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.
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:
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