Chase Ultimate Rewards points are a versatile currency. Much has been written about transferring them to travel partners and redeeming them for flights and hotels. Another great choice is to redeem them for a cruise.
I freely admit that cruises aren’t for everyone. If you’re still reading, I suspect you might enjoy them. For those that do, it’s a great way to redeem a stash of Ultimate Rewards points.
Since cruise fares include meals and entertainment, and many packages include drinks, gratuities and credit to use on board, you’re effectively using points to pay for your entire all-inclusive vacation.
The Value of Ultimate Rewards Points
There are currently 7 available Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. You can redeem UR points for statement credits with points from any of the 7 cards. If you do this, your UR points are only worth $0.01 each. In other words, 1,000 UR points can get you a $10 statement credit.
You can also book travel via the Ultimate Rewards website by redeeming points from any of the 7 cards. Depending on the Chase credit card(s) you have, you can get more value for each point.
When redeeming UR points from Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Unlimited to purchase travel, they are still only worth $0.01 each. But on premium cards like Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred each point is worth $0.0125 (25% more). Lastly, UR points on Sapphire Reserve used to purchase travel are worth $0.015 each (50% more).
You can clearly see the increased value in using UR points to purchase travel, especially with the Sapphire Reserve card. Each month, I aggregate all my Ultimate Rewards points by combining them onto my Sapphire Reserve where they have the highest value.
Booking the Cruise
Redeeming UR points for a cruise is simple. Unfortunately, you can’t do it online. You will need to speak to travel specialist. Chase Travel does charge a nominal $10 fee for each booking.
To reach the Chase Ultimate Rewards cruise booking desk, call 1-855-234-2542 and press 1 when prompted. I have found the cruise booking representatives to be professional and knowledgeable.
As with any call to a travel agent, it helps to research first. You are your own best advocate. Cruise fares tend to be the same whether you choose to book directly with the cruise line or with a travel agent. What may vary is the amount of additional on board credit (OBC) a travel professional will add as an incentive to book through them.
If you’re like me, you will know the exact cruise line, ship, sailing date and category you desire prior to calling. You may even have narrowed it down to a particular cabin number.
Paying with Points – You only get one chance
It’s important to note that you only have one opportunity to pay for your cruise using UR points. When making your reservation, you may choose to pay only your minimum deposit using points at that time. If you do this, when your final payment is due, the balance must be paid with a credit card.
For this reason, I pay for the entire cruise using points (if I have enough) at the time of booking. You can choose to redeem some or all of your points to pay any portion of the fare.
Every cruise line has it’s own price drop and cancellation policy. Months prior to a Royal Caribbean sailing I had booked in 2018, the price of my cabin category dropped 15%. I called the Chase Ultimate Rewards cruise department and they refunded me the difference in cash, even though I paid using points. So keep an eye on prices even after your booking. You need to call to ask for the price match.
Transferring an Existing Booking to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Cruise Agency
There might be times when you prefer to book a cruise directly with the cruise line. You might already be enjoying a relaxing cruise and taking advantage of a “book on board” special. Perhaps you already booked a cruise last week and are just reading this now. Or it’s possible you simply prefer to book direct using the cruise line’s website.
Most cruise lines allow you to transfer an existing booking to your travel agent. This includes Chase travel. If you want to take advantage of this scenario, call the Chase Ultimate Rewards cruise desk, provide them with all of your booking information. They will call the cruise line to arrange to have your booking transferred to them. You may be asked to fill out a form.
At that time, you can pay any additional amount of your balance with Ultimate Rewards points. As I mentioned earlier, this will be your one and only opportunity to use points, so plan accordingly.
You will keep whatever deal you got from the cruise line, same cabin, same reservation. You can pay the balance using points, and Chase travel may even grant you additional on board credit as a thank you, just as many other travel agents would.
Once again, each cruise line has its own rules regarding transferring booking. Some are limited to 60 days from time of booking, others 90 days. Be sure you understand the rules that apply to your booking. A call to the cruise line can help with this.
A Word About Chase Travel Insurance
When you redeem Ultimate Rewards points to pay for travel, you are afforded the same travel protection benefits as if you paid using your credit card.
A little over a year ago, I unfortunately put this into practice. I redeemed UR points from my Sapphire Reserve to pay for a cruise. Due to a serious illness (all is well now), I had to cancel the cruise less than a week before the sailing.
Because I was well past any cancellation date, the cruise line only refunded my port taxes and pre-paid gratuities. My Sapphire Reserve’s Trip Cancellation insurance benefit covered everything else. The leftover balance was credited back to my UR account in points.
It was a long process and getting the paperwork that the insurance company required to prove that the points came out of my account was a frustratingly onerous task. At long last, they approved the claim.
If you read enough blogs, you might see someone writing that your Ultimate Rewards points should be worth 2.1 cents each. Why would anyone redeem so many for a cruise at only 1.5 cents per point?
I feel that the value of points are subjective. Sure, I could use 300,000 points so that my wife and I can fly round trip business class to Europe. Maybe that redemption would be “valued” at 5 or more cents per point. Pretty great if that’s where you want to go.
Or I could use that same 300,000 points (like I did last year), and book a $4,500 suite on a Caribbean cruise for a week. This included all meals, drinks, gratuities, wi-fi, and a bunch of on board credit that we used on massages and shore excursions. That’s a pretty great value to me as well.