Chase Ultimate Rewards: 5 Best (And Actually Practical) Uses

by Anna

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Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of the most valuable transferable currencies. Ultimate Rewards points are very flexible and can be used to book flights and hotels. Since there are so many great options for using Ultimate Rewards,  I wanted to talk about my own transfer experiences. For me, it’s not always about aspirational travel — it’s about being practical sometimes too. These are my five best ways to use Ultimate Rewards points with specific examples.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, and for some things that I personally find valuable, other people might not.

Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners 

There are nine direct Chase Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Flying Blue (loyalty program of Air France & KLM)
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

You aren’t limited to flying these nine airlines. The points can be used to book partner flights. For example, Virgin Atlantic miles can be used to book flights to Japan on ANA. Or you can book flights on Austrian Airlines with United MileagePlus miles.

There are also three hotel transfer partners:

  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Marriott

Transferring Ultimate Rewards points to IHG and Marriott doesn’t usually make sense. However, Ultimate Rewards points could be extremely valuable when booking Hyatt hotels.

Side Note: Things are always changing in the world of travel rewards. I am writing this shortly after Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer devalued its frequent flyer program. Some of the best redemptions, like a direct United Newark to Tel Aviv flight went up in price. And of course, United announced “enhancements” to its MileagePlus program by getting rid of an award chart for United-operated flights. However, using a transferable currency like Ultimate Rewards still makes the most sense — for flexibility.

How to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are pretty easy to earn thanks to generous signup bonuses and bonus spend categories. The points can be earned with many business and personal cards. My favorite cards are:

Here are five best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards in no particular order.

Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt

Inside the Park Hyatt Saigon

Transfer Time: Instant 

The World of Hyatt program has many “sweet spots” that we’ve covered before.  With the recent addition of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and Thompson Hotels (and other brands being added soon), the award chart keeps getting better and better.

Favorite Hyatt Redemptions

Park Hyatt Saigon 

My favorite redemption was at Park Hyatt Saigon in Vietnam. It’s a category 4 hotel bookable with just 15,000 points (the cash price is almost $300 plus tax).

My husband and I stayed at this hotel a year ago and we both loved it — phenomenal location, great pool, great service and very comfortable bed. Shelli, a fellow Point Me contributor and Hyatt aficionado reviewed the Park Hyatt Saigon as well.

Park Hyatt Saigon | Photo courtesy of Hyatt

Park Hyatt Saigon | Photo courtesy of Hyatt

The Academy London (Small Luxury Hotel)

This Small Luxury Hotel (SLH) in London looks really good for just 20,000 points/night.  In the city of very expensive hotels, particularly in the summer, this is a bargain, especially considering that World of Hyatt members get complimentary continental breakfast for two at SLH properties.

Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Singapore Kris Flyer

Transfer Time: 1-2 days

Recently, Singapore announced that they are making changes to its award chart effective effective April 16, 2019. Singapore is raising award prices for partner airline redemptions in premium cabins, but the price for economy awards is not changing.

Solid Economy Redemption: I still think 27,500 KrisFlyer miles is a good deal for North America to Europe for a one-way economy flight on one of the Star Alliance partners.

Most people probably transfer Ultimate Rewards points to KrisFlyer to experience Singapore Suites that can convert to a luxurious double bed. You can fly from from New York (JFK) to Singapore with a connection in Frankfurt for 132,000 KrisFlyer miles.

Singapore Suites On A Budget: A “cheap” way to experience Singapore Suites is to fly from JFK  to Frankfurt for 86,000 miles. Or, for longer luxury experience, you can fly from New York City to Sydney, Australia, connecting in  Frankfurt and Singapore for 167,000 KrisFlyer miles.

Transfer Ultimate Rewards to United

Transfer Time: Instant

Even after United’s announced award chart elimination, I still think that transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United is a great way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards (for now). Fortunately, United didn’t eliminate partner award charts, and this is where I use my miles.

Favorite Redemption: United’s Partners

I fly to Israel often, so I am constantly looking for good award redemptions on Star Alliance partners. What I’ve noticed after performing multiple searches is that often United has much better access to partner award space than other Star Alliance carriers. I’ve compared availability on United’s site with what I’ve seen on Aeroplan, ANA and KrisFlyer and United often comes out ahead. Plus, United doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges.  That can save you hundreds of dollars compared to other partners.

Austrian Business Class Award Travel

Austrian Business Class. Great way to use United Miles.

We’ll see how the latest changes pan out and if United is going to devalue partner award chart later, but right now it’s a great way to fly to Israel, Europe, Central and Southern Africa on Star Alliance partners, especially if you can maximize the Excursionist perk. It’s possible that United will remove partner award chart soon, we don’t know if and when that’s going to happen. For now, I still think this is one of the best ways to use Ultimate Rewards.

Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Transfer Time: Instant

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have the most attractive award chart for its own flights, and the surcharges are steep.

Favorite Redemption: Virgin Atlantic’s Partners

However, sometimes you can book Delta flights for fewer miles than you’ll need on Delta (that doesn’t have an award chart anymore).

ANA First Class 

Virgin miles also come in handy when booking ANA business and first class awards. Here’s Virgin’s Flying Club rates for roundtrip flights on ANA.

Virgin Atlantic Award Chart for for ANA

Virgin Atlantic Award Chart for for ANA

As you can see from the chart, you can fly roundtrip in business class on ANA from the US to Japan for just 95,000 and in first for 120,000 miles roundtrip. That’s a fantastic redemption, the equivalent flights booked with United miles will cost 160,000 miles in business and a whooping 240,000 miles in first roundtrip.

You’ll need to call to book ANA flights, but Virgin Atlantic agents are very competent. It’s a small price to pay when you are saving so many points. You can also put the award on a 48 hold while you transfer the points.

Book Through the Travel Portal at 1.5 Cents Per Points

Many people consider redeeming Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents a point to be a poor redemption (with a premium Chase card like the Sapphire Reserve), but I disagree. There are many wonderful non-chain hotels that could be booked on the portal, and I’ve taken advantage of that many times.

If you come across a good fare sale, booking through the portal might be a better deal than transferring to an airline partner. I’ve recently done just that to fly to Italy on Emirates in economy for less than 60,000 round trip for two people. I have a good stash of Ultimate Rewards points, and I’d rather save money and spend the points.

Honorable Mention: Transfer Ultimate Rewards to Iberia

Using AAdvantage Miles to Fly Iberia from India to Europe

Iberia A330 business class.

Transfer Time: Instant 

Iberia’s award chart is a little wonky — some months, and even weeks, have peak and off peak days. Their website could use some work too. But if your schedule is a little flexible, it’s possible to score a one-way transatlantic flight in business class for just 34,000 Iberia Avios during off-peak times.

I recently booked a business class flight from Madrid (MAD) to Chicago (ORD) for 34,000 Avios and $135. The surcharges are a little high, but I can live with this because the number of miles required is so low.

The Upshot

These are lots of ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards to save on travel — from booking first class seats, to using them to book Flying Blue Promo Awards, to booking hotels. With a little advance planning, it’s possible to get outsized value by transferring Ultimate Rewards to transfer partners.

Using points doesn’t have to be all about luxury travel, however. Don’t ever hesitate to spend your points and miles when you don’t want to spend cash but still want to travel to see family and friends.

What is your favorite way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points? Tell us how you use Ultimate Rewards to get the best value.

 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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[…] Best Uses Of Ultimate Rewards:  It’s hard to say if these are the “best” uses, since that’s relative to your needs and wants, but in terms of value it is a solid list.  Ultimate Rewards points offer a lot of flexibility and here’s how you can get a lot of value out of them. […]

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