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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited , Ink Business Preferred Credit Card


Full review: Thai Airways 747 first class

We value United MileagePlus miles at 1.5 cents each and Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which transfer instantly to United at a 1:1 ratio) at 2.1 cents, but you can get far more value out these top loyalty currencies than that.

Take, for example, my recent first-class flight from Sydney to Bangkok on Thai’s 747-400. Had I paid cash, the one-way flight would have run me about $3,550 AUD (about $2,715).

However, I was able to book this flight (and you can, too!) for just 40,000 MileagePlus miles. Factoring in the award taxes and fees of $66 (for just the Sydney-Bangkok leg), I managed to get a whopping 6.62 cents in value per mile redeemed. It’s hard to do much better than that!

Oh, but I did…

The itinerary also included a flight from Auckland to Sydney and one from Bangkok to Hanoi, both in business class. Total cost? The same 40,000 miles, plus an additional $50 in taxes.

(Advanced hobbyists may notice that the itinerary above technically violates United’s award routing rules, given that there’s a stop of more than 23 hours and 59 minutes in Sydney. However, a supervisor made an exception and added this leg at no additional cost, perhaps taking into consideration my Premier 1K status, since there wasn’t any other business-class award availability that day.)

I originally booked the flight for me and a friend a couple months before departure, at which point I saw 2+ first-class award seats a couple days each week, including the day we needed to travel. Two more award seats opened up within 24 hours of the flight (for a total of four), though there were seven seats still for sale. So, if you’re willing to wait until just before departure (perhaps by booking business class initially and “upgrading” before departure), it’s possible to book an entire family of four in Thai first class for just 160,000 miles. In our case, those other seats never ended up being sold, so we had the first-class cabin all to ourselves!

After booking, I was issued a Thai confirmation number, so I called the airline’s LA office at (800) 767-3598 and requested seats. (Note that while it may not be possible to select seats online at booking, you can move around during the web check-in process, at which point I selected seats 1A and 1K.)

While this flight is clearly an incredible deal at 40,000 United miles, it’s quite possible that you don’t have that many sitting around. Fortunately, as I mentioned above, you can transfer points instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United at a 1:1 ratio — simply find the flights you’d like to book then head over to Chase to move your points over. They should appear in your United account right away (or you may need to log out and log back in before they pop up).

You can transfer points earned with the following cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred

Or, if you have one of the cards above, you can also transfer points earned with:

  • Chase Freedom
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Chase Ink Business Cash

Considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is currently offering 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, it’s possible to book nine hours in Thai first class using the points you earn from a single credit card sign-up bonus. That’s pretty nuts!

See this post for details on how to book United awards, and stay tuned for the full review, coming later this week.

What’s the best award redemption you’ve managed to book?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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