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Chase surprised us all last month by taking a page out of American Express’ playbook and offering a great opportunity to help you get more value out of the Ultimate Rewards points you’ve already earned. Now through June 16, 2019, you can transfer points from Chase to British Airways with a 30% bonus. Amex has been offering transfer bonuses to British Airways (as well as Virgin Atlantic, Aeromexico and more) for years, and it’s nice to see Chase up its game, especially after all the recent negative news surrounding United — one of the issuer’s major partners.
As always, you should only transfer points if you have a specific redemption in mind and avoid the temptation to speculate. That being said, this bonus can be incredibly valuable if used well, but most of the best awards don’t involve British Airways. Instead, you’ll usually get a better bang for your buck redeeming Avios for partner flights.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Use the BA Transfer Bonus for Partner Redemptions
British Airways uses a distance-based award chart both for flights on its own metal and for partner flights. This means that the sweet spots center around nonstop, short- to medium-haul flights, as opposed to many other airline sweet spots that focus on award rates between two regions.
However, note that British Airways recently announced that it’ll be changing its partner award chart as of May 30, 2019. Even though the carrier hasn’t confirmed the details, we’ve been able to piece together the new chart based on phone calls with customer service agents. All of the below examples are based on current rates, though partner awards will all increase before this transfer bonus expires. (Award rates on British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus will remain unchanged.)
One of the best uses of British Airways Avios involves flights from the West Coast to Hawaii on either American Airlines or Alaska Airlines. From hubs in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and more, these two airlines serve just about every Hawaii destination you could want. These flights — and any that fall between 2,000 and 3,000 flight miles — normally cost 12,500 Avios to book. With the current transfer bonus, you could book a round-trip economy award to Hawaii for only 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which is an absolute steal.
Here’s a one-way, nonstop American flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) as an example:
Just note that you must call to redeem Avios on Alaska-operated flights.
Instead of heading to the Aloha State, you could treat yourself to American Airlines’ best business class seat on the 787-9. This plane occasionally operates flights between Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). Because of the way British Airways codes domestic first class fares in its system, you can book this flight for only 15,000 Avios in business class. With the current transfer bonus, that comes down to just 12,000 Ultimate Rewards points (transfers must be in increments of 1,000) to lock in a flight in a seat like this:
For additional examples of when it makes sense to redeem Avios on American-operated flights, check out TPG Senior Writer JT Genter’s guide with 11 Times It’s Better to Book American Award Flights Through British Airways.
You can make even more magic happen for flights outside of the US. One of my personal favorite uses of British Airways Avios is for Cathay Pacific flights between my current hometown of Shanghai (PVG) and Hong Kong (HKG). These 800-mile hops only cost 7,500 Avios each way in economy or 15,000 miles in business class. The current Chase transfer bonus drops those costs to ~6,000 and ~12,000 Ultimate Rewards points, respectively. Given that Cathay Pacific often charges as much as $400 each way in economy on this route, this is a surefire way to get a good redemption value.
Finally, even the shortest flights can offer some incredible value. The program no longer offers its lowest tier of pricing for flights in North America, but it does still apply to flights on other continents. As a result, one-way, nonstop flights that cover distances of 650 miles or less are just 4,500 Avios in economy on partner airlines. You’d need to transfer 4,000 Ultimate Rewards points for these flights, and you’d wind up with 700 Avios leftover for a future award ticket.
Avoiding British Airways
The above examples focus on partner awards, and for good reason. Booking award flights to, from or through London-Heathrow (LHR) or London-Gatwick (LGW) can be a challenge thanks to the hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars of fuel surcharges that get tacked on to most tickets. If British Airways offered a world-class premium product in either business or first class, it might be different, but in most cases you’ll end up overpaying for a less-than-luxurious experience (though the carrier’s new business class suites will hopefully change that fact).
For example, a one-way, first class award from New York-JFK to London costs 68,000 Avios and $781. While the current transfer bonus drops the award rate to about 53,000 Ultimate Rewards points (not bad for a first class flight), it doesn’t take even a penny off of the egregious taxes.
As such, you’re usually best off avoiding British Airways-operated flights, even with this transfer bonus.
However, this recommendation primarily applies to flights to/from North America; other international destinations can be much more reasonably-priced. An off-peak, first class award from Shanghai to London costs 102,000 Avios, or only 79,000 Ultimate Rewards points with the transfer bonus. Even more importantly, the $276 worth of taxes and fees are in line with what many other airlines charge. While British Airways first class is not the most aspirational redemption, if you’re looking for a nonstop flight to London this could still be a good use of points, especially if your other option is flying China Eastern.
Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points
Of course, to even utilize the transfer bonus, you need to have a card that earns fully-transferable Ultimate Rewards points. There are currently three in this category: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. However, if you pair any of these cards with a no-annual-fee one like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can actually combine your Ultimate Rewards points into a single account, allowing you to effectively “convert” your cash-back earnings into points that can be transferred to British Airways.
This limited-time, 30% transfer bonus from Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways is a terrific development, and here’s hoping that it’s the first of many such deals to come from one of the most popular transferable point currencies. Now is the perfect time to load up on Avios if you have a specific redemption in mind, though be sure that you lock in your flights before the partner award chart changes on May 30. Whether it’s travel around the US or short-haul flights in Europe, Asia or Australia, Avios can be the perfect tool to snag an expensive one-way flight on the cheap, especially if you’re trying to fill an open jaw award ticket.
Featured image by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel