I Used Chase “Pay With Points” and Then Needed a Partial Refund. Here’s What Happened.

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Normally I like to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline frequent flyer miles or to Hyatt points. However I recently had an interesting use case to spend Ultimate Rewards points for paid travel.

Chase Ultimate Rewards has the following transfer partners:

  • Airlines: United, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM, Singapore, Iberia, Aer Lingus
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG

In addition to transferring to loyalty programs Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card let you use your miles for paid travel at 1.25 cents apiece. If you have a Sapphire Reserve or J.P. Morgan Reserve you can use points at 1.5 cents apiece.

One feature of Chase’s travel portal is that you can make split tender payments — part cash and part points. You can choose the exact number of points you want to use and pay the balance of any trip in cash.

I had a flight I needed to book where the trip’s sponsor would pay for an economy ticket. However with domestic first class not much of an upcharge, and return travel on a Thursday afternoon, I decided I wanted paid first.

I could have bought the coach ticket and called American to ‘upfare’ but I hate the phone and it just seemed easier to book first class straight away. I paid the cost of a coach ticket in cash (and .pdf’d documentation showing such for reimbursement purposes) but booked a first class ticket using points for the difference. It seemed like this would save time.

However as a result of American Airlines irregular operations I was re-accommodated on United and downgraded to coach (which was all that was left).

  • I emailed American Airlines for ‘original routing credit’. I got an email telling me they do not offer the miles for flights I didn’t take, and also that I wouldn’t get a refund between coach and first for difference in fare since they put me on United.

  • I rang up American and they gave me the miles while I waited on the phone. The miles posted instantly.

  • Customer relations processed a refund for the difference in fare.

Unfortunately they sent the refund check in the mail to the travel agency making the booking rather than to me. So I’d have to work with the Ultimate Rewards travel folks to get the money.

And between the time I made the booking and the time the refund was sent Chase transitioned from using Connexions Loyalty to Expedia to handle their travel portal bookings. The check was sent to Connexions, but calling Ultimate Rewards travel gives me Expedia.

I called the phone number for Ultimate Rewards travel. They had to transfer me to the department at Connexions Loyalty handling these bookings from before the cut-over. Connexions then told me they needed “their help desk” and transferred me into a phone tree without any relevant option.

I called back, waited on hold for an agent who put me on hold to transfer me over to the relevant Connexions folks. There I was told that I needed to wait “1-2 billing cycles” for them to process the refund received by American Airlines and that I would either get cash or points back they could not say which.

On my insistence I was given a phone number to reach their department directly along with a tracking number for my issue. When I told them I assumed that the process wouldn’t take care of itself as promised, and that I’d need to follow up, they advised that I should wait 4-6 weeks before doing so.

Anyway I thought this was an interesting enough experience to pass along — the use case for paying for travel with points and the process of dealing with a refund — indeed one where money was sent to a vendor who is no longer primary with Chase.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary, do you get ‘original routing’ EQMs and EQDs credited by American too in that case? I’ve always wondered but haven’t been able to find a clear answer yet.

  2. I booked a paid F round trip from IAD to LAX on AA. On the taxi out, the port engine had a major contained failure. We went back to the gate and the flight cancelled. AA offered a connecting flight two days later. Sincce I HAD to be in LA , I bought a wal up ticket on Virgin America. Great experience in coach but $300 more than my AA round trip in F. The next day, my return flight from LAX cancelled at the last minute because the equipment was still in IAD with the busted engine. Again, a walk up ticket on Virgin.

    AA refused to credit anything since “you have to fly AA to get the miles.” To add insult to injury, I was doing a paid AA status challenge. The two cancelled trans cons meant I did not hit my number. AA told me to pound sand. I fly Delta now.

  3. Chase’s switch to Expedia has been negative overall. The phone agents can’t do anything different than what you see on their website portal. No access to SABRE. I spoke to 5 different agents and supervisors who said they can’t book a United W fare. Utterly useless.

  4. I’ve also run into trouble with third party travel insurance (Travel Insured through USAA) when a cruise booking made with a combination of Ultimate Rewards Points and dollars had to be cancelled for a medical reason. While the Travel Insured agreed that this was a covered event (I had submitted verification from my doctors and the hospital) and Ultimate Rewards Travel (then managed by Connexions) sent me a receipt from the cruise line showing the full fare, having translated the points to dollars), the insurance company insisted that they would only refund that amount of the claim actually charged to my Chase credit card.

  5. American has become a second-class carrier. Every aspect of their company is pathetic. They should consider becoming a freight airline because they certainly have no clue how to take care of passengers.

  6. Wow, Gary, next time just ring up AA and UpFare with a completely separate transaction. Thanks for enduring that to tell us this story. Also interesting you got such better customer service with AA on the phone, rather than via your email. Did you just call the EP desk, and did they transfer you to presumably some sort of escalated customer relations or I’ve heard they also have a “resolutions desk.” I wonder if EP AA emails do not go in to an escalated tier 2 type support group.

  7. Is original routing credit on AA an agent discretion kind of thing? Here, we have 2 (you and a comment) data points of pax trying to get original routing credit after an IROP and both are shot down initially.

  8. I’ve found that Citi tends to handle this much more gracefully. You just call them up to let them know what happened and it’ll come back as points within a few weeks.

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