Credit card reward redemption can be a puzzle. If you can’t fly for free on points, sometimes you can find a missing piece (points plus cash) to get where you want to be.
That’s how I’m flying to St. Louis this weekend for a surprise party for my aunt’s 70th birthday.
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When I didn’t have enough Southwest Rapid Rewards points to cover the cost of the flights, I remembered Jason Steele’s story for The Points Guy about tips and tricks to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points on Southwest.
The end result: My two-plus years of rewards (24,300-plus points, worth $243) with my Chase Freedom card covered all but $47 for the round trip ticket.
How I did it
While it’s true you can redeem Chase Freedom Ultimate Rewards points for Southwest flights, it’s not easy.
Steele’s story prepped me for the ordeal.
Calling the Chase Travel line takes a lot of time, for the agent to find and book the flights and then for the redemption to process. Total time for me? Forty-seven minutes on the phone on a Friday evening.
Another glitch: The promised confirmation email never arrived from Chase, so I was uncertain I really had tickets until the flights showed up on my Southwest account.
The big plus: With Chase Ultimate Rewards I was able to use points and cash to purchase the Southwest tickets for a total of $47. When booking direct at Southwest Airlines, you can’t use points and cash.
Doing the math: While I could have redeemed my Rapid Rewards points for the ticket to St. Louis, I would have had to pay cash for the fare from St. Louis back home to Austin, Texas. That would have cost me about $150.
The flights won’t be pointless. I put that $47 on my Rapid Rewards Plus Visa, so I will earn 1x points good for a future vacation or adventure.
Rental car, hotel earn more points
The rental car was booked through Southwest, so I scored a bonus 1,000 points for using my Rapid Rewards Visa card.
The hotel I booked direct through Drury because I received a lower rate than I would have if I had booked the same room with Southwest to get a points bonus.
Scoring cash back on restaurants
While in the city that made toasted ravioli famous, I’ll use my Amazon Rewards Visa to supersize my rewards with 5 percent cash back.
What this means: With every bite at Cunetto’s House of Pasta or Gus’s Pretzels, I’ll be saving a little off the final bill.
When I land, I’ll check my FiveStars, Belly and SpotOn apps to find out where I can stack my rewards (more on that in a future blog post).
The best part: I’ll get to see my Aunt Lindy, Uncle Rich, my brother and his wife, and my cousins – all for under a total (airfare, hotel, rental car) of $150 with my credit card rewards. It’s been years since I’ve seen my family, so it will be a jam-packed 24 hours.
Follow me on Twitter (@HermanJeff) for some pics and tweets of the whirlwind trip.
See related: Why are Chase Ultimate Rewards points so valuable?, How to use credit card rewards to upgrade your flight, 5 dream vacations funded with rewards