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Star Alliance is the biggest airline alliance in the world, giving you a wealth of options when you travel abroad. And if you have a stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll be happy to know that you can easily transfer your points to two Star Alliance partners: United Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Each one gives you a number of excellent award redemptions covering both domestic and international trips. However, you should never blindly transfer your miles to one specific partner — even if you know what route you want to redeem.
Today we’ll show you the best ways to use your hard-earned Chase points for Star Alliance flights.
Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Before we discuss redemptions, let’s take a look at the earning side of the equation. The easiest way to boost your Ultimate Rewards balance is by using credit cards, both for initial welcome bonuses and on-going spending. Here’s some of Chase’s current offers:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. It does carry a $450 annual fee, but it’s largely offset by a $300 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 3 months from account opening. The card does have a $95 annual fee but carries a number of great perks and could even be a better option than the Sapphire Reserve.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. While technically a cash-back card, if you have a premium card like either Sapphire, you can combine points in a single account and essentially “convert” these earnings to fully transferable points. This card has no annual fee.
In addition to the sign-up bonuses, these cards also offer lucrative spending bonuses on different categories of purchases, like 3x points per $1 spend on travel and dining on the Sapphire Reserve or 1.5x points (3x points on the first $20,000 spent your first year) on every purchase with the Freedom Unlimited. This allows you to ramp up your Ultimate Rewards earning potential with your everyday spending.
Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points on Star Alliance Flights
Chase has nine airline transfer partners, so it can be tough to figure out which ones offer the best value when using your miles to redeem for travel. In addition, some airlines have long transfer times, making it tough to redeem for in-demand rewards like long-haul first and business class seats. Here are the best redemption options for booking Star Alliance award tickets by leveraging Chase’s two partners in the alliance: United Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
United Airlines MileagePlus
United’s MileagePlus program is one of the most well-known loyalty programs in the Untied States, and it’s the only major legacy carrier that’s a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. The program has a few great deals when it comes to using Chase points for Star Alliance reward flights, but there are a few quirks you’ll want to keep in mind before transferring your points to Chase.
First of all, you may not want to use the United MileagePlus program for last-minute awards due to the carrier’s close-in booking fee. When booking any award ticket less than 21 days from departure, United will tack on a $75 fee. Thankfully, you can reduce or avoid this extra charge entirely by having United elite status. The carrier reduces the fee to $50 and $25 for Premier Silver and Premier Gold members (respectively) and waives it entirely for Premier Platinum, Premier 1K and Global Service members.
Additionally, United charges extra miles when booking premium class tickets on Star Alliance partners. For example, a one-way business class flight from the US to Europe is 60,000 miles on a United-operated flight but 70,000 miles on a partner like Austrian, Lufthansa or Swiss. Do note that this premium only applies for the long-haul portion of an award ticket, so flying from Newark (EWR) to London-Heathrow (LHR) flight on United and then connecting to a Swiss flight to Zurich (ZRH) will price at the 60,000-mile rate.
Despite those limitations, United is one of the best airline rewards programs when it comes to fuel surcharges. The airline rarely tacks on extra fees (unlike British Airways or Aeroplan), and the program prices awards based on zone — so you can have multiple connections and pay the same amount per award.
While United may not have the best award pricing of all airline rewards programs, it does have some solid deals for your Chase points. Here are a few of the program’s best redemptions:
United Excursionist Perk
One great reason to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus is to take advantage of its famed Excursionist Perk. In its most basic form, the perk gives you a free one-way leg when you book a round-trip business class or economy award ticket using United miles. Bear in mind that this is far from simple:
- Your origin and destination must be in different regions.
- Your “free” one-way flight must be contained in a single region and must be different than the region in which you started your trip.
- You must return to the same region you started at the end of the trip.
This comes in handy as United allows “open jaw” awards on all round-trip itineraries. This means that you can book tickets like the one above, flying from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA), then Frankfurt to Prague (PRG), and finally from Munich (MUC) back to Chicago-O’Hare for just 60,000 miles in economy class. This is because the ORD-FRA and MUC-ORD legs are considered one round-trip award, and the FRA-PRG flight is tagged for no additional miles thanks to the Excursionist Perk.
Expanded Award Availability for United Credit Card Holders and Elite Members
Another great use of United miles is for elite travelers or holders of the carrier’s cobranded credit cards (like the United Explorer Card and United MileagePlus Club Card). United gives expanded access to award tickets on its own metal to these members, and these will appear during your online search. This extra availability is generally found on domestic flights, so it may come in handy next time you need to take a last-minute jaunt across the States. Note that simply having the status or credit card is enough. You can transfer in your Chase points to then take advantage of the perk.
TIP: Be sure to login to your MileagePlus account before starting your award search, as that’s the only way for United to recognize you as an elite status member or cobranded cardholder.
Flights Within Oceania
You may not be aware of this, but United operates a mini hub at Guam (GUM) airport. If you ever find yourself on the island, you can use just 8,000 Chase points transferred to MileagePlus to fly one-way in economy to any other Oceania island that United flies to as part of its renowned Island Hopper service. This is a terrific way to visit some stunning islands in the Pacific that haven’t been overrun with tourists, all at a very low mileage rate.
Cheap Flights to Fiji or Tahiti
Want to visit Fiji or French Polynesia? Transfer your Chase points to United, and you can get to either country for just 70,000 miles one-way in business class or 35,000 miles in economy. Even better, these flights have less than $10 in taxes and fees (as long as you book at least 21 days before departure). In the past, these flights would’ve likely routed you through New Zealand, making for a long travel experience, but United launched service from San Francisco (SFO) to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) this year and plans to make it year-round come March 2019. Awards on this flight are readily available in economy, though I only saw a handful of dates in 2019 with saver-level business class award space.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
From its fleet of A380s to its over-the-top first class to its ultra long-haul flights from Newark, Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco to Singapore (SIN), Singapore Airlines is one of the best (and most luxurious) airlines in the sky. But beyond that, its KrisFlyer loyalty programs can get you some solid value — regardless of whether you’re using miles to fly on Singapore Airlines or one of its Star Alliance partners.
There are a few things to know about KrisFlyer before transferring your miles, though. The first is that its search engine isn’t the greatest. Despite adding the ability to book partners online in 2017, the site still doesn’t show all Star Alliance carriers. It’s also exceedingly hard to do a flexible date search. There are much better sites for finding Star Alliance availability, so I’d recommend starting your search on United Airlines’ website and then calling Singapore KrisFlyer if you can’t find the award on its site.
Here’s a few ways to get the most bang-for-your-mile when transferring Ultimate Rewards points to the KrisFlyer program.
Singapore Airlines First and Business Class Awards
Singapore Airlines premium class awards generally must be booked using KrisFlyer miles, as the carrier typically doesn’t release this award space to its partners (though rare exceptions have surfaced in the past). Even though Singapore’s search engine leaves a bit to be desired, you’ll have to search for first or business class award tickets there rather than a partner site like United.com.
Prices vary based on where you’re flying, but award costs are actually surprisingly reasonable given the on-board experience. For example, flying on the nonstop Newark to Singapore flight in business class costs just 92,000 miles each way. Not too shabby considering the ticket can be upwards of $4,000.
Another great aspect of booking Singapore awards through KrisFlyer is the ability to waitlist for a better itinerary. This is relatively simple. As long as you have the required amount of miles in your account and the waitlist is available on the flight you want, you can essentially put in a “request” for that flight. Of course, this would involve transferring your points to KrisFlyer, but you can waitlist more than one routing at a time, and after waitlisting you could even ticket a less-than-desirable itinerary and pay a small fee to cancel and rebook if a waitlisted flight opens. However, this option is only available on Singapore-operated flights.
Saving Miles Over Awards With United
While Singapore’s Star Alliance partner award chart isn’t always the most lucrative, there are some specific flights where the redemption rates are less than United. As a result, if you’re sitting on a stash of Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll probably want to transfer to KrisFlyer instead of United MileagePlus for the following awards:
- Domestic United first class awards: Singapore will only charge 20,000 miles each way with no fuel surcharges. This is a steal when you consider that the same award costs 25,000 miles when booked using United miles.
- Business class awards to Southern South America: KrisFlyer charges just 50,000 miles each way in business class for flights to countries like Chile and Argentina. This is a great deal compared to United, which charges 60,000 miles for the same exact flights. And as you’d expect, there’s no extra fuel surcharges when redeeming for these tickets.
- Economy awards to Europe: Singapore requires 27,500 miles each way for these awards, while United charges 30,000 miles.
- Economy awards to Hawaii: If you can find saver award space on United flights from the US to Hawaii, you can book these through KrisFlyer for just 35,000 miles round-trip. Aeroplan and United both charge 45,000 miles for these exact same itineraries.
- Multiple stopovers: While United’s excursionist perk can be a solid value, Singapore allows a stopover on most international round-trip Star Alliance awards. Even better? You can pay $100 for up to three additional stopovers, allowing you to add multiple additional cities to your trip for a very minimal charge.
Bonus: Redeem ANA Tickets on Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Even though Virgin Atlantic isn’t a Star Alliance member, you can use miles from its Flying Club program to book tickets on ANA. In fact, you’ll save over 50% of your Chase points if you transfer them to Virgin Atlantic for ANA flights to Japan compared to booking the same flights through United.
Virgin Atlantic’s ANA award chart is distance-based, so those flying out of New York-JFK or Chicago-O’Hare will pay more miles than someone departing from Los Angeles or Honolulu (HNL). But regardless of where you depart, you’re in for an amazing deal.
As you can see in the chart above, a round-trip first class flight from Chicago-O’Hare to Tokyo-Narita or Tokyo-Haneda (HND) is just 110,000 miles. If you want to book a round-trip business class flight, it’ll only set you back 90,000 miles. That’s a steal for a transpacific premium class award ticket.
The process for booking these tickets is a little bit strange, though. You can’t book online, so you need to call Virgin Atlantic to book. I’d recommend finding ANA availability on United’s website first and then calling Virgin Atlantic to verify that the agent can see the award space. You can then transfer your Chase points (which should process instantly) and finalize the reservation. Just note that you must book awards at least 48 hours before departure, and one-way awards are not allowed.
All that being said, if you find award availability, it’s totally worth pushing through this convoluted process — especially when you consider that a round-trip ANA first class flight would set you back 220,000 miles when booked through United.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable transferable points currencies, and it’s easy to see why. Whether you’re planning to fly Singapore Airline’s new long-haul routes from the US or wanting a quick trip on United to Hawaii, there’s a array of awesome ways to use your points on Star Alliance partners. However, be sure to check out our guides on redeeming Chase points for Oneworld and SkyTeam awards to make sure you’re using the fewest number of points possible for your ticket.
Featured image courtesy of Star Alliance.
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