You can use points to pay for the total cost of Chase Ultimate Rewards cruises. These rewards are earned with several Chase cards. You can redeem Ultimate Rewards online to book airfare, hotels, and cars, but cruise redemptions must be done over the phone with a cruise specialist.
Is It a Good Idea to Pay for Cruises with Ultimate Rewards?
There are two aspects to this question–earning and redemption. How easy is it to accumulate Ultimate Rewards (URs) points? And what kind of value do we get for our points when we use them to book cruises? For the last several years I have transferred my points out to airline partners where I get good value for my points. Now I’m considering if I should accumulate URs to pay for cruises.
Earning Ultimate Rewards Points
The easiest way to earn UR points is with several Chase cards. The following personal cards earn Ultimate Rewards: Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Sapphire Preferred, and Sapphire Reserve. The darling of the day is the new Sapphire Reserve which has a 100,000 point sign-on bonus. The Ink Plus and Ink Cash are business cards that also earn Ultimate Rewards. The business cards are especially interesting because you can earn 5X points at office supply stores which sell VISA gift cards. I can manufacture UR points at a cost of 0.67 cents per point with this outlet.
This article on Johnny Jet.com is a pretty good overview of how to get and use Ultimate Rewards points for travel other than cruises. If you are considering getting any of the Chase cards I mentioned above, I suggest you do your due diligence by visiting the FlyerTalk wikis on Chase Cards. I currently have the Ink Cash card that has the 5X office supply bonus, and I’m earning UR’s on that. I’m considering getting the Sapphire Reserve later on this year. I have to wait until next month before I consider any Chase application due to Chase’s onerous 5/24 rule.
Between generous sign on bonuses and ability to manufacture URs via office store spend, it is not unreasonable that you could accumulate significant amounts of Ultimate Rewards.
Using Points to Pay for Chase Ultimate Rewards Cruises
You can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to redeem points online for airfare, cars and hotels, but if you click on the “more travel” tab you’ll see a link to “Cruises.” If you want to EARN URs by paying for your cruise with an UR earning credit card, you can book online. If you want to use points to pay you must call in.
The agent will give you a cash price, which will then be converted to a points price. The redemption value of your points depends on which credit card you have. Here is a summary of what your URs are worth with each credit card:
A Working Example
I picked a cruise at random from the Royal Caribbean website–the December 12 sailing of Enchantment of the Seas out of Miami. Royal Caribbean was quoting a base price of $219 per person, plus $103.49 in taxes and fees, for a total of $644.78 for two in an inside cabin. I then called the Ultimate Rewards Cruise number and spoke to a very pleasant cruise specialist. She asked for my Chase account number, and then noted that I had 857 URs which could be used for a $8.57 discount. Whoopie! I asked her to price the Enchantment sailing that I had been looking at to see if she could give me a price in URs.
She first quoted the same cash price as the Royal Caribbean website–$644.78, and then said the UR price would be 64,478 points WITH MY CARD (Ink Cash, where each point is worth 1 cent.) I then asked her about other levels and she told me that there were two higher levels depending on which cards you have (see the chart above.) This follows exactly the same valuations that they use for airfare, hotels, and cars. The following chart is what the UR price for the cruise would be at the three different levels, 1X, 1.25X, and 1.5X:
Is It Worth It?
At the 1.25X and 1.5X levels, you are approaching the valuation that you get when you redeem miles for airline tickets. This is starting to look appealing to me! If I can manufacture points at 0.7 cents apiece, and then get a 20-30% discount on top of that, then this is looking like a true value proposition. In any case, if you have extra URs that you won’t be using for airfare, then this is a good place to spend them!