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Earning Between 4.4% and 5.28% Cash Back Every Time You Book a Flight

I’ve helped a couple of friends book flights recently and they had zero idea that you can earn between 4.4% and 5.14% cash back every time they book a flight. Perhaps you didn’t know that either….here’s how: (with screenshots!)

For Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall offers 2X points when you book your travel through Travelocity. Doing the math: you earn 2X points when you use the Sapphire Preferred for booking travel. You earn 2X points by booking on Travelocity through the Mall. When you redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel booked through their travel portal you get an extra 25% bonus, so 40,000 points can be used to pay for $500 worth of travel. Plus you get 7% back for the points you spend each year. Whew. That works out to 5.28% cash back (good for travel) when you book your flights through Travelocity this way.

Now I know others consider using your points to buy travel to be a poor use of points. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it’s not. It may make sense for car rentals. It can make sense for hotels without points programs. It can make sense for coach airfare if the fare requires fewer points to outright purchase with UR points than to redeem a standard award (in other words: if a ticket to Europe is $625, it would require 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to purchase; or 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you transferred them to United). It can make sense for inter-island trips in Hawaii. It makes no sense for business class.

They don’t make it wildly obvious to get to their shopping portal. Log in at ultimaterewards.com, then choose “Earn Faster” and click Earn Points at the Bonus Mall. On that page, click on the Travelocity logo (screenshots will help):

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Another option is the The Barclays Arrival Card, which offers 2% cash back (when you redeem their points for a travel purchase) and a 10% points bonus when you redeem the points. So you effectively earn 2.2% cash back with each purchase. You may not have noticed that Barclays also has a mall and also offers 2X points when you buy airfare through Travelocity. Booking your airfare this way earns 4.4% cash back. Here’s how you do it: Log in to your Barclays account and make sure you click on the Arrival card in your account. Then click on “Rewards Boost” and search for Travelocity on that page.

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It may not make sense to book your travel this way if you have no status on the airline you’re traveling and you need to check bags. If you have no status but you have the credit card for the airline you’re traveling (I have this situation coming up with a trip on Delta), you’re best off just using the airline’s card to save yourself the baggage fees.

And remember: you do NOT need to use a Chase card to earn the bonus points when you purchase through their mall (that is true with Barclays as well). You will earn the points regardless of which card you use.


  1. Sorry, but where does the 5th UR pt come from?
    UR Mall: 2, CSP: 2, and then 7% annual dividend.

    Also, I think there’s a chance that the 7% is calculated from the total of spend AND UR Mall earnings, so it might be 4.28/$, right?

    But yes, I agree. There are some good redemptions for cheap flights. For me, this means SFO-LAX or LAS on Virgin America or UA, and still getting mileage and elite benefits.

    • You don’t get a 5th UR point, you get another percent of value:

      If you redeem UR for travel you get a 25% bonus. So, if you buy $100 worth of tickets on Travelocity you’ll earn 400 Ultimate Rewards points. If you redeem those 400 points for travel, you can buy $5.00 worth. So you earn 5.00% back on that $100 (plus the .28 for the 7% rebate at the end of the year). Hm – I guess it should actually be $5.28. I’ll change that in the post.

  2. In many cases, I’ve noticed Travelocity prices to be higher, sometimes high enough to negate the extra 2x..

  3. Jared,

    I agree that the terms and conditions of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall make it sound like you can use a non-Chase card.

    However, I advise caution. You often get points when shopping with a non-Chase card, but not always.

    And if points fail to post automatically, Chase will tell you that they don’t give miles if you didn’t use a Chase card (so no courtesy post in case of missing miles.)

    Anita

  4. But those extra points can be nearly entirely negated by the fees charged by Travelocity for every air-only booking.

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