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What’s the Best Way to Redeem Ultimate Rewards for Travel?

by on July 13, 2014 · 18 comments

in American Express, Barclays, Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sunday Reader Questions, Ultimate Rewards, Video Blog Post

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This past week, TPG reader Hareesh tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy Is it better to redeem Ultimate Rewards directly through the Chase portal, or should you transfer points to a partner and then redeem?”

When you redeem Ultimate Rewards (earned from Chase credit cards like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold Ink Plus, Chase Freedomand Sapphirethrough the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, your points are generally worth 1.25 cents apiece towards airfare and hotels. I wouldn’t recommend redeeming Chase points this way, considering that you can get much more value by transferring to Chase travel partners like Hyatt or United.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards directly through the travel portal doesn't provide the best value

Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards directly through the Chase travel portal doesn’t provide the best value.

Note that even Amex Platinum will give you 1 cent per point – or 1.25 cents if you have the Amex Business Platinum card. You may instead want to use a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which gives you 2.2% back for every dollar spend, since you get 2 points per dollar spent on every single purchase and a 10% rebate when you redeem points for travel.

The glory of the points and miles game is learning how to leverage transfer partners for amazing redemptions. For instance, you might find a $5,000 business class award for only 100,000 miles, which gives you 5 cents per point in value. (Of course, you may not receive that full 5 cents in value, because you wouldn’t actually have spent the $5,000, but that doesn’t make the reward any less sweet!) Most frequent flyer awards are still based on regions, which means (for example) that you can fly from anywhere in America to anywhere in Europe for the same set amount of miles.

Chase Ultimate Rewards offer a better value when first transferred to a travel partner

Chase Ultimate Rewards offer the most value when transferred to a travel partner.

Learn how to leverage all of the travel partners for Chase Ultimate Rewards, and I can almost guarantee you’ll end up getting 2 cents per point in value. It’s a lesson that’s well worth your time!

I hope this answered your question, Hareesh. If anyone has additional questions, please message me on Facebook, tweet me @ThePointsGuy, or send me an email 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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  • n

    In your calculations, are you taking into account the fees airline partners charge when redeeming miles for award travel?

  • RA_explorer

    Hi TPG.. I think transferring to travel partners may not be the best use of points always. For example, One night at the Grand Hyatt New York on January 19, 2015, costs 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points (Category 6)

    But if I use Chase Ultimate Rewards points via the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, I need to pay only 20,117 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Thus saving 4,883 Chase Ultimate Rewards points!!

  • Ed

    What is the regular nightly rate on January 15, 2015? It may be that it is relatively low.

  • iamright

    The statement that you get 1.25 cents per point for travel is very misleading. In reder to get this value you need to book via the UR search engine and for hotels and car rentals, the price you get for the reservation (before the 25%) bonus is much wprse than if you go to the website and use various discount codes. I haven’t tried airline but car rentals and hotels don’t wort.

  • Juno

    Redeeming through Chase UR travel portal maybe less and okay if you are just regular traveler in this case. If you are diamond or platinum Hyatt you won’t get the elite recognition and benefits that comes with your elite level booking through 3rd party.

  • BobChi

    What can work for car rentals is to pay with points and cash. You can pay just 1 point plus all the rest of the balance in cash. I just did that for a week’s car rental in Chicago, and the Chase UR portal was offering prices $250 below anything I could find at the car companies’ and aggregators’ websites. It could be there’s a discount code out there that would bring the price down, of course, but I thought I got a decent deal. It’s worth checking and comparing.

  • sunglassesadvil

    I don’t think TPG said that it’s always a better value, he just said it can be. I personally don’t redeem UR points for anything less than 2 cents per point, and often get much much more. In the case you described, I would certainly just pay for a room in cash.

  • sunglassesadvil

    TPG, it’s a little misleading to compare 1.25 cents per point with 2.2% back for every dollar spent with Barclaycard Arrival Plus. Depending on how you earn UR points, you might be getting an even better rate than this. For example, if you only use Sapphire Preferred for travel and dining, and then use the Freedom only in bonus categories, you are earning on average of easily over 2 points per dollar spent. Then on top of that you can redeem those points at 1.25 cents per point – getting a better rate than Barclaycard Arrival. Barclaycard Arrival is really best for all expenses that don’t get some sort of bonus from various UR (and other) cards.

  • RA_explorer

    Yeah, Hyatt daily rate is $239 on that day..

  • RA_explorer

    Agreed! Thats one of the disadvantages of booking thru UR portal..

  • RA_explorer

    Yeah, thats true.. It really depends on the specific scenario.. So it would be a good idea to compare both the options (transfer Vs. UR portal) before making the final decision.. As in this particular case, UR portal is a better option than transferring UR points to a partner (provided if one is specifically looking for an award stay & paying cash is not an option)

  • notafanofarrival

    I really doubt the value of Arrival+. Considering FIA give you 2% without annual fee. You need to spend 40k+ on the arrival to justify the annual fee.

  • thepointsguy

    Definitely agree- always compare all options

  • thepointsguy

    Yep, though Hyatt doesn’t give elite qualification on award stays, so it still might make sense to check whether UR travel vs Gold Passport makes sense for Hyatt stays

  • thepointsguy

    Yea but the arrival plus gives a huge 40k signup and no fee the first year,blowing away the fidelity value prop for several years when you factor signup bonus

  • thepointsguy

    I see your point, but most people have non-travel/dining expenses so for non – bonus category you should be getting more than 2.2% back

  • sunglassesadvil

    Definitely true, and you should try to maximize all spend if possible. My point was more that you were comparing the earn rate of one card vs. the redemption value of points on another card, which are two entirely different things.

    Whether or not someone can justify paying the annual fee for both the Sapphire Preferred and Barclaycard Arrival is an entirely different question. This is probably a good topic for a separate post, actually. The amount of annual spend you’d need on each card to justify paying the annual fees probably ends up being way too high for most normal people who read this blog. Especially if you regularly chase bonuses on other cards and are frequently spending to hit minimum spend requirements.

  • Moebius

    Thanks for the info. I’m new at the points game, so I want to make sure I understand this. I recently signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and now have about 45,000 points. I’m traveling to Europe this fall, and a roundtrip ticket from US to Paris is about $1300 on both the Chase UR portal as well as websites like Kayak. If I do a 1:1transfer of points to United, the ticket there is worth 65,000 points one way, or 130,000 points for the trip, which equals to about $1300. Is it really beneficial, then, to transfer these points to United? Or am I missing something here? How can I make the best use of my points?

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