Google Flights makes it easy to find super cheap airfare deals like the one pictured above. Within Google Flights, simply enter your origin city and departure date and then enter a region as a destination (“Europe,” for example) and then you’ll be presented with a map showing low fares.
Those with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card may then want to book these flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The reason? The Sapphire Reserve card gives you the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel booked through the Chase travel portal.
The problem? The Chase travel portal doesn’t always show the cheapest prices. In the example shown above, Google Flights found that a Norwegian flight was available for $165. Meanwhile, the Chase travel portal showed the same exact flight for $228.70:
Despite appearances, the travel portal isn’t gouging customers by charging more. Instead, in the examples I’ve looked at, the travel portal often books fares that include a checked bag or other features that are not included in the lowest fare found through Google Flights.
Let’s look at this in detail. When clicking through from Google Flights to Norwegian to book the $165 fare, we see that the $165 price is their “LowFare” price with no included meals and no checked bag. To get an included checked bag and meals, you are encouraged to purchase the “LowFare+” fare instead.
It appears that Chase books you instead into “LowFare+. In this example, the Chase price for LowFare+ is actually cheaper than the LowFare+ fare that Norwegian sells directly. In most of the cases that I’ve looked at, though, the price for LowFare+ on the Norwegian website exactly matches the price found through Chase.
What if you really want that ultra-bare-bones ticket?
In our 40K to Far Away Challenge, I’ve argued that I have a big advantage over Nick and Stephen because I can buy flights at 1.5 cents per point value. Even though I don’t plan to do anything as boring as this for the challenge, in one recent post I showed that I could fly 35,000 miles with my 40K points and $400. Nick was not impressed. He pointed out that many of the fares I described in my post are not bookable via the Chase portal.
Nick was right. There is no way to book some of those ultra-cheap flights online through Chase.
But.. I found that it can be done over the phone.
It wasn’t easy. Based on my prior research, I thought that the cruise desk may have the power to book these flights. I was wrong. At least the person I spoke with said no. Same answer from the flight booking desk. Both said that they could only book the fares found online. Thankfully, one offered to transfer me to a department that they thought might be able to help: the aptly named help desk.
My conversation with the help desk agent was super smooth. I explained that I wanted to use points to book a fare that wasn’t available via the Chase portal. Without hesitation, she asked for the flight details and quickly confirmed that she could book the cheapest rate! After taking my details, she put me on hold for about 10 minutes to book the flight. In the end, she charged me the exact number of points that I expected to pay for the cheapest available fare. This was true even though the receipt I received from Norwegian showed an extra credit card processing fee. The help desk agent didn’t pass along that fee.
In the end, I asked the agent how to get to the help desk directly next time this happens. Details are shown next.
How to book the cheapest fares with Chase Ultimate Rewards points
If you find a super cheap fare in Google Flights but you can’t find that fare on the Chase travel portal, your first step should be to make sure that the fare is actually bookable. Sometimes Google Flights info is cached and no longer available, so it’s important to make sure that the fare still exists before contacting Chase. Next, call the Chase Travel help desk to book the flight.
- Confirm that the fare is bookable. I recommend going directly to the airline website to make sure that the fare you want comes up on their site.
- Call 1-866-951-6592 and ask the call agent if they can book the fare that you found.
- If the person you speak with isn’t able to book it, ask specifically to be transferred to the help desk.
What about other types of travel?
I haven’t yet tested this theory, but it’s possible that the help desk is capable of booking other types of travel. For example, if you want to book a hotel offering a great AAA rate, maybe the help desk can help. Or maybe you have a money saving corporate code for car rentals. Again, maybe the help desk can help.
Possible bonus: If the help desk is able to book these things (and that’s a big “if”), it’s theoretically possible that you’ll be able to earn hotel or car rental rewards as well. When hotels or cars are booked through online travel agencies (OTA’s) like Orbitz or the Chase portal, you don’t usually qualify for hotel or car rewards or elite benefits. However, when the help desk books things, it appears that they book directly with the travel provider. If so, it’s possible that the usual OTA restrictions won’t apply. Again, this is all just wishful thinking at this point. I’ll publish more once I know more.
I called the number you gave and was transferred to someone within the help desk. However, for my Lufthansa flight, she said she could only see the fares that were showing up for me (i.e., economy, not economy light). She did say that once I’m back in the US and flying more domestic airlines like American Airlines and maybe Delta and United, the cheaper economy options should be more available. I guess I’ll wait and see if this trick works for other airlines! Thanks for the explanation at least – seeing the difference in price was driving me crazy, but at least now I know why it’s like that!
[…] I’m not sure whether or not you can book them over the phone with Citi as Greg showed cheap flights can be booked with the right Chase agent). If you can book Southwest flights over the phone with Citi, it wouldn’t make much sense to […]
[…] of $1,091, so I thought it was possible that Chase didn’t have access to this fare (though Greg has shown before that it may still be possible to book it). However, I noticed that the outgoing flight on the itinerary Chase was showing for $1,091 was the […]
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[…] such as the ability to book flights to Hawaii for only 7,500 Citi ThankYou points, the ability to book super-cheap fares with Chase points, and tricks for finding 5K United awards. More examples can be found below under the heading […]
Do you suppose this works with booking with an airline like Frontier?
I think so, but I haven’t tried.
FYI – it doesn’t look like I updated you. My father was able to book frontier by calling Chase in October but couldn’t book Sun County today. He will HUCA I will update if that changes.
The number here (866-951-6592 ) is different than the # that appears on the chase ur portal (1-888-511-5323), and the 866 # worked for a sun county booking today 1/17/20. THX!
Awesome. Thanks for the update.
Booking United Ugradeable International W fares with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Let me share my incredible experience with a not so special itinerary for us Frequent Flyers. It begins with calling the normal un-trained first line incompetents one gets to initially speak with when you call into CUR. I wanted IAH-NRT-CGK Nov 20, and returning SIN-SFO-IAH Nov 26 – a simple open jaw multi city IAH-CGK outbound and SIN- IAH inbound. But I needed “W” fare so I can apply UA GPU’s. UA Website was showing $1,162 using their incredibly simple/ intuitive Advanced Search tool. (Only NRT-CGK would not be UA metal where the W upgrade can be applied – but what the heck.)
I tried to book the itinerary online – the flights I wanted would show up OK, but no ability to book W fare. Only mostly K and perhaps some L fares in teh $800 range. But I wanted to get close to the $1,162 real cost using CUR points.
I called CUR 3 separate times last week, and after initial incompetents (who had no idea what fare rules/ fare codes even meant, I asked for Supervisors. They each knew of the existence of codes, and one helpful girl even tried to search a myriad of routing flight options, but eventually said nothing was available W fare for the UA sectors I picked out. I gave up calling.
So to get my needs I booked an itinerary online that would have an UA flight as a first sector (to ensure ‘016″ UA ticket stock would be used. I found something close to, but under $1,162 and booked it. With the confirmation #, I then called UA Premier Line within the initial 24hr free change period, and amended all flight and fare codes to the $1,162 itinerary I was looking for at W codes. The change fee was waived (wthin 24 hrs) , and only a few bucks extra to pay by CC. BUT, UA wanted to try and pin a $120 Change Fee on me coz the initial booking was made by an agent (Chase/ Expedia). I complained and was able to remind her of my years of UA high elite status and Miliionmiler, and she eventually, but without calling a supervisor waived that fee. I then applied 2 GPU’s – one for outbound firts sector, and one for inbound that will cover teh 2 sectors, coz SFO stop is a 6 hour “connection” and not a layover.
But the point here is I was only really able to eventually get what I wanted, was manipulations around a hyperthetical itinerary close to what I wanted, then for no fee, was some gyrations and sweet talking on my years of status. This is bull crap – I’m privileged with UA 1K status over many years, but most reading this won’t have neither patience nor UA status to get what you saw in plain site on UA’s own website.
Positive data point to report, with a bit of pain.
I called in to the Chase Help Desk tonight and attempted to book a Jetstar domestic flight in Vietnam. The agent found the flight through Jetstar’s own web site but told me he was unable to book it for me. I pressed him as I could see it on Expedia and Expedia powers the Chase Portal, but he insisted that Expedia only releases some inventory to Chase and there was no way to book it. I thought it was a losing battle, but I kept pressing the agent at how it is ridiculous I can see the flight on Expedia but couldn’t book it with my Chase points. Eventually he put me on hold again and spoke to a supervisor and was able to make it work.
Apparently this agent knew he could book “Allegiant and Norweigan” flights but didn’t realize all of the other airlines he could book. After quite some time on the phone giving the passenger information, he was able to book the flights for me and give me a Jetstar confirmation number. He manually took the points from my account after converting the fare from VND to USD. (Small downside for me that the ~$7 baggage fee I could have booked at the same time of the flight is now a ~$14 baggage fee since the flight has already been purchased).
Since the call had already gone on for roughly 40 minutes, I spent a little bit of extra time clearing up the confusion on the process. The agent kept apologizing saying it was his error, but I was trying to figure out any magic words I could say in the future to assist the agent in understanding this booking process.
I previously booked two other Asian LCC flights and tried to get him to recreate the booking. One was Jin Air and the other was Air Seoul. The agent explained neither could be booked by them. I asked why not as he simply booked the Jetstar flight on their own web site, and he explained that when they manually take the Chase points they have a dropdown of which carrier they booked, and it has to be on the list. Neither of those two carriers were on the list. He read me the J airlines and I tried to cross-reference his list with a list somewhere on the web but failed to do so. I also asked if this list of airlines is published anywhere and he said no.
Excellent data point. Thanks!
Fantastic info! I will update this post with some of these key points. Thank you!
Do you happen to remember any of the airlines in the drop-down list? I realize that you only have the ones starting with J, but even that might be useful to some.
I almost saved the list for such a request but incorrectly assumed it would kind of useless. Luckily Chrome search history never forgets!
Japan Transocean Air
Jetstar Hong Kong Airways
The Expedia US site only lists three of these airlines, and I did a bit of searching to find some web site with this particular list of J’s but came up empty.
Now I feel like I should have spent 10 minutes more on the phone just getting the guy to read the entire list to me…
Wow! This article came at the perfect time! I just called and was able to book 4 one-way tickets from LAX-BCN for next July on Norwegian Air for 57,368 UR points… I had done this in the past, when Connexions ran the UR travel, but didn’t think that it was possible with Expedia running the show. I was prepared to pay cash for the tickets, but decided to do a little more research first, and thankfully found your advice. The call took almost an hour and a half, so prepare to be patient!
Awesome, I’m glad it helped!
Great tip, worked for me! Google Flights and Expedia (which is supposedly the backbone of the UR booking engine) showed a $860 flight to Manila on American. Even AA.com showed it. UR portal had the cheapest ticket at $1200. Called the regular UR line, and the guy could only see what I saw on the UR site. Called the “Help” line and the lady was able to find it. I asked her what she did, and she said they had three different systems to book tickets. You need to come armed with the info, but looks like they can find quite a few more options than the normal UR portal. Awesome tip Greg, you manage to always find them, kudos again. If only your wizardry could help out the UM football team. #GoBucks 😛
What are the 3 different systems to book the tickets?
I’m glad that worked for you! Just to confirm, when you say that you called the “Help” line, do you mean the number that I listed in this post 1-866-951-6592 ?
Yes I called 1-866-951-6592. The agent who answered was able to book my ticket. I didn’t ask for the “help desk” as you suggested, but the agent did put me on hold 3-4 times while she checked “other systems”. The whole call took almost an hour.
Yeah, I have no clue how you did this or who you talked to. I tried three times moving to the help desk for help booking a basic economy airfrance flight that was $35 cheaper through the airfrance. None of the attempts worked. So you are saying the agent booked the flight on the Norwegian air website, and then allowed you to claim the 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point as a statement credit? They were very obstinate that they could only book me a flight at the prices they saw through the system. Unless you get more data points confirming that this works, I think you should revoke this blog post.
Ken, just to confirm, did you call the number that I listed in this post?
It’s certainly possible that they can’t book all airlines this way, but there’s no doubt that they can do Norwegian and apparently AA (thanks to Ryan’s datapoint)
Yup, called the exact number that you stated in the post.
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Very helpful tip. I just came across this same issue last week but gave up when I didn’t see the inventory online. I’ll try this tip. Thanks!
Awesome and really helpful and useful information! Thank you Greg! Keep these tips and info coming!
Just tried to book an Aer Lingus fare I want for around $160 less than what chase pulls. Agent claims they cannot book it. He even claimed to go to aerlingus.com and can see the lower fare.
It seems you may have gotten lucky.
Did you ask specifically for the help desk?
Yes. Twice. I got “supervisors” which claimed to also be help desk.
And I did call the number you listed.
I just had the exact same experience as this user did. With Air Lingus and everything. Supervisors from the help desk
When I booked Norwegian flight about a year ago, I found that a “Reserve” agent could help me where all the others said to book though online portal. The 3% credit card fee was passed on to me and charged to my CSR by the travel agency so YMMV. It makes sense to me since the travel agent was using a corporate card on their end as opposed to me using a personal card on Norwegian.com.
Does it have to be thru google flights? I’ve gotten discounts on norwegian of ~$50 vs the normal site by using the site in Norwegian and then using google translate. Always came up cheaper than the google flights price
It doesn’t have to be through Google Flights, but it does need to be a price that the help desk can easily verify. My guess is that you won’t have any luck getting them to use the Norwegian language site, but you could try!
Calling Chase and on Southwest online, my flights are exactly 22K miles – you are saying I will earn more points “back” going through Chase Portal?
No, the Chase travel portal is different from the shopping portal. Only the shopping portal lets you earn extra points. The travel portal lets you pay for travel with points. That’s what this post is about.
chase portal is based on cash price…you have the choice of transferring points 1:1 for point awards, to find out if it is cheaper, find the cash price on SW and figure how many UR points it will take at 1.25 or 1.5 cents (depending on your card) to book….since SW points are valued at 1.6 cents it is unlikely you will get a better deal going through the UR portal compared to just trading to SW points and booking it.
On Monday, I tried to book a nonstop flight on Air Canada Jazz. It doesn’t show on the Chase portal or Expedia.com which is strange because other AC flights are on Expedia. Agent used the lame excuse that maybe the flight is not available. Wrong. Escalated to a Supervisor and was told they can book only flights on their portal.
Have you tried calling back and asking for the help desk now that you’ve read this post? Might be worth a shot. Would be curious to hear your results.
Some one should try Allegiant.
I think it should be Greg.
Seriously, Greg, this 40K to faraway challenge is creating your best blog content probably since either your million miles in a month, or your effort to get to Necker Island. Keep it up!
Agreed! Keep up the great content Greg and Nick. Oh, and thank you!
That is really going the extra “mile,” Greg, thanks! Had no idea, & I frequently use the Chase portal. I’ve gotten so much incredible value from it, as is, but very grateful for potential bigger savings.
Very useful info Greg!