Maximize Monday: Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

by on March 4, 2013 · 51 comments

in Chase, Maximize Monday, Ultimate Rewards

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Update: Chase Ultimate Rewards has also added Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic as transfer partners.

Ultimate Rewards is the loyalty points program of Chase credit cards including the Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, as well as the Chase Freedom and Sapphire cards.

However, there are actually two types of Ultimate Rewards points. Basic cards like the Freedom and the Sapphire accrue Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash back at the value of one cent per point.

Premium Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

Premium Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.

Chase’s premium Ultimate Rewards cards – the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and Ink Plus – also earn these points, but you can use the Ultimate Rewards points you earn with these cards to transfer to the program’s 9 travel partners: British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, United, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak. That’s why Ultimate Rewards points are the crux of my points strategy – the ability to transfer to these top-tier travel partners gives me both the flexibility I need to make my plans on the fly as well as to redeem them for the premium travel experiences I want, like flying business or first class internationally or staying in high-end Hyatts around the world (and you also get a value of 1.25 cents per points when redeeming directly for travel by paying with points).

In fact, if you have both a basic card or cards and any of the premium cards, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points from both and redeem those for travel as well, so if you’re like me and you carry the Chase Freedom card to maximize its 5x quarterly rotating earning categories, you can still use your Ultimate Rewards points for travel, as I outline in this post.

Chase has been running big sign-up bonuses on these cards and waiving the annual fees, so with a reasonable amount of planning, it isn’t hard to rack up several hundred thousand Ultimate Rewards points relatively cheaply. I’ve been able to get a lot of use out of my Ultimate Rewards points so far, like flying Lufthansa’s new first class.

Ranking Ultimate Rewards Travel Partners

1. United: I rank United miles as the most valuable frequent flyer miles out there – conservatively at about 2 cents each – because of valuable features such as being able to redeem for one-way awards, the airline’s 26 Star Alliance partners, low award ticket fees, and the fact that these miles transfer instantly from Ultimate Rewards. Being able to make these transfers has allowed me to book last-minute award travel as close-in as while I’ve been on my way to the airport, and I’m not talking high-level, expensive coach tickets either, but low-level business and first class on both United and Lufthansa.

67,500 Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United and I got the new Lufthansa 747 upper deck First Class on Frankfurt-Miami.

By transferring 67,500 Ultimate Rewards points  to United,  I got the new Lufthansa 747 upper deck first class on Frankfurt-Miami.

2. Hyatt: The top hotel transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards in my book thanks to a generous redemption schedule where even top-tier hotels like the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and the Park Hyatt Sydney, where rates regularly top $1,000 per night, only require 22,000 points for a free award night. So you’re getting at least 2 free nights just with one of the Ink Bold or Ink Plus’ sign-up bonuses alone. Hyatt’s downsides include it’s small footprint of just over 400 properties as well as the fact that award stays don’t count toward elite status as they do with Starwood, so I’m always struggling to maintain Diamond status and paying for lots of stays each year.

22,000 Ultimate Rewards transferred to Hyatt = free night at the famed Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

22,000 Ultimate Rewards transferred to Hyatt = one free night at the famed Park Hyatt Paris Vendome

3. British Airways: I tend to use my American Express points for British Airways transfers instead of Ultimate Rewards thanks to frequent transfer bonuses that let me get even more bang for my buck, but if you don’t have that option, using Ultimate Rewards instead could be the way to go. A lot of people rag on British Airways Avios as being hard to use and expensive, but the more I investigate the program and redemptions, the more value I think it has. You can read my Maximizing British Airways series to find out more about just what makes these points so potentially valuable. Posts include:  Distance-Based Awards; Household Accounts; Using Avios to Upgrade Paid Tickets; The Avios and Cash Option; Save Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to Iberia; Using Avios For Non-Flight Redemptions; Using Avios to Book Domestic First Class FlightsDirect Flights, London Stopovers and UK Destinations; How to Redeem British Airways Avios Without Huge Fees; Using British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus to Avoid Huge Fees.

While taxes and fees can be pricy, British Airways has a solid First Class transatlantic product with great availability

While taxes and fees can be pricy, British Airways has a solid first class transatlantic product with great availability

4. Southwest: You might be surprised to find a so-called budget carrier this far up the list, but you can get up to 1.8 cents in value from Southwest Rapid Rewards points on Wanna Get Away fares, which you can redeem for pretty much any open seat, meaning there’s tons of award availability, and the airline has some other great features such as allowing 2 free checked bags per passenger, waiving cancellation fees (including on award tickets), and if you are able to earn a Companion Pass, you can basically reap twice the value from your points.

5. Korean Air: Korean Air has in recent years become one of Asia’s premier carriers, and you can get tremendous value from your Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them into its Skypass program and redeeming them for premium awards like first class or its new Prestige business class aboard the A380 as well as upgrading certain paid fares. However, the airline’s routes are limited and can route you through Seoul to pretty much anywhere, so you have to take that into consideration, as well as the rather complicated award booking process, which involves both calling the airline, faxing them forms and presenting the credit card you used to book the ticket at check-in.

I recently transferred 80,000 Ultimate Rewards to Korean Skypass for a one-way first class Seoul-Madrid flight. Had the old first class, which wasn't amazing, but still got me there comfortably and saved me time vs connecting

I recently transferred 80,000 Ultimate Rewards to Korean Skypass for a one-way first class Seoul-Madrid flight. Had the old first class, which wasn’t amazing, but still got me there comfortably and saved me time vs connecting

6. Amtrak: I personally don’t travel much by rail, but there are still some great values to be had from redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for Amtrak travel, as a contributor discusses in this post. By taking advantage of the railway’s Zone Map, you can regularly get values of well over 4 cents per point, meaning a single 50,000-point sign-up bonus can be worth over $2,000 in value on Amtrak, and if you’re an Amtrak elite member, you can convert batches of 5,000 points to either 10,000 Hilton HHonors points or 15,000 Choice Privilege points, though I wouldn’t recommend either option.

7. Marriott: Marriott made some recent changes to its Rewards program that amount to a sizeable devaluation of its points by adding a new top-tier category and raising the category levels of over one third of the brand’s properties. However, the program does have some unique features such as its Hotel + Air packages where you can bundle hotel nights and airline tickets using points for a better value, and its new Cash and Points options which make redeeming for complicated reservations easier. Despite the devaluation, there are still some decent redemption options and many current top-tier hotels in the JW and Autograph Collection will not move up to the new Category 9, so you’ll still only need 40,000 points to stay at properties like the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane, where rooms are going for $510 a night in April. However, many other redemptions, like using 35,000 points for a free night at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes instead of paying $299 a night in April, you have trouble breaking the 1 cent per point in value range, and you’re essentially only getting $500 for each of those redemptions.

8. Ritz-Carlton: Because Ritz-Carlton is part of Marriott, the redemption values are essentially the same as with Marriott, if not a little bit worse. For instance, you would need 40,000 points to redeem for the Tier 2 Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, but you could also get a room for just $299 a night, meaning you’re only getting 0.75 cents per point in value. Not only that, but there are no Hotel + Air packages with Ritz-Carlton, which is why I give it a lower ranking.

9. Priority Club: Priority Club does have a few sweet spot redemptions including reduced-level PointBreaks, which require just 5,000 Priority Club points for a free night at a list of hotels that changes every 2 months, though many of the properties featured can be off the beaten path and there are rarely high-end InterContinentals on the list these days. I wouldn’t recommend transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Priority Club since their top-tier hotels require 50,000 points for a single free night, as well as the fact that you can essentially “buy” Priority Club points at a rate of 0.7 cents each, which I detail in item 7 in this post and which can be a much better value.

These rankings are just in terms of the potential for reaping the most value out of your points as I see it – but as always, whether you find value in a redemption comes down to your personal taste and what exactly you are looking to get out of your points. One redemption might have less monetary value than another, but if it gets you where you want to go, when you want to go, that’s a good value in my book.

Do you agree with my ranking? How would you arrange the 9 transfer partners in order of value?

Disclaimer: 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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  • Jason

    My f irst experience booking(or my attempt) with Hyatt didn’t go so well and I was wondering what the biggest factors were or was it just bad luck. Was looking to book a stay at a Category 6 property in Key West, FL. The only room I could get using UR points, that I transferred into Hyatt Gold Passport points, was an ADA room without a view. I was looking to book a room only 10 days in advance, and thought that maybe award availablity was low since it was close the the dates I wanted to stay there. Just for kicks, I looked at availablity 3 months out and the same thing happened, only ADA rooms available, no suites. My preference would be to stay in Hyatt premium rooms(and I will never have enough paid stays to qualify for elite status) I now have 132,000 pts that I transferred from UR to Hyatt program. I am wondering should I just look for another property, or is there a way to get a premium room at the same hotel(Key West resort and spa) utilizing my Hyatt points?

  • Kelly S

    They did away with the Chase Exclusives program as noted in your post. Not only did they stop new users from signing up on the old program, they are converting everyone to the new program, which only gives a 10% yearly bonus. Nothing else. Letters are going out to customers in batches. They start converting the grandfathered customers in April. So no more 10 pts per transaction. Also the 10% bonus is only given at the end of the year vs each billing cycle. Like the Sapphire Preferred.

  • Rackuhn4

    Since the Ritz is now part of Marriott, is it worth it to a current Marriott rewards member to become a separate Ritz member?

  • FlyingDoctorWu

    Did you call Hyatt or look online. Suites aren’t bookable online IIRC.

  • sk

    If I downgrade my Sapphire Preferred to the no-fee version, would I get a pro rata portion of the fee back? Card has been open ~14 months.

  • Greg

    Does Chase ever run any bonus transfer promotions like AMEX has done in the past for Avios?

  • Kaushal


  • pas

    I have not been able to use my korean award miles because the airline charges hefty fees and taxes

  • Sal

    This is a very popular hotel so even booking 3 months out may not be soon enough. You’ll have to call Hyatt to see if there is any suite availability with points.

  • Jason

    For the dates next week I looked online AND called.

  • Jason

    So there should be availability for suites if I booked further out? I did call Hyatt, not suites available. It seemed very suprising that only ADA rooms were available

  • davep

    Agree with Hyatt, especially the suite deals are great. I just booked a 6 night stay in a suite at the London Churchill at 33,000 points per night. Going rate for a suite there is over $1,000 per night. Only annoyance is you can’t even check availability online unless you have enough points for the reservation and you have to call for suite reservations.

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  • L M

    Very helpful information and breakdown, thanks.

  • thepointsguy

    No, but I’d love to see to see that!

  • thepointsguy

    You technically aren’t allowed to have two accounts. Main difference is in promotions- Marriott had mega bonus and ritz has more targeted promos relating to their properties.

  • thepointsguy

    You should, yes. I believe that is standard amongst all issuers as part of the new financial legislation.

  • thepointsguy

    Agree- would love to see a more user friendly website that shows suites and availability- even if you don’t have enough points in your account

  • Love southwest

    Agreed. Since I’m doing a lot of domestic travel and live 4 miles from a regional airport served by Southwest, I currently put SW next to United.

  • Mr. Everyday Dollar

    I have the Sapphire Preferred and Hyatt cards. While I like the flexibility of the Sapphire because I can transfer points to British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, United, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak, I found that in practice I only transfer points to Hyatt. Perhaps flexibility isn’t as important to me as I originally thought.

    Sapphire has 2x on travel and dining, 1x on everything else with no foreign transaction fee and a $95 annual fee.

    Hyatt has 2x on travel and dining, 1x on everything else with no foreign transaction fee and a $75 annual fee.

    The additional benefits of Sapphire are the additional 1x booking travel through UR and the yearly dividend. I don’t know if that’s enough to keep me as a Sapphire holder when I’m more aligned with earning points solely for Hyatt stays.

  • greg

    do you do rank the uses of AMEX transfer partners anywhere? This is super-useful and would be great to compare

  • Sal

    Next week is spring break, and probably their busiest week of the year, so I wouldn’t expect any availability this close.

  • afterbang

    Incorrect. If you cancel within 60 days of the fee hitting the account, the whole amount is refunded, after that you get nothing. Unless the rules are different for a downgrade vs cancel..

  • scott

    Is luftansa a travel partner of United?? Thats how you fly it???

  • thepointsguy

    Yes- they are both star alliance members

  • thepointsguy

    Stay tuned!

  • Scott

    I have all 3 ……..I can tell him they are the best right now…….I use the biz ones alot…….So far I have got over 700K between the sign up and the 5X the office supplies stores……. Just wish they had more partners……..Scott

  • David

    how do you recommend maximizing the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card if you also have the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card?

  • Phillip Denoble

    What about Korean air partners awards? Lots of value there. Ex) New York city to Hawaii with a stopover in California for 30k RT. Typically a $1,000+ dollar fare.

  • Endoas

    I just booked a first class award ticket one-way with Korean Air online less than a week ago. Everything was done painlessly. No calling or faxing of documents was ever needed, though I will need to present my credit card when I check-in. Maybe they streamlined the process since the last time you used them?

  • ThatAdamGuy

    Ah, MED, be careful with those assumptions, though! I hear you about the overlap, but the 2x benefits are quite different.

    Hyatt: “Earn 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies.”

    Sapphire Preferred: “Earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants.”

    BIG difference! The SP card offers 2x on all spend on hotels, taxis, trains, airfare purchases (even via consolidators), and the Hyatt card does not. Unless you’re always staying (and paying) at Hyatts and always booking airfare direct with the airlines, you’re definitely gonna lose out points-wise if you have only the Hyatt card.

    With that said… I’m having to make the same calculation myself. I am most interested in United and Hyatt points, and I already have two United-specific cards (a legacy one and the Explorer). And the $95 annual fee for the SP essential requires $9500 in yearly spend on the special travel categories mentioned above to even break even.

  • PJ

    with points from Freedom cards flowing through Sapphire Preferred into transfer partners, I think each family household is OK to pay A 95 fees

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  • Mr. Everyday Dollar

    Good catch man! I’ll have to spend some more time figuring out what will work the best for me. As far as the annual fees go, at least with the Hyatt card they give you a free night’s stay every year in a category 1-4 hotel. Was just looking at a category 4 in CA that is $225 rack, so it’s a nice perk and makes the annual fee worth it.

  • HYH

    Very much agreed. Especially with the top 2. Given Marriot and Hilton’s devaluation, Hyatt has a secure spot in number 2.

  • [email protected]

    I myself hardly use cash anymore, and try to only use my rewards card when buying things. Not only does it give me a credit line, it also gives me many extras just for using my card, such as giving me cash back, reward points or miles, which I can later redeem for gift cards, merchandise, air tickets, hotel stays, VIP experiences or pure, hard cash.

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  • Eric

    Here’s my dilemma: I can get a better rate at a hotel by booking directly through the hotel’s site because they offer a 30% discount on 3+ day stays. I would like to book through the Ultimate Rewards site to get the extra points, but the discount is not offered. Has anyone been able to successfully book through Ultimate Rewards and end up paying a lower rate once checking into the hotel and asking for the discount?

  • Dan

    I travel Southwest for work frequently. I was just approved for the Sapphire Preferred and was wondering: If you transfer Ultimate Rewards to Southwest points, does that go towards your A-List/A-List preferred status? It looks like it doesn’t work towards the companion pass which I know is the top tier benefit SWA offers but was curious about the A-List part

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  • Mr. Cool

    the fact that its even a dilemma proves that we’re all points addicts. cash is always king

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  • Judith Lanclos

    We just got a Chase Sapphire card and are wondering the best way to use our points for a trip to Ireland in June 2015. Should we transfer the points to United and use with them or their partner Aer Lingus or purchase our flights through Ultimate Rewards? We really do not fly very often, so we’re mainly accumulating points through this card.

  • shay peleg

    You gotta use delta for that most likely so not easy to get i would assume

  • Jane Pumhi

    retarded crackhead

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