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Do You Earn Miles When You Book Flights With Ultimate Rewards Points?

by on May 4, 2014 · 10 comments

in Chase, Sunday Reader Questions, Ultimate Rewards

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TPG reader Sofia tweeted me this week to ask:

@thepointsguy When I buy a ticket with points through Chase Ultimate Rewards, do I still earn miles?”

The answer is yes, and that’s one of the beauties of using Ultimate Rewards’ Pay With Points option. If you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus, you get a value of 1.25 cents per point when booking airline tickets. To put that in context, the 65,000 points you’d earn from spending 5,000 on a new Ink Bold or Ink Plus card with the current 60,000-point sign-up bonus promo would be worth $750.

Let’s say you use those 65,000 points to buy two roundtrip economy tickets from NYC to San Francisco aboard American Airlines’ new A321. You’d get 5,172 base miles, plus any elite-status miles; in my case, as an Executive Platinum, that’s 100%  - another 5,172 miles per round-trip. In addition, the fare is upgradeable because it’s a paid fare – Chase buys the ticket for you directly from American Airlines – so I could use one of my systemwide upgrades on it.

chase-ultimate-rewards

So two round-trips for a base member would be 10,344 AAdvantage miles (or 20,688 for an Executive Platinum), plus 10,344 elite-qualifying miles. I value AAdvantage miles at about 1.9 cents a piece, so 20,688 = $393 in value. This means that from one credit card bonus you could get $750 in flights plus more than 10% of the elite-qualifying miles needed for Executive Platinum status, which I believe is the most lucrative elite status out there.

Before you just go using Pay With Points all the time, though, I would suggest you do a cost/benefit analysis of transferring points to a partner and booking flights as awards versus using Pay With Points.

For instance, let’s say you wanted to fly American Airlines roundtrip economy from San Francisco to New York. You’d have the option of transferring Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Avios and redeeming 25,000 of them for this trip. By contrast, using Pay With Points and getting a value of 1.25 cents per point, 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points would be worth $312.50 toward airfare – so if there’s award availability for the flights you want, that would be your break even point. If airfares are above that, then transfer to BA and book the award, but if they are below that, you’re better off using Pay With Points and earning miles and elite status on your itinerary.

I would also keep in mind that if airline elite status is important to you, while Pay With Points is a good option, you may want to consider just buying tickets for your flights outright and saving your Ultimate Rewards points for expensive premium international airline and hotel redemptions, or high-priced Amtrak tickets instead.

For more on Ultimate Rewards and great travel redemptions, check out these posts:

Chase Ink: Which Card Is Best For You

Can You Get Both The Ink Bold and Ink Plus?

Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner

Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards

Have any other questions? Let me know by messaging me on Facebooktweeting me or emailing me at [email protected]

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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  • Chris

    While you earn points, these tickets are often “bulk” tickets that are not eligible for an upgrade with miles on an international route.

  • Cathy

    We are retired and have used miles in the past usually for kids flights home from college, etc. We have always booked packages but it seems that may not be to our advantage regarding miles. Like a lot of our generation we use credit cards, but never took advantage of them. Do these credit card fees track a calendar year or is the fee free year from an anniversary year?

  • stvr

    When you use Pay with Points you don’t get 2.14 UR points per dollar, nor 1 UR point for using the mall, nor 1% back as Orbitz Rewards. Something to consider.

  • Jj

    Anyway to book using coupon codes? For example, credits from delta or the alaska companion fare?

  • Liam

    If an annual fee is waived you’ll have a full calendar year before you incur any charges (e.g. if you open the card now, you’ll be charged for next year’s annual fee in May 2015.

  • Gargi

    Does the above work for Chase Sapphire without the preferred status?

  • GTRAVEL

    Do ultimate rewards tickets count towards PQDS? As these are bulk tickets that don’t show a price when you look at the e-receipt

  • adenue

    Not really if speaking the truth

  • clt

    I recently signed up with Chase Sapphire Preferred. I along with my family (3) travel to Karachi (KHI), Pakistan every year. We usually take the route CLT-IAD-DOH-KHI by US Air (now American) and Qatar Airways, both members of One World Alliance. Will I be able to transfer Ultimate Rewards miles to US Air (or American Advantage) to purchase tickets for this route?

  • Jake

    FYI: For anyone with only a standard Chase credit card that is NOT the Sapphire Preferred, booking flights through Ultimate Rewards with just cash (not miles) will earn you 2% cash back.

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