Why Points?

Why Points?

Cash is king but points rule when it comes to travel. The same amount of cash earned can be worth double or more when earned as points.

For example, a search shows the Hyatt Place in Seattle going for $230/night or 12,000 points/night. In terms of travel redemption value, you’re getting 1.9 cents per point, which is about double than cashing out at 1.0 cents per point. Different flights and hotels lead to a range of valuations, even up to 10x per point. A typical/average valuation is 2.0 cents/point.

Another way to look at this is that you could have cashed out the 12,000 points and got $120, which is your opportunity cost to pay for a $230 room. When done right, your real cost is zero from earning points through purchases you would have already made.

Below is a points calculator to estimate the number of points you can earn.

The Chase Quadfecta

The Chase “Quadfecta”

Chase has four credit cards,  when combined, create a strong combination towards  earning travel points. These four cards are part of the Ultimate Rewards (UR) family where points can be transferred between each other. The anchor of the group is the Sapphire Reserved card where the points can be redeemed for more.

The key pieces to the program are earnings, redemption, and sign-up bonuses. Each of these areas are one of the highest if not THE highest of the credit card industry–all combined to one “ultimate” program.


  • Freedom – 5x on rotating categories (up to $1,500/quarter typically on groceries, gas, dining out, and wholesale clubs)
  • Freedom Unlimited – 1.5x on every purchase
  • Sapphire Reserved – 3x on dining out and on travel (flights, hotels, rental cars, Uber)
  • Ink Cash – 5x at office supply stores, cell phone, landline, and cable TV services (up to $25k/year). 2x at gas stations and dining out

Each of these cards allows you to maximize earnings within their respective categories. It’s one of the highest earning programs out there. Check the handy Points Calculator to estimate your earning potential.

The “dark horse” in this group is the Ink Cash card, where you can purchase gift cards from office supply stores such as Staples for 5x earnings. Here you can typically find gift cards for Amazon, Gap, Nordstrom, Target, Disney, Whole Foods, and many more. Many are even available online!


With some categories at 5x earnings, what does this mean when redeeming them for travel? I value UR points at 2.0 cents each, which makes your return on spending on these categories at a whopping 10%. For example if you spent $5k on gift cards at Staples, you can effectively get 10% of that ($500) towards travel purchases. See how the valuations are calculated using real travel examples.

This is where the Sapphire Reserved comes into play. All the points earned on each of the cards mentioned can be transferred to this premium card. From here, the points can be transferred directly to many different travel partners such as Southwest or Hyatt. Alternatively, you can purchase travel through the Chase UR portal where you get 1.5x the value of your points, which equates to a 33% discount from cash. The portal typically has the same travel options as sites like Expedia and Kayak.

On top of all this, you commonly don’t have to pay certain fees and taxes when booking hotels and rental cars, bringing the redemption value even higher.

Sign Up Bonus

The Chase cards are generous in offering sign-up bonuses for spending a certain amount in the first three months. In particular the Sapphire Reserved bonus is 100k points, which if simply cashed out is worth $1,000. Put these points towards travel, and you can redeem $2,000 in value. This is more than enough to cover its annual fee, which is only $150 when factoring in the $300 annual travel credit. The fee is minimized more when you factor in the Priority Pass and TSA Pre Check perks.

Get all four cards and you’re looking at 160k in UR points from sign-up bonuses alone, enough for about $3,200 in travel. This is on top of the points you earned from spending on things you would have purchased anyway.