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Now that the Chase Sapphire has a permanently increased sign-up bonus, it’s a better time than ever to apply for this card if you don’t already have it in your wallet. To get you thinking about ways to redeem those points, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen shares 10 great flight and hotel award options.
In case you missed it, last month Chase announced a permanently increased sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, one of my most frequently used cards (and a TPG favorite as well). You can now earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening (plus an additional 5,000 points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the same timeframe).
This sign-up bonus is worth a cool $1,050 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, but I’ve often found that it isn’t the dollar amount that matters most when redeeming points and miles. Instead it’s about the new and exciting experiences they open up. Today I want to take a look at 10 fun ways to put this sign-up bonus to use, one for each one of the program’s transfer partners (excluding Amtrak, which left the program December 8, 2015).
1. Eleven one-way flights using 49,500 British Airways Avios
One of my favorite Ultimate Rewards transfer partners is British Airways, mainly due to the program’s distance-based award chart (though it has since been devalued). A very popular redemption was for flights less than 651 miles, as those award tickets cost just 4,500 Avios each way. Unfortunately, the program is removing this option for flights to, from or within North America starting February 2, 2016, but you can lock in these awards until then and still have a plethora of short-haul flights from Oneworld hubs from which to choose that fall outside of North America.
2. Two economy award tickets to Hawaii using 50,000 Korean Air SKYPASS miles
Hawaii is on many traveler’s dream destinations list, but getting there using points or miles can be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, transferable points like Ultimate Rewards can be a great help in this endeavor, specifically when you look at Korean’s award chart for partner airlines. The SKYPASS program actually includes Hawaii in its North America region, so round-trip economy tickets are just 25,000 miles each. To make this even better, Korean partners with three airlines that offer service from the US to the Hawaiian islands:
Unfortunately, you’ll need to find low-level saver award inventory in order for Korean agents to book the flight for you, and you must call to lock in partner award flights. Still, if you can find two seats from the East Coast, this is a pretty lucrative option.
3. A one-way Suites Class redemption on Singapore Airlines for 51,000 KrisFlyer miles
While Hawaii may be a dream destination, flying in Suites Class on Singapore’s A380 aircraft is (for many) a dream in-flight experience. Fortunately, the KrisFlyer program partners with all four major transferable point currencies, and Singapore flies the A380 on a number of shorter routes that require fewer miles for the redemption. The program also allows you to waitlist when a Saver award isn’t available at the initial booking.
One of my personal favorites is on flights from Singapore to Tokyo. A one-way award ticket will set you back just 51,000 miles (I know this is just more than the 50,000-point sign-up bonus, but you’ll easily earn the extra 1,000 points by meeting the minimum spend). The other great thing about this flight is that it’s in the daytime, giving you plenty of time to maximize the comfort and service of Suites Class.
For more information on booking Singapore Airlines first class, check out Eric Rosen’s post, How to Fly Singapore Airlines First Class for (Almost!) Free.
4. Up to $950 in Southwest flights for 50,000 Rapid Rewards points
The Southwest Rapid Rewards program follows a revenue-based scheme for award-ticket booking, making it hard to truly “maximize” these redemptions. However, if you transfer these 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to your Rapid Rewards account, your best bet is to book in advance and try to find Wanna Get Away fares, as these tend to offer you a higher per-point value. Even though the program did undergo a devaluation in April, which introduced more variable pricing, Jason Steele’s subsequent analysis actually found some redemption values increased to as high as 1.9 cents per point.
For example, if you’re looking to escape the cold and head down to sunny Florida this winter, I see flights from New York-LaGuardia and Chicago-Midway to Orlando pricing at 1.6-1.7 cents per point, even on weekends. Remember, too, that if the flight price drops after you book, Southwest allows you to rebook at the lower fare and get the difference refunded to you in points.
5. One-way economy award flight to New Zealand for 40,000 United miles
Another big dream destination for points and miles enthusiasts is Oceania, and having visited both Australia and New Zealand, I have to give the nod to the land of the Kiwis. United charges just 40,000 miles for a one-way economy ticket between the US and New Zealand, and the carrier recently announced new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner service from San Francisco to Auckland starting next July. Of course, this complements the existing route network of United’s Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand (with nonstop flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston).
6. Round-trip economy award flights to Europe for 42,500 Virgin Atlantic miles
The second airline that partners with all four of the transferable point currencies is Virgin Atlantic, and the carrier’s Flying Club program has very reasonable redemption rates for flights on its own metal (though you will be hit with significant taxes and fees). You can book a round-trip award flight from any US destination starting at 35,000 miles, but flights from the following cities are priced at 42,500 miles:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
Availability tends to be quite good on these routes, and Virgin has actually done some award ticket sales in the past, so if the timing is right, you could get these flights for even fewer Ultimate Rewards points.
7. Four nights in a Category 3 Hyatt property for 48,000 Gold Passport points
50,000 Ultimate Rewards points can get you two free nights at a nearly top-tier Category 6 property like the Andaz Wall Street, but a two-night vacation may not be the best option for getting away. Instead of going for the higher tiers, why not transfer 48,000 points and double the length of your vacation? Here are some of my top destinations in Hyatt’s Category 3:
- Las Vegas: Excalibur and Luxor
- San Antonio: Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk
- Canada: Hyatt Regency Vancouver
- Asia: Grand Hyatt Bali
(Honorable mention goes to the Grand Hyatt Santiago, where TPG Assistant Editor Matthew Zuzolo stayed last year. As it’s a Category 2 property requiring 8,000 points per night, you could get almost a full week with a single sign-up bonus!)
Just make sure that you crunch the numbers to see if it makes more sense to simply pay for the stay, especially when you consider that award nights do not count toward qualification for Hyatt elite status.
For additional suggestions for other inexpensive Hyatt redemptions, check out my post, 9 Low-Level Hyatt Properties that Make for Awesome Awards.
8. Ten nights at a PointBreaks property for 50,000 IHG Rewards points
The IHG Rewards Club program may not have the most aspirational redemptions compared to other hotel loyalty programs, but it does have one standout feature: PointBreaks hotels. These properties rotate quarterly, and if you need to book an award stay during the applicable time period, you’ll only pay 5,000 points per night. The PointBreaks lists tend to be very light on the higher-end properties (like InterContinental), but still, redeeming 50,000 points for a week and a half vacation is a win in my book! This quarter’s selection included a resort in Bali and an InterContinental in Egypt (though both those locations and many others are now sold out of PointBreaks inventory).
Remember that you can use your points for low-tier properties as well. For some inspiration, check out my post, 7 Low-Level IHG Properties that Make for Awesome Awards.
9. Six nights at a Category 2 Marriott for 50,000 Marriott Rewards points
Another great redemption available with this sign-up bonus is a six-night stay at a Category 2 Marriott property (or a Category 3 hotel with PointSavers inventory). These properties will set you back 10,000 points per night, but the Marriott Rewards program gives all members the fifth night free on award redemptions, so if you transfer the full 50,000-point sign-up bonus, you’ll be able to get six nights for the price of five. While the vast majority of these properties are lower-tier brands like Residence and Fairfield Inns, you do have hotels like the JW Marriott Ankara and the Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel.
For additional suggestions for other inexpensive Marriott redemptions, check out my post, 6 Low-Level Marriott Properties that Make for Awesome Awards.
10. One night at a Tier 3 Ritz-Carlton for 50,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points
Even though Marriott and Ritz-Carlton points are essentially tied to one another and can be used at the other’s properties, they have maintained separate loyalty programs and award charts. If you want to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Ritz-Carlton Rewards, this sign-up bonus will get you a free night in a Tier 3 property like the Ritz-Carlton Toronto (or a Tier 4 location like the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto if you can find PointSavers availability). You can also combine this with the sign-up bonus on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (currently three complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months).
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a terrific option for all types of travelers, including those just getting started in the hobby. Ultimate Rewards points regularly appear near the top of TPG’s monthly valuations, and there are many ways to maximize them. Remember too that you can pair the Sapphire Preferred with the Ink Plus Business Card and Chase Freedom to extend your points even further (especially with the new 10% bonus at Amazon through December 31). Hopefully this post has given you some inspiration for redeeming points on your next trip!
How would you spend 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points?
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards