all other purchases. It offers a host of luxury travel perks like statement credits and access to Priority Pass Airport Lounges. The Sapphire Reserve currently offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points to new cardholders who spend $4,000 within the first three months from account opening. The Sapphire Reserve has a $550 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card: This card has no annual fee, and it earns 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores and an unlimited 1.5% points per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card currently offers a $200 bonus to new cardholders who spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card: This no-annual-fee card earns 5% cash back up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, 5% on travel booked through Chase, unlimited 3% on dining and restaurants and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases. It currently offers a $200 bonus to new cardholders who spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
How I Use Chase Pay Yourself Back
I have a variety of different credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Typically, I combine all of my Ultimate Rewards points to my Sapphire Reserve account, since that’s the account that gives the most value. I have been using Chase Pay Yourself Back to offset some of my monthly grocery spending.
With a family of eight, our monthly grocery bill approaches $1000 some months. I could use 66,667 Ultimate Rewards each month to completely cash out my Ultimate Rewards balance, but that’s not how I’m using Pay Yourself Back. Instead, I only redeem one or two times per month. That helps keep pace with the amount of Ultimate Rewards points that I earn each month.
While I definitely have gotten more than 1.5 cents per point in value from some of my previous Ultimate Rewards redemptions, this helps my Ultimate Rewards balances from getting higher than I feel comfortable with. And I still have enough miles and points to book a few trips when the time comes.
The Bottom Line
Chase Pay Yourself Back is a great example of a company pivoting and allowing their current customers to still get value. I know that when the pandemic first started, I considered cancelling some of my travel credit cards since it didn’t make sense to pay annual fees on travel cards when I was not traveling. Chase Pay Yourself Back has allowed me to still get good value from my Chase Ultimate Rewards, even during the current pandemic.
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