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Many major credit card issuers now offer rewards malls or portals which give you an opportunity for even more savings or cash back opportunities. The two most popular shopping portals are the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall and Discover Deals. Both are operated by rewards point programs, but they differ in terms of cash back, flexibility, and shopping options.
How the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall Works
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall gives cardholders access to a shopping portal through which you can shop with merchants and earn bonus points for your spending. On average, merchants give 5 points per $1, but you can earn up to 10 extra points per $1. The points will usually post to your account within a week or two.
Chase has hundreds of participating merchants including more than 100 retail stores. Many service providers also participate so you can earn bonus points by using this portal to get a new Netflix account, TurboTax services, or AT&T service. The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal allows you to book travel and earn boosted rewards through popular hotels, airlines, and online travel agencies.
Chase cards that participate in the Ultimate Rewards program include:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Freedom Unlimited -- New for 2016!
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Ink Plus Business
- Chase Ink Cash Business
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
Chase offers something that Discover does not: a travel portal.
While you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to airline and hotel partners -- another benefit over Discover -- sometimes it's better to use your points to book through the travel portal because your points are worth 20% more when booked through the program.
This means that Chase Ultimate Rewards points that normally are worth 1 cent each can be worth 1.25 cents each through the travel portal.
As an example, let's say you're looking at a United Airlines flight. You can transfer your UR points to United at a 1:1 ratio and get the flight $268 flight for 25,000 points.
Or you can book through Chase Ultimate Rewards and get it for just 21,456 points.
Plus, when you book through the travel portal, you can buy the ticket even if there are no award seats available on the flight and you will still earn airline miles for the ticket. You can even combine the points with cash if you don't have enough points for the ticket.
As of the writing of this article, Chase's travel partners include several leading airlines and hotel chains, namely: United, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Hyatt, and Marriott). You can click here to see the complete least of Chase travel partners.
How Discover Deals Works
Discover Deals (which was formerly knowns as ShopDiscover) is one of the longest-running credit card malls. Discover Deals lets you save money on your purchase and/or earn additional rewards while shopping online or in-store on top of any regular rewards you earn with your Discover card.
And all Discover cards are eligible for Discover Deals offers.
Cash back from using the portal uses posts to your account within a week, but it can take up to 2 months with some retailers. If you have a Discover card with rotating bonus categories like the Discover it, you can stack bonus cash back if the bonus category includes online shopping or department stores.
Current deals available through Discover Deals include:
- Apple: 5% cash back bonus
- Best Buy: 5% cash back bonus
- Walmart: 5% cash back bonus
- Orbitz: 5% cash back bonus
- Sam's Club: 5% cash back bonus
- Avis: $25 off weekly rental, free weekend day rental, or free upgrade
- 1800Baskets.com: 20% cash back bonus
- Cheryl & Co: 20% off purchase of $49 or more
- H&R Block: 20% cash back bonus
To show how much you can save, let's say you use your Discover it card to rent a car through Avis. From January to March 2016, the 5% cash back bonus category is Gas & Ground Transportation. Not only will you save 5% on the car rental, you can also get a free upgrade or $25 off a weekly rental by using Discover Deals.
(And, yes, these types of opportunities arrive every quarter with Discover!)
How Do Chase Ultimate Rewards and Discover Deals Compare?
So, how do these two programs stack up against each other? Here's how they compare in a few key areas.
If you just want to save money, Discover Deals usually offers the best savings.
This is because Discover Deals can be used on in-store and online purchases and it may involve cash back or discounts on your purchase, such as saving $25 on a car rental or 20% off your purchase. Discover Deals can earn you up to 20% back, while Chase customers can earn up to 10 points per $1. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are usually valued at 1 cent each or 1.25 cents each if you use points to book travel through Chase.
Chase comes out ahead when it comes to flexibility. Chase allows you to do far more with the rewards you earn, including redeeming for access to exclusive events, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, or travel with no restrictions. With Discover Deals, you will just earn cash back.
The Ultimate Rewards Mall has more than 300 retail partners compared to about 200 with Discover Deals.
The Best Card for Each Program
Any Discover card will work with Discover Deals, but Chase has only four cards that participate in the Ultimate Rewards program, and only two of them are consumer cards: the Chase Freedom and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred participates in the Ultimate Rewards program with the ability to use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall and transfer points to frequent flyer and hotel programs.
With this card, you earn 2x points on dining and travel and 1x points on everything else.
While it does have a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), it more than makes up for it with a strong rewards program and great signup offers.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred's current sign-up bonus is 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000. You can also earn another 5,000 points by adding an authorized user. And 50,000 points is equal to $625 in travel rewards if you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Discover it Card
If you want to use the Discover Deals program, the best card is the Discover it which earns you 5% cash back in rotating categories and a flat 1% back on all other purchases. This card has no annual fee.
Sometimes the quarterly bonus category allows you to earn up to 25% back by shopping through Discover Deals.
As an added bonus, Discover currently is offering a signup bonus that you will automatically give you double the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year!
Which Deal is Best?
If you are purely looking for cash back rewards, then I recommend going with the Discover it card.
The cash back rewards in the Discover Deals program are better than those with Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program. You can also now use cash back that you earn to pay for purchases on Amazon and iTunes, giving the Discover rewards program a clear advantage.