Best ways to redeem Chase points on SkyTeam airlines
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published on Nov. 14, 2018.
We’re huge proponents of transferable points programs here at TPG. These currencies give you tons of flexibility to redeem across different airlines, so you aren’t locked into a single carrier when you’re ready to book. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is a perfect example of this flexibility, with nine airline transfer partners (along with additional hotel transfer partners) from which to choose. These programs make Ultimate Rewards points one of the most valuable currencies currently available to travelers, giving you access to award flights across all three major alliances.
Today we’ll show you the best ways to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points on SkyTeam carriers. If you’re looking for information on how to redeem your Chase points with other alliances, check out:
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Star Alliance airlines
- Best ways to redeem Chase points on Oneworld airlines
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Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Of course, before you can redeem Chase points, you have to earn them. The easiest way to rack up a large balance of Ultimate Rewards points is through credit card welcome bonuses and everyday spending. Here are Chase’s current cards that allow you to transfer points to airline and hotel partners:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. It has a $550 annual fee, but it’s largely offset by a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access and improved redemption rates on flights on flights booked via the Chase portal
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee but carries a number of great perks and could even be a better option than the Sapphire Reserve.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. It has a $95 annual fee, and comes with perks like cell phone protection and earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each account anniversary year on combined travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines (then 1x)
In addition to the sign-up bonuses, these cards also offer lucrative spending bonuses on different categories of purchases, like 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining on the Chase Sapphire Reserve or 2x points per dollar in the same categories with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This allows you to ramp up your Ultimate Rewards earning potential with your everyday spending.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Even though Chase Ultimate Rewards has 10 airline transfer partners, only one of them is formally a member of the SkyTeam alliance: Air France and KLM’s joint loyalty program, Flying Blue. If you transfer your Chase points to this program, you can redeem across all of the SkyTeam member airlines as well as some of the two carriers’ other partners. It’s also worth noting that it’s very easy to earn Flying Blue miles, as all transferable points programs transfer into the program.
That said, Flying Blue is far from perfect. Flying Blue followed its SkyTeam partner Delta’s lead in switching to dynamic award pricing (in favor of a fixed award chart), even before other U.S. carriers like United and American did. This means that you have to search for the award on Flying Blue to price it out, and the number of miles you need for an award may change at any time. These rates depend on a number of factors, like the date of travel, origin and destination, and we’ve seen the new scheme create some illogical pricing.
Despite these limitations, the program does publish a minimum number of miles required for each ticket between two destinations, and you can use the Flying Blue calculator to find those rates. Many of these are actually pretty reasonable, but the lowest prices may be hard to find, especially during holidays and popular travel periods. Try booking in advance during off-peak times to find some of the best deals.
However, there is one aspect of the program that can consistently offer value for your Ultimate Rewards points.
Flying Blue Promo Rewards
Every month, the Flying Blue program releases a set of Promo Rewards. Like standard Flying Blue awards, these awards used to offer a set discount, but with the switch to dynamic award pricing they’re now marketed as having a percentage discount off the amount of miles needed between two destinations. These deals change every few months and often bring discounts on both business, economy and premium economy class tickets from cities around North America.
One good piece of news is that historically Flying Blue Promo Rewards will be valid from a given destination to/from any city in Europe, which means you can connect on beyond Air France and KLM’s hubs in Paris (CDG) and Amsterdam (AMS). In fact, you can often leverage the dynamic pricing engine to score a much better deal by traveling to a slightly less popular destination.
Here’s the current set of Promo Rewards for travel to and from North America, which are valid for travel between April 4, 2020 and May 31, 2020 and must be booked by Feb. 29, 2020:
You’ll want to book early to get the best deals, but these rotating monthly sales are one of the best ways to score a good redemption value with Flying Blue. You’ll find some really great prices, like Toronto to Warsaw (WAW) for only 39,750 miles in business class:
Most award tickets booked through Flying Blue do incur a few hundred dollars in taxes and fees, even for economy class. However, if you want to avoid these additional out-of-pocket costs and you’re looking to get to Europe, consider Spain-based Air Europa. The Flying Blue program dropped surcharges on this carrier earlier in 2018, and a round-trip award ticket will now only have around $55 in taxes and fees. Even so, paying $200 to $300 in taxes for a business-class award is not a bad deal, especially since cash prices on many of these routes are often over $5,000.
When searching for award flights with Flying Blue, especially for competitive Promo Rewards routes, I’d strongly encourage you to check the “You are looking for a flight around these dates” box, as this will open up the award calendar and help you see alternate dates with award availability.
Of course, there are hundreds of routes that aren’t covered by these rotating monthly Promo Rewards. While I’d love to be able to offer some general guidance about tips for maximizing Flying Blue in these cases, the truth is dynamic pricing makes it next to impossible to do. My strongest suggestion would be to always check the award prices before you transfer any miles, especially if you have fixed travel dates. Ultimate Rewards points transfer instantly to Flying Blue, and even in the Toronto to Warsaw example above, you’ll find that award rates can vary by 2x within a single week.
Bonus: Book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
While Flying Blue is the only SkyTeam program that partners with Ultimate Rewards, you do have another option if you want to book a Delta flight with your Chase points: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The London-based carrier is partially owned by Delta, and the airlines have had a long-standing partnership and trans-Atlantic joint venture that allows Virgin Atlantic travelers to earn miles on Delta flights and redeem their hard-earned Flying Club points to book Delta flights. Most recently, Virgin Atlantic introduced the ability to book Air France and KLM flights with its miles as well.
What makes this even better is that booking through Virgin Atlantic can often be cheaper than booking through Delta.
For example, here’s a one-way flight from New York-JFK to Amsterdam (AMS) booked through Delta SkyMiles:
Here’s that exact same flight if booked through Virgin Atlantic instead:
Virgin Atlantic’s award search can be pretty clunky at times, but there are some workarounds. For example, if your desired airport doesn’t populate, click the location pin icon and find it by country or state. In some cases, your city may not appear at all, so you’ll need to call in and have a phone representative price out the award for you. You’ll find some of the best savings on long haul flights from the U.S. to Asia, especially in the new Delta One suites, but award availability on these routes can be tricky to come by.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the most valuable credit card programs out there, largely due to its nine powerful airline transfer partners. If you play your cards right (pun intended), you can book some solid SkyTeam flights through the Flying Blue program or Delta flights through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program.
That said, the power of transferable points is the flexibility to utilize your points with different carriers across all three major alliances, so be sure to investigate other award booking options — you may find an even better deal for the same route.
Featured photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.
Ethan Steinberg contributed to this post.
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