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One of my favorite travel opportunities is to fly with someone taking their first business-class flight. It always reminds me of my first Delta Business Elite flight from Manchester, England to Atlanta with my dad proudly watching as I enjoyed a great use of his SkyMiles.
No matter your age, the first time you experience a seat that lies flat; a multi-course meal on actual dishes; and airport lounge access, it’s an incredibly exciting occasion. Today, I’ll cover how you can add to the excitement by skipping the expensive business-class airfare and instead use the Chase Sapphire Preferred to book a business-class award flight for your first luxury trip.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Basics
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is easily one of the best cards for a points and miles beginner to pick up. It earns the very valuable transferable loyalty currency of Chase Ultimate Rewards points; carries built-in travel protections like primary car rental insurance, baggage delay protection, trip delay insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance; and has no foreign transaction fees.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you add an authorized user (for no fee) and they make a purchase with the card in the first three months, you’ll receive an additional 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points. The card earns 2x points on all travel and dining purchases, with a rather wide definition of what qualifies. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year.
The Easiest Way to Business Class
If you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, each point is worth 1.25 cents toward the cost of a revenue ticket. That means your 55,000 points are worth $687.50 if redeemed through the travel portal. If you find a business-class ticket for $687.50 or less, you can book it for free. The best part is the ticket will be treated as a paid business-class ticket by the operating airline, which means you’ll typically earn more than 1 elite-qualifying mile per mile flown and often bonus redeemable miles.
While you won’t usually find a lie-flat, international business-class ticket for that low of a cost, you can get lucky and find long-haul domestic routes or Jet Blue Mint fares for less than $687.50. If you’re looking for a long-haul domestic route on a legacy carrier, make sure you get a flight operated by a wide-body aircraft with international-style business-class seats installed to get the full business-class experience.
Transfer Ultimate Rewards for Signifiant Value
If you’re hoping to head to a destination where you know $687.50 won’t fund business class, transferring your points to lucrative Chase travel partners at a 1:1 ratio is your top option to ensure you lock in your first premium-cabin flight.
Let’s go through a few business-class (and domestic/regional first-class) options departing from the contiguous United States, all of which are bookable with 55,000 (or just a few more) Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
1. Delta One to Europe
Cost: 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
We recently took a look at the fantastic value you can get by redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta-operated transatlantic flights. One of the most lucrative award possibilities is booking a one-way Delta One flight to Europe for just $5.60 out of pocket and no fuel surcharges (London is the exception, where fuel surcharges are passed on to you). Simply transfer your Chase points to your Virgin Atlantic account and search the route and dates you’d like. Searching can be a bit tricky, so make sure to read our guide to find flights like this:
2. Korean Air to Seoul
Cost: 62,500 Korean Air SkyPass miles
Once you put a few months of spending (or less, if you have a big purchase to make) on your Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll easily have the 62,500 miles required to book Korean Air from any of the US gateways it serves for a Prestige Class flight to Seoul. Try to book the A380 or 747-8 Intercontinental for what are the best seats and in-flight experiences in my opinion. However, that can be a tough task as Korean routinely swaps equipment without warning for reasons no one seems to understand.
3. United to Southern South America
Cost: 60,000 United miles
Similar to the last example, with just a month’s worth (or less) of spending, you’ll have enough points to transfer to United for a flight to the MileagePlus award zone of Southern South America. This includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Availability to the popular destinations of Brazil and Argentina can be tight, so make sure to check all US gateways like Houston, Dulles and Newark to find a wide-body, lie-flat seat for the ride down south.
4. United Round-Trip to Hawaii
Cost: 60,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles
If you’re looking for an award ticket to Hawaii, remember that using a partner program rather than a US legacy’s own loyalty program will usually allow you to come out ahead. A great example is Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines and its loyalty program KrisFlyer, which allows you to book United flat-bed seats round-trip from the US to Hawaii for 60,000 miles round-trip. The hard part of course is finding United saver-level availability (not tied to XN fare code if you’re a co-branded Chase cardholder).
Singapore introduced online Star Alliance award bookings in December 2017, making it rather seamless to book business class to Hawaii once you find saver availability on United.com:
5. Delta First Round-Trip to Hawaii
Cost: 45,000 Korean SkyPass miles
Very similar to booking United with Singapore KrisFlyer, you can book Delta-operated flights from the US to Hawaii for 45,000 Korean miles round-trip. That’s an excellent business-class redemption, but the struggle here is finding low-level Delta first or Delta One availability to Hawaii. Even if you find the seats at the lowest level of SkyMiles on Delta.com, that doesn’t mean the buggy Korean SkyTeam award search engine will also see the seats as available.
SkyTeam awards using Korean SkyPass miles must be booked as round-trip tickets but you an include one free stopover on your way to Hawaii if you find a connecting itinerary. These awards can be very frustrating and time consuming, but 45,000 miles for round-trip business to Hawaii is worth it in the end.
6. Delta or United First to Caribbean
Cost: 30,000 Flying Blue miles or 30,000 United miles
If you’re looking for a hop down to the Caribbean and live near either a Delta or United hub, getting to several destinations for 30,000 miles isn’t a problem. To fly Delta, transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue and book flights to St. Thomas, St. Martin, Puerto Rico or Bermuda for 30,000 miles one-way.
For United, you can fly to any destination in the Caribbean for 30,000 miles one-way. Enjoy lie-flat business seats on this 767-400ER from Newark to San Juan, Puerto Rico:
If you’re just starting with points and miles and looking for your first business class flight, you probably won’t be looking for an all-international route. However, if you’re extra motivated and find yourself on another continent looking for your first business-class flight, there are plenty of luxurious rides to be had with your Ultimate Rewards points earned from your Chase Sapphire Preferred. Probably the best right now is the new Singapore A380 from Sydney to Singapore in business class for 58,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles:
Business class from Japan to New Zealand on two different Dreamliners flown by ANA and the Air China (new 787-9) for 50,000 miles is also a heck of a score:
By earning 55,000 points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s sign-up bonus and adding an authorized user, you’ll have plenty of options for booking your first international business or long-haul regional business/first-class experience. From the above options, if I were going to book my first business-class flight, I would most likely transfer 50,000 miles to Virgin Atlantic in order to fly Delta One transatlantic to Europe. There’s likely somewhere in Europe you want to visit, and with the evening transatlantic route, you’d have the opportunity to enjoy your lie-flat bed for a few hours to hopefully arrive a bit more refreshed and rejuvenated than you’re used to when flying economy.
Featured photo of Delta One 767-300 Business Class
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- 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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 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 travel 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