The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards. PHOTO: iStock

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With travel reduced to a trickle due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been challenging to use many of the perks and rewards on Chase’s most famous travel credit cards. Recognizing this, the issuer previously expanded the bonus categories on several of its cards for a limited time, and on Thursday, it announced it will also expand the redemption options on its two most-famous credit cards to include not just travel, but additional categories as well.

Starting May 31, both Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card holders will be able to redeem their Ultimate Rewards points for purchases made in several newly-eligible categories, which at launch will include grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores.

At least at first, the value you’ll get for these redemptions is identical to what these card holders get when redeeming points for travel via Chase’s travel portal. Through Sept. 30, customers with the Sapphire Reserve card will get 1.5 cents per point on these new redemptions, while Sapphire Preferred cards will get 1.25 cents per point.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which is best for you?

In addition, Chase Sapphire Reserve card holders will get additional limited-time options for using the card’s $300 travel credit. From June 1 through Dec. 31, gas and grocery store purchases will also count toward the travel credit, along with the usual eligible travel charges.

Chase will also extend its annual fee reduction on existing Chase Sapphire Reserve cards through the end of 2020. For card holders with renewal dates between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, the issuer will only charge a $450 annual fee for the next year. This is a $100 discount on the card’s normal $550 annual fee.

The issuer had originally announced in January that it would increase the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee from $450 to $550 starting on April 1. However, since that time, it has been offering a one-time automatic $100 credit toward the $550 annual fee for cards with renewal dates between April 1 and July 31, 2020, which resulted in customers effectively getting the old $450 annual fee. This will now be the case through all of 2020.

How to take advantage of these new benefits

If you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cards, you’ll be able to redeem your points for these added categories using Chase’s new “Pay Yourself Back” tool, which will be available starting on May 31. Once you’ve made an eligible purchase, you can log into your Ultimate Rewards account, either via desktop or Chase’s mobile app, to find the “Pay Yourself Back” tool.

Chase
Chase's new "Pay Yourself Back" tool will be available via either desktop or mobile app. PHOTO: Chase

From there, you’ll use the tool to find any eligible transactions made on your card in the previous 90 days, and can then choose to apply your points for either a portion of the purchase or the entire amount. The points will be deducted from your account and you’ll see a statement credit for the corresponding amount within three business days.

You
You'll get a statement credit based on which Chase card you have and the number of points you redeem. PHOTO: Chase

Using the expanded travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is even easier, as it will apply automatically to any eligible purchase made in the added categories during the June-December time frame, just as it currently does to travel purchases made on the card. The $100 annual fee reduction on Sapphire Reserve cards will also be automatic for existing card holders renewing by Dec. 31.

For the moment, these new redemption options apply only to the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards. However, Chase notes that it expects to add the “Pay Yourself Back” feature down the line to other cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points.

The redemption values for these new categories are likely to change over time, as the 1.5 cent value on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the 1.25 cent value on the Chase Sapphire Preferred are currently only available on the added categories through Sept. 30, 2020. The categories themselves may also change beyond that date, as the issuer says it expects to “evolve the feature” over time to keep the categories fresh.

Should you redeem Chase points in these new categories?

CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, thanks to the program’s ability to transfer points at a 1-to-1 ratio to 13 airline and hotel loyalty programs. Strategically transferring points this way makes it possible to score premium redemptions, such as first and business class airline tickets, at a fraction of what it would normally cost.

However, using transferred points is complicated and can require a great deal of time and research. As a result, many Chase card holders simply redeem their points through the Chase travel portal. If you’re one of these people, you’ll be getting the same value in these new categories as you normally would when redeeming for travel, at least through the end of September, so it could make sense to take advantage of them.

Regardless, it’s certainly a plus to see Chase continue to expand the “at home” benefits of its travel credit cards, much as its competitors like Amex have done. So if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred and would rather use your points now instead of letting them sit, you may want to take a look at these new redemption options.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2020.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.