How to Use 80,000 Ultimate Rewards Points—Staycation Edition - Forbes

How to Use 80,000 Ultimate Rewards Points—Staycation Edition - Forbes


How to Use 80,000 Ultimate Rewards Points—Staycation Edition - Forbes

Posted: 22 Sep 2020 06:00 AM PDT

After six months in quarantine with no end in sight, you'll be forgiven for feeling like the walls are closing in on you.  We are limited in where we can go by circumstance, but what we can do is only limited by imagination. You can escape your humdrum in just a few hours by switching up the routine and taking a Staycation.

It's even better when you can use your Ultimate Rewards to finance your respite. With an increased welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus points after meeting spending requirements, now's the time to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card if you don't have it yet.

The traditional way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards is either for transfer to travel partners or by using the travel portal. Chase's Ultimate Rewards travel portal is powered by Expedia, so almost anything you can buy on Expedia you can buy with Ultimate Rewards points. Note the "almost" in this sentence. A few items available on Expedia (notably those owned by Disney) are not currently available via the Ultimate Rewards portal.

The benefit to redeeming Ultimate Rewards for travel is the uplift: You'll get 1.25 cents per point with the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card or Sapphire Preferred cards and 1.5 with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, compared to only 1 cent per point when you redeem for cash back.

Even though redeeming for cash back isn't quite as valuable, it still may make sense in some cases. With cash in hand, there's no limit to what you can do.  Here are my favorite staycation ideas that will help you escape the everyday without going too far afield.

Feel the Wind in Your Hair

I've always thought I wanted a convertible. You may have shared the same vision of a carefree, Beach Boys soundtracked journey off into the sunset. Then I actually considered the impracticality of a mom of two trying to get a week's worth of groceries and two occupied carseats home in a car meant for looks, not function.

Fortunately, you can live out your dreams on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. It offers a plethora of car rental options, including convertibles, the industry standard being a Ford Mustang Convertible.

There's no reason you have to take your own car on a staycation. Why not trade in your minivan for a Mustang?  Rates in many cities average $450, or 35,000 Ultimate Rewards points at 1.25 cents, for a week's rental. You may not even need a hotel: A day trip with the wind in your hair, which would only cost about 6,000 Ultimate Rewards points on a $75 rental, may be enough to get your groove back.

Get Spooked

Fall means leaf peeping and back to school, but Halloween also features prominently in the mix. With the Ultimate Rewards portal you can book spooky nighttime walking tours in cities such as New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah for around 2,000 Ultimate Rewards points per person.

While long-distance travel may be limited due to COVID concerns both at your origin and destination, look close by for a hotel that fits the Halloween theme.  Many states limit interstate travel from COVID hotspots, but in-state travel or regional travel is permitted.  Be sure to check the regulations both in your hometown and where you want to go before proceeding.

For example, if you're in Texas, head to San Antonio where not only can you walk in the steps of ghosts, you can sleep in a historic jail. The Holiday Inn Express North Riverwalk is a popular stop on the San Antonio ghost tour circuit, and I'll admit this one is now on my list. Dating from 1879, the building shows many scars from its days as a prison. You can even stay in Rooms 108 or 218, which used trap doors to form a gallows(!).

Rooms at the Holiday Inn Express North Riverwalk are around $100 or 8,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night. I normally shy away from using Chase Ultimate Rewards at chain hotels because the third-party booking would deny you status benefits. However, IHG can be an exception because even the chain's highest level of status affords very little.

The hotel normally runs 20,000 IHG points per night, but IHG has been discounting many hotels for last minute award bookings.  Even at the discounted rate for October 2020 of 12,500 points per night you're better off using Ultimate Rewards through the portal than transferring your Ultimate Rewards to IHG. However, if you already have IHG points, you should consider using them and saving your Ultimate Rewards for the next trip.

Or if you're in New England, check out the Liberty Hotel in Boston.  Boston made our list of ideas for a socially distanced getaway and the Liberty would take your Staycation to a ghastly level.  Housed in the Charles Street Jail building dating from 1851, the Liberty leans into its heritage with a bar called Clink.  The jailhouse theme extends to the rooms, which feature safes as night stands and carpet with a lock and key pattern.

At 55,000 Bonvoy points per night compared to rates around $250, transferring Ultimate Rewards to Bonvoy isn't a great idea.  However, you can book the Liberty on the Chase portal for around 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points per night if you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred card.

Camp in Your Backyard

We've covered many unique lodging options including tiny homes and yurts, but you can get creative with your sleeping arrangements without leaving the house.  Use 80,000 Ultimate Rewards for cash back and you've got $800 for a luxury tent setup that would excite even a reluctant camper. You might get a camping convert once they realize they can dash inside for a beer from the fridge or a potty break. Make sure to keep the cell phones inside: You are camping after all.

For $400 you can easily buy a 4 meter tent that will fit a queen sized air mattress like this one that brings Out of Africa to mind. Budget $100 for an air mattress and let's add $100 for an outdoor fireplace to up the camping vibe. Everything else you would need to decorate you probably already own, which leaves $200 left over for s'mores.

Once you've sampled backyard camping, you might get the confidence to cast your net a bit wider. The great thing is that you can use your Ultimate Rewards redemption over and over again, enjoying your free swag every time you get out into nature.

Hunt in Your Hometown

We mentioned Geocaching in our homeschooling ideas post but there's a more organized way to get out of your rut. A scavenger hunt can immerse you into your hometown and lead you to secret spots even in a place you've lived your whole life.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal offers scavenger hunt options for every major city and more than a few minor ones as well.  Best of all, they cost around only 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points for an entire day of entertainment.

Bring the World to You

I'll confess a weakness for fun stuff coming in the mail and Forbes Advisor even has a list of recommended subscription boxes. One way I've expanded my family's horizons while stuck at home has been internationally based boxes of cheer. Redeeming Ultimate Rewards for cash, I can pick up any number of annual visits from the Fedex treat fairy.

My family's favorite is Japan Crate, which is a bright red box of chaos that brings smiles to our faces every time it arrives.  The crate is jam packed with indecipherable techni-color goodies and we spend the first few minutes with the boxes asking "what the heck is that?". Fortunately the box comes with a guide so you can match the product to the catalog description. The 12 month subscription is $380, or 38,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

If you fancy more variety in your global exploration, try the Universal Yums box. Featuring a new country every month, Universal Yums takes a deep dive into culture via food. From Columbia to Thailand to Greece, you can discover culinary treats and insights into each global community.  The Super Yum Box, which also includes a guidebook with interactive games, is $429 per year or 42,900 Ultimate Rewards points.

Bottom Line

I'm not going to sugar coat it: 2020 is a year we'd all rather forget.  Any rays of sunshine you can bring into life are appreciated all the more because of the darkness we're living through.  Hopefully Ultimate Rewards can help finance your escape from reality, no matter what form it takes.

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