Chase Ultimate Rewards points are a flexible, transferable points currency earned by using Chase Ultimate Rewards points-earning credit cards like the Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred.
These points are not connected to a particular airline or hotel loyalty program but rather can be redeemed on any of the 13 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. The number of travel reward possibilities as a result of these partnerships make Ultimate Rewards (UR) points especially valuable.
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the fundamentals of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, as well as how to use your Ultimate Rewards account effectively.
Part 2 will give an overview of each of the Chase Ultimate Rewards’ airline and hotel transfer partners to help you know where your UR points might be best used.
What You Need to Know About
Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Generally speaking, transferring Ultimate Rewards points to a travel partner returns the best value for your UR points. However, not all transfer partners are equally as valuable so it’s important to understand the differences.
In the miles and points community, there’s always discussion about redeeming miles and points for the highest per point value. Obviously, this makes sense. You want to squeeze every last drop of value from your UR points.
Just also keep in mind that value is relative. If your UR points help you take a trip you otherwise couldn’t afford to take, the per point mathematical calculations become less important. Personally, I always try to get the best return on UR points, but I also don’t have the disposable income to travel as often as I’d like so it’s a balance of these 2 factors that I consider when planning my award travel.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Airline Partners
Chase has 9 airline transfer partners. They are:
- Singapore Airlines,
- Korean Air,
- KLM/Flying Blue,
- Virgin Atlantic,
- British Airways,
- Aer Lingus, and
Your Chase Ultimate Rewards points will transfer 1:1 to all of these airline partners. So, 5k UR equals 5k miles or points in the airline partner to which you transfer your UR points.
Let’s look at each airline partner individually.
Before continuing, make sure you understand about airline alliance basics.
If not, stop and read Why you should Know About Airline Alliances.
United is most certainly one of the most popular Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. The airline is a member of the Star Alliance along with 26 other airlines including Swiss Air, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, and ANA.
The United website does a fairly good job of showing alliance partner award availability and allows you to book most award travel online. To be clear, you can transfer your UR points to United and book an award flight on United’s website operated by a Star Alliance partner, like Thai Airways.
Even better, United doesn’t pass on surcharges, even when you fly on a Star Alliance partner. United also allows open jaws and a free stopover or segment on award tickets when you take advantage of their Excursionist Perk.
For domestic travelers, Southwest offers terrific value because of their cheap fares within the U.S. and to destinations in the Caribbean and Central America. Southwest award flight prices are determined by the actual cash fare of the ticket. So, it’s best to book a Southwest award flight when they run a sale. You can also cancel an award flight with no penalty, making it easy to rebook if you see a cheaper redemption.
But, should you transfer UR points to Southwest? Based strictly on the math, UR points transferred to Southwest do lose some value. However, Southwest redemptions can be super cheap and even cheaper if you have the Southwest Companion Pass. Compare this Southwest award flight from New York-Laguardia to Minneapolis.
The total roundtrip price is 12,726 Southwest points and $11.20. United would charge 25k United miles roundtrip for the same flight. You can do the math but that’s 12k fewer UR points to transfer.
A member of the Star Alliance along with United, transfers to Singapore Airlines can return a ton of value, even beyond the coveted First-class suites. Singapore allows a free stopover on round-trip saver flights and has some redemptions which are cheaper than what United would cost. For example, continental U.S. flights to Europe are 27.5k Singapore miles each way versus United’s 30k each way. Singapore has also recently partnered with Alaska Air. Yet with all of the positives going for this UR transfer partner, watch out for surcharges on Singapore Air. If you’ve never flown with them, here’s a review of Singapore Airlines.
Part of the SkyTeam Alliance with Delta, Korean Air is a valuable UR transfer partner. You’ll be able to transfer your UR points to Korean Air and fly on their partner, Delta, for cheaper than had you booked with Delta. Most notably is the 25k Korean Air miles round-trip from the continental U.S. to Hawaii, but also to Mexico and parts of the Caribbean as well. And, with Korean Air making their award ticket bookings a bit more accessible online, the process has gotten less frustrating. Korean Air is also fantastic for premium redemptions with good availability and they allow a free stopover on award flights.
Flying Blue is the loyalty program of both KLM and Air France. As of June 1, 2018, KLM moved from a fixed price award chart redemption system to dynamic awards. Now, the prices of awards will vary depending on your origin, destination, the cash price, and the demand for that flight. There’s a new pricing calculator which shows the lowest mileage price for your award, but you’ll need to search for your specific award to determine the actual price. In addition, Flying Blue releases Promo Awards which offer discounted award seats on select routes. It’s unclear how negatively or positively these awards will be affected longterm given the June 1st changes. With dynamic pricing, the award prices will fluctuate, but this UR partner had a sweet spot to Israel and Hawaii that were particularly noteworthy. It’s also worth looking at Flying Blue for Caribbean awards.
This transfer partner doesn’t get the love it deserves because of the hefty fees Virgin Atlantic imposes on its own award flights. There are partner redemptions on ANA and even a transatlantic route that could make sense. However, when I need Virgin Atlantic miles, I save my UR points and transfer what I need from my Amex Membership Rewards account. Why? Amex has frequent transfer bonuses on Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic. Citi ThankYou also has had Virgin Atlantic transfer bonuses. If you have both UR points, Amex MR points, and Citi ThankYou points, try to time it right with an Amex or Citi transfer bonus and save your UR points.
British Airways is a member of the Oneworld Alliance along with American Airlines. They are a distance-based award program, which means award flights are priced based on the number of miles flown. This works out well with short-haul inter-continent and inter-country flights in many places. For example, it’s possible to redeem an award flight with British Airways between Los Angeles and Vancouver for 15k Avios round-trip but fly on an American Airlines plane since they’re the partner operating the route. American Airlines would charge 25k miles for the same route. For those of you looking for inter-Europe flights, British Airways is a great option.
British Airways’ website can be super glitchy and not show AA award space that’s there. Redo your search over and over trying different dates and routes and then return to your original search. You just might get that award space to show.
Aer Lingus & Iberia
These are the newest Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. Both use the same Avios currency as British Airways, yet they each have their own rules and award charts. Aer Lingus is distance-based but has a sweet spot redemption from cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago to Ireland for as low as 13k Avios one-way. Iberia flies from New York to Madrid for as low as 17k Avios each way. Iberia also differentiates itself from British Airways in that the number of Avios needed is based on total trip mileage, instead of paying per segment with British Airways.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotel Partners
Chase has 4 hotel transfer partners. They are:
- Marriott, and
Similar to the airline transfer partners above, your Chase Ultimate Rewards points will transfer 1:1 to all of these hotel partners.
Hyatt represents the best value among all of Chase’s hotel transfer partners. Award nights range from 5k-30k points and the math on per point redemption value can easily go up and over 2 cents per point. Hyatt cash and points bookings can also be a fantastic value. The one downside is that Hyatt doesn’t have as many hotels worldwide compared to brands like Hilton or Marriott.
IHG hotels include brands like InterContinental, Holiday Inn Express, and Crown Plaza. IHG points are valued at 0.7 per point, well below the 2.1 cents per point of UR points, making transfers not wise. IHG points can be earned in a variety of ways and the new IHG co-branded credit card, albeit with an increased annual fee, still comes with an anniversary night each year at a hotel up to 40k points a night.
Consider that even using the cash & points trick to book IHG’s Point Break hotels (5k points per night) costs just $35 for each set of 5k IHG points you’d need to purchase if you were low on IHG points.
Marriott & Ritz-Carlton
Grouped together because both loyalty programs are part of the Marriott brand. As with IHG above, transferring UR points for award nights at Marriott or Ritz-Carlton hotels is not a great value.
Marriott flight and hotel packages and point saver deals do stand out for their value within the Marriott program. But, if I had to choose between transferring UR points or getting Chase’s co-branded Marriott credit cards for their sign-up bonuses and their ability to earn Marriott points easily, I’d get the Marriott cards and save my UR points for a better redemption.
One last note, with Marriott’s purchase of Starwood Preferred Guest, Marriott points can be converted to SPG points at a 3:1 ratio. On August 1, 2018, all SPG points will be converted as the programs merge.
What about that Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal?
Even with all of these fantastic transfer partners, there are times when it makes sense to use Chase’s travel portal to book flights and hotels.
Here are some factors to consider.
- For flights, the portal searches in the same way an online travel booking site like Expedia would. You’re not limited to flights with just the transfer partners. This means flight search results will include any flight with available seats on any airline.
- If you have no flexibility or just want to find the cheapest possible economy price, booking through the portal may be a better option, both in terms of schedule and the number of UR points need to book.
- However, if you want a premium seat, it’ll nearly always be a better value to transfer your UR points to a transfer partner rather than book in the portal.
- You’ll likely earn miles for flights booked in the portal with UR points because they appear as cash bookings to the airline.
- For hotels, the Ultimate Rewards travel portal opens up many more hotel possibilities than just the typical loyalty program hotels. Using your UR points here, especially if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve with its 1.5 cent redemption rate in the portal, can absolutely make sense.
- Don’t book too close to your check-in date or during a peak holiday time when cash prices are higher and therefore UR portal redemption rates are higher.
- Do compare loyalty program hotel redemption rates with the number of UR points needed for the same hotel in the portal.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards transfer partners are what make your UR points so incredibly valuable! When transferred effectively, your UR points can have you sitting in airplane seats you previously thought were too expensive and on your way to bucket list destinations!
Which Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner has given you the most value?
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