Robert: Chase recently replaced their Ultimate Rewards travel portal with the Expedia search engine.
We wrote about this previously when Chase rolled this out on the Freedom card a couple of months ago. It wasn’t that interesting at the time since the Freedom card only has 1 cent per point uplift. But now that the portal is in place for all cards, including the Sapphire Reserve with 1.5x uplift, it’s worth checking out. Because the utility in living a bank point lifestyle largely hinges on our ability to get uplift across broad range of travel booked at the best possible price.
The Expedia portal has more boutique hotels than the old Chase portal. And one of the big things we were hoping for was access to Vacation Rentals. Expedia acquired HomeAway in 2015 so HomeAway listings appear in the native Expedia portal.
The prospect of using Ultimate Rewards to fund more complete vacations is intriguing but how will it work in practice with Chase? We’ll discuss this today…
Sam: Thanks for setting the stage Robert. I know you and I have been doing a lot of searches on the new portal, and today we’ll cover a few of the issues that are currently happening with the portal. Hopefully by shedding light on them Chase will address them quickly.
Background: I’m headed back to the PNW–and this time around I was trying to search for rooms at a specific lodge using the new Chase UR travel portal. I know Robert and others were pretty enthusiastic about the new portal a few months ago, and we’ve talked a lot about uplift here— But my initial experience with the portal is pretty awful. This continues the trend of general disappointment I discussed a few weeks ago about chase UR: I’m well versed in how the program works–but I’m struggling to actually get any uplift at all.
No Room at the Inns (any of them)
I searched for my dates and the location Port Angeles, WA). What Chase returned to me was a list of 100 properties and 95 of the 100 are sold out. This immediately seemed fishy to me–so I went ahead and changed dates to a single day a few months from now. Those properties were still sold out on the UR portal. I take this to mean that Chase is misrepresenting what can be booked on the portal right now. The best case this means they’re rolling out booking some of these places in the future. The worst case they’re doing this on purpose to make their offerings look more complete and/or blocking low profit bookings.
It also makes me wonder if I really want to book homestay and BnB’s through their portal. Who do I contact when things go wrong? Who’s communicating with these properties and vetting them? What happens if I have an issue during a stay? I hadn’t really considered these issues before, but now that I see this weakness in their offerings I’m starting to think about all of this.
This isn’t just a dig at Chase–I also checked the Citi TYP portal–they didn’t have my hotel either. I ended up just booking it directly. So much for my massive piles of bank points. Note to self: Cash is king.
Robert: This post is timely as I’m seeing the same exact thing from the new Chase Expedia portal when it comes to Vacation Rentals.
I can’t find a single Vacation Rental available on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Here are some Vacation Rentals near WDW, all showing ‘sold out’:
I thought Chase would “fix” this issue before rolling out the Expedia portal across all their cards, but it looks like they haven’t.
First Chase intentionally blocked all things Disney now they’re blocking Vacation Rentals? Really?
I’ve always thought of my Chase Ultimate Rewards as a travel savings account worth 1.5x more than my Ultimate Rewards balance. These examples show the downside of that mentality: There’s a lot of stuff you can’t book with Ultimate Rewards. And if you can book it, it’s not always at the best possible price so that erodes the value of your points.
Sam: It does seem like the majority of what I saw ‘sold out’ were vacation rentals. But some of the places I saw sold out are bigger than that. Take the place I’m staying at in Port Angeles, it has 105 rooms. Sold Out. Every. Day.
A quick Side-by-side of Expedia and Chase UR portal shows the issue:
Now, I know what you’re thinking–Who wants to spend 2,000 Chase UR a night to tent camp on the beach in January? And sure, some of these places are pretty rough looking–but this area of WA has some good BnBs and those are bookable on Expedia and not on Chase UR. So if you want to stay at the Ambiance BnB you either have to book it elsewhere and cash out at 1CPP or you’re out of luck.
Update 10/27: Reader Johnny reports the same issue is affecting car rentals.
Is this a big deal? To someone who’s exclusively looking at large chain hotels–probably not. But I was legitimately excited about the smaller options becoming part of the Chase travel portal–and it just seems silly to include them and say they’re all Sold Out. As of publication time we’ve reached out to Chase about this issue–and have yet to get a good answer.
What’s your take Robert? Is this a big deal? or am I making more out of it than I should?
Robert: It’s absolutely a big deal. It diminishes the value of the Ultimate Rewards program as a whole, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve specifically.
Say for example we consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited card (1.5 UR everywhere * 1.5 uplift = 2.25x) vs the Bank of America Premium Rewards (straightforward 2.625% if you have $100,000 with Merrill Edge). I’ve been willing to forgive the Freedom Unlimited/Chase Sapphire Reserve approach its 0.375% shortfall for the upside associated with 1:1 transfers to travel partners. But if I can’t reliably get 1.5 cpp uplift with the Reserve it makes me question this strategy.
Like you say: Cash is king. And if I look at my demand schedule I have need for VRBO/AirBnB type rentals in the coming year. How am I going to pay for them? Seems like it would make sense to focus on cashback for that rather than URs because I can’t use URs through Chase with uplift.
That was not the deal and is yet another example of Chase pulling the rug out from beneath us.
See: New Chase 48 Month Sapphire Rule: What To Do Now And Going Forward
Amex really is crushing Chase lately.
Sam: Excellent analysis of the landscape right now. I’m glad you agree this isn’t an acceptable issue. To further illustrate things I did a search of the properties you listed above for WDW area, and here’s the side by side for the identical dates:
Even worse–if you run a search on the Chase travel portal and then go over to Expedia, the tracking from Chase Travel portal pollutes your Expedia results, showing you the “We are sold out” sign on the Expedia page:
This means the only way to not pollute your Expedia results is to do your Chase UR searches in a Incognito/Private Browsing session. In my testing the pollution continues long after you’ve logged out of the Chase travel portal.
Update 10/27: Be sure to read Ed’s comments and our back and forth with him below. These detailed comments add additional context to the post and this situation.
Robert: Wow. That’s pretty compelling evidence that Chase hasn’t opened the spigot on everything that’s bookable within Expedia yet. And really bizarre the way it pollutes subsequent native Expedia searches.
I tried calling Chase to see if a live human could look into why all of the vacation rentals in the system are evidently unbookable. Unfortunately some reps don’t even seem to know what a Vacation Rental is:
Me: I’m looking to book a Vacation Rental.
Agent: What kind of vacation are you looking to book?
Me: A Vacation Rental. On your site it says Flights, Hotels, Cars, Cruises, Vacation Rentals. I want to book a Vacation Rental.
Agent: I’m sorry, I can book flights and hotels. But not cruises. Are you looking to book a cruise?
Me: Let’s go with “yes”. Please transfer me.
The Cruises & Tours department is still managed by Connextions Loyalty. And they have no ability to book Vacation Rentals.
Chase has really nerfed a lot of value here and devalued my impression of Ultimate Rewards.
Half Baked or Fully Baked?
Sam: So the question really becomes… is this it? Is this the final Travel portal that we’re stuck with? Or will it progressively get better? If it is the former–this is pretty disappointing. Not only has the ability to book anything Disney been removed, but vacation rentals are also a no-go right now.
If it is the latter, and Chase is simply rolling this out slowly we’ll revisit and update readers. For now be cautious–When the Chase UR Travel Portal tells you a place is ‘sold out’ check a few more places just to verify this is indeed true.
Does this mean the “cashing out” of UR as mentioned in a previous post is dead now?
Jason: that’s a great question. The portal changes we’re going over here shouldn’t affect the cash out techniques we talked about. This is strictly an issue with booking smaller boutique hotels and vacation rentals at this point.
Could you please link to this article? Sorry, I don’t see a search option on the blog.
Here you go: https://www.milenomics.com/2018/09/shop-talk-cashing-out-ultimate-rewards/
Vacation rentals showed up yesterday when I was searching and it was the new site.
Ed: thanks for the reply. Can you please share the location and dates searched? Both Robert and I have done extensive searches and have seen the sold out phenomenon on the site no matter what we do. More data points help us to get to the bottom of this.
I searched for different locations on Kauai in September 2019. Saw a lot of sold out notices, but also a lot of availability, too.
Thanks for the datapoints.
Are you sure they were Vacation Rentals and not boutique hotels?
When I search for Vacation Rentals, the portal returns a mix of Hotels and Vacation Rentals.
On the left side of the screen there’s a Property Type category Filter.
If I check “Private vacation home” all the options disappear except for Hotels.
Next time you’re looking, maybe try that filter to confirm they’re Vacation Rentals?
One property I was looking for was the Waipouli Beach Resort in Kapaa where we have stayed many times before. It is a vacation rental property and showed a lot of availability, although they were all owned by Outrigger. There were also many vacation rentals in Poipu listed. My search was done by clicking the “Vacation Rentals” tab on the page.
Ed: Thanks for all the detailed follow ups. I’m going to update the post to point readers to your comments as I think they add a lot of value to this discussion. I did a search on the Waipouli Beach Resort under the “Vacation Rentals” tab and was unable to find a single night available. Here’s a screenshot of random dates:
It is possible Chase is rolling this out–some users have messaged me to say that they see properties today that weren’t available previously. That could also explain why you’re seeing Waipouli Availablity and I’m not. I’ll be continuing to keep an eye on this and update it moving forward.
I’m hopeful that this is indeed a temporary issue only.
Add t to this car rentals. Trying to book car in Marrakech and chase/expedia shows nothing available.
Check expedia (in different browser) and presto, a couple dozen availabilities. Pretty sad.
Really annoying that the whole Expedia portal isn’t coming through and there doesn’t seem to be anyone to call at Chase that does anything besides see what we see in onlline.
I searched for car rentals in multiple countries and on different dates. NONE of them populated any results, but expedia.com proper showed plenntttyyyy. I’m assuming there’s just no foreign booking capabilities at this time. HOPEFULLY this gets fixed asap.
Coincidentally, I was playing with Vacation Rentals over the weekend, and had a terrible user experience. Besides seeing 95% booked for winter dates at the Oregon coast (I didn’t think to cross-check, but seems highly unlikely everyone wants to go to the beach in 40 degrees and rain), I got a ton of weird errors and got logged out a few times. My search results also didn’t always seem to reflect my dates selected.
Bend, Oregon did seem to have some vacation rental availability this winter (homes in Sunriver), so maybe the system is just buggy and they will keep rolling out fixes. However, I was getting so many errors, I don’t think I would book anything until that smoothed out.
Cat: Thank you for the detailed response. I really appreciate you taking the time to write up your experience with the new portal. Sadly it seems to be in line with the issues others are having.
Unrelated to Vaction rentals, but I actually used the “Activities” option quite a bit to book tours, tickets, etc, with UR points. I typically have enough miles & points to book flights & hotels directly, so there’s a lot of value to me in being able to redeem UR’s at 1.5X in order to have something to do while I’m at my destination. Always been kind of an unsung UR benefit, if you ask me.
I’m glad to see they still have a “Things to Do” tab, now powered by Expedia as opposed to the old portal which ran through Viator. I was curious to see how that’s affected, and so far I’ve been pretty disappointed. In general there seems to be less choice and I’m seeing similar issues to what you’re describing with Vacation rentals – tours & activities are showing on the Expedia site, but don’t show as available with Chase.
My CSR anniversary is next month and I was literally all set to re-up for another year until they rolled out this new portal – at this point its far too buggy and filled with glitches for me to justify another AF.
I was planning on booking excursions for our Alaska cruise next year. The old UR portal had lots of choices. The new one has 2 excursions in Skagway and none in Juneau. The new portal is awful all around.
@Andy, I did this as well in Italy and feel like it was a pretty good deal. Sad to hear that they nerfed it…
@Cyndi, one thing to consider with excursions coming from a cruise. If there is something that you have to be back for (your cruise leaving port) you may want to book through the cruise operator since there is a risk that secondary excursion offerings may not be quite as punctual. Just something to consider when booking.
Seen this many times as well! I go on booking.com or hotels .com and the hotel shows availability! Then I go to chase portal and it shows sold out
It’s May 2019, and I’ve been trying to use the Chase Portal to book hotels for several months, and have been unsuccessful. I have had 95% – 100% sold out search results, even when testing mid-week dead-of-winter dates in the Northeast. This has been really frustrating as I”ve been accumulating a lot of points, especially with my Sapphire card, to no avail. I definitely feel like Chase has pulled the rug from under us, drawing everyone in with marketing claims, but then making it nearly impossible to benefit from the rewards.
I’m experiencing the same. I see rooms available on Booking.com for a particular hotel I want to stay at in Cusco, but it shows ‘Sold Out’ on the Chase portal. Very frustrating