With travel plans put on hold for many consumers, credit card companies are trying to entice potential cardholders with new, more relevant rewards offers. Chase in particular has one such promotion: the Pay Yourself Back program.
This program adds value to points redeemed for statement credits toward purchases you might more frequently make: groceries, takeout, and home improvement.
But is it really the best use of your money?
What Is Chase Pay Yourself Back?
With Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program, Ultimate Rewards points are worth more when redeemed toward statement credits for specific purchases. The bonus you get depends on which card you have, and the spending categories that count rotate regularly.
|Card||Point Bonus for Statement Credit|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee)||25%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee)||50%|
|Chase Ink Business Preferred||25%|
|Chase Ink Business Plus||25%|
|Chase Ink Business Cash||10%|
|Chase Ink Business Unlimited||10%|
To illustrate, let’s say you’ve been taking advantage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s offer of earning 3 points per dollar on dining purchases.
Normally you can redeem your rewards points at a rate of 1 cent per point towards a statement credit for any purchase, including dining purchases. That means if you spent $100 on takeout, you’d need to earn and redeem 10,000 points to cover that charge. But with the 50% points bonus through Pay Yourself Back on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can cover that same charge with 6,667 points instead—a 33% discount.
Eligible charities include American Red Cross, Equal Justice Initiative, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, International Medical Corporation, Leadership Education Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Urban League, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United Negro College Fund, United Way, and World Central Kitchen. Donations to eligible charities qualify for point bonus credit through Dec. 31, 2022.
How Do You Use Chase Pay Yourself Back?
Chase already offers a pathway to redeem your points for a statement credit. But to actually benefit from the higher redemption rate through the Pay Yourself Back program, you need to follow these steps:
- Log in to your Ultimate Rewards account: You can also click “redeem rewards” in your regular Chase account to be taken to your Ultimate Rewards account.
- Click on “Pay Yourself Back”: You can scroll down on your card’s rewards dashboard to the “Pay Yourself Back” program, or click on “Earn / Use” to find this link.
- Choose your purchases: You’ll see a list of eligible purchases, how much time you have left to redeem points for them, and the actual points cost. Select the ones you’re interested in redeeming points for, and then scroll down to “Continue.”
- Choose how many points to redeem: You can redeem enough points to cover the full value of the purchase, or just a portion of it. Then, click “Confirm & Submit.”
You can only redeem your points in the Pay Yourself Back program for purchases made in the past 90 days.
Should You Use Chase Pay Yourself Back?
As with so much other financial advice, it depends. Here’s one case where it might be a good idea to use the Pay Yourself Back program, and another where you may want to hold off.
If You Plan To Travel After the Pandemic
Should you use Pay Yourself Back? Maybe not.
Many people are banking their rewards points right now in anticipation of better days when travel is a thing again. And for those who wait, even better value is possible—especially if you use rewards points with one of Chase’s travel partners.
For example, instead of each point being worth 1.5 cents with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card through the Pay Yourself Back program, you can get a value of up to 1.98 cents per point by transferring them to United. British Airways offers even better value: Your points are worth an estimated 2.04 cents per point when you transfer them here.
If You’re Facing Financial Difficulties or Don’t Plan to Travel
Should you use Pay Yourself Back? Yes.
Travel is the clear winner if you transfer your points to certain airlines. But if you don’t have travel plans, or if you frequently use a credit card for groceries, you shouldn’t have any reservations (pun intended) about redeeming points through the Pay Yourself Back program.
After all, a redemption value of 1.25 cents per point (or 1.5 cents with Sapphire Reserve) isn’t bad for cash-back rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months.
Chase Pay Yourself Back vs. Traditional Cash-Back Rewards
It’s always been possible to use Chase cards in a variety of ways, including as cash-back cards. But since travel usually represents the best redemption value, most people consider these to be primarily travel cards.
With the Pay Yourself Back program though, now might be a better time to use your Chase credit card for cash back. To better understand how Pay Yourself Back compares to a generic cash-back rewards card, consider the following:
|Chase’s Pay Yourself Back Program||Traditional Cash-Back Rewards Card|
|Can cover charges within the past 90 days||Offers a cash-back rate of 1% to 6% on purchases, depending on the specific card|
|Offers an effective cash-back rate of between 1.25% to 6.25%, depending on the card and any bonus cash-back categories||The effective cash-back rate will be subject to limits on purchases eligible for bonus cash back (such as 5% cash back on up to $5,000 in purchases)|
|Can only be redeemed as a statement credit for eligible purchases||May be able to redeem as a statement credit, bank account deposit, gift card, or check|
The Pay Yourself Back program could be a great help, especially if your wallet’s been strained due to the pandemic or you don’t have travel plans on the horizon. But if you’re doing OK, and would rather save on post-pandemic travel, we recommend waiting and banking your points for later.