I have loved Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for a long time. Even before the Chase Sapphire Reserve card came out I found great value out of the plain old Chase Sapphire card. I have had two amazing visits to Grand Cayman each paid for by burning large chunks of UR points and even added the diving in with the package.
But it has been a while since I redeemed for such a vacation and things have really changed for the worse. Apparently I missed it that a little over a year ago Chase enlisted Connexions Loyalty to run the reward redemption. When it works, great, but when it does not work you run into the frustration and endless loop I fell into.
You see in the past, if I wanted to dive as part of my stay, the dive outfit would bill the hotel and then make one big invoice. Next, the UR folks would simply call the hotel and pay the bill in full in advance with my points. Quick, simple and great value. Now, not so much and when things go wrong you are in trouble because now, since they go Chase>Thrid Party Vendor>Hotel you are stuck when IT goes sideways.
In my case I was simply trying to book what was shown on the Chase web site with points plus a few dollars. Should be simple right? I tried for DAYS. UR reps tried for DAYS. At the final check-out page I got what drives us Delta flyers crazy when the similar situation happens – this rate has just sold out. Great. But then when you go back it is “magically” back again at the exact same price. That is until you go to check out and then – ERROR – it is sold out again. But you see it wasn’t really.
I called the resort I am going to stay at and guess what, the space was WIDE OPEN for this price and the hotel rep was not pleased that we could not get this stay booked.
Enter the rabbit hole of IT frustration.
Chase rep after Chase rep (well really Connexions rep I guess) could not get this done. They could not call the hotel direct to book, but they tried and failed because it HAD to go via the 3rd party booking software or no joy even though the Chase site showed availability and the hotel showed availability at this price.
In the meantime the very low Delta priced flights I wanted to book, but did not until I could confirm the rooms, went up day by day by day. Thanks Chase – you cost me on this one!
In the end I did get the trip booked. I had to change the dates around a bit to not pay hundreds more in airfare and Chase did give me a few thousand points for taking the better part of a week and hours and hours on the phone to get what should have been simple to complete.
Bottom line is technology can help or hurt us. Delta, with their horrid SNAPP program, blocks so much that a competent rep once could do. Now that Chase has removed so much power from their reps I value Ultimate Rewards a lot less than I once did. Sure they will still be in my travel mix but I find it amazing that cash back cards are becoming more of a draw to me than ever before. Maybe it is becoming the same for you as well. – René
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